On Nicaragua's pristine Caribbean coast, FALSE BLUFF is tethered between the sea to the east and a lagoon to the west. A boat ride from the lagoon up our private canal brings visitors to a world of unimagineable beauty.
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People around the world hunt with dogs, and Nicaragua is certainly no exception. One big difference about hunting with dogs close to Nicaragua's Caribbean coast is that most of the travel to and from the hunt is done on water. This pair of hunters, the first of whom is shown in the picture below, was on the way back to Bluefields. Though not all visible at first, there were five dogs aboard the boat from which a rope....
.....is being used to haul the second hunter in a boat with only three dogs aboard.
On a recent trip I carried food harvested from False Bluff in an old bag I've been using for years. The bag sat, pretty well loaded, in the front of the boat heading to Bluefields. Every piece of food had been harvested and in the bag just before heading toward town.
In the bag:
Out of the bag:
Two papaya, scored and ready to "peel and eat;" two types of limes, smooth and rough (my favorite); and some red bananas.
Every trip to False Bluff is a reunion - with friends who have become like family, with acquaintances who have become friends....on the beach, in boats going back and forth, in Bluefields, in Pearl Lagoon, in Kukra. This time the reunion started at the airport.
I've been acquainted with Alexander Scott for years. Initially he was closely involved with the Bluefields Sound System, which promoted local talent and made efforts to save music that was becoming only a memory. Xander is now with blueEnergy - http://www.blueenergygroup.org/
I hadn't seen him in a while but there he was at the Bluefields airport, arriving only minutes after I did. Standing around waiting for taxis, we caught up a bit and I urged him - once a frequent passer-by on his way to a farm north of us - to come out for a visit. And happily a couple of weeks later he arrived for a picnic with his wife, his stepdaughter, some other youngsters, and some co-workers, including Guillaume Craig and his wife. Guillaume and his brother Mathias are co-founders of blueEnergy, a group that has some success at doing things most people don't have the stamina for. Their stated approach is: "There are no quick fixes where we work. We don't give things away. We stick around. We take diversity seriously." I was going to cut and paste pictures of Xander and Guillaume...and then realized I had already posted a picture of them at False Bluff the day of the picnic - so I'm just doing a repeat: Xander to the left, Guillaume to the right.
There will be more here about blueEnergy because of the group's contribution to the overall environmental health of the area in which False Bluff exists.
Green parrots flock in the hundreds to False Bluff at the start of the rainy season. It was my unsuccessful experience trying to capture even half-way decent still shots or videos of these noisy lil' bastards that finally prompted me to buy a real camera to replace the point and shoot I'd been using for years....and then, of course, not a parrot showed up for a photo op. But next time they and I are hanging out at the same time I should get some better stuff. Again, they only show up in the hundres during the rainy season but all of what's below was shot from either inside or very near the house - a raucous caucus - demos or republicans I couldn't tell. But they did seem to argue a lot so maybe it was both.
Because these parrots live in the rain forest between the house and Smokey Lane Lagoon even when it's not the rainy season we can occasionally hear them if they're debating some particularly contentious piece of legislation.
Recently published in the Daily Mail was an appalling story, with equally appalling pictures, of trash, much (if not most) of it plastic. The story states that much of what was shown off the coast of Honduras, near and around the tourist spot of Roatan Island, had been washed into the Caribbean by waters flowing from land to sea during the rainy season. Plastic in the Caribbean, however - hell, plastic in all of the earth's oceans - is a growing and long lasting problem weather event or not: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-5002084/Oceans-choked-plastic-bottles-bags-rubbish.html
Several posts on the False Bluff site show what washes up on our beach here. We clean the stuff up - and the next tide brings more. But I have never seen anything like what's shown around Roatan in the Daily Mail story...not even remotely like it. Nor has anyone else at False Bluff. The small video here shows how calm the sea was one day in mid-September when some folks from False Bluff went fishing; and, as usual where we are, there was no floating trash to be seen. Obviously some trash is there or we wouldn't continuously be cleaning it off the beach. But the Caribbean along Nicaragua's Caribbean coast has never endured anything like what's happening off the coast of Honduras and I sure hope it never does.
(The Caribbean as shown here is not always so calm and when it acts up it can be a killer.)
After the clearing was done, coconut trees and the native zoysia grass were my first planting priorities. The trees would outline the walkways - would actually line both sides of the walkways - with a double row of trees on the side away from the sea, the west side.
Before the trees were planted there were no walkways - so even before planting was begun I had to map out the overall and future design, the layout, for False Bluff. I mean, what's the sense in planting anything if you don't know where it's supposed to go, or what part of the whole it's supposed to be, or even what the whole is?
So for days I sat near my tent with pen and paper; but mostly I wandered - back and forth, back and forth - as clearing and burning went on around me. I later learned that the people working with me thought I had endured some sort of mental glitch. They didn't get actually worried until I picked up a big stick.
I used the stick to measure the distance between future-planted trees and the width of the walkways themselves. We're talking hi-tech here. And then, when I traded the stick for a shovel and began digging holes, everyone seemed to finally understand what was going on.
My lack of Spanish, particularly nearly a decade ago, has been a problem. Try taking an English/Spanish dictionary into a hardware store in Bluefields and asking for 1,000 one and a half inch coarse sheet rock screws...or using that dictionary to explain a vision of how a design today will impact what a place will look like ten or fifteen years down the road - or even what the vision is - where tree-lined walkways and buildings will be. I've heard that many people who begin a project like False Bluff have a staff...of designers or architects or planners; but I'm not sure that's true.
After the trees and the grass had been planted and become somewhat established, along the west side of all our walkways and just in front of the double row of coconut trees I planted what we fondly call "swamp lily," a spider lily that doesn't need a swamp to thrive.
What I'd like to think we have at False Bluff is a variety of Hymenocallis known as 'Tropical Giant Sister' but what we do have is most likely just kinfolk known as "beach spider lily," the littoralis. At various nurseries in the United States you can buy one of these plants for anywhere from $5.00 to $19.00.
I've pulled this picture off the internet. I've got lots...of the plant and of its bloom...but today I'm just not going to hunt one of them down. Besides, our clumps are young and not this showy yet.
Our planting stock of this spider comes right from the property where there are clumps in odd places, some right at the edge of the beach. I have no idea how the hell they got to False Bluff because until this project began nobody had purposefully planted anything out there in decades; and where the existing clumps are indicate no sense of purpose anyhow.
I do know that the plant is a hardy survivor and whereas I dig a hole for each one I plant, if you were to just throw one of the bulbs on the ground during friendly weather it will take hold where it lands - I've seen beach wash-ups that have done just that.
The plant forms a nice clump pretty quickly and has the spidery, somewhat ethereal, bloom...and though the bloom scent is very faint it's also very sweet.
The picture below is from 2015 just a day or two after the lilies were planted...maybe the same day from the looks of the disturbed earth around them. I planted one lily bulb - or tried to plant one - every 18" along the walkways...and there are a lot of 18" spacings along our walkways.
This was taken this year and shows pretty much the same place. Nature at work, with a little guidance. It's all getting just a bit better every day.
Shortly after we bought our first piece of property at False Bluff, my sons and I hung hammocks among a triangle of coconut trees close to the shore. We camped close to the shore because the incredibly dense undergrowth that was everywhere then made moving away from the shore difficult...undergrowth that grew so thick it completely blocked the breeze from the sea. Pushing into it felt like stepping into an oven. There was no pushing through it because the undergrowth seemed to go forever. I found out not too much later that it does go forever, or at least to the edges of Smokey Lane Lagoon to the west...and gets worse and thicker on its way there.
And, of course, we hung the hammocks close to the shore because being close to the shore was why we were there in the first place. Then, as many pictures on this site show, the undergrowth was cleared away and hundreds of coconut trees and plugs of a carpet-forming grass were planted in its place and left to nature...no fertilizer, no irrigation, just the passage of time. I stood on the site of that first camping trip to take the picture below - testament to the dramatic changes to the scenery.
On a recent trip I was a bit awed, hanging in that same hammock (a Hennessy, a brand of hammock often referred to as "the coolest tent in the world") between and below other coconut trees - coconut trees that I had planted after the brush was cleared away. And now there's no shortage of trees at False Bluff from which to hang a hammock. I took a book into the hammock with me because I usually take a book wherever I go. But I confess I spent a considerable amount of time not reading but marveling at what time and adequate amounts of rain had given me in exchange for a few thrusts of a shovel nearly a decade ago.
The "foundation" for The Nest (El Nido) was constructed nearly two years ago. Large deep holes were dug into which concrete foundation platforms were poured. On these platforms square concrete columns came up about 4'; and into each concrete column a wooden beam was installed.
And there it all sat like quills on a porcupine until just a few weeks ago...
The small building is a single room with a front porch, both 8' above ground - plus a considerable amount of outdoor space at ground level for hammocks and hanging chairs. The Nest is not, and never was, intended to provide living space although I'm sure I'll "live" in it until the rental units are up. (The rental units will also sit 8' above ground and have open living/bedroom combos, deep front porches across their fronts, kitchens, and bathrooms; and will be available by the week...but more about that later.) Instead, The Nest will be for future visitors as a library or game room. The books that now live on shelves in separate bedrooms in the existing house will all be pulled together into one space with additions...lots of additions; and a selection of games like dominoes or monopoly. People can select a book to read in their own spaces or read in or below El Nido.
After looking at properties on the west coast, Big Corn, and in Pearl Lagoon we chose False Bluff for the family farm. After the purchase had been completed we camped out on the farm to get a feel for the land and plan the future. These pictures are from our family camping trip from almost a decade ago.
Since our False Bluff, Nicaragua canal had not been dug at this time we had to schedule a panga boat to pick us up and drop us off by way of the Caribbean instead of the quiet waters through the lagoons in the back. The reason we have clothes hanging up drying while we were still setting up camp is because the boat flipped while riding a wave in to unload.
Part 1 showed what the Caribbean side of False Bluff, Nicaragua looked like on our first visit.
This picture shows the first time we visited the west side of the farm almost a decade ago. The west side is accessed by going through protected lagoons. This bit of deep water in the mangroves is the start of what would eventually become our Nicaragua canal allowing us to reach the beach. Digging the canal was a huge project and the previous posts are worth looking at.
This hole in the jungle is what has now become the head of the canal.
Time does fly and in a couple of weeks we will hit the 10 year anniversary of our first trip to Nicaragua looking for the perfect family farm.
We looked at several properties all over Nicaragua.This coastline looks pretty much the same along the 26 mile long bluff beach. Except this bit of beach is False Bluff. This picture was taken the first time we saw what would become our family farm.
This picture is one favorites from an early visit.
This nondescript doorway is one of the entrances to the public market that connects Bluefields to the surrounding communities. Through this door comes food that is freshly caught in the bay or produce that is grown on the jungle farms that are only accessible by boat. Well worth a visit.
Most of the towns on the east coast of RAAS, Nicaragua have developed not on the Caribbean coast, but on the shores of the inner bays and lagoons which are all connected by miles of natural canals. These protected waterways allow for safe commerce with all kinds of boats. If you enjoy boats there are lots of unique ones to see when going from town to town.
False Bluff is green throughout the year. During the rainy season it becomes vibrant green. Most tourists visit Nicaragua during the cold months which is also the dry season. They miss out on the nature when its at its best.
If you stand just under the front lip of K and L's house porch (which is at least eight feet off the ground), you can see the outlines of the path that he has laid out. The pathway leads right to the edge of the Caribbean, which you can just see here. He's already lined the south edge of the path with baby coconut palms.
Its that time of year. Every August Big Corn Island, in the Caribbean 40 miles off the coast of False Bluff, celebrates their emancipation from slavery by having the Crab Soup Festival. I've only been able to make it to one so far. The day of the parade drummers in trucks start circling the island at about 3am. It's a very festive atmosphere for a couple of days.
The greased pole.
Maybe a little to festive, some late night vehicle damage done to Casa Canada during the festival.
The end of the Crab Soup Parade. Turn your volume down.