October 27th, Final Travel Day and Arrival Into Managua, Nicaragua!
~ Adventure by Team SMr ~
We came to a creeping halt on a street peppered with bright orange and red cinder block buildings enclosed by white steel gates. The orange one on the left, nestled behind an SMr ILLUMINATE sign and a 4 foot hole in the sidewalk, marked our finish line. It felt surreal to finally be this close to the end of our epic journey, but Shakira wasn’t about to let us off that easy. Just as we began to pull forward she sideswiped us with one last cruel joke. With a grumble and a pffssh we realized that she had blown a fuse! Seriously!? Only 4 blocks from the end of a 3,000 mile trip and she blows a fuse! Eli and I sat dazed slowly turning towards each other. As soon as our eyes met we burst into laughter. Of course she blew a fuse! Shakira is a cranky old woman who we had pushed to her wits end! But there was NO WAY we were about to let her give up that easy. We have come this far together, we will finish together! It was a very “Cool Runnings” moment.
We could see our “SMr parents” lining the street side laughing and clapping as we rolled to a slow, drawn out, seemingly indefinite stop in front of them. WE MADE IT!
Before we began this trip, Amanda, Eli, and I shared a vision. It was to spend 13 days skirting the Caribbean side of Mexico singing kumbaya, camping in hammocks, and swimming in the clear blue waters of the Gulf of Mexico. We had packed all of our ropes and rock climbing gear, slack lines, tents, and Nubé’s with our sites set on extreme climbs and explorations. We went into this craving adventure, and that is exactly what we got… Only… Not the adventure that we had expected.
We began as 4 spiffy-clean strangers (including Shaky Shakira) with a trailer, a motorcycle, and about 500 pounds of supplies. 25 days later, when we finally rolled to a stop at the SMr ILLUMINATE facility, we had nothing left but filthy scraps. No trailer, no motorcycle, and an oily Guatemalan radiator wrapped up in the back where Amanda had once sat.
We endured problems at borders, got lost in both Monterrey and Mexico City, we had our electrical system go haywire, broke down just about everyday, lost Amanda, got stuck in protests, bought car parts on the Guatemalan black market, were in the middle of bloody brawls and mud slides, and so much more. There was one thing after the other that kept us on our toes. We seemed to stay on the defense at all times. However, in the midst of it all, we were consistently enamored by the breathtaking landscapes and the camaraderie of the people in each country we passed through.
No matter where we were, or how bad or dangerous of a situation we were in, there were always kind-hearted people that would go out of their way to help us. Strangers pushed our car, helped us find our way, welcomed us into their homes, fed us, let us use their cell phones, protected our possessions, or just shared a contagious smile and hope-filled life story.
Prior to leaving on our quest we read posts on the internet and listened as our friends and family offered endless warnings: “People in these areas are ruthless and violent” “Do not go, it’s too dangerous” “You WILL get kidnapped” “You WILL get robbed”. In many areas this may be true. However, entire cultures should not be condemned for the few who have fallen into crime and violence. The truth is, even within our own borders all of these warnings may apply. If I could offer one piece of wisdom I've gained from this trip it is this: Borders facilitate fear. Fear of the unknown and fear of those who are different. Sometimes the only stories that transcend borders are the ones of death, crime, violence, and fear. Had I never crossed so many borders, I would never have experienced the truth of these beautiful cultures that are all so different than my own. These are regions with so much insurmountable beauty and depth; filled with kind hearted people of all shades and sizes. Many of them do not have much, some living in shacks made of tin and making meals from the scrapings in a trashcan, but given even half a chance, they would give you the shirt off their back. Don’t be afraid to cross borders. There is too much beauty and life to experience to be bound by borders. Be selfless. Help those in need. We are all humans living on a planet bound by borders, but love and peace can pass through; much easier than three gringos in a Volkswagen : )
I am grateful to have had this amazing opportunity. It was challenging, and at times I wanted to throw my hands in the air and quit the trip all together, but the lessons learned through trying times are usually the most valuable. And for those lessons I am thankful. I am even grateful for our little car Shakira who did the best she could while we drove her to death over hundreds of pot-holes, speed bumps, crazy Mexican highways, and up more than a few steep volcanoes. (Although I will completely confess that I will never drive a vintage antique vehicle anywhere that’s not within walking distance from my current residence!)
Finally, we are so grateful to have arrived in Managua to help SMr in their journey producing high quality gear, helping support the local economy, while providing one of the most essential ingredients of life to those who need it: Clean drinking water.