Magma Fest on Isla de Ometepe luckily didn´t consist of any real magma but it still was a hell of a way to bring in the new era. After recieving a random message on my wall from my friend Jack I decided last second to make my way out to Isla de Ometepe for a music festival that I knew next to nothing about. The only information I was given was that I had a ticket and that I needed to pick it up at a hostel by the name of Hospedaje Soma. I made my way down to Rivas where I split a taxi to the ferry dock in San Jorge with some new found friends.We arrived 30 minutes early so we were able to get a spot on the upper deck in that nice Nica sun. The sun wasn´t the only beautiful part about being on top. With only a 60 minute trip to the town of Moyagalpa on Isla de Ometepe the view was already incredible. After hearing all the talk about these two massive volcanos that make up the island I was very pleased to see that they lived up to the hype. Definitely the most bad-ass island I´ve come across so far on this planet. Once we started departing the terminal in our impressively stable ferry I began to figure out the ratio. The ratio I was looking for was the one between Nicas and tourists. Up on the top deck it was about half and half but the bottom deck which was undercover was probably more like 80% Nicas and 20% tourists. This worked out in my favour as I am always trying to practice my Spanish and what better place than a giant electronic festival. As we got closer and closer the excitement rose. I of course had my mini-speakers out and did my best to convince people that the ferry ride was actually the pre-party. It seemed to work because soon enough people were grabbing beers out of the bottoms of their bags and even a couple bottles of Flor de Cana began to be passed around. I may or may not have joined in on the Flor de Cana but seeing as how I knew absolutely nothing about the hostel or island for that matter I decided to keep a clear head. I mean it was only 12:30 p.m. and the first day of the festival wasn´t wrapping up until 10 a.m. If you are planning to read on in order to see whether I made it until 10 a.m. then I will save you some time… No, I did not.
Upon arrival in Moyogalpa I did my best to avoid the invasion of locals trying to make a little extra money off the massive influx of tourists. I made it passed the front lines but I had a hard time explaining to a man that I didn´t want to rent a dirt bike for the weekend. Once he realized that not every backpacker wants a dirt bike he actually gave me brilliant directions right to where my hostal was. After walking 400 metres outside of the town of Moyogalpa I began to debate whether the guy was bitter towards me or not but decided to trust his word. 200 metres further down the very isolated dirt road I arrived at a small sign with an arrow pointing towards Hospedaje Soma. I walked in and to my surprise Jack was sitting in the main bar area on his computer. I gave him a hug and told him I would get my room all sorted quickly. I turned to the lady behind the bar not knowing whether she even worked there or not. I asked in Spanish if she worked at the hospedaje and if she knew which room I would be in. She answered me in perfect english ´You must be Taylor´. The embarrising part about this encounter was that I was so surprised to hear English from a hostel worker that I just said ´Thank you´. After speaking Spanish much of the morning and trying to be ripped off by Taxi drivers who never tell you the truth I couldn´t believe that I was so thankful that she spoke English. Anyways, let us move on. $8 USD per night and we had the entire place to ourselves. After tossing my backpack in a locker we walked back into town to grab some food since I hadn´t eaten a thing since 7:30 a.m. The first place we came across already had some of our friends from the Netherlands there and nice local dishes according to the menu so we decided to join them. A couple of Canadians from the ship also walked by and decided to join in. As the food began to arrive, feelings of friendship towards the Dutch began to dissipate. They spoke zero Spanish and were being rediculously picky and rude about there meals. In the end they ended up not even paying for their meals or drinks which in the traveling world automatically labels you as a ´dickhead´. After much conversation with the family that ran the restaurant we were able to explain we really did not know them and we can´t be held responsible for their actions. Needless to say, we still left the restaurant feeling a little more than awkward.
Back to the hostel for a shower and in order to throw on the deepest V-neck I could find in my backpack. We went to another hostel called Hospedaje Central because, well, it was more central. We met up with the Scots, Germans, Canadians, Israelis, and British and began to pur a few Flor de Cana´s with Coca-Cola. A pretty diverse group to say the least but that´s what happens when you throw a music festival on the location of the 8th natural wonder of the world. We still had to go 15 km out of Moyogalpa in order to get to the festival which takes about 45 minutes in a car on a far from smooth path. Luckily things work out sometimes and a man named Harold actually came to us asking if we needed transport to the festival. After hearing people had been paying $30 for a round trip I began to put my bartering face on. Harold at first said $15 one way and then I told him that was far too much for one person. It turned out that he meant for all 15 people at the hostel. $1 each? I can worry about transport home later. So there we were cramming ourselves into this weird shaped shuttle van and sending it off into the night towards Magma Fest.
With Gangnam Style and Daddy Yankee blasting the whole way to Magma Fest it made me realize that it´s the people that make party buses into parties, not the buses. We waved our farewells to Harold and hopped out about 150 metres from the beach. You could already hear the music but a hotel blocked the view of where the festival was being held. We gave in our tickets and exchanged them for wristbands as we heard the music getting louder and louder. We walked through the chill restaurant area of the hotel and eventually made our way out to the beach where the festival was being held. Victoria Frost and Flor de Cana were the official liquor sponsers of the festival and were doing free beer or rum promotions every 30 minutes. The party was packed and every one was already hitting the dance floor hard. I ran into friends from Granada and others from San Juan del Sur and met lots of new friends as well. It was really a cool group of people that had come together to celebrate electronic music and the changing of the Mayan calendar. Some were dancing in the water while others were full out swimming. By the time it hit 4 a.m. it was actually quite interesting to walk around and see the different positions people had last put themselves into before they said buenas noches to the world. I´m pretty sure that lots of people couldn´t find accomodation close enough to the festival so decided that they would just sleep on the beach. Each to their own, but god bless Jack for getting me a nice cozy bed on the other side of Volcan Concepcion. The ride back was $5 each but the only other options were to walk home and get robbed or sleep on the road you were trying to walk home on and then getting robbed.
We had a nice snooze in until about 10:30 then went around town to get some pictures of the sites and grab some zaaaa (pizza). By the way ´zaaa´ is not the Spanish spelling of pizza, it is just the way that idiots spell it. We made our way to the festival quite a bit earlier using the public bus. Although I wasn´t upset about spending $1 on the shuttle the night before, it still felt great to pay only 5 cordobas (15 cents) for a ride. The best part about it all was that we got dropped off at Charco Verde where the festival was being held and felt a little apprehensive. The bus driver told us just to go straight down this road and you will get there. I don´t think there is a creepier road than this one anywhere but still we started to make our way down towards where we were told the festival was.
Just when we started to think that we were probably walking the opposite direction we began to hear a deep bass. The music lifted our nervousness and as a car passed us on the way down the road we knew we were on the right track. The second night had much nicer electro even putting on some Deadmau5 a few times. The vibe was way more local since lots of locals from Managua had arrived in the morning having had work the day before. People were friendly, dances were danced, and drinks were drunk???
The next day the party was over so back to the ferry dock we went. The problem is that on Sundays the entire island shuts down. The ferries that are supposed to leave every 2 hours were now just going to leave when they wanted if they wanted. We hoped to catch a 10 o´clockish bus but ended up not departing until 2:30 p.m. I didn´t have big plans for the day anyways and was just happy to have my ipod and beautiful views of Isla de Ometepe as we sailed back towards the mainland.
Arriving back in Granada once again gave me that very cool feeling of belonging but also a longing for a new adventure. The family and I ate dinner togetehr as I explained the exciting events of the weekend and shortly after that I went to my room and read myself to sleep. After all, it was Christmas Eve in the morning.
The last few days have been filled with holiday cheer, food, and bombs. The bombas here can hardly be called fireworks but they still have the people obsessed. Christmas is a very different vibe here than in Canada and for that I am thankful to have experienced it in its fullness. My homestay father Winston was talking wiht great excitment about the party we were having in the evening and making sure everything was ready for the fiesta. Christmas Eve is the really important day for them down here and it is all about the countdown to midnight. All day my two little brothers were losing their mind trying to figure out what Nick, Johanness, and I had bought for them for Christmas. A couple tiems I even caught them trying to rip a hole in the side of my present to see what it was. As family and neighbours began to head over, the front doors to the place were opened and Winston´s rediculously sized speakers were pushed onto the street. Ton and Yersil spent most of the evening blowing off firecrackers with other kids from the street and I spent my time in a rocking chair eating the best shrimp cocktail ever made and enjoying a few Flor de Cana´s and Coca-Cola. We all sang a bunch of Karaoke and even some women from Taiwan walked a whole block up to join in on the Karaoke. Nobody understood a word of what she was saying (becuase it was a Chinese song) but she actually had a pretty good voice. Since I spend much of my days following my host mother around the house singing Enrique Iglesias and rapping Daddy Yankee songs, Mario Jose decided it was time for me to perform ´Dimelo´ by the one and only Enrique Iglesias (I know Julio was the actual one and only). My brother Nick has a few pictures of me pouring out my heart and soul as I sang ´Dímelo por que estas fuera de mi y al mismo tiempo estas muy dentro´ so I hope to get a hold of those pictures soon. The rum definitely upped my passion levels as I rocked the mic like it wudn`t nuttin`. At 5 minutes to midnight I´m pretty sure the city began to lose it´s mind. Winston cut the music and everyone ran out to the street to light off more and more bombas. No one was able to talk to one another because the streets were just covered in Fireworks. In hindsight, I really don´t know how someone didn´t lose an arm or eye or something. At midnight everyone walked around hugging and kissing every person. It was a very special moment and the hugs I received from my host family and brothers made me feel very blessed to have been placed in such a happy family. I skyped back home and was able to chat with my family as well who were all in Calgary doing the big family dinner thing and I was happy to hear they were having a nice Christmas Eve as well.
I shouldn´t say I received hugs from all of my homestay family because they were actually too busy ripping the paper off of their presents. They only recieved a few gifts and it made me feel more than a little spoiled for all the presents I recieved as a child (but at the same time they were awesome so thanks a lot Madre and Padre)! The kids were finished unwrapping before they started and were quick to work at setting up the race track that my brothers Nick and Johanness had helped buy with me for the kids. We all worked hard to assemble it but after about 30 minutes of intensive labour I still couldn´t get the cars to move more then 6 inches before derailing from the track. We have been able to use some sandpaper on the metal parts of the track in order to smooth it but Nick and I still agree with each other that it is a ´piece of shit present´. Sometimes it is nice that the family doesn´t speak any English so that the kids don´t even flinch when you say a sentence like that. Money down the tube but I feel that the boys don´t mind too much. They saw how disappointed we were and felt bad as we kept trying to make it work better. I wish we just gave them each 500 cordobas to go buy what they wanted but where is the Christmas fun in that?
Christmas Day was very low-key. It consisted of those tasty hot-dog buns with nothing on them for breakfast and afterwards a nice little Christmas movie with the family. Everything is closed so we all just hung out together. I tried heading to the city of Masaya to visit a friend but after waiting for the bus for an hour I realized theat there probably wan´t one coming that day. Last night was the last night that Johanness, Nick and I would all be together so we treated ourselves to a cappucino and talked about our favourite times together. The schooling part of my trip is coming to an end and the adventure really begins now. Tomorrow I leave for Managua where I plan to stay for the weekend before I make my way across the country to the Caribbean Coast. The Caribbean side sounds like it has as much in common with the west coast of Nicaragua as Granada has in common with Vancouver. Most of the residents are ancestors of a group of slaves who swam to shore after their slave ship crashed and others are of some sort of British descent. The vibe is supposed to be very relaxed but many towns are very seedy and best to stay in your room in the evening. Information is a little hard to come across and I think it is safe to say that it is definetely off the beaten path. Roads are close to non-existant but the views are phenomenal. Plans always change but for now my plan is to try and get to Las Islas de Maiz by next Wednesday. That means lots of long bumpy bus rides, a 100 km ride down a river and an 8 hour journey through the Caribbean to the Pequena Isla de Maiz. This place is better then those postcards you see trying to capture paradise. Diving is a must and kaying will be plentiful. The beauty of it all is that it has hardly even been discovered. There are no roads, resorts, cars, or motorcycles on the island and rooms can be found for $10 a night. I hope to right before I embark on this cross country journey but if not, wish me luck!
I hope everyone had a very merry Christmas and had an incredible 2012! Lot´s of things to be thankful for. What are you thankful for? I received an e-mail yesterday with a link to a video that my brother had edited for me as a Christmas present. This video consisted of several clips of different family members wishing me luck on my travels and telling me they loved me. I say it all the time but family is the most important thing in the world. I am thankful for all of you but I am especially thankful for the love and support that I have always recieved from my Madre, Padre, Hermano, and my extended family. I get the feeling that 2013 is going to be another great year.
P.S. I am posting this a couple days later because I wanted to include pictures. I am currently in Managua visiting Celina and having an incredible time. Happy New Year and I will post soon!