With warm weather plaguing much of the country hopping a
plane to Nicaragua’s
Pacific coast for a few weeks with Dan Norkunas was a great way to pass the
first few snowless weeks of the ski season.
I met up with Dan on Halloween day in the Houston Airport,
wasted as much time as possible drinking coffee and flipping through the newest
New York Times Bestseller books available waiting through our four hour
Finally we arrived in Costa Rica’s northern most airport,
Liberia International, just 40 kilometers to the Nicaraguan border. After learning driving rental cars from Costa Rica to Nicaragua was prohibited, we hailed
a taxi to drop us at the border, getting us there just minutes before the
border closes for the night. After
struggling through Spanish we managed to get our passports stamped, then walked
out the door to the unknown.
was a half-mile away, down a muddy deserted looking dark road. A local hoping to make a few bucks off us
took it upon himself to walk us to the Nicaraguan Custom’s building, looking
even more dilapidated than Costa
Three different times we showed our passport to “officials” along the
half-mile strip. None had flashlights;
all had either machine guns or machetes.
Surprisingly enough we made it unscathed, passports and
wallets tucked tightly into pockets, to find no taxi or bus on the Nicaraguan
side to take us to the town of San Juan del Sur. Our guide led us on, walking away from the
hardly lit road, through a wet and slippery dirt parking lot, through a grassy
field, and to a friend of his who claimed to be a taxi.
Weighing the few options we had left, we got in nervously,
and soon enough we were bouncing along the road. Forty five minutes later with the help of his
emergency brake (his brakes broke halfway to San Juan del Sur) we slowed to a
stop in front of a sleepy looking hotel.
From there the trip had its ups and downs. The rain held up, but many roads to surf
breaks were impassible. We managed to
get to a few beach brakes near San Juan del Sur and Dan made fun of me for not
knowing how to surf.
A few days later we left San Juan del Sur, and it was my
turn to make fun of him. Every trip he
takes to Central America he spends a few days on the toilet complaining about
whatever virus it is that got him sick, and Nicaragua proved to be no
different. Not only was he sick, but he
also had to bribe police to get his license and car registration back. I just sat there with a Spanish phrase book
and tried to find something smart to say to the cop.
Unlike Dan, I had never gotten sick from being in another
country, so instead of sympathy, I gave him plenty of sarcasm and wolfed down
any food or drink put in front of me.
Soon enough though, Dan recovered and it was my time to complain about the
sickness. I ate his remaining medicine,
got pissed, and got better in a couple days.
By that time it was time for Dan to leave; I had learned how
to surf, Dan had found several good long rides, and our trip had taken a turn
for the better somewhere in between. The
next morning he hopped a bus to Costa
Rica and I climbed a volcano, roamed through
a coffee farm, and drove back to San Juan del Sur, all without having to pay
off any police officers.
My flight to Salt
Lake City managed to get delayed 13 hours, so I had
plenty of time to think about what the ski conditions might be like back in the
States. With Alta planning to open
November 15th, I figured I just had one day to transition between
the tropical sunny weather of Central America
and the winter like conditions I was expected.
Instead though, as I was flying over the Wasatch Mountains,
I noticed significantly less snow now than I did three weeks ago. And the trend has continued since I’ve been
back. Temperatures have risen into the
60’s every day (for all you Canadians, that’s about 18 degrees Celsius), and
wide-spread mild temperatures have lingered all across the western portion of
and the East Coast have a few resorts open, but about 99% of the snow being skied
on is man-made. I’m not about to turn
this little update into a Global Warming rant, but instead I’m just going to
laugh at those who had hopes of an early ski season and sat around watching
snow melt. I mean come on, wouldn’t you
rather have to worry about bribing the police, getting your car stuck, getting
sick, and trying to navigate a country that doesn’t believe in street signs,
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