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Archive for December, 2008

Dec
7

Day 11 – Isla de Ometepe, Nicaragua

Filed Under international travel

Isla de Ometepe, Nicaragua – December 7th, 2008


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I´m on Ometepe staying at a small quiet hostel at Charco Verde.  Life here is very relaxed.  Cattle share the road with vehicles and the children are always smiling.  I amazingly found an internet connection at a restaurant here and have to make this short.  My birthday was laid back – two German girls threw me a small party.  They couldn’t find a cake, even with locals getting involved in the search, so they stuck to sparklers into an orange.

I´ll be here for another day before I head to Leon, where I can fill you in on more details.  Thanks to those who sent birthday wishes.

Sincerely,
Kolby

Dec
4

Day 8 – Another Day At Apoyo

Filed Under international travel

Laguna de Apoyo, Nicaragua – December 2nd, 2008


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Things are really laid back here. The day usually starts around 7am where I take a stroll around the area. I can see the water through the trees in some places, but it is more of a jungle environment than a seaside environment. The jungle goes right up and into the water in most places, so there isn´t really a beach at all. Walking around in the morning is nice. I usually bring my camera, but i like to look and hear more than use it. There are many birds here and they all have interesting distinguishing calls.

As the morning becomes afternoon, the temperature begins to rise. My body has become more acustomed to it and I no longer sweat constantly, but when I do, it is hard to be dry again because of the humidity. With the water just 100 feet away, we go swimming at least twice a day. I sometimes forget it is an active volcano, naturally heating the water to about 80 degrees.

Yesterday afternoon, I helped finish an operation begun by the Nicaraguan Navy Seals. They were here as a part of a major cleanup activity over the weekend where over 400 volunteers from around the country came to the lake to pick up trash. About 20 scuba divers in the navy dove for three days collecting trash underwater. A hard core bunch that would have cigarettes hanging out of the corner of their mouths underwater if it were possible.  They found an old 6-cylinder boat engine that they didn´t have time to remove. This is where I came in. Since the staff here knows I am a certified SCUBA diver, I was able to assist the Nicaraguan biologist diver and a volunteer from Denmark in removing the engine from 60 feet of water. We dove down to the 200 pound piece of rusted metal with buckets and rope and were able to raise the engine by filling the buckets with air. We then glided the underwater metal blimp 300 feet down the coast at a depth of 40 feet until we reached the land access closest to the Bio Reserve. The three of us then carried the beast up 200 feet of stairs, where we placed it inside the center´s compound for someone to pick up at a later time. It felt great being able to do something useful and good for the environment while SCUBA diving.

At night, after a nice dinner cooked by the local staff, I take turns talking with the travelers while listening to their music and then collecting and photographing insects. I brought some small containers and tools so I rarely need to touch them, so there is no need to worry about them being venomous or not, but I´m always very cautous just in case. I´m getting a lot of good shots and the more I take, the idea of self-publishing a small photo book seems more obvious. I´ve also talked with the main biologist here and he would very much like to work with me to create a book on this bio reserve. Sort of a visitors guide / field guide.

Two Germans and a French traveler arrived recently. It was nice to hear from the Germans – who have been traveling non stop for TWO YEARS – tell me how they enjoy being here in Nicaragua where it feels safe. The French girl came here straight from the airport to be a part of the Spanish school, another option for those staying here at the Bio Research Station. It is a one-on-one course that can be taken for a week or more by local Nicaraguans.

Late at night, when I´m sitting in my tent or laying in the warm Lake Apoyo, I concentrate on the sounds. So many sounds! The sounds of the night are very different than the sounds of the day. The birds heard during the day are silent while thousands of insects come out and communicate with each other after the sun sets. I watch small fruit bats swoop over the lake plucking their invisible dinner from the sky. On good nights, the sky is a diamond ceiling and constellations become crystal clear. If I´m lucky, the deep grunt of howler monkeys can be heard in the trees. Called ¨Congos¨in Nicaragua, their grunts can be heard from up to three miles away, making them the loudest land animal on the planet. They are heard more often than seen, but it is a goal of mine to photograph one before I leave.

It is in the evening, surrounded by this natural beauty and exotic sounds, that I tell myself that I will stay another day at the lake. Just one more day. Always one more. Why search for something better when you are in a paradise like this?

Dec
2

Day 6 – Laguna de Apoyo, Nicaragua

Filed Under international travel

Laguna de Apoyo, Nicaragua – December 2nd, 2008


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¨Life is good in Nicaragua.¨ This is the preset message that is sent when I activate the OK feature on my SPOT beacon. When I turn it on and send the message, I also find myself thinking that life really is good down here in Nicaragua and I couldnt be happier.

I´m camping at the Biological Research Station along the shores of Laguna de Apoyo, the country´s deepest crater lake at 3,000 meters. I came down to the lake with a few travelers and stayed for a night at the Monkey Hut Hostel before I moved over here and they moved on. I´m glad to be on my own, for the first time on this trip. Being by myself has allowed me to do what I had hoped and planned to do here, photograph as many insects as possible. Finding subjects isn´t the problem but everything leading up to capturing the insect and getting it ready for its moment in front of the camera is somewhat difficult. The weather here is so hot and humid, it makes even the simplest of chores seem like running a race. That said, its not easy lugging around 22 pounds of camera equipment looking for bugs.

And I don´t even want to get in to the difficulties of attempting to photograph butterflies! I´ve seen over 15 different species but have only been able to photograph a few of them. If only I brought a net!

But for all the effort, I´m excited as ever for all the interesting things that I have found and photographed here – beetles the size of match boxes, geckos chilling near most outisde light fixtures, a praying mantis 8 inches long, stingless bees the size of tictacs that are inaudible in flight, and last night, a moth with beautiful translucent wings. I´m considering self publishing a 40 page book of photos when I get home of some of these beautiful insects.

There are five volunteers from Germany and Denmark staying here at the center. They payed about $300 for a month of helping out with small noble tasks like planting trees or clearing areas in the forest. In return, they get to stay in one of the most beautiful places in Nicaragua. They work their own schedule and do hard work for a few hours a day. The rest of the time is sitting around or swimming in the luke warm lake.

I have convinced one of them that photographing insects is very cool and he has helped me capture and prepare insects for their close-ups. Most insects have a tendancy to want to scurry away immediately after being released, but with his help, we were able to invent techniques to keep them still enough for me to photograph. Catch, photograph, release. We did this with about 10 insects in just three hours last night. In just the last two days, I´ve photographed over 40 creatures. I´m certain that I have enough shots even this early in my trip to self publish a book when I get home. I don´t think about what would happen if any of my gear failed, knock on wood!

I have had to define what I want to photograph here at the lake or I would have a camera in front of my face all of the time. Although with the beautiful jungle lake, the countless birds, and the beautiful flora, I cant stop myself from snapping a few shots.

I´ll be staying here at least another day before heading southeast towards the island of Ometepe, most likely spending the night in Rivas or Granada before taking the boat out to the island.

I hope you are all doing well. I don´t know what the internet situation is on the island, but I´ll continue to send my SPOT messages to those I have added. When you read that ¨All is well in Nicaragua¨ know that I mean it.

Kolby