October 27, 2003

Managua, Nicaragua

I'm just passing through Nicaragua on my way to Costa Rica.

The only reason I went to Honduras was for the diving, but I got lot more than I expected. In Utila, I did a 4.5 day open-water dive certification. It's not tourist season now, so classes which are usually packed were wide open - 1 on 1 instruction! I spent the first few days with an excellent instructor who was very safety-oriented; this lay in some great basics. Unfortunately, she had to go into the decompression chamber after day two, and I couldn't finish the course with her. Her replacement, was a large island local who's been diving since he was 12 and has over 4,500 logged dives under his belt. Over time he's become a little, uh, lax in his approach to safety. In a way, this is somewhat reassuring. He has probably seen and dealt with every possible type of emergency underwater. Still, I'm glad I didn't learn the basics from him. But I'm really glad I got to dive with him. It was the best of both worlds. He knows the reefs around Utila better then most people know their own neighborhoods. A nature freak, he took me on dives (past the safe time limit) where we swam with manta rays, squid, and schools of neon tropical fish. He pointed out, and handled, a number of strange plants, fish and other creatures on the seabed, then later logged the species in my log book. I had no idea what he was doing when he later asked me to go show my log to the other instructors. Apparently, this was his way of tormenting them. I didn't know it at the time, but the stuff he showed me was pretty rare. Many of the other instructors have been diving the area for a long time looking for the same without success.

I also got to dive a wreck, which was one of the main reasons I wanted to dive. It was far deeper than the 18-meter limit I was supposed to adhere to, but the instructor didn't seem to mind so down we went.

My last day on the island, I picked up something more than memories. After an early morning dive, I caught the first ferry back to the mainland, and from La Ceiba, took a bus to San Pedro Sula. It hit me on that ride.

It was bound to happen sooner or later. I've been eating meals from street vendors, buying cream pastries in the market, and brushing my teeth, cooking, and drinking juices with the local water. Just about everything you're told not to do - in fact that was the point. If I'm going to be down here for several months, I might as well get used to the bugs now.

I got to San Pedro Sula, Honduras by sundown, and originally planned to catch an early bus to Nicaragua the next morning. But whatever I picked up had already taken its toll. By that time I had just enough sense left to get myself checked into a hotel for the night. I don't remember much of that night, or the next night I spent in that hotel. I'd wake up shivering, curled in a ball with some shooting pain in my gut. I used the wall to hold me up as I'd stumble back and forth from the bed to the bathroom. 48 hours later I managed to get down - and keep down - bread and soup.

Actually, I figure I have to thank a steady intake of beer and mezcal for not getting sick earlier. My theory is alcohol kills bugs right? I mean, what could live in that? Now, alcohol raises risks of the bends while diving dramatically, so I hadn't had a drop of alcohol on the Island. I stopped drinking. I got sick. Theory proven.

I'll stay the night here in Managua, then on to Costa Rica tomorrow. Two days on my deathbed in some sweltering Honduran hotel room or two days and three countries by bus? I honestly don't know which is worse.

Posted by dhuska at October 27, 2003 09:42 PM