Cliff Dive, Hammock Camp, Explore, Relax
~ Adventure by the SMr Crew, Photos by Eli Baylis ~
There is something special about the first moment you open your eyes the morning after falling asleep in the wilderness. The rays of sun, shattered by the surrounding trees, are just low enough to beam through the roof of your tent, highlighting just your face while the rest of you is bundled tight and warm in your hammock. Though comparatively still and peaceful, the natural world is bustling around you. Down in the flowing river, a rancher was watering his horses, a fresh water crab was forging the rocks for breakfast, and wild parrots soared through the air, likely hunting for the crab! Two young village boys were taking their best mammal friend for a walk (or the other way around), and giggling with curiosity over these strange foreign floating crafts in the trees.
We trenched back up the dry countryside and river beds, stopping for a bit to investigate a curious little insect. We watched as it buried itself in the sand then created a cone shaped small sinkhole above itself. When an unforeseen ant crawled into the cone, he slipped on the walls of the sink hole, having trouble getting out. The strange insect below the surface then shot out a long arm so fast you couldn't even see it happening. He pulled the ant below and gobbled him up, waiting ever so patiently for the next victim. It was fascinating really! We still haven’t been able to determine what type of creature it was!
We soon came upon an old thatch-roofed hut hidden among the thistle and weeds of the river side. A small Nicaraguan boy with his golden bronzed skin ran out with a mischievous smile on his face. Behind him strolled a stern-faced man carrying a cooler. His eyes told the story of hard work in the sun and hardships we may never know. We soon learned that this family made their livelihood by selling cold drinks to visitors and offering boat rides into the canyon. With their Frescas and Sunkists in hand, Lacy and Eli hopped aboard the water chariot toting all of our tubes along with them. We would meet them at the cliffs!
While floating through the canyon, we came to a section where the walls are very tall and the river channels into a waterfall. You have no choice here but to climb out on a rock face and jump. (Or ride down the short waterfall in your inner tube.) The jump is about 30 feet high and fairly close to the rock wall on the other side. Giddy like a kid getting out of class, Eli scampered up the rock, climbed even higher, and with no hesitations, flung himself into the air. It must have been 50 feet or so, but high enough to bust an eardrum! Ouch! Richard and I up next. I peered over the edge to see how clear the water was below. A slight mist of water on the rock made my footing like butter! I slipped, fell, and was about to involuntarily take my turn! Eli, with camera in hand, thought for sure he was about to get some epic action falling shots, but luckily Richards quick reflexes reached out and snatched my arm stabilizing my landing. Ok.. That was close, but now let’s do this for real! One, Two, Three! JUMP!!!!! Hitting the cold water was a quick jolt to my sensory system making me want to gasp for air, but at the same time, quite refreshing! I wanted to test out the natural “water slide” so I grabbed a tire, tossed it back up, and climbed back up the rocks. This time I Annie Taylored it over the water fall sitting feet up in my tube. Not my brightest moment I can say. The force of the water above me wanted to drag my tube - with me in it- to the depths below where the skeletons of pirates live. I’m not the best swimmer, and started thrashing and kicking against the heavy flow above me, I got free and doggie paddled gasping to the edge. WHO HOOO! Totally worth it!
When the afternoon sun dipped just behind the walls of the canyon, a swift coolness billowed through. Feeling chilled to the bone and very hungry, we decided to head back to camp. We wanted to spend some of our time wandering the streets of the town of Somoto about 30 miles back on the PanAmerican Highway, so we packed up, bid our farewells to the family watching over Shaky Shakira in their parking hut, and waved goodbye to the small majestic canyon.
The town was practically vacant of cars. Most everyone on foot, bicycle, or horse. We wandered a bit and eventually found an exquisite little family stand with an outdoor grill. The portions were huge and delicious, but of course the family's welcoming, smiling faces were the best part!
On the drive home I spotted a gorgeous old suspension bridge delicately dangling over a very wide river bed. It seemed so wonderfully out of place to me! I have traveled all over Nicaragua and have never seen any other structure like it in this country! I begged Richard to stop so he pulled over and gave me 5 minutes to check it out. Lacy was asleep and Priscilla was just not interested, so they stayed in the car. Eli, camera in hand, had already hopped out and struck up a conversation with a local man on horse. I ran to the center of the bridge, and like you'd picture from an old Indiana Jones movie, it was very wobbly and had planks either broken through or completely missing in some spots. It was so beautiful to me so I just had to get a picture here. I strapped up my Pares Hammock, hopped in, and poked my head out just as Richard was taking the shot. Totally worth the 5 minutes to me! Meanwhile, Eli found out an interesting fact talking to the Nicaraguan man. He asked the man what his horse’s name was. The man replied “I don’t know, we do not name our animals.” Eli asked if he could name him, the man grinned and said sure. That horse galloped across the river yielding a new honorable name, “Ralph”.
The rest of the drive home was silent for the most part. I think the idea of heading back into our stress filled work days was creeping in like the smog over Managua in the distance. For me, (and I am sure for a few of the others), adventure and wild rugged beauty is like oxygen. Gone too long without it and my being, down to the core, begins to shrivel and die; my captive spirit gasping and clawing to be set free. This trip was not filled with close calls, intense falls on ropes while scaling overgrown routes, or battling venom dripping vipers. We had no rushing white rapids hoping to wrap its flittering fingers around anyone’s life, or howler monkeys tossing coconuts over head. However, it was exactly what our restless, encased spirits needed. Sure there were a few ant bites, a few spats among the group, and definitely a bit colder than expected. But this place was like stepping into some sacred paradise where nothing could, or even desired to harm you. The colors were captivating; floating along the gentle green canyon spring was calming, and the symphony of sounds that wooed us to sleep each night in our cozy Nubé Hammock Shelters were serene. Every person we came in contact with has probably faced harsher circumstances than we can even imagine, yet would turn it all over to offer a smile and a helping hand. The peace and selflessness that can be learned in a place such as this should be all man’s way of life. We hope to return one day soon. Just at that moment when our stifled spirits need to soar once more.
SMr Camping Gear Used in This Adventure: