Cruising to the Panama Canal
Beauty, intrigue and remnants of revolution
Firstly up front, one thing that grabs me is the fact that I am on a moving 5 -Star hotel and simply put, I don’t have to worry about hauling suitcases from country to country, what I am going to eat, especially the cuisine variety that you are presented with, the impeccable maid service, the nightly entertainment and the many new friends you meet as we did on this particular cruise. They were all Australians.
We had one couple that we hung out with during the day and met up with for breakfast and also for touring. Then, there were our night shift crew, also Aussies, a husband and wife and their male friend.
Every night when all the shows were over we would meet at the Explorers Club/bar hosted by a Jamaican bar tender. We would trade tales of adventures, travels, cricket and world topics. These three were totally fun. I have often wondered how much their bar tab totaled, as one of the guys said it would probably be as long as a novel.
These guys and lady never eased up as they told us that every 2 years or so they go travelling, They also cruise on land and were on their way to Nashville, Las Vegas, and New Orleans after the ship docks in Florida. When asked by Ann why such a long vacation their answer was : “We live so far down under that when we come out we try and make the most of it and stay out as long as possible.”
Three days at sea had me real rested and relaxed anticipating our next stop that we will be visiting which would be San Juan del Sur in the country of Nicaragua- The land of lakes and volcanoes and the largest country in Central America. In the wee hours of the morning as the Coral Princess slowly makes its way into an area called Bahia San Juan Del Sur where it will drop anchor and “brought up” to a stop. My first look at this beautiful, sleepy fishing village is the greenery and the homes and stores all painted in bright, vibrant colors. It is like the cruise ship brought this little city of about 18 thousand to life because suddenly you are seeing lots of movements , and hearing music and laughter, can’t wait to get on land as our tour today will take us on a two- hour bus ride through the lush country side onto the city of Granada.
Our disembarkation today will be by tenders and they are using the ship’s life boats and available, trained crew. As I have pointed out before you should try and get a view of how they drop these boats into the sea— it is amazing.
From the ship to the pontoon, which is painted in the country’s colors of white and blue we ascend some narrow, steep steps to get onto the port. I am glad that the Pacific was cooperating and there was not too much rocking.
As I stood on solid ground looking around at this beautiful sea-side town, one thing that jumped out at me was the number of young cleanly dressed people hanging around with nothing to do; then I realized that this was fertile ground for the Sandinistas who overthrew the Samosa family in 1979 and established a revolutionary government in its place under the leadership of Daniel Ortega with the support of the Soviet Union.
They tried to institute a policy of mass literacy, significant resources to health care and promoted gender equality. As the consensus goes, America was not too happy with the Soviets so close to home (remember the Cuban revolution) so the CIA in 1981 formed their own militia known as the Contras to overthrow the leftist government of Ortega who incidentally became the current president of the country after being overthrown and imprisoned and was exiled for seven years to Cuba.
There is a whole lot more history of the turmoil that this beautiful country experienced. I just wanted to give you an idea as I wondered to myself how come there was so much gaiety and laughter in this little fishing village that must have seen its share of horrors that civil war causes.
Another thing that we noticed from the remnants of the Soviet era was the number of Lada cars and trucks. Against the backdrop of the stores with names such as “Maxi Pali” owned by Walmart there are also fast-food restaurants with names like “Tip Top Fried Chicken” which is really a KFC. There are many name brand American establishments for example TGIF etc. Our tour guide pointed out a contrast because our luxury coach was made right here in Provost- Quebec as we boarded to make the two-hour ride on what is considered the longest highway – The Pan American Highway we get a closer look at the city of San Juan del Sur one realizes that not too much money is in this region.
As the coach starts our thoughts are interrupted by the calm, soothing voice of our tour guide as he says hello and introduces himself in several languages. Right off the bat he says let me draw your attention to the fact that you are in the third poorest nation in the Western Hemisphere even though we are one of the largest exporters of coffee, cattle and gold. Because of all the political struggles that took place in our country the average citizen does not benefit. However, in the meanwhile we notice homes, no matter how big or small are all colorfully painted with TV dishes hanging off the roofs. Obviously, communication is not a problem. As our guide continues to tell us some historical facts about the country and what we will be seeing like the freshwater lakes with bull sharks! Is this a reality or a fable?
Come back to the next issue of the Community Contact when we will tell you much more about this interesting and fabulous country – Till then walk good