Category Archives: Vicki “Mamita” Barnes

Stories by Vicki

Sailing Away!

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First selfie from the top of the mast!

Cheers fellow travelers! It’s been a while since we updated, but we have a good excuse – last year, Vicki and I purchased a used 34′ Gemini catamaran sailboat and have been exploring the coast of Florida. During most of that time, we’ve anchored in relatively remote locations without access to internet, except via our phones. So, we’ve been a little lazy and posting primarily to our FaceBook page. After a year of cruising, we’ve finally pulled into Legacy Harbor Marina in Ft. Myers for a little break. We have great Internet access and a little time to catch up.

Vicki at the helm!

Vicki at the helm!

Over the next week or so, we will be posting some long-overdue stories about our stops along Florida’s coasts, including a summer spent in St. Augustine, our winter in the Keys and our hot and buggy time along the Gulf Coast of the Everglades. Owning a cruising boat is a lot of work and responsibility, so we haven’t made any long explorations of remote locales, but we’ve certainly had our share of adventures.

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SV Second Draft, our new-to-us 1999 34′ Gemini Catamaran, which serves as our floating home and base for exploration.

Living aboard a sailing vessel and living the cruising lifestyle is something we have always dreamed of doing. With the kids grown and out of the house, we decided to take the plunge. We could have waited until we had more money, or more whatever, but we know that life is short and that we have to make the most of the time we are given. So, while we are still young and healthy enough for this strenuous lifestyle, we’ve decided to go for it! So far, it’s been amazing, even though we’ve spent the entire year cruising in our “backyard” here in Florida. Next year, we hope to explore the Bahamas and Cuba. We hope you will enjoy the upcoming posts and continue to share your stories with us! For a taste of where we’ve been so far, you can catch up on our FaceBook page here! Thanks for following SV Second Draft!

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Be sure to hydrate on the road

imageBy Vicki Barnes
I have long been an advocate of proper hydration. You know, drink water…lots of water…all day, every day.
So, imagine my  surprise when I looked back on a day last week and realized I was so dehydrated that I was actually suffering from heat exhaution.
We were traveling about 8 hours on the un-airconditioned bus to cross the border between Panama and Costa Rica.  All day, sitting on the bus with a brief stop to get passports stamped, walk a half a kilometer from one country to the other, get another stamp and reboard.
Over the course of the day, I drank about a liter and a half of water. I figured that should be sufficient.
I figured wrong. Continue reading

Accommodations Review – Lazy Bones: Leon, Nicaragua

imageBy Vicki Barnes
For the weary traveler, the name Lazy Bones alone is enough to draw you in, but the atmosphere in this hidden gem of a hostel in Leon, Nicaragua is laid back and energetic at the same time.
While Big Foot Hostel is famous on the internet for its electrified raves, its American-style pizza nights and high speed volcano boarding, Lazy Bones offers a more eclectic vibe that appeals to a more international crowd whose travel itinerary involves more than partying.
The hostel is run by a cooperative, a group of employees who share in the risks and the profits of the endeavor. They treat each other and the guests like family.
You might miss the door to this place if you weren’t sure of your destination two and a half blocks south of the Poets Park, across from the Mediterranean restaurant. A locked gate opens into a dark reception area, but beyond that is a courtyard with a beautifully-maintained tropical garden. On one wall, a surreal mural with bits of Nicaraguan history and lore in shades of red and gold. Across the way, a couple of tidy dorms.
Dorms are $8 and the private rooms with ensuite baths range from $20 to $30.
Beyond the garden are a few private rooms and family suites, a small dorm and another courtyard with a pool, a small Internet cafe and a kitchen where one can get a delicious breakfast.
The kitchen also serves as the staff’s community kitchen where staff and their families can prepare meals for themselves and their families with food they’ve each donated to the pantry. For a fee ($14), you can get a class in basic local cooking from one of the staff, including how to make tortillas from scratch. In the end you can eat your meal.
Staff members are using their talents and knowledge of the local area and history for a new tour (Maribios Tours) company as well. They are just getting started, so they haven’t gotten all the kinks out of the system, but they are doing a great job. There are shuttle drivers who get a little lost (not badly – and in a country with no street signs and roads maintained by residents – not surprisingly) and a lack of promotional items like T-shirts to make them more visible.
They are enthusiastic and encouraging and wonderfully kind. That goes a long way when exploring something new.
We did the volcano boarding ($30 including breakfast, a fresh fruit snack, water, transportation and everything you need to fling yourself down the ashy side of a volcano) with Claudia, a young woman who had grown up running up and down the “hills” (1000+ foot active and inactive volcanos) that surround Leon.
Standing at the base of Cerro Negro, an active volcano (it is presently just spewing small amounts of sulfuric gas, not lava), I briefly considered backing out of the whole deal. I am (a) pudgy, (b) of a certain age and (c) afraid of falling off volcanoes.image

“No, Mi’Lady”, she said, grabbing me by the hand. “I will hold your hand all the way up. It’s not hard. We’ll do this together.” All the way up, she encouraged me, always smiling. (By the way, sliding down a volcano is the most fun you can have on a narrow piece of plywood.)
Lazy Bones only takes 5 or 6 people in a group on their tours. Other tours take groups of 40 or 50. Because of this, they can offer personalized attention that makes all the difference.
While we missed having a communal kitchen where we could prepare our own meals at this hostel, the experience was a great one overall.

Website: http://www.lazyboneshostelinnicaragua.com
Reservations: email them at lazybonesleon@yahoo.com

 

Border crossings

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By Vicki Barnes

We feel like we’ve crossed so many borders this trip (two in the last few days), it hardly seems a big deal any more. You get your stamps, you pay your fee, you walk out of one country into another, you get your stamps, you pay your fee, you walk into another country.

No biggie! Continue reading

Imaginary lines

imageBy Vicki Barnes
The towns along the Río San Juan are rough around the edges, as one might expect in the distant frontier of a country.
Sandwiched between the river and the rainforest on land that is Nicaragua, but which in some spots is claimed by Costa Rica, it is not surprising that the residents are strong and a bit boisterous. Continue reading

Refrescos on the go

By Vicki Barnes

imageA warm breeze was blowing off the beach this afternoon as we made our way back to our room. Ninty degrees and dry. Thirst was demanding a my attention.

“Something cool and wet would be perfect right about now,” I said to myself.

And then, as if I had conjured a magical solution to the situation by simply thinking about it, a young man with a wooden cart with a door on top attached to the front of his canibalized bicycle pulled out of a driveway ringing a hand bell. Continue reading

Showering here could be a shocking experience

By Vicki Barnes

Of the things we’ve done without on our trek – television, air conditioning, telephones, washing machines – there is one thing that Steve says he misses one thing more than any of those: a hot shower.

Frankly, with temperatures in the upper 90s most days, I find a cool shower feels far more refreshing.image

It is rare in a hostel to find hot water. A shower here is a place to wash off the grime you have collected during the day. It is not a place to luxuriate under a cascade of warmth.

It is not just hostels where hot water is difficult to find, most of the residents in Central America can not afford a water heater for their home, much less the electricity necessary to heat that cylinder of water and to maintain it at a high temperature. Continue reading

Top 10 things I learned in Leon today

By Vicki Barnes

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Supervising repairs on your sidewalk

1. If the sidewalk in front of your residence is broken, you are responsible for fixing it – or hiring someone else to do it. And, you had better supervise their work to be sure it gets done. This 3 by 5 foot project has been going on for the four days we have been here. It was still unfinished  as of this evening. You don’t have to fix the walk, but you can’t make a call to the city to have the work done.

2. If you are riding a motorcycle with a pair of propane tanks strapped to the back, you need only honk your horn and everyone else in the  intersection will come to a grinding halt and you can pass though without even slowing down. Continue reading

Don’t look up

By Vicki Barnes

It’s amazing that I have seen anything in Nicaragua.

Walking through town, one hops from sidewalk to street and back, depending on traffic, the placement of impromptu stores or where a group has gathered for a chat. Cars are sometimes parked on the sidewalk while the streets are clear.

A walk becomes a dance…a precarious one. Moving both forward and sideways simultaneously. Jumping while moving ahead. Stopping and going to the side…all at once.

All the while, there are hazards like this three foot deep hole, unmarked and without warning. You have to be prepared for these extra dancers on the way while still keeping an eye on the world around you.

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Getting high in Granada

By Vicki Barnes

One of the best ways to experience the city of Granada in Nicaragua is to get high.

High, that is, above the city in the bell tower of the Iglesia La Merced.

The view of the cathedral from the bell tower at Iglesia La Merced

The view of the cathedral from the bell tower at Iglesia La Merced

The iconic church, just a few blocks from the central park, is a beautiful spot to see at ground level, but when you change your perspective, it becomes an even more amazing trip.

Only about six stories high, the observation platform is high enough in a city where only the churches rise above two stories. From the vantage point near the top of the bell tower, you can see the surrounding volcanoes, the central square and cathedral, Lake Nicaragua and every red tiled roof in the city. (It’s fun to try to guess under which roof you are sleeping that night as they are identical.) Continue reading