Because we had no internet access in Little Corn (and no electricity), I fell behind on the blog, and the further I fell behind, the more daunting the task became. Well, I am now going to try to catch up on the last month of experiences.
We flew in a Cessna Caravan (small plane, maybe 18 people) from Managua, landing on Big Corn island about an hour and a half later, then took a water taxi (called a panga) to Little Corn.
This small island off the eastern coast of Nicaragua in the Caribbean sea is one of the remotest places we have ever been. There are no motorized vehicles on Little Corn besides the fishing boats, water taxis and occasional small cargo ships that visit the dock. There is one main path, which branches at the school, one path continuing through the Spanish part of town and ending at the police station, and the other heading to the north coast of the island, about 30 minutes through light woods, where we eventually ended up spending six nights at an interesting little spot called Ensuenos. Because we were not able to contact Ramon, the owner and host at Ensuenos previous to our arrival, and we had arrived shortly before sundown, we ended up taking the shorter walk to the east coast hostels and staying at Carlito's place the first two nights.
It was a nice clean spot, good mattress with a mosquito net and a servicable shared bathroom that doubled as the shower. In the morning I was surprised to find that the beach was littered with plastic bottles, caps and other bits. Allie, who had originally greeted us at the dock the previous evening had shown up to sell coconuts and rake the beach. I decided to giv e him a hand and spent about an hour picking up all the plastic in front of our hostel as well as the three adjacent ones. I later realised that this stuff washes on shore everyday.
We met a Dutch lady named Leo who had been living on the island for the past year or so and was currently occupying one of the cabins at Carlito's. She was trying to make efforts to help clean up the island, encouraging kids to recycle and even see trash as a resource, making dolls out of bottle caps and other creative reuses of the plastic that currently covers many of the beaches there.
She lamented the difficulty in getting the point across, and I had seen an example of the mis-education firsthand when originally waiting at the dock on Big Corn. A van had pulled up which had a kid with what I assumed was his dad. The dad was sitting near me while the boy picked up a couple of empty plastic bottles and brought them over to him. He asked the man something, the man seemed disinterested and dismissive. The boy then threw one of the bottles back on the ground, then ran to the dock and joyfully tossed the second into the ocean. He then proudly ran back to his dad who did not have a single word of disapproval to offer. It is not surprising much of what we saw of Nicaragua was covered in trash.
Our first day we explored town we walked down into the Spanish part, past the fork at the school. On our way back we encountered the local security force, AK's (the kind with no buttstock) slung across their backs, escorting four prisoners, one of which had handcuffs, the others their hands bound with rope. The path is quite narrow so we were within inches of these gentlemen, and I remember a particularly uncomfortable moment where Nelly passed between the four prisoners and the guard. I couldn't help but picture one of them throwing his arms over her head, choking her with his bonds, using her as a hostage and human shield. Thanks Hollywood.
We soon found that vegetables and fruits (aside from the coconuts and mangoes) were not easily procured on the island since they had to be flown in from Managua, then brought over by water taxi. For the hostel owners, they would then also have to pay someone to carry them from the dock, along the small paths to wherever the hostels happened to be. Apparently, farming was on the decline on Little Corn due to several factors including crop theft and a lack of interest on the part of the new generation.
After two nights at Carlito's we went over to Ensuenos on the North shore of Little Corn. Unlike Carlito's, Ensuenos did not offer electricity and was more than double the cost. However, the beautiful beach, the complete isolation, the amazingly unique hut and the very friendly and interesting host, Ramon, made it more than worth it. Even though there were no waves here (like everywhere in the Caribbean), this was my favorite spot so far.
The absence of electricity made us follow the schedule of the sun and for the first time in my life I saw a sunrise without having stayed up all night. I very much enjoyed the pace here, keeping myself busy by husking coconuts with the pen knife I had purchased at one of the small stores in town for $4.50. There was also a mango orchard near the baseball field, so we kept ourselves in good supply by grabbing the freshly fallen ones every time we would walk to town for a meal. I would also make sure to grab an extra mango or two for the monkey that was in the yard we would pass on the way. I learned that he preferred firm mangoes and would not eat them once they got overripe. He was a very interesting creature and Nelly would have to eventually pull me away every time we passed him.
The shower and toilet at Ensuenos were somewhat unusual in that they were pretty much open air, no true walls enclosed them. Sure there was some effort to create privacy by means of some palm fronds and such, but overall it was a degree of exposure that I have never previously experienced during that most intimate of moments, defecation.
The water was courtesy of a well with a rather clever pump system that involved a hand crank which drove a rope that had these small cups tied at regular intervals along it. The cups and rope would pass through a pipe and drive water up to the tank on top, and gravity would then provide the water pressure at the shower. The shower was simply a half inch pipe end, so I fashioned a shower head out of an empty plastic bottle by cutting off the top and bottom, rejoining them by cutting tabs on each side, then drilling some small holes in the bottom. The mouth of the bottle happened to fit perfectly over the pipe, and made the shower a little more pleasant while also reducing water usage.
I ended up making a few more of these shower heads and giving them to a girl we met named Emily who was doing a knowledge/skill share project. In retrospect, I should have asked her to teach me the Cirque du Soleil acrobatic tricks we saw her doing with her Nicaraguan wife.
We also did a little snorkeling in front of Ensuenos since there was quite a bit of reef just a ten minute swim out from out hut. We saw the usual assortment of Caribbean fish, including parrotfish, sargeant majors, damsel fish and wrasses. We also saw a rather large stingray which had sneakily shaken some sand onto its back in a somewhat rudimentary effort at camouflage.
We also made frequent trips to Gorgina's, a rickety shack on the beach that you would not expect to get food, yet Gorgina was in the back baking some delicious treats daily, from coconut bread, to beef patties or my personal favorite, casada (probably not spelled like that) which was some kind of flavored coconut pulp in a bread-like shell.
Oh, and Ramon's dogs love coconut pulp. In fact, if you crack it for them, they'll clean out the shell without a problem.