Friday, February 26, 2010

Coco River - getting there

We had a couple of good friends come to visit, Mark and James. They were interested to see our newest area where we are carrying out projects with El Porvenir (www.elporvenir.org).

They arrived in Managua on Wednesday, and we spent a good portion of Thursday (about 5-6 hours) driving to Wiwilí, the town where we have our newest office. We checked into the hotel and met Fermín, our local staff member, for dinner. After a filling meal of beans and rice (if you've ever been to Nicaragua, then you know this is the meal of choice), we got to bed to prepare for an early start.

On Friday, we met our guide, Pico and then we drove up to Las Piedras, where we caught the boat. Normally, one can catch a boat in Wiwilí, but 2009 was a drought year for Nicaragua, and the river is lower than usual. Las Piedras offered a better starting point. I think Mark and James were impressed by the roads, which were generally good, until the last 20 minutes or so, when the road disappeared into more of a cattle trail.

Mark, Pico, Eddy and Fermin waving


Still, we made good time (less than 1.5 hours), and the boaters (Eddy and Carlos) were waiting for us. The boat ride took about 3.5-4 hours, but it was well worth the time and sunburns (no shade for 4 hours!). I wish I could say we saw more wildlife than anything. Although we did see an enormous amount of birds, including herons, cranes, eagles and lots of turtles; we saw more cattle than anything else. Not that I mind seeing cattle, but seeing them in the river helps drive it home why the river water is not safe to drink...

Cattle taking a break from the heat


A blurry turtle


Herons


It is a beautiful country side, which perhaps you can gather from the photos, although it doesn't give the same feeling as you get riding down the river in the valley, surrounded by green. The Coco River is the border between Honduras and Nicaragua, but the cattle and people don't seem to notice. We did stop at the "border control" point - a small Nicaraguan military base. Two guys, with large guns, asking who we were. Eddy gave them the story, and the foreigners weren't asked anything - no passport checks thankfully, since most of us didn't have them on us. It seemed a little odd; they probably assumed we couldn't speak Spanish.


We stopped at a small "waterfall" for a snack. Still no shade. We planned on 5 loaves of bread for the 7 of us for 2 days. Unfortunately, 2 people bought 5 loaves so we had 10. I think we overdid that part.

Although the trip was beautiful, we certainly did note the effects of agriculture and deforestation on both side of the border.

Cattle grazing on the left, forest on the right


On the positive side, we saw petroglyphs right in the river. I had seen them on Ometepe Island, but had no idea they were out here on river as well.

Petroglyph on the Honduran side

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