28 September 2022

How things have changed...

During my first overnight visit to False Bluff we hung Hennessy hammocks in a clump of coconut trees right near the edge of the Caribbean.   The undergrowth was such that there was no way to move inland.  

Well, of course there was a way but we would have had to hang our hammocks about ten feet above the ground to be above the brush and we would have had to clear a space to build a fire for meals and....you get the idea.  

As it was, the area close to the sea was free of underbrush and the hearty breeze coming off the Caribbean kept most of the bugs away...and made a fire for meals nearly impossible.

During our second day we had visitors.  At this time in our project about the only way to get to our place was to take a boat from Bluefields across the bay, out into the Caribbean, and then head north about eight miles ...and then hope we didn't capsize on the way to the beach.  Capsizing is a favorite game along much of this stretch of coast.   

Or you could take a taxi-boat from Bluefields across the bay to the port of El Bluff...and then walk through El Bluff and then north about eight miles up the beach.  

Or, you could hire a boat ride from Bluefields across the bay to the area that later became our canal...and then slog a couple of miles through a mangrove swamp.  

False Bluff is on a narrow section of land and so traveling through the swamp had long been the chosen method for many owners of property along this stretch of beach because it was usually cheaper and always more direct.  For generations the hardy people who have subsistance farms north of us traveled to their homesteads through the swamp, carrying supplies...groceries, trees to plant, new chickens for their flocks.  There haven't been any homesteads south of us during our time, though there have been some in the past.

And one of our visitors on that first overnight camping trip was Mr. Allen who appeared out of the swamp carrying, among other things, a 4' tall breadtree seedling to plant at his place.   We all introduced outselves and talked briefly.  He didn't stay long.  Not only had he just walked 2 miles through a swamp loaded with stuff (like a small tree) but he had at least an hour more to walk up the beach to his place.  

One of the best long-timers out there is Mr. Allen.  He was on - and stayed on - his farm during Hurricane Joan in the early 1980s.   Joan hit Nicaragua's coast at about 145 mph.  It was a bad hurricane and did a huge amount of damage to Nicaragua on its way to the Pacific where it became Tropical Storm Miriam.  It is unusual for a storm to survive moving from the Atlantic/Caribbean to the Pacific.  

Bad hurricanes are rare in Nicaragua which is one of the reasons we chose the place.  This is a photo of damage Joan did to the central park in Bluefields...there is no photo of Mr. Allen's homestead on the coast.

Forward to different times.  Much of the underbrush is gone, a cushion-like zoysia grass in its place, hundreds more coconut palms, and some buildings.  We no longer have to introduce ourselves.  Mr. Allen is a friendly visitor anytime he wants to stop by, sharing news and a meal or a snack.

23 September 2022

Acres and acres and acres of rice

Some countries are limiting their exports of rice, an action that will have a negative impact on other countries that rely on such exports to stock their grocery store shelves.  Almost as though Nicaragua knew what was coming in the way of rising prices and potential food shortages, the country has worked to massively increase its production of rice.  Feeding its own people continues to be a huge commitment; and if the crops are really good there may be some to export, thus bringing in much needed money.

Huge amounts of land are now devoted to growing rice and that land usually produces more than one crop each year.  Found along the rice-growing acreage are hundreds of relatively new processing plants similar to this one.

Wending its way through the vast expanses of rice fields is a new road built to facilitate planting, maintenance, and harvesting; and then the processing and movement of the crops after harvest - whether the crop is destined for internal use or for export. 

I recently traveled the approximately 25 mile length of the new road.  It's a wide smooth easy ride putting travelers almost into Managua (depending on which way you're traveling) with some beautiful views along the way.

From planting to harvesting is roughy 120 days and that gives a couple of harvests each year.  In Nicaragua most of the work is done by hand, including building or rebuilding the dikes that surround each rice field to keep the water in during most of the growing.  

19 September 2022

As time goes on...

At the beginning of our adventure on Nicaragua's Caribbean coast we walked on the beach.  We had just begun clearing the dense undergrowth; and so, except for a few cleared pathways, the thick brush meant that we walked to - and then on - the beach....because there was no way to walk on the land short of wearing heavy clothing and boots for protection, with a machete in hand to clear the way.

And so we walked - up and down the beach, gladly.    With brief forays into the water.  

At the start of the False Bluff project we were building friendships as well as piers and housing.  After all the years since 2008 - when this picture was taken - to now the friendships have become family-like ties.  And we've got a better camera than we had in 2008!

14 September 2022


The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) shuffles taxpayer money all over the world...usually with no input from United States taxpayers as to where it goes, or why.  

If you are a United States citizen, be aware that some of the money you earn goes someplace a politician decides needs the money more than you do.

Frequently even after the USAID money part is gone, the 'aid' part lives on, maybe providing benefits other than International Development.  

Or maybe not.  These sidewalk entrepeneurs in Bluefields show us how this 'aid' lives on...in what can perhaps be viewed as small examples of International Development: shoe repair on one side and chinese video copies on the other.

10 September 2022


  Julio Castillo Miranda

Gone Way Too Soon

Julio managed and oversaw the digging of our canal and is shown here with a clump of the mangrove roots which had to be removed before our pontoon boat could navigate the canal.  Over and over again he showed innate management and organizational skills. There are stories about, and pictures of, Julio throughout this blog.

06 September 2022

More about hospitals

A primary concern about hospital care expressed by many who aren't familiar with Nicaragua's Caribbean coast, either the north or south autonomous region, isn't about the number of hospitals there but about the fact that most of the people who live on the Caribbean coast live in very rural areas where there are few roads and travel to a hospital can be 'difficult' and 'very difficult.'  The rural areas in the autonomous regions are usually described as "remote" or "the bush."  

This population density map of Nicaragua shows just that:  population density.  But the map gives no clue as to how and where the population actually lives.  Neither of the autonomous regions is well developed and what you see from an airplane traveling to Bluefields is mostly green even though there's nothing green in this map:

If by chance somebody is unfortunate enough to need more than the Bluefields hospital has to offer, the airport is right around the corner...actually almost everything in Bluefields is right around a corner...and Managua is a 45-minute flight away.

Although I've been at the Bluefields airport when a patient, attended by medical personnel, is carefully loaded into a plane for a dedicated flight, I've never gone into one of Managua's hospitals.  But now that the son of my staff family is in his third year of medical school at one of Managua's teaching hospitals - I might at least get to take a tour.

In Managua there are hospitals that rival anything we've got in the United States.  Prior to shut downs (that covid stuff) all over the world, Nicaragua had positioned itself to take advantage of "medical tourism."  There are a lot of benefits to medical tourism for both a prospective patient and for the country offering the health care.  Worth noting is that from the United States alone it is estimated that hundreds of thousands of people travel to another country every year for medical treatment.

There is more than one hospital in Managua that offers excellent healthcare.  The best known among hospitals there are the Vivian Pellas Metropolitan Hospital, Hospital Bautista, and the Military Hospital.  (The Pellas family immigrated to Nicaragua from Italy more than 100 years ago.)  

The Military Hospital, which also won an award for its architectural design, is a public hospital "which accommodates everybody."  This is the hospital I really hope to tour:


Note:  As UVA (University of Virginia, USA) has worked with one of Bluefields' two universities, UNC (University of North Carolina, USA) works with the medical school in Leon, Nicaragua.  

03 September 2022

False and not false. At False Bluff and elsewhere. Yeah, I know

One morning, walking the beach, we came across this beautiful example of a false crawl before the incoming tide washed it away.  And if this is new information to you, a "crawl" used in reference to a sea turtle, is just another way of saying "track" or "trail."

I'm guessing the turtle was a Green sea turtle looking for a place to lay eggs - because that's the variety that we've seen most at our place and laying eggs is why turtles come ashore.  

A Green won't lay until she is sexually mature which is at about 20 years; and at that age she may be 4' long and up to 700 pounds...so she's going to leave marks on the beach.  You can figure all these personal details just from the fact that she left marks on the beach.

And the beach where she leaves her crawl marks - and hopefully where she lays her eggs - is the same beach she was born on.  Might not be the exact spot where she was hatched, but pretty close.

A female turtle will often 'scout' a place before laying eggs.  It's actually been estimated that about half the times a turtle comes ashore she doesn't lay eggs.  Sometimes she's interrupted in her mission to do that... and sometimes the place she's checking out doesn't meet her standards.  

We're pretty sure that the female that left these tracks wasn't interrupted because....we're the only people out there and our constant presence keeps most people and four-footed predators away, especially at night, which is when turtles lay their eggs....and we're all really careful not to interrupt.  

There's at least one important personal detail you can't figure out from looking at the crawl and that's - what is there about the place she visited that didn't meet her standards?  If we could figure that out we could fix it.  

False crawl - at False Bluff

Not a false crawl - somewhere else