28 February 2023

How to get there from here

Taking turns seems to come naturally to the people who use this bridge - whether they're on foot or on horseback.  This is the main connection point between a small community some miles away from Bluefields and no community at all.  

People use this bridge to get into 'town' to shop or to sell what they've grown or produced or to get medical treatment or supplies for the house or farm...things that many of us have nearby - or if not nearby at least easily accessible by paved roads and cars.

It had rained heavily the morning of this visit and I'd already slipped in the mud.  

This was a bridge too far.

22 February 2023

Rosewood cups

I've had these cups for several years.  They are another addition to my household crafted by the Lopez family, the same craftsmen who carved the wooden spatulas I wrote about a couple of stories ago.

The cups are about the size of a grown man's fist.  Each one is carved from a chunk of rosewood.  Of all the rosewood things I have brought home from Nicaragua's southern autonomous region, I've never had a piece of rosewood so dark and in which the 'rose' in rosewood is so clearly exhibited.  There's a patch of that rather incredible color in each cup.

Other than a light coating of linseed oil these cups have had no treatment.  Long ago I asked that the Lopez family leave untreated any wood thing they make for me.   I asked for that after I learned that lots of handcrafted wooden items, most everywhere, are routinely stained with shoe polish...including things made of rosewood.

I recently pulled these out of storage and hit them briefly with very fine sandpaper.  I'm getting ready to coat the inside of the cups with clear food grade epoxy and for sure some epoxy will go where it's not supposed to go...so I'll be using the sandpaper again in a couple of weeks.

No problem.

17 February 2023

Plenty of necessary stuff in Bluefields

Obviously there aren't any hardware stores at False Bluff.  There's almost nothing at False Bluff except us...certainly not a hardware store. 

But Bluefieds is an easy 8 miles by water from where we are on the edge of the Caribbean; and I'm glad to say that Bluefields has a lot of necessary stuff, including hardware stores.  

Some of the hardware stores are small and sell no paint.  Some are small and manage to sell paint anyway.  Some are big - for Bluefields - and sell hardware and paint.  And some of the big ones have more than one location...not far away from each other because Bluefields is too small for anything to be far away.  

For instance, one of my 'go to' spots is in the center of town.  This particular store has a mostly hardware location in the middle of one block with a mostly paint location right across the street from the mostly hardware location.  Plus there is a third location right around the corner from both of those places.  The third location of the disjointed hardware store includes a mix of heavy and big stuff - like piles of bagged concrete and cinder blocks, or 2500 liter water tanks.  

Sometimes it's difficult to know that all three of these separate locations add up to one store - particularly when totally different stores are often right beside one of the three locations mentioned above...or right across the street.  

And you can't buy your lumber from hardware stores regardless of what other stuff the hardware stores might deal in.  You buy your lumber from a mill.  But that's OK since there are a fair number of these in Bluefields as well.  

The bottom line is that there's a lot of stuff for sale whether you're building from the ground up, repairing something, or renovating.   And it doesn't matter if a particular part of one store sells only paint and the place you get your new water tank is right next door but owned by somebody else.  It all does the job for you when you get the stuff home or to the job site.  

And moving the stuff is a whole different story because if you don't own a truck or can't get a 2500 liter water tank in - or on top of - your taxi, you end up renting a truck to take the stuff where you want it to go.  The multitudes of commercial carriers sitting at the sides of the roads all over town are handy.  They're all waiting to be hired to haul something for you.  Each of them seems to come with a driver and two helpers.

By the way...if you should end up shopping in the 'go to' spot I described above (yes, the place is real), you might be grateful for the fact that there is a cafe on the second floor of one of their locations...upstairs.  It either overlooks the street or some containers of termite killer, depending on where you sit.  Having a meal or just a cold drink in the cafe is a nice way to end a shopping trip....before your carrier arrives to haul your stuff wherever it needs to go.

The hardware store pictured below is one of the smaller ones and it's not in the center of town.  But it's loaded with supplies...many more than are displayed in the picture.

12 February 2023

The city house, a necessary clean up, a kick ass view

The 'new' house needed a considerable amount of clean up following a glancing visit by Hurricane Ian.  The first chore was to remove the pieces of a huge breadfruit tree which had fallen onto the roof.  The breadfruit tree had three trunks and was big around and very tall.  The loss of the tree was mitigated by the fact that for years the fruit was way too high up to harvest.

The structural damage to the house was minimal; the mess in the yard was maximum.  Since the breadfruit tree branches had intertwined with those of other trees in the yard, almost everything else came down with or beause of the breadfruit tree.  

The last of the trees and all of their parts, big and small, young and old, were cut and loaded into a boat for disposal.  The last tree to go was another that the hurricane had put down.  That tree had ended up falling in the bay instead of in the yard or on the house roof.

The clean up exposed a kick ass view of the bay as well as part of the Bluefields itself.  This will be nice to live with.

08 February 2023

Life on the bay

The small city of Bluefields, Nicaragua, sits on a bay - called of all things - Bluefields Bay.  Lots of stuff important to the commercial life of Bluefields takes place along or in that body of water.  One important place is the main wharf where almost everything that came into Bluefields arrived...until the new road opened just a couple of years ago.  

Need a new car?  Need an order of tiles for your hardware store?  Need the latest fashions for your clothing outlet?  For us, more than a decade ago, our pontoon boat kit from South Carolina, arrived at the city's main wharf.  All of this stuff came to the wharf pictured below.

Granted, some of the stuff came on a bus or a boat by way of the El Rama Port.  Actually most stuff that went through the port at Rama involved both bus and boat. Some small stuff came by air.  But fewer and fewer goods travel these ways now that there is a roadway connecting Bluefields to Managua.  

But even so, the main wharf is still very busy.  It accomodates large boats and barges and deals primarily with things that don't come from Managua.  

And attached to the main wharf is the water taxi terminal that carries people by panga to small communities which can't easily be reached by car or bus.  

01 February 2023

Replacing a roof because of a hurricane? Sort of but mostly because of a tree

Hurricane Ian hit Nicaragua last fall.  More than a decade ago when I was hunting for a piece of property on Nicaragua's Caribbean coast I fielded a lot of questions about hurricanes.  Most people think Nicaragua is constantly bombarded by hurricanes during the season.  For a brief while I assumed that was true. 

Turns out we do have our share of bad weather but it's mostly inconvenient rain - rarely hurricanes.  When a hurricane forms off the coast of Africa and heads west, most often it hits the islands on the eastern edge of the Caribbean.  Usually from those pieces of land that edge the Caribbean a hurricane seems to bounce off and up.   At the end of each hurricane season NOAA publishes a one page summary of what kind of storms went where.  

That summary page (sample below) looks like someone dropped a handful of colorful cooked spaghetti on a map. The different colors represent the types of storms.  I took advantage of more than 100 years of this data to look at Nicaragua's hurricane history.  If I was going to invest anything there - time, money, hard work, etc - I wanted to know what I was getting into.  Turned out that as far as hurricanes were concerned I wasn't getting into much.  In fact I was getting into less in Nicaragua than I get into living in Virginia.

If and when a hurricane does hit Nicaragua, the hit is most often north of False Bluff and near where Nicaragua and Honduras meet.  I have no idea why.  Maybe because that northern part of Nicaragua sticks out into the Caribbean the farthest.  

False Bluff, on the other hand, is south, tucked away from the pathway of most hurricanes.  We're way south on that coast...only about 40 miles from Costa Rica.  Hurricane paths are a mystery to me- but a mystery I don't have to solve.

Of course 'rarely' doesn't mean 'never' and we took a hit this year.  Much of the 'thatch' on the main building 'left the building.'  And nearby trees from which this leaf is harvested also 'left the building.'   The trees themselves were either blown down or the trees stood and the fronds were blown off.  Our roofer had to travel pretty far to harvest the more than 3000 fronds we needed.  The extra distance cost both time and money.  

And it turned out that damage to the roof wasn't directly caused by wind but to an avocado tree BEHIND the house.  The wind knocked the tree smack across the middle of the house, the spine of the roof as it were.  So there was also damage to the rafters.  

The original rafters had been round poles and we couldn't easily find replacements for those, near or far.  Granted, had time not been an issue we might have located them.  But people live in this building.  

One thing we had in our favor - a silver lining as it were - was all the downed trees.  We just sliced up enough downed trees to replace the rafters.  Using nominal and often green lumber is nothing new in this area.  So the rafters were extricated from trees on the ground and the framing went up while we waited for delivery of the leaf fronds.

All done.  By now the entire house has two coats of primer, known in Bluefields as 'sealer.'  Painting to follow.