Not quite as bright and early as we'd like, we start the day an hour
late for our 9am horseback ride. It's refreshing to be somewhere that
boils down safety to "you know how to ride, right?" We add out
bicycle helmets for extra safety first.
We trot, gallop, and whatever you call "going legitimately fast mode" on our horsies maybe 5 km to arrive at the entrance for San Ramon waterfall. Or, rather, the entrance to the entrance to the entrance: we've then got a ride through the manicured lawns of a country club resort posing as an ecological research center, trotting among avocado trees guarded by some dude with a sawed-off shotgun (of rock salt, hopefully), and tying the horses before walking what's called "1 km a la cascada" but is actually several times that. Though a flow not much north of a trickle today, San Ramon's ~200-foot drop is worth the trip, especially when I find out how nice said trickle feels on my head.
Post-waterfall, Amanda is chafed raw and then some, having opted for short shorts as riding apparel. Having only yet achieved a not-so-uncomfortable numbness, I continue on to the petroglyphs while Amanda heads back to Hospedaje Merida. The petroglyphs are carvings in the volcanic rocks found throughout Nicaragua but especially prominent on this island. Apparently date's unknown but thought 500-1850 AD (not too helpful) and there's this huge backlog of identified but unexcavated sites, not for lack of stability but more from funding not being around.
Probably more accurately "funding that meets government requirements of relinquishing all control of exploration sites and ownership of finds." As I pay 20 cordoba (~$1.10) to walk past the barbed wire gate of a farm family who seem to not own but have taken control of the land some petroglyph-containing rocks sit on, this seems a bit odd of a system to protect artifacts of supposedly nonzero historic importance. At least some of the volcanic rocks are in grass, I guess only slowly eroding. Others are literally sticking into the lake's tide, partially covered as the tide rises and laps away at the carvings. Would it really be so bad to take some of these and sell to a climate-, humidity-controlled museum? Private collection? If not for similarly (or more) exploitive moves by the Colonial British, wouldn't London's British Museum be largely empty?
Following the petroglyphs is a series of mad rushes, me to the hotel, Amanda and I to get ready and close our bill in time to catch the ferry, our taxi driver to the harbor, Amanda to withdraw money because for some reason the boat decides to tack on an extra 100 cordoba to leave the island vs. arriving (bike charge, supposedly), and me to keep my head from exploding when the ATM won't take our cards and the ferry won't let us pay with ~80-cordoba difference upon arrival in San Jorge.
Of course, we find a grocery store that charges us 10% to run a credit transaction and give us cash within a few minutes of the ferry leaving.
So begins an extended saga of weirdness including several more taxi rides, a stop at the Chaco Verde lagoon, 4 Swedish girls (Eliot, I told you you should have come), a long walk in the dark with packs and bikes, sleeping in the dirt for several hours, and, last but not least, bananas before bikes.
When the ferry arrives at ~1am, 2 hours later than scheduled, the bureaucrat at the ramp tells us we can't load our bikes until after the bananas are on board. Not like a handful of bananas: like 20 refrigerator-sized banana bushel armies of bananas. We bitch, moan, complain, and wait for awhile, but sheer exhaustion wins over taking a stand in the face of absurdity: we board the boat and search for seats.
"First class" means a.c. and less diesel smell, but it also means everybody packs in. I can't fall asleep, my legs sore from 3 days' hikes. Stretching outside, I see the bikes (and of course all of the bananas) on board and us at a steady clip. Stretched and a little mor relaxed, I go back in, finding even less space than before. Sleep is a cold metal floor, my bookbag as a pillow, quickly offsetting any luxury we might have experienced on this trip.