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Melissa & Dave - Adventures at Sea

We pay our first bribe

May 8, 2014

We left the marina in the morning and drove to Leon with Holly and Mike.  We stopped there for a snack – we found a great bakery that had ham and cheese croissants.  We wandered around the town and saw a few of the churches. 

Thus far Nicaragua has not been exactly what we expected.  Yes, its poor, and there is lots of dirt and skinny chickens.  But their farming appears to be more advanced than either Mexico or El Salvador.  We’ve seen lots of big modern tractors.  Maybe that is because someone like Chiquita banana owns most of these farms.  While there are fences here – most of them are farming fences not barbed wire.  Much of the countryside looks pretty much like this:

People are dressed nicely and incredibly polite.  While there is a mix of horse & cart alongside semi-trucks, most of the vehicles appear well maintained.  And the drivers aren’t going like maniacs the way they do in most of Central America.  They use their turn signals, and even the taxi cabs aren’t covered in dents.  Even the chicken buses are in better shape.

We later discovered why - the Nicaraguan police are intent on traffic infraction citations.  Though maybe not for the benefit of the society as much as their own pockets.  We got pulled over - along with the car directly in front of us for precisely the same infraction - passing in a no pass zone.  Apparently a single solid line here means no passing.  The policeman politely explains that the process is that he writes us a ticket, and then holds onto your driver's license till you drive to the nearest government bank where you pay the fine, then you return with the receipt, and the policeman gives you your license back.  This process is, of course, ripe for corruption because people will beg the policeman not to make you waste their whole day driving back and forth to retrieve their license.  The policeman told us it would be a 50km round trip (though we suspect it would have been closer to 10km).  We pleaded to "please pay the fine here".  We tried to explain that doing the whole pay the fine at the bank business would have meant we would miss our ferry to the island.  The supervisor came over and checked us all out - we think looking for any locals that might report them.  He then wandered off, apparently satisfied that we didn't speak Spanish and couldn't be any sort of corruption enforcement.  So the policeman finally said "twenty dollars".  We paid him and drove off with no ticket.  Some TripAdvisor folks said not to pay more than $4 because you would "ruin it for everyone else".  But we were happy to pay the $20 and be gone.

Much of Nicaragua's power is produced through wind across Lake Nicaragua.

 We reached the ferry terminal at 4:30, in plenty of time to catch the 5:00 ferry.  The rental car place said not to take the rental car onto the ferry, but we figured that was probably because when the weather is crappy you risk the car sliding around on the boat deck.  We had been warned that even if we walked on, to stick to the big ferries as the smaller boats were only for "experienced sailors".  Yeah, ok, we are all four of us experienced sailors.  But for obvious reasons we weren't particularly interested in making the 1 hour trip in one of these babies:

The big ferries might be rusty, but by comparison...

We later realized that probably the reason why the rental car company said not to do it was because you are dependent on the driving skills of the guy parking next to you as they pack the cars in silly tight.

Then we were off to Ometepe Island.  Ometepe is in the middle of Lake Niceragua and was formed by two volcanoes.

When we reached the island, docking was a tricky maneuver.  The crew ran lines to a breakwater that came out past the ferry dock. They then backed down on this line, using it to spring the stern of the boat around the breakwater and onto the small dock where we disembarked.

We then drove to the hotel where we had a nice dinner and crashed.

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