kolbykirk.com

the journal

Archive for December, 2008

Dec
28

Oregon Christmas Trip Photos

Filed Under galleries, local travel, photography

I spent a week in Oregon with family for the holidays.  I somehow managed to fly to and from Oregon without any problems, despite the crazy storms that have blanketed the Northwest in over a foot of snow. On the coast, the warmest place in Oregon with highs in the mid 40s, it rained a bit each day. But I wouldn’t have recognized the state I grew up in if the weather wasn’t wet.  The dampened ground didn’t dampen our spirits and I spent a lot of time with my family in and outdoors.  Click the image below to view my favorite photos:

Dec
19

Nicaragua Photos – Round 2

Filed Under galleries, international travel, photography

I created a slideshow of some of my favorite photos from my recent trip. Click on the image below to view them:

Dec
18

Nicaragua Photos – Round 1

Filed Under international travel, photography

Here’s a few photos from my recent trip to Nicaragua:

Newspaper Seller in Granada, Nicaragua

Sandinista Car

Dusk in Granada, Nicaragua [Redux]

Portrait II - Granada, Nicaragua

Portrait I - Granada, Nicaragua

I’ll have more shortly.

Dec
15

Home From Nicaragua

Filed Under international travel

Pasadena, California – December 15th, 2008


View Larger Map

Hi,

I’m back. It’s amazing how you miss the little pleasures in life until you travel and rediscover them. Sunsets, seashells, bird songs. Then you rediscover more little pleasures when you get home: a comfy bed, a private shower, a personal computer). Travel went so incredibly smooth yesterday that I forgot how horribly wrong it could have gone. Saturday night, I walked the beach in the evening with friends, in search of sea turtle hatchlings. We didn’t find any, but enjoyed the full moon, the high clouds, and the rolling waves. We walked barefoot down the beach. Waves would cover the flat beach with a foamy sheet and when they rolled out, the wet sand would perfectly reflect the night’s sky.

I hired a taxi and got back to my hostel in Leon early Sunday morning. I got into bed at 1:45am and used the sum of my powers to wake myself up 3 hours later without an alarm clock in order to start a long day of travel. This was the first point of the day that could have gone horribly wrong, but it didn’t. I requested that the hostel’s security wake me, but I did it on my own. From the hostel, I walked for a bit through the silent city. If anyone was out and about at this hour, I don’t think I would have liked to run into them. I came up to a gas station and found a taxi driver text messaging from his car. He gave me a ride the last mile to the bus terminal.

From there, I took a mini bus to Managua, passing by the massive Volcano Momotombo just as the sun was rising through the red clouds. I tried to capture it on one of my two cameras, but like many things in Nicaragua, it was a moment best seen in person and difficult to capture on film. I got into Managua around 7am, and was there just long enough to thank the gods I didn’t visit the city for any longer period of time. I arrived at the airport with 2 hours to spare.

Two planes and eight hours in the sky, I arrived back in the City of Angels at 8:30pm and was in my apartment by 10:30pm.

I skimmed through my photos this morning before work and I’m happy how many of them came out. I’ll be posting them on my websites – here and on bugshutterbug.com – in the coming days and weeks.

Ok, now I have to go back to work before my bosses suspect I’m still on vacation.

Kolby

Dec
13

Day 17 – Volcano Boarding in Leon, Nicaragua

Filed Under international travel

Leon, Nicaragua – December 13th, 2008


View Larger Map

Those of you getting SPOT updates might have noticed the strange OK message sent last night around 1030pm. I had joined a group of 14 to become the first to fly down the side of Cerro Negro volcano on a piece of wood using just the light of a full moon. But it wasn´t as crazy as it sounds.

Well, actually, yes. It was as crazy as it sounds. There´s a lot more dangerous things to do in Nicaragua (re: last email on Managua) but it ranks pretty high in ways to get an adrenaline rush.

Volcano boarding was made popular in Nicaragua by the previous owner of Bigfoot Hostel, Darin, an Aussie who started the sport on a bar bet. He and some friends were curious on what would happen if they took a couch to the top of the active volcano and rode down it. Crazy hijinks is what happened. Many rides and design modifications later, guests of the hostel can pay $20 to take a guided tour to the top of the volcano and ride down it on a 5 foot long board. Although this adventurous sport happens a few times a week, this was the first time they organized a full moon expedition.

The fourteen of us and staff headed out in 4×4 vehicles to the volcano, a 45 minute ride down a dirt road east of Leon. Once there, we were issued our boards, safety goggles, and bright orange jump suits and proceeded to climb the volcano. Cerro Negro means Black Mountain in Spanish, named when the volcano formed about 150 years ago. Local farmers spotted the black volcanic rock sprouting from their corn fields. Not sure what it was, they named it a black mountain. Since that day, there has been 24 eruptions, each adding to the height of the youngest volcano in Nicaragua. It stands today at an impressive 2,388 feet.

I appreciated the differences I experienced from the first time I boarded on this volcano two years ago, when we hiked it during the day. At night, it is a mild 70 to 80 degrees with a strong wind coming from the east. It was nice not having to deal with the sun, which always makes for a grueling hike up the loose scree. Going down is a bit easier as well, not being able to see just how far you are going or the incredible 47 degree angle. Yes, 47 degrees.

Everyone made it down without more than a few scratches. A few shot down the volcano soon after starting. Although the staff didn´t bring them this time, they do frequently bring radar guns. The top speed of a volcano boarder was 48 miles per hour. I´m way too big for this sport and so my top speed was the equivalent of what my 15 month old niece can reach on her tricycle on a good day. But everyone had fun and we ended the evening around a campfire at the base of the volcano, sharing stories of their 3 minute ride as well as laughs, and beers.

Today I´ll be going to the beach for most of the day with the two Colorado girls I met in San Juan del Sur. I´ll be watching my final Nicaraguan sunset from the Pacific coast before heading back to Leon for my final night´s sleep at Bigfoot Hostel. I start my Sunday at 5am, where I´ll be taking a mini bus 80 miles to Managua (for $2) and then a 10 minute taxi ride to the airport ($5).

See you guys in less than 48 hours!
Kolby

Dec
12

Day 16 – Winding Up At The End

Filed Under international travel

Leon, Nicaragua – December 12th, 2008


View Larger Map

It seems that the nearer to the end of my trip, the more I´m doing every day. Yesterday I had breakfast with friends at the market, where I had a large pancake and a plate of fresh fruit for $3. Went swimming in the Pacific and then laid in the sun (such hard work!), then lunch with a friend at a restaurant overlooking the San Juan del Sur bay. After lunch, a three hour fishing trip where we caught tons of cold beers from a cooler. We celebrated our catch by having dinner on the town, capping the day with some rum and Fanta at a bar with live music.

I left San Juan del Sur at 7am with two American girls from Colorado that I met the night before. I didn´t meet them until the evening, but recalled overhearing one at the hostel in the morning asking the other, ¨So, do we go to the beach or do we watch the sunset?¨ If only all decisions in life were that difficult.

We had a brief stop in Managua for the girls to purchase their bus tickets to Guatemala. Managua wasn´t as decrepid as I had thought. Even though we took a taxi through the city and saw a lot out the window, I still have no regrets for never wanting to stay in that city. Overcrowded, heavy crime directed at tourists, and if Nicaragua was to ever have another revolution, it would most likely start here. Sandanistas still sit in the 14 major round-abouts, as they have since the elections, but it is more like those protesters you see in the States sitting next to a SHAME ON YOU banner. It has been said that some aren’t even Sandanistas but rather paid protesters. They have banners celebrating the ¨success¨of the elections and sit under white tents. Some have their feet up and taking naps, not at all like the news photos of the hundreds of tough-looking teens brandishing homemade mortar guns and wearing black and red handkerchiefs around their mouths like Wild West bank robbers.

We arrived into Leon in the early afternoon. It´s strange being back here in the colonial city – a place I spent a good portion of my last trip exploring. It didn´t take long to get back my bearings and lead our group of three to Bigfoot Hostel without the use of a map. The receptionist and the owners of the hostel are new, but some of the other staff recognized me from two years ago. Incredible. And this is the second time on my trip that this has happened. At the biological reserve station at Laguna de Apoyo, the director not only recognized me, but remembered my name and the other people who were at the station during my 3 day visit two years ago. Nicaragua has made an impression on me and it seems that I have made an impression on her.

I´ll be hanging out at the beach tomorrow to slow down my pace before jumping on a bunch of busses and planes to get home on Sunday. I look forward to seeing all of you when I get home.

Sincerely,
Kolby

Dec
10

Day 14 – San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua

Filed Under international travel

San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua – December 10th, 2008


View Larger Map

Hello,

I thought I was going to have some peace and solitude here in San Juan del Sur, known for their lazy beaches and nesting sea turtles. However, I happen to arrive on a day when President Daniel Ortega has come into town. Hundreds of Sandinistas were bussed into this small community on the Pacific to wave their black and red Sandinista flags and praise the recent outcome of the November mayoral elections. Although not covered in the US news, I´ve been monitoring this political unrest for over a month, where the opposing party is accusing the Sandanistas of election fraud. The US agrees and recently cut off a major annual allowance to this poor country. Small protests were attempted in Managua as recently as the first week of December by the opposing party looking for democracy in the election but were outnumbered by Sandanistas wearing masks and wielding guns. Many expats I´ve talked to said it was nothing more than drunk young men being hooligans. I´m sure that is why the international media didn´t cover it.

Tonight marks the celebration of the questionable elections. The Sandinista party has declared victory and Daniel Ortega and his wife presented the winners in front of a somewhat calm crowd of at least 800 men, women, and children. Even as I write this, a few more buses of teenage Sandanistas have arrived just outside the door of the cybercafe, holding their flags, excited to be here.

I was in the heart of the party a moment ago, where security is so tight they tested my camera to make sure it wasn´t a weapon in disguise before I could enter the area. Dozens of police are here and special forces have lookouts on every building surrounding the plaza. With my big camera, I was able to get onto the media island, elevated above the crowd and only a stone´s throw from the Prez himself. After 30 minutes, I got the photos I wanted and left. Listening to politicians speak is one thing, but when you can´t understand the language they´re speaking in, it´s a whole new level of boredom.

I don´t know what will happen after the speeches are over. I assume people will linger around town and have fun. San Juan del Sur has been a vacation spot for the locals for centuries, so I´m sure those bussed in will take the time to enjoy it, just like the tourists.

If I don´t like the scene tonight, I´ll head up to Leon tomorrow.

Sincerely,
Kolby

Dec
9

Day 13 – Raining on Ometepe

Filed Under international travel

Isla de Ometepe, Nicaragua – December 9th, 2008


View Larger Map

Hello folks!

It has been raining here nonstop for about seven hours. I’m still riding on a happy high since finding my journal and the rain hasn’t dampened it. Many of the hostelers stuck with their plans of hiking, kayaking, or relaxing in a hammock. I chose the latter, taking cat naps in an outdoor hammock, listening to the rain, sipping on one of the two national beers – Tona or Victoria. I had planned to try to capture a few butterflies on film, but taking it easy was just as nice.

I’ll be leaving tomorrow morning, hiring a taxi with a few others to cross the island, then a ferry to the mainland. I’m toying with a few ideas of what to do for the remaining four days here in Nicaragua. I’ll decide when I hit the mainland. Whatever it is, I’m sure it will be fairly relaxed. No major hikes or sliding down volcanoes for me this time around.

I’ll check in tomorrow night if I can.
Kolby

Dec
9

Day 13 – Journal Update

Filed Under international travel

Isla de Ometepe, Nicaragua – December 9th, 2008


View Larger Map

Hi guys,

A quick update for those who sent me good wishes for my lost journal…

I woke up this morning determined to find my journal. I started out at 8am, just as the sky opened up and began pouring, harder and longer than any time on this trip. It rained heavily for a half hour, but I did not give up slogging along the dirt road, my clothes becoming more drenched with every step and the blister on my toe causing a limp. Four miles into my hike, I saw it! There was my journal, laying on the side of the road just where I must have dropped it the day before while taking a photo. I was unrealistically hopeful in finding it, but only after finding it there on the side of a country road in rural Nicaragua, did I realize how unbelievably lucky I was. I bet over 100 Nicaraguans walked right by it in the 20 hours that had past since dropping it. It was a little wet and it appeared to have been stepped on by a grazing horse or cow, but it was in one piece!

It was a good day when I woke up, but finding my journal has made it even better.

Kolby

Dec
8

Day 12 – Still on Ometepe

Filed Under international travel

Isla de Ometepe, Nicaragua – December 8th, 2008


View Larger Map

Legend says that an ancient Mexican tribe discovered the island of Ometepe thanks to a dream. My own personal discovery of the island can be traced back to a guidebook I´m sure, but I can understand what that Mexican tribe must have felt. Being on Ometepe certainly feels like a dream. I´m at the main hostel in the small village called Merida on the southwestern part of the island. I´ve switched from the shadow of one volcano to another. I took a hike with some others and a guide to a waterfall on the western face of the volcano, but wasnt able to complete the hike because of a bad blister. Bad luck continued when I lost my precious travel journal somewhere on the 5 mile road to the waterfall. It was filled with all the details of my journey thus far, including names and email addresses of those I have met along the way. I have decided not to use my camera equipment until tomorrow, just in case bad luck comes in threes. My camera´s LCD screen was malfunctioning late last week and went completely dead by Saturday morning. Funny though, I didn´t mind too much. But with the loss of my journal, I´m seriously sick to my stomach. I hope to wake up early in the morning and retrace my steps to find it.

Other than the orange with sparklers, I did get a cool birthday gift… my camera´s LCD screen magically came back to life and has been working fine ever since. Thanks, Cameron, for your ideas on reviving it. The fan in the hotel room must have did the trick.

I´ll be here for another day, just kicking it Nica style here along the shoreline. I´ll head back Wednesday morning to the mainland and maybe go to Masaya, Leon, or maybe Granada. Wednesday is way too far away for me to be thinking about trivial things like these. This hostel has internet access, so I´ll check in again before I go.

Kolby