Done, not done - more Tequila & Rum
The end of Remote Year was a fitting send off, a two day party in a mansion outside of Mexico City. As the first night drew to a close the first of the Kaizen’s started to say their goodbyes and make their way off. The stream of people turned into a torrent as more and more headed to their next destinations, some headed home, some headed to ‘friends’ they had met on their travels and some like me, not quite ready to head home went in search of a little more adventure.
My destination - the Yucatan peninsular for two weeks then Nicaragua for another two weeks. An early morning flight and an hour shuttle to the airport means me and the Kaizen’s travelling with me managed to avoid the mass send-off some of the others enjoyed.
We land in Cancun and go to pick up our rental where we are greeted by the first scam of the trip. Despite having full travel and rental insurance they insist on my purchasing $100USD of additional cover that can only be purchased from them and is a ‘government requirement’ - yeah sure arseholes.
Playa del carmen - Mexico
We drive to Playa del Carmen and check out our lodgings, no sooner have I arrived then I am called upon to help out one of our fellow Kaizen’s who has broken up with her boyfriend and needs support and most of all transport to alternative lodgings. This gives me a chance to do a bit of fast, solo driving with loud music, something I have not done in over a year.
We arrive at an AirBNB that has rented by some of the other Kaizen’s but they won’t be arriving until later that evening. We attempt to talk our way past the security but they are surprised that we are trying to get in and very apprehensive. Finally they confirm they won’t let us in without direct approval from the owner.
After waiting around for a while we realise that we aren’t going to be able to get into the property tonight, plan B, check her into a hostel back in Playa del Carmen and meet up with some other Kaizen’s arriving the next day.
The group who had rented the AirBnB didn’t fare much better when they finally arrived later that evening. Not being able to find a bus late in the evening they enlist a taxi driver to drive them the hour and a half for a hefty fee. Upon arriving at the property they also had trouble being admitted. It was only then that an email sent the day before from the property owner was discovered (Mia’s check your emails more).
The place in question was the very place a week earlier that had been the site of a tragic accident - a carbon monoxide leak had occurred killing a family of 5 who were staying there. The owner had been trying to rent it out since but had not yet received the all clear from the organisation responsible for such things. Just as well I hadn’t been able to admit my passenger to the property!
The next day Josh’s taxi service was called upon again to ferry different groups around before finally getting to relax with a drink myself. The rest of the days in Playa del Carmen were spent drinking, eating and avoiding ongoing dramas (it’s a Kaizen thing).
Tulum - Mexico
Moving on from Playa for a few days of relaxation on the beach in Tulum, unlike our fancy friends staying right on the beach a group of us booked a nice place back in the township. Having the car we could ferry ourselves to the beach when needed. Nothing much more to say about Tulum as lying on the beach is about all I did.. It was great.
Cancun - Mexico
Arriving in Cancun for a few days we decide to check out one of the infamous ‘All inclusive’ resorts. We catch a shuttle from our hotel, we are told the shuttle returns at 5:30, the ‘All inclusive’ day pass expires at 6pm. The day is a blur of surgery cocktails, bland beer and really drunk American’s. The day gets late we have already missed the shuttle so we decide to head to the Casino and just pay for our own drinks if we are there past six. We play for an hour or so (leaving about $30 in the black) and stumble on a Cirque de Solieu performance playing out in the huge atrium.
We decide it’s finally time to leave and go to retrieve our drivers licenses that were required to be left with them on arrival. We are informed that we have ‘overstayed’ and broken the terms of the day pass. A rule that was never explained to us on arrival (other than drinks service would expire at 6). The manager informs we need to pay nearly USD$100 to get our licenses back.
After the insurance scam on the rental car I have had enough and refuse. This confuses the manager immensely as I suppose people just pay the ‘fine’ when confronted. But I won’t have any of it and insist that this is where we make our stand - much to the chargrin of my accomplice. We turn on our heels, accept the offer of a beer from a drunk American carrying a box of the stuff and strut out. Luckily my licence was only an expired old licence for which I didn’t have much use anyways (Sorry Ian).
As one Kaizen leaves another arrives to fill the void, Leandra is well known for her taste for Jack Daniels whiskey so we decide to spend the day at the hotel pool paying homage to her liquor of choice. The next day is spent nursing a wicked hangover.
Granada - Nicaragua
The next stage of my trip, two weeks in Nicaragua, I am looking forward to getting a bit of work done. I have booked into two separate work hostels (hostels with work spaces and facilities included). I land in the capital Managua but transfer directly to a shuttle to head to Granada (Managua is a bleak place).
I check into my hostel and am pleasently surprise, for $20/night for a private queen room (shared bathroom), a pool, bar and private workspace. The facilities and goings on at the hostel keep me entertained, so much so that I hardly leave the place for two days. These two days are the first alone time I have had in months. I manage to get a lot of work done, but start to get a little bored.
After a few days of solitude and work I meet up with good friends from Melbourne who have been travelling around Central America for a few months. With a crew in tow I now go out to explore the town and area a little more. One of the highlights of the albeit scant Granada nightlife was a restaurant where a deal for 20 chicken wings and 4 local beers cost the equivalent of $5 - the constant supply of chicken attracted the attention of a street dog who we adopted (or he adopted us). We named him apocalypse dog because he looked like the sort of dog that would hang around (and probably survive) the apocalypse.
For some reason every dodgy character we met wanted to tell me all about their gang affiliations, and show me their tatoos - we decided, rather than be inducted into a Central American gang it would be safer to spend my final day out on the water at a beach club set up on the crater lake of a dormant volcano.
San Juan del Sur - Nicaragua
Next up and my final stop in Central America is a workspace style hostel called “Nomad life”, specifically set up for digital nomad style working. The place has the feel of a hippie commune set up specifically for computer programmers - it was great, if not a little un-interactive (as software types often can be).
A few of my fellow Kaizen’s were already checked into Nomad life and with one more coming to visit, I didn’t really spend a lot of time at Nomad Life living the digital Nomad life (ie, I didn’t really do much work). I did however discover that Nicaragua loves their rum, and with good reason. Some of the best Rum I have tasted and for less than $20 for a 40oz the hangovers were a constant.
One of our group had hired a motorbike for the duration of his stay which he offered to loan me for the day. I jumped at the chance and two of us spent the day exploring a few beaches and clifftops that dot the coast around San Juan del Sur. The motorbike was a little challenging as it had a propensitiy to stalling at any given opportunity (no not just operator error).
As my time in Nicaragua was drawing short we had been hearing reports of political unrest in the north. As the days passed the unrest turned to riots and some even talked in revolutionary contexts. With reports or deaths and large scale riots and matching police suppression I started to get a little concerned as I was due to fly out of the capital in a few days.
One of the other guests at Nomad Life decided to make the trip to the airport a day before I was due to travel. He sent a message back to us reporting of burnt out cars, angry mobs and dead bodies on the street. He warned that if anyone was due to tavel to or through Managua then seriously consider altering their plans. This was all the encouragement I needed, I secured another night at Nomad Life and booked a new flight flying out of Costa Rica to the south rather than heading north.
Liberia - Costa Rica
My escape from Nicaragua was relatively uneventful. Having paid for a shuttle all the way to Liberia airport, our Nicaragua shuttle driver tells me and a fellow Canadian passenger who is going the same direction tha someone else would accompany us over the boarder and into the next shuttle. We cross the border and our guide takes our passports into the bus office (for some reason) - he tells us the shuttle will be right along. We wait for 30 minutes - no shuttle.
A local bus turns up and loads up all the other passengers, as it’s about to leave I make the executive decision that we should just take the local bus. I’m not sure if our shuttle driver ever showed up but we made it to the airport with time to spare for an overpriced beer & burger and an unsolicited right wing political diatribe from my new Canadian friend.