Tag Archives: Tranquilo

Changes

I’d been invited to Island Boy’s home for his birthday / New Year’s Eve dinner with the crew. He lives in a beautiful old house that’s been in his family for generations. It’s up on the opposite hill to the one I live on, and has very similar views of the bay – just from a different perspective.

He & I had been able to spend time in each other’s company with a lot more ease since the girl’d gone back home. We were back to bantering & laughing again. I figured now was as a good as time as any to start ‘striving for simplicity.’

We had a super tasty meal of lionfish which the boys had caught that day served with mashed potato. We made a start on one of 3 bottles of Flor de Cana we had between us, danced around a bit and then headed down to the party at Tranquilo.

The whole island must have been there, and then some. The place was absolutely jumping but for some reason I felt a little out of sync. Possibly just not drunk enough. Possibly something else. At any rate I headed straight for the bar, gave Steph & Lisa a hug and proceeded to quickly down a few rum & cokes (“coke for colour”). I wandered around just talking shit with people i knew and a few i didn’t. A lovely bloke I’d gotten to know a little over the past few days came up & started telling me how wonderful he thought i was. But i wasn’t really interested & I escaped into an empty space.

I found myself alone, again, right at midnight, staring up at the sky exploding into a hundred different colours, and feeling a bit sad. In that moment between the years, i have come to realise i would rather be on my own than with someone i didn’t really care about. So i hugged myself, made a wish, and then wandered about a bit more, looking for familiar faces to wish a happy new year to.

Cimba was getting it on with a pretty girl he’d met the day before. I was über happy for him as he’d had a bit of a rough quarter in the romance stakes, and absolutely deserved some happiness in that department. Steph & Lisa were getting slammed by the punters at the bar, so were too busy to hang out. All my other mates were shitshows in the making. And although I wasn’t a picture of sobriety by any means – I wasn’t keeping pace with them either. I caught sight of Island Boy making moves on a let’s say, rather generously proportioned girl and I felt another little wave of jealousy / insecurity wash over me. It passed quickly but I was feeling a bit lost, so i took off down the beach for a bit.

I ran into a local lad who was barely legal who’d been trying to seduce me for quite some time now. I’d been waving him off telling him i was old enough to be his mother. Heck, I was probably older than his mother. This did not deter Legal one little bit and he’d really begun ramping things up of late. So naturally he decided he should accompany me on my walk. We laid around on a grassy patch near the beach, smoking a joint and making out. He was a damn good kisser for someone of his age. And so the night ended on a bit of a high. In more ways than one.

I woke up on the 1st feeling better than average and excited about the day. We were going to be celebrating Gorgeous Jen’s birthday back up at Island Boy’s house. The sun was out, and it was shaping up to be another beautiful day. Steph & Lisa had the day off so they could join us, which i was well excited about. This would very likely be the last time all my favourite people would be in the same place at the same time.

Island Boy & I spent most of the morning in the kitchen singing sweet songs, cooking up a storm. We share a love of making meals for others and work well together in that space. The others entertained us in between smokes and drinks with their shenanigans. Cimba’s girl and her friend (who turned out to be the one Island Boy had slept with) came along. Turns out, they’re both Extremely Lovely. It was easier to be around her than the first one. The first one after you is always the hardest. Not quite apples for apples, but I found myself thinking of Roger’s ex-wife. She never forgave me for being the first one after her. Something I only really got, during an abusive phone call I received from her, shortly after the funeral.

We had a bountiful late lunch of marinaded, barbequed chicken and three different types of salad. Island Boy and Gorgeous Jen had a few crates of beer ‘barrowed up the hill and we finished off the rest of the rum. There was lots of dancing that day. And at the end of it, we all watched the sun set into the ocean. For me, it had been one of the best days on the island. What more could you want for? Friends, sunshine, music, food, dancing, banter, booze. I enjoyed myself more on the 1st day of the year, than I had the previous night.

The weather started turning over the next few days. It became windy and rainy and grey and miserable. The hoodies came out and there was a lot of talk about “the breeze”. The dive boats all got cancelled.

I had planned to leave a few days later and so begun seeking out quality time with my favourite people.

On Tuesday eve, Cimba took me to one of the nicest restaurants on the island for dinner. We shared super tasty Cuban steak – his came with chorizo! Earlier in the week, he had given me a pretty bracelet with turquoise semi-precious stones entwined into the delicate handcrafted piece. I felt very loved. I knew I was going to bawl like a baby the moment it hit me i wasn’t going to be seeing him everyday. We had become super close.

I spent lots of time with Steph & Lisa on my old porch, just doing what we do best: drinking gazillion cups of coffee, talking shit & laughing loads. I knew I was going to be seeing Steph in a matter of weeks in Colombia, so the thought of leaving her was a little easier to digest. I felt sorry that I wasn’t going to get to know Lisa a bit better.

I squeezed in some last minute girly chats with Gorgeous Jen & got some hammock time in with DDSteph & Dariel too. I visited my neighbours and kissed Yandell until he got sick of it. I bid a teary farewell to the ladies in the kitchen at the Italian. I gave Rodcliffe a big hug for all the big brekkies. Trouble followed me around for a good portion of my last days. I think she knew I was leaving. I was going to miss her sorely.

The only person who I hadn’t said goodbye to was Island Boy. He knew I was leaving. If for no other reason than the fact that we had done some 15 dives together, I think he could have had the decency to come find me & say goodbye. I know our mutual friends were as disappointed in him as I was.

On the morning I was supposed to leave, I was feeling right out of sorts. The weather got so bad – it looked as though the afternoon panga which would link me up with my flight would be cancelled. And while being stuck on a tropical island isn’t the worst thing that can happen by any stretch of the imagination – I wanted out. I had said my goodbyes to everyone who mattered. I had packed my bag. Left my apartment. And was sitting in a weird panga limbo in a practically empty bar. I was ready. Or so I thought. Cimba & Steph turned up and it suddenly dawned on me I was leaving an island & people who had worked their way into my heart.

And then i started Sobbing.

Later I rang the airline to defer my flight to the next day. Turns out I had actually booked my flight for the day before. Muppet. I thought I’d have to buy a new ticket. They were super chilled out about it. And charged me $15 for the change. As Steph pointed out: you pay $15 for a bottle of freakin water in the UK.

I got myself a room at the conveniently located Lobster Inn and took myself off to the Italian for a tasty pesto pasta, a warming bottle of red and the book I’d been struggling through for the last 7 weeks. I needed time out on my own.

When it came down to it, I couldn’t read. Busy busy mind. It was a day of real mixed emotions. I ended up getting quite pissy on that bottle of red.

I couldn’t help but feel a bit awkward. Have you ever been on a bus chatting with someone you know and then you say goodbye to them thinking they were going to get off at the next stop. But they don’t. Then you’re still standing next to them for four more stops. And there’s that awkward silence. It was a bit like that.

I was also feeling anxious about travelling again. I realised I don’t actually like the travelling bit. You can stick that ‘it’s the journey not the destination’ rubbish up your arse. I like being in places. Not on buses. I was stressing over the thought of my first chicken bus depot (man, those places are stressful even when you’re coming from a big city, let alone when you’re coming from a place that has no cars).

I was not looking forward to Managua. One little bit. But, Costa Rica. Now there’s a place I could get excited about. I’ve been dreaming about this place ever since my friend Greer worked & lived there almost a decade ago. Now everyone tells me it’s super expensive & very touristy. But also that it’s totally worth it.

New Year. New country. After nearly 3 months in Nicaragua, it felt like time for a change.

Up to Friday 6 Jan

One more time!

I’m renting a sweet self-contained apartmentito owned by Mr Winnie, which is up on the hill as you head towards the village. I woke up on Christmas Day earlier than is necessary, complete with my usual raging hangover. I trode over the velvety grass to the edge of the cliff which affords sweeping views of the bay. It was a bit of a grey morning and the water looked a bit like the Ganges after all the rain we had had. I wasn’t all that interested in my customary Christmas morning swim. I was however, absolutely starving.

I trundled off Desideri, which everyone on the island calls The Italian. It’s one of the more high-end restaurants on the island and does some amazing cocktails. I had landed a job there the day after I finished up at Tranquilo. Jobs are scarce on the island so I’ve been very fortunate to have them just fall in my lap. Again, this was my first time waitressing. And again it has ratified my respect for those who work in hospitality. It’s bloody hard work. I have been learning a lot from Mai-Lynn about things like wine service & cocktail making.

I took my time over a nice Christmas breakfast of omelette & French-pressed coffee. Miss Gladys must be one of the best chefs on the island and I think I might want to marry her. Afterwards, I took a walk with Louis who was a bit worse for wear for having been out at Aguila’s until daybreak. We went up to his mother-in-law’s house so i could give his gorgeous son, Yarnel (or Little Louis as Steph calls him) a truck for Christmas. Afterwards I visited Flacco & Ilette’s daughter, Rhiani to give her a drum. It was a bit naughty of me as she’s a rowdy-strong-willed-bull-mastif of a 2-year-old. I saw her carrying that thing around all day. Her folks are gunna love me.

I ran into Island Boy and the most Gorgeous Jen (a dive instructor up at Dolphin Dive) who invited me to join them for brekky beers at The Shack. I figured it would be very un-Australian of me to say no. And so Christmas Day began in earnest.

Town power had come on early that day, so we ended up moving our lunch to Happy Hut. Happy Hut is a bar / club / hammock hangout that is managed by Steph (not to be confused with Tranquilo Steph) who is another dive instructor at Dolphin Dive, and her boyfriend, Dariel.

Dolphin Dive Steph left Canada after school, to live in Africa for a couple of years, and she’s been here on the island for a couple of years. She’s just 22 but in many ways, carries herself as a woman beyond her years. She’s told me some interesting stories about how nearly every member of her immediately family has come very close to death. Dariel is a dreaded Orinoco man & he’s always sauntering around the place, with a big bright white smile on his dial, sayin, ‘everybody got to be happy, mahn.’

In amongst all the drinking, we somehow managed to pull together a Christmas lunch of marinaded chicken and mashed potatoes which was super tasty. I spent the rest of the day ambling around, linking up with mates, having a drink, a smoke & a laugh. Later that eve, I went home for a quick disco nap, until Cimba came to wake me up to go dancing.

The only club on the island is a very unique place by the name of Aguila’s (Spanish for ‘eagle’). Tranquilo Steph described it as “the sort of place that 95% of the time, you wish you hadn’t gone.” As a single ‘white’ female, you have to run the gauntlet down a footpath to the entrance, which always has young local lads sitting on the walls ‘welcoming’ you in. At the front of the club there is a brightly lit pool room, filled with old local men, sizing you up in between shots. You’ll grab a drink from the surly staff and make your way to darker recesses of the club. They’re big on strobe lighting and smoke machines here.

And then there’s the music. Oh my god, the music. They play a bit of Latin pop and a bit of Western pop (eg, JLo, Pitbull etc) but mostly you’ll hear reggae and other Caribbean flavours. I want to caveat the following by saying – there’s quite a lot of stuff I’ve heard here, which I really do like. But the music seems to fall into one of two categories:

1. I’m going to fuck you silly. My personal favourite song lyrics are “bend over, bend over, bend over” or “tight-tight-tight-tight-tight-tight-tight-tight, she had the tightest vagina”. (I swear, I am not making this up)

2. I’m sorry baby I was wrong, take me back coz I just can’t live without you. (Umm, maybe you shouldn’t have cheated on her with 2 different women then, asshole. Just sayin.)

The DJs don’t really get the concepts of smooth segues, of build & release, really even of keeping people on the dance floor. Which is kind of the job of a DJ, one might say. You’ll get something super-poppy one second, and the whole place is bumping & grinding. And then they’ll back it with a slow-dance number where couples are basically just hugging & pashing on the dance floor like 14 year old kids at a blue-light disco. Then it’s straight back into Shakira’s Waka Waka song.

Couple of tips for you, should you ever find yourself at Aguila’s, girls:

  • Don’t dance with any boys unless you’re perfectly happy to have his (semi) hard-on being shoved (sensually or otherwise) into the region of your pleasure palace for the whole time.
  • The slow dance is actually a very aggressive mating ritual. Never slow dance with a guy unless he’s your boyfriend. Or you want him to be. In the latter scenario, it might also be an idea to check if he really is single, first.
  • Go home before you get too wasted otherwise the vultures will circle until you weaken. And remember, 99% of the blokes here don’t walk you home because they’re a gentleman.

It is possible to have a good time at Aguila’s if: You don’t go too often. You don’t stay too long. You stand in the sandy patch between pool room and the club (the lighting & sound is as good as it gets, here). You are with all of your friends. You are drunk / stoned / high. You only dance with your mates. You avoid all conversations about sex. You wear or borrow footwear for the Trainspotting bathroom. You leave on a high note: Don’t wait for it to get better. Waka waka.

______________

Boxing Day was a bit quiet. I think the whole island had worn itself out from a pretty debaucherous Christmas Eve & Christmas Day. I must admit I missed home: There were no champagne brekkies. No ham off the bone & hot English mustard on fresh grainy bread. No watching the Sydney to Hobart yacht race from the Botanical Gardens. None of mum’s leftover stuffed turkey. No trashy house parties with bangin tunes. Put it this way, despite having had a super time – I’ll definitely be home for Christmas next year.

I talked a lot about leaving, so I could have NYE in Costa Rica but the truth of it is I’m finding it really hard to leave now. The sun has finally come out – it seems for good, and so my energy levels have ramped up a notch.

The water’s clearing up, I’ve some great dives (finally saw a turtle and some sharks!) and just in general, the place is starting to look more and more like a tropical island paradise.

I’m getting used to having Cimba & Tranquilo Steph around. The three of us went for a dive one morning and I was so loved up, I just had to give them a big hug underwater. They were so good to me when I was picking up the pieces of my ego after The Situation with Island Boy. I’m glad they’re getting to see Happy Chelle in full flight again. I laugh so much with the pair of them.

I’ve started getting to know Gorgeous Jen a little bit better. And she is just that: Gorgeous. She’s naturally quite shy but I think we’re all witnessing a woman in the making. Her & I and DD Steph had a much-needed bit of girl time one night after I finished work. We sat on the dock watching eagle rays glide around while we drank a couple of bottles of red. It’s up there in my one of my favourite Little Corn moments.

The funny, sweet, hardworking girls in the kitchen at Desideri, who have nicknamed me ‘Sexy’, are pleading with me to stay “one more month”. They’ve been helping me with my Spanish & Miss Gladys has taken to stealth persuasion by way of lobster au gratin. To die for.

Yep, there are a lot of reasons to stay. I have made a lot of new friends. I feel like I have a place here. I love that locals know me by name and stop in at the restaurant to say hello. I love the hugs that the l’il local boys bestow upon me. I love that Radcliff from The Shack knows what I want for breakfast. I love that all the island dogs come bounding up for a pat & a play.

Tourists are often curious as to how I ended up living & working on a little tiny island off the coast of Nicaragua. Truth is, I really don’t know. Put it this way: if you told me a year ago, I’d be here – I would have laughed in your face. Granted, I did meet a few people on my travels, who told me I should visit this place. But it very nearly didn’t happen. And I was most certainly not returning after the first time. But then I met Steph on the panga. And everything changed.

I knew if I didn’t book a flight out, I’d get ‘stuck’ here. And while that might not a bad thing in some ways. I also know I‘ve got to keep on moving.

So, I leave on the 4th of Jan.

Today is the 31st of December.

A time for reflecting on the year that’s passed. In January, I made a decision to travel again. In March, I finished up at the Opera House after five years. In May, I was on a plane bound for New York. By July, I had decided to tear up my ticket home. At the end of August, I was undertaking a teaching qualification in a place I never intended to even visit. In October, I ended up travelling with a mate from back home. And then somehow in the middle of November, I decided to come back to live & work in a place, I didn’t even know existed 4 months prior.

All these decisions, which have nearly all been made in single moment – have changed my life forever. I have made a lot of new friends. I have learned some valuable lessons. I have had some moments which will stay with me forever. And I have become a different person in some ways.

Facebook tells me that at the end of 2007, I made a wish “to be whisked away to a small latin village where the nights are sultry, people dance out on the streets, and the drinks feature lots of fresh limes”.

I know that that was a completely, utterly whimsical wish. I didn’t ever imagine this. Full Stop. That what I’m doing right now would become my reality? It just didn’t seem possible. There were a lot of things holding me back. And I couldn’t see a way out. And then an opportunity came my way that would change things forever. And I made choices that would change things forever.

Right now, I know am so so very fortunate to be living a life where I can just decide at the drop of a hat to be someplace else, doing something completely different.

Right now, I am very grateful. I’ll be making another whimsical wish tonight. I’m super excited to see what 2012 and beyond has in store for me.

____

PS: Forgot about the resolutions. In no particular order I think these ones will do the job:

  1. Get my photos up online.
  2. Drink less.
  3. Write more.
  4. Don’t hurry love.
  5. Strive for simplicity.

Happy new year, folks!

Sweet dreams

I was welcomed back to Little Morgan’s with wide open arms. It was a good feeling to come back to somewhere I’d been before, have new friends smile with recognition, and not have to go through The Standard Questions again (where are you from? how long you been on the road for? headed for central or south america? yadda yadda yadda

One of the reasons I came back to Little Morgan’s was because the girls who worked there were all leaving the following week and because Morgan had said if I came back, he’d throw me a party. Actually it might have been his sister who had said that. But same same.

I am luckyluckylucky to have a ridiculously good bunch of people back home who I call friends, who I would normally celebrate my birthday with. i knew I would be missing them all sorely. So I really liked the idea of partying in a trippy pretty place with loveable mad hatters I had already met and had shared some seriously fun times with. Morgan had to pick up his little boy on the day of my birthday, so we decided to have to the party on the Thursday night.

Before I had left the girls had decided it would be an 80s theme night. Back home this would be a simple trip to Vinnies on Hall St and the local $2 Shop. Bit harder to coordinate when you’re on a tiny island in the middle of a lake in Nicaragua. But I had miraculously found a party shop in Managua and had picked up a few bits & pieces including a couple of wigs. My wig-wearing friends back home would have been proud.

Just before things kicked off I jumped on the one computer they have there with dodgy internet connection and checked my emails. Because of the time difference, it was already my birthday back home so messages were beginning to filter through. The best of them though, almost brought me to my knees.

My besties Andrea and Scott had produced a 2 min Youtube photo collage of friends from all over the world holding up signs with “HAPPY BIRTHDAY, CHELLE” or variations of (i particularly loved the “felic cumpleanos” by the Rollstons!) I started weeping as it commenced and was a blubbering mess by the end of it. The thought & energy that would have gone into making it happen. All the happy faces of people I love. I was floored that someone would do something like that for me. I felt a bit honoured and pretty fucking loved. Just the ticket when you’re miles away from those who know you, love you anyway, and make you laugh like a 5 year old.

My other birthday present was word from Steph that John had given the okay for me to come work at Tranquilo, back on Little Corn Island. She would move into the manager’s room at the back of the bar. And I would take over her house-sitting gig. It was just for a month. Starting on Monday.

I didn’t really need the work – for me this would be more about just having the experience. (What a luxury to be able to say that, hey?) I had always fancied the idea of working in a bar. And what better place to do it than on a Caribbean island. I also really liked Steph & just knew we would have a bunch of seriously fun times working together.

I loathe to admit that Island Boy might have had something to do with my excitement as well.

We partied hard that night. There was a talent show. Which most of us weren’t prepared for. But fun all the same. Morgan & Kate’s mum took on the role of Dicko (from Australian Idol) in terms of being a harsh judge. A few guests made the effort to make something from nothing and give a nod of the head to the 80s theme. There was a lot of bad music. And much singing and dancing. At one point Morgan had me in a headlock and was bellowing at me about how great my nipples were. I’d call that a good night.

The next day – my actual birthday – was a quiet one. I watched the multitudes of butterflies do their opening act for what would be a very peaceful, tranquil day. I thought a bit about what had transpired over the last year. The year leading up to my 40th birthday had been a sad one for me. I was sad for a lot of reasons. Things I didn’t have. Things I couldn’t control. Love. Children. The White Picket Fence. And Roger, still.

The year leading up to my 41st birthday had been quite the opposite. All those things I didn’t have became the reasons I was able to take this opportunity. I don’t know if it’s part of my destiny to have those things. In my heart of hearts, I really hope so. In the meantime, travelling around Central and South America sure does make for a damn fine distraction.

I went for a swim in the lake with its amazing view of Concepcion & its cloudy mushroom top. Never in a million years, would have I imagined this was how I would spend any of my birthdays. I was thankful for the way things had panned out, and the choices I had made. I sat around & drank endless cups of black coffee with shots of dark Nicaraguan rum (Skye: I am now officially a rum drinker!) and I made plans.

I climbed into a bed that night which was tucked away in the corner of a treehouse with a thatched roof, and watched the gheckos do their pushups from under my mosquito net. I listened to the ‘waves’ lapping the lake’s edge and gave thanks for the cool night breeze. I was one very happy birthday girl.

All the ladies were leaving the following day (Saturday). Shannon & Queso were heading to a place on the coast called Gigante to rent a house for a month & do some volunteer work. Kate & her mum were going to Costa Rica for a border run. While Sabine was headed back to Germany for good. So we had a lovely farewell dinner that night, at one of the little comedors in Santa Domingo. Which incidentally comes with a free motorbike ride home. (Yes, I know I said i’d never get on the back of a bike again, but you know. Hot young Nicaraguan boy. What’s a hot blooded woman to do?)

Kate, Queso and Shannon had all said they would come visit me on Little Corn Island around New Year’s, so it was a bye for now, rather than a bye for ever. It was weird after they left. I spent the rest of the day just chilling out with Richard, Kiara Morgan and Morgan-cito. I bid them farewell the next morning.

The last image I have of the place, is Morgan and his son waving wildly at me from their porch as my taxi climbed the steep long rocky driveway. I was sad to be leaving Ometepe. But on the other hand I was very excited about going back to Little Corn. From one island to another. My chicken bus ride back to Managua was filled with island dreaming.

Summertime

I had one night in Managua, Nicaragua’s capital. It’s a big sprawling beast of a place: Urban. Ugly. And for the most part, Unfriendly. It’s an uncomfortable intersection of poor Nicas and rich ex-pats. I’m sure if you spent enough time here you’d find some beauty, good people and a heartbeat of sorts. But Antigua, it ain’t.

I checked into a nice hotel (‘nice’ has changed SIGNIFICANTLY since I stayed at the Intercontinental in New Orleans). I had my first hot shower in 5 weeks. Cold showers are a way of life here: the weather is warm even during the rainy season so there’s no real need; moreover it’s just because hot water is a luxury. And it’s not really an issue. But you never really get super duper scrubby clean. You should have seen the state of my hotel-issued white towel once I was done.

I then sat down to Skype my dear friend Scott who had sweetly
agreed to visit my folks for a very special reason. As smart as they are – my parents would have to be the least tech savvy people in the world. As in, they haven’t worked out how to use the Voicemail feature on the mobile phone I gave them just last year. So, Scott & I had conspired to surprise them with a video call on his laptop for my Dad’s 65th birthday. In return, he would be rewarded with The Best Laksa In The World.

We had a great jibber. Scott delivered the coffee table book I had ordered online. So now the oldies could get a bit of a taste of where I have been. Dad seemed pleased enough. But I do know the big thing for him was being able to see my face. Mum & Dad oohed and ahhed at the wonders of technology. I had to intervene when Dad started asking Scott how the Internet worked. Maybe it’ll be enough incentive for him to go & do an Intro to Computers course at the local community college.

Now I do not want to underestimate the extent of this massive favour that Scott had afforded me. My parents live a good 45min drive away from Scott’s place in the city. And Scott’s a busy man.

But my mama’s laksa, which a lot of my good friends will testify, is more than fair reimbursement. A laksa is a Peranakan (Chinese-Malay) dish. It’s a coconut-curry soup which is traditionally made with seafood. Served right, there will be a combination of Hokkien and vermicelli noodles and it will be garnished with fresh bean shoots, a good spoonful of sambal chilli paste, and topped with Vietnamese mint.

Having one of my mother’s laksas is a bit like flying First Class once. And then flying Economy forever more. One friend described it as a “laksa which will ruin you forever”. My friend Jackie, an eminent restaurant critic gave it a thumbs up. And another mate has put it on his Bucket List.

So naturally Scott being the good Aussie mate that he is, spent the rest of the afternoon torturing me with photos of said laksa. Yep. Goodonya.

Next day I made my way to Little Corn Island. It had come so highly recommended by everyone I had met who had been there. I was looking forward to getting back to the Caribbean. Doing some more diving. Eating more lobster. Perfecting my hammock technique. That sort of stuff.

It’s an 80 min flight in a teeny plane that makes too many ‘I’m on the precipice of falling out of the sky’ noises for my liking, to Big Corn Island. Then it’s an hour by panga to Little Corn Island. This particular panga is a big ole wooden speed boat with a bunch of bench seats – maybe enough to hold 30 passengers. It’s a got a couple of really big outboard motors which power it over some seriously high swells: Smooth on the way up. Not so smooth on the way down. Bit like a rollercoaster really. You wanna hang on tight. And that goes for your possessions too. Everything could well go flying. Expect to get drenched. When it rains, they give you a big sheet of industrial plastic which everyone helps hold down over their heads. Definitely an experience in itself.

A short walk from the jetty – I walked past a bar called Tranquilo and saw Skye sitting with a young European fellow. We saw out Happy Hour (which is actually two) and caught up while the sun did its thing over the sea.

Then we went & found me a place to call home for the next week. Most visitors to Little Corn Island will divide their time between the village and the beach, which is an epic 15 minute walk around the other side of the island. On the beach, there are three places where you can drop your swag for the eve. They’re all very simple thatched roof huts with concreted bathrooms. The beds are swathed in mosquito nets. There’s not much else to them. You might get a veranda with a chair or a hammock. You might get a fan. Or a lounge. You might get a power outlet. You wouldn’t get all of the above.

I got one with an uninterrupted view at Elsa’s. Next door at Grace’s / The Cool Spot was where it was at. Most people seemed to be staying there, the restaurant was good (if not a bit exy) and the bar would get busy after Happy Hour ended at Tranquilo. We met a mixed bag of folks from all over the world. They were all divers too, so I would end up spending a bit of time with them over the next week.

The next day & I went and talked to the guys at one of the dive shops, Dolphin Dive. (The other was closed for vacation.) When I told Adam, the manager how long I was going to be on the island for – he advised me to wait it out for a couple of days as the visibility wasn’t so great at the moment. That would be a first. It’s always “25 metres vis out there! We saw hammerheads dancing with dolphins, who were riding on the backs of turtles yesterday! It’s amazing out there!” And then you get out there and it’s Shit. I was well impressed with his honesty. I silently pledged allegiance to his shop immediately.

Over the next week, I did 5 dives with them and some laughs with my good natured DM – a local bloke who told me he was related to 80% of the island. We dove some real pretty sites under nice conditions, but on the whole there was nothing extraordinary to report. Apart from my first sighting of a “Dick Fish”.

On my second last day of diving, I pointed something out to Garry and made an underwater gesture: ‘What is it?’ With both hands, he started simulating a wank of the most massive pretend penis ever. I lost it! I laughed so hard my reg popped out of my mouth, and i took in a few good mouthfuls of seawater. I just did not expect that at all from this quietly spoken man. At all. When we surfaced, I spluttered at him – “WHAT THE HELL IS A DICK FISH!”

Apparently, it was a Black Spotted Sea Cucumber. Too fucking funny.

Little Corn Island is a proper tropical island with hundreds of coconut trees and lots of lush green dense vegetation.

Population: 1200 people, a few hundred chickens, lots of well-fed & happy dogs, and at least one cow. Almost everyone speaks Caribbean English and Kriole. A lot of folk speak Spanish.
There are zero vehicles on the island. There are very few shops, and no banks.

Power only runs from 3ish (give or take a couple of hours) in the arvo through to around 5 or 6 in the morning. Rest of the time they make do without. Businesses use gennys. The island does have its own water supply though which means you can drink the water here!

Typical foods here include coconut bread, and there’s a lady who lives down past the little school, who you can go visit two times a day to get the tastiest of them all – hot out of her oven. There’s a couple of kids who sell their mama’s “patties” which are kinda like little meat pies / empanadas. There’s a lot of plaintains & bananas which get served up every which way with gallo pinto (the omnipresent rice & freakinbeans). Then there’s a dish called Rundown, (pronounced more like ‘ran-dahn’ in the Carib accent). It’s a coconut soup dish consisting of seafood, plaintains, bananas, root vegetables and herbs & spices. I was well excited about the prospect of eating this.

And so it turned out, Skye had met a guy called Dennis (seems like every tourist does) on the beach who was touting a rundown by a bonfire on the beach, the next night. Sounded great. Only sticking point was he wanted the money upfront. I suggested we give him ½ that day, and tell him we’d give him the rest on the night.

Later that day, she & I and circumnavigated the island by foot which took us no more than an hour or two. There’s bugger all to see, apart from a lighthouse, which i think we must have missed.

What we did see though was a crazy amount of rubbish strewn along the shoreline. Tiny bits of Styrofoam that we mistook for shells. Thousands of plastic bottles. Hundreds of odd shoes. We hadn’t heard a thing about this from anyone. Why was no one talking about it? I asked some locals later that day and they all said it had washed up in the last big storm a couple of weeks ago. Garry told me there had been big clean up days in the past, and maybe something like that would be organised again before the high season hit.

We had the rundown on the beach that night, but neither Skye or I were really feeling the vibe. It just felt like we’d been suckered into a bit of gringo rort. There was a bit of a sleazy undertone to the whole affair. And to be honest, the rundown wasn’t what i had been hoping for. It seemed like a dish with great potential though. I vowed to hunt down the best one on the island before I left.

Skye left a couple of days after I arrived, for her friend’s wedding in Mexico. We’d been travelling together on & off for 5 weeks. There’d had been some difficult moments. But moreover, we’d had lots of fun and funny times in two stunning countries and we’d met some amazing people with incredible stories. There was a part of me that knew there were bits of travelling with someone which I was really going to miss. Like the travelling bits, in particular. But there was also a part of me that was looking forward to flying solo again.

I fell into an easy routine for the remainder of my days on the island.

I’d get up early, check the sea conditions on the both sides of the island (the beach side is on the East and it can get ridiculously windy there… whereas you can walk around to the Village on the West side and the sea can be glassy as a lake.) I’d have a chat with the guys in the dive shop. And then do some reading or writing over brekky. My dive was at the very civilised time of 1130am. After which it was time for lunch. I’d follow that up with a snooze in the hammock. I’d then go get ready for Happy Hour at 5pm. Have some dinner and be in bed by 9 or 10. What a life.

On my 2nd last night, I tagged along with Stefano (a tall Italian man who was one of the DMs at the dive shop) to the local reggae bar, Happy Hut. All the local lads were hanging around in hammocks getting high. I shared a few spliffs and kisses with Garry. And I must say – both were rather good. I also got given a bowl of a barracuda rundown which was being made by one the young boys, which was absolutely sensational.

Two days later, I was a bit sad to be leaving the island. I think so far it’s been my favourite (and yes, I know I say that about all of them).

I caught the early morning panga with Steph from the bar and learnt she was also going to Managua. She needed to go to Costa Rica for a border run. Steph is a tall, vivacious, pretty Brit who had a smile to shame the Caribbean. She decided to come to Managua Backpackers Inn with me and we really took to each other over the next 2 days.

By the end of it, we had decided I should come back & work in the bar with her (while her workmate was back in the States for a few weeks). She’d also said I could take over her house-sitting gig for the duration as well. That just sealed the deal. I could tell the two of us would get up to quite a bit of strife together. Throw someone’s sweet kisses into the mix & I was well excited about the possibility of returning to Little Corn, as I parted ways with Steph in Rivas.

2 or so hours later I arrived back at Little Morgan’s.

15 November 2011