Arriving like a 1980’s popstar in Bluefields
Sarapiqui (Costa Rica), March 10th 2018

We have always liked it: destinations that are visited less often and that are more difficult to reach. When we searched in our travel guide for a nice place in Nicaragua to escape from the many backpackers and tour groups, we were lured to the city of Bluefields, on the Caribbean coast. Bluefields is a place that can only be reached by boat, via the Rio Escondido. The city does not have many sights, as a hurricane destroyed all old, wooden Victorian houses in 1988. Yet it seems to be a great place to get a feel of the Caribbean atmosphere.

The dusty town of El Rama is the gateway to the southern Caribbean coast of Nicaragua, as this is the place where the pangas (public speedboats) leave for Bluefields. There is no fixed timetable for the departures. It leaves when a panga is full, so as soon as 20 people have bought a ticket, we are set to go. We are number 7 and 8 on the list and while "enjoying" of a weak cup of coffee we wait patiently. There starts some commotion around us when some electricity cables above the road make short circuit which results in loud crackling noises and a rain of sparks. After more than two hours of waiting, however, our departure is imminent and in their haste to be the first to arrive at the boat, our fellow passengers forget their fear of the short circuit. To take the shortest route to the boat you have to go through the rain of sparks and this is the route that they take. We take it easy and think to ourselves that there are twenty places in the boat, so we always can find a space. The boat trip takes only two hours, so we will survive.

Arriving with a 80s 'coupe' in Bluefields

The two most unpopular places of the boat are left when we board the boat. We share the front bench in the boat with two corpulent ladies who could not get to the boat as quickly as the others. Immediately we think we know why nobody wants to sit on this bench: this is the only one on which you are facing backwards. With little proneness to seasickness, this makes little difference to us.
However, the sight on our fellow passengers does not reassure us. People tie hoods tightly around their heads and put on raincoats. The otherwise so cheerful Nicaraguans do not seem to look forward to this trip and they look a worried. There is a lot of wind and this makes the river a bit rougher. “The people are perhaps a bit afraid to get wet” is our first thought.

After leaving, however, we soon notice that our position at the point of the boat has a much greater disadvantage than solely sailing backwards. When the speedboat races across the water with enormous speed, the tip of the boat comes loose from the water. Even the smallest wave makes us bouncing of our hard wooden bench. The wind force is increasing and therefore it seems like we are a ball in a pinball machine for two hours. Since the river is also used frequently by larger cargo ships, we also suffer from the bow waves caused by such a ship. That yields maximum points in the pinball machine!

Waiting for the boat from El Rama to Bluefields

The reason why everyone uses hoods, becomes clear to Ivonne quickly as her hair flares in all directions. It is like putting a wind machine with maximum force on your hair. But what does it matter, as Ivonne is not that vain?

Half an hour before we arrive at our destination, a heavy rain shower brings some extra excitement in the boat trip. People have a practical mindset in these places, and therefore, a big piece of agricultural plastic is passed from the front to the back of the panga. Everyone holds on to it tightly and then the captain sails on. He goes a little bit slower now: with that lashing rain in his eyes, he has to sail even more concentrated to bypass floating logs. You do not want to crash on one of those at full speed. With the many floating logs in the river it is not surprising that all passengers put on their life jacket very neatly.

It has already cleared up when we enter the port of Bluefields. The hoods are going off and the Nicaraguans are just as happy as they normally are. When Ivonne wants to rub through her hair, it turns out that her hair is literally standing straight on her head. Perhaps she is a bit vainer than she thought on forehand, because when we are walking with our backpacks through Bluefields to find a small hotel, she tries to push her hair down. With the feeling that everyone looks at her, she looks in a shiny shop window. "Shit: I look like Angela Groothuizen of the Dolly Dots (“famous” Dutch 1980s pop band)" is her first thought. In the room she combs out this 1980s coupe with great difficulty. Now we can really start our visit to Bluefields.

A seaworthy vessel?
Local girls in Pearl Lagoon
A creol restaurant
Tropical atmosphere in Raitipura

A cold coke in a shop/bar/restaurant

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