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The Shuttle to Maderas

NICARAGUA | Wednesday, 27 May 2015 | Views [151] | Comments [1] | Scholarship Entry

We’ve only been on the road for ten minutes, and my knuckles have already turned white.

I’m sitting on a makeshift bench in the open bed of a pickup truck; a flimsy metal gate fixed four feet above my head. My arms wrap tightly around the rusty exterior as we trundle down a remote dirt road. In Nicaragua, seat belts – much like traffic regulations – are an afterthought. My eyes dart up; settle on the pyramid of surfboards stacked in a precarious pile clattering above me. As we carve through potholes they shift and crack against each other - ninety pounds of fibreglass fun, secured only by bungee cords and hope.

We’re squished like sardines in the Shuttle to Maderas: nine nomads, three locals, and me. On my left is the girl from Portland, the one I met this morning. She talks too much, but her stories back up her volume. I like her already. My toes bump the ankle of the boy from Austria – he’s toothy, blonde, and hopeless with English. I can’t remember his name, but I’ll never forget his smile. Sitting on the tailgate and hanging halfway out the back is our sensei of the surf, a born and bred Nicaraguan with the tan lines and perspective to prove it.

We rattle past burnt out pastures dotted with underfed cows, some of which have spilled out to sleep on the cool dirt of the roadside. It’s the dry season, and the fields have all turned varying shades of brown: an entire jungle drawn in sepia. The trees thicken around us, as the road grows even more treacherous. I can smell the sea approaching, crisp and heavy. The salt hangs in the air, so thick that it lingers on your tongue and sticks to the back of your throat. The dirt road slants up – a sharp, steep slope – as the pickup climbs wheel-by-wheel, threatening to spill us out the back. We cling to the metal and the wood, taking notes from the howler monkeys that pepper the trees. Their shrill cries become our cheers of encouragement; we’re minutes from the finish line. The road levels out, just for a moment, and we begin our descent.

Tucked into the Pacific west coast, just twenty-five minutes outside of San Juan Del Sur, Maderas Beach glistens beneath us in the afternoon sun. The offshore winds from Lake Nicaragua create near perfect surfing conditions year-round, smooth sets rolling in one after another – an accordion of glass. We exchange smiles, my wanderers and I, and prepare for the dismount.

This morning we were strangers.
Today we are a family, and we dine together on the waves.

Tags: 2015 Writing Scholarship

Comments

1

James,

You write beautifully. I'm sure you must be working on a book. I'll be looking forward to reading it and your setting up our next trip, this time to Nicaragua,

Rob Solomon

  Rob Solomon May 29, 2015 5:40 AM

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