After hanging out in Granada for a few days, our six-dollar-a-night hostel was starting to wear our wallets thin. We found a flyer for a place that advertised hammocks for a buck-fifty a night. That we could afford. The place was Hacienda Merida on the island of Omentepe, on Lake Nicaragua. We packed our bags and made our way to the ferry station. Since we knew barely enough Spanish to even introduce ourselves, buying tickets for the bus proved to be quite a challenge, as were most things for us in Central America. The lady at the ticket counter seemed to be as confused by us as we were by her. She kept repeating herself, even though we must have appeared as blank as an empty sheet of white paper. Finally, she started repeating "Up or down??" over and over. Up or down? What was she talking about? To get the line moving again, I finally said, "Down?" Later, I wished I had just kept quiet. "Down" meant second-class.
We eventually got to the island and took a few cabs and one very bumpy bus ride to the hostel. The town of Merida is little more than the hostel itself, plus a few houses and some stores operating out of some of the houses. As small as it was, there was much to see and do, but by the time we got there, it was very late, so we hopped into our buck-fifty hammocks and passed out. Never one to sleep-walk or talk in my sleep, that night I did a little bit of both. Deep in the night, I heard some rustling in my bag I’d dropped beside my hammock. I awoke—well, I didn’t actually wake up, but I thought I did. I saw what I thought was a child digging through my bag, and when I sat up, the child appeared to be running away with my things. I yelled, "Hey, you!" twice—loud enough to wake the whole of Merida, but as it turned out, the "kid" was actually a dog, and "my things" were only one sandal. Relieved to find no one else was awake and witnessing my embarrassment, I plopped back down and feel gratefully to sleep.
The next morning, we hiked to the waterfalls, rode our bikes around the island, and took our first dive in Lake Nicaragua. The hostel turned out to be an old coffee plantation with a loading dock that extended far out into the lake. Religiously, every night at sunset, I would go and jump off the dock a few times, showing off my flips and tricks. Often I had an audience, and once the paparazzi appeared and took a few pictures. Great stuff for my ego, and a great way to top off days filled with adventure, exploring, and camaraderie with familiar faces and the smiling ones of strangers, who were fast becoming new friends in a strange and far away place.