“Over the river and through the woods to Grandmother’s house we go…” you know the song, except it wasn’t to my Grandmother’s house that I was going. I was on my way to a Turtle Release Party in Nicaragua. The Alcalde was going to release 500 baby turtles. Their hopes and plans are to grow the tourism opportunity here.
The Turtle Release Party was taking place at Playa Salaminas, approximately 10 km via dirt road, past the community of Samaria which is close to the Gran Pacifica Resort.
I chose to go by myself, in my car called “Donkey” - named by a friend since it has a history of stubbornness, electrical issues, and can’t quite be trusted.
“Donkey” and I started off through Samaria, with me asking people along the way where this place was. They just pointed down the dirt road. I arrived at the first river and watched an oxcart cross it. I was a little nervous about crossing rivers, but slowly made it to the other side. I saw some of my Nicaraguan friends up ahead in the back of a truck, so I decided to follow them along. Yay, somebody who knew the way! We continued through large farm gates, another river, and then the road began to narrow.
When we came to a third river, we saw a tour bus and a truck stuck in the water with many people on both sides. Someone asked me to move forward on a one-way road with no place to turn around. So I moved, and then too became stuck. I asked my Nicaraguan friends if they were going to try and cross, they said "no"! We all watched as some men in a truck tried to get the stuck vehicles out of the river with rope. It was quite entertaining, except probably not for the guys in the river spinning their wheels. A man on a mule came by and laughed at all of us.
Finally, after 2 hours, the bus and truck were cleared. It was my turn to make a go of it. Driving up the mud embankment with smoke coming out of my engine, I finally made it across, but thought, “How am I going to get out of here later?” Continuing on this “cow path” of a road, I parked at the very small entrance along with the others and noticed a truck that was parked dead center in the middle of the only way out.
I attended the ceremony for a while – where there was dancing and people speaking. While I was talking to my friends I saw a sign that said, “We Don’t Eat Turtle Eggs”. The Nicaraguan government has made a nice Sanctuary there to conserve the Giant Sea Turtles.
When I finally walked back to my car, I heard a man say to me, “Su llanta, su llanta.” Despite having limited Spanish, I understood that the word “llanta” means, “tire”. Yep, I had a flat tire after driving on all those rocks and rough road. But the good news is that I have learned not to worry, since there is always someone to lend a helping hand in Nicaragua. Seven men helped out and changed my tire, joked around and laughed with me, hopefully not at me! All I could do was laugh too. I thanked them, gave them my card, and invited them to come to Gran Pacifica.
It was starting to get dark. Since the drive to the Turtle Release Party was challenging enough in the daylight, I politely asked the guy in the truck, who was still parked in the middle of the road, to move over so I could attempt my leave. Praying with “Donkey,” I made it back across the three rivers, through the three gates, (which I had to push open with my car), and dodged some cattle and a few oxcarts along the way. Finally, I was back at home at Gran Pacifica and couldn’t be happier.
It was a fun and adventurous day, but next time I will ride with some friends. If we get stuck along the way and have to camp out, at least I know I will be in good company.