Category Archives: Uncategorized

Nicaragua

I recently returned to Nicaragua to welcome 2018 and take advantage of the world-class waves, constant offshore winds, and diverse landscape and culture. Again, I was not disappointed. I would keep my mouth shut it if it were not for the fact that Nicaragua is now regularly featured on travel sites like the New York Times. Gringos are not the only ones carving it in to the next Costa Rica. Nicaraguan investors know what kind of assets they have at their disposal.

Nicaragua has in fact been exploited since the Spanish arrived in 1522. The usual pillaging and plundering, along with the circulation of small pox, did a number on the Chorotega. Nevertheless, the contributions of the Spanish are still appreciated today. Granada is a charming colonial city reflecting the Spanish-Moorish architecture of the time. They also constructed the San Pablo Fort to protect Granada from pirates in 1789, and it can still be visited via boat.

Later on in the 1800s a dubious character from Nashville, Tennessee by the name of William Walker did significant damage on his filibustering campaigns in Central America. Not only did he burn Granada to the ground, but he also poisoned the wells with dead bodies that spread Cholera and killed some 10,000 Nicaraguans and Costa Ricans. Walker eventually paid for his actions when he found himself in front of a firing squad in Honduras.

Fortunately, Granada has time and again picked itself up and rebuilt. Before the Panama canal was constructed this was the shortest distance from the Atlantic to the Pacific. Cornelius Vanderbilt would steam up the San Juan River in to Lago de Nicaragua, and then make the short transport over to San Juan del Sur area on the coast of the Pacific. This route pumped money in to Granada and helped it to recover.

A few things you must do in Granada:

  1. Visit the San Francisco Convent to see the statuaries that have been excavated from Zapatera and Ometepe. A couple of these guys are in the Smithsonian, but you can see 30 of them all together in the same room. Each one represents the leader of the time, so they all have their own personalities. This is a highly informative account of their origins.
  2. Check out Mi Museo where there are many artifacts from Pre-Columbian times. It also helped me to understand where the Chorotega came from and when.
  3. Take a boat tour out to Las Isletas. These islands are a result of a massive explosion from Mombacho. Lots of wildlife, and you get to see the San Pablo Fort.
  4. Visit Volcan Masaya at night to see lava pouring from the crater. You definitely want to get there early to avoid waiting in line, but it is worth it.
  5. Tour the coffee plantation on Mombacho and then hike out to the stunning views of Granada and Lago de Nicaragua.
  6. If you still have time then head over to Pueblo Blancos to see local artisans at work. You will save yourself some money, for the shops around Granada certainly mark their prices up.

There are a couple of reasons why Nicaragua is safer than say El Salvador, Colombia, or Honduras. After the Nicaraguan Revolution, the country created a democratic police state in that each community would have at least one dedicated police officer that everyone knew. A bad apple arises, and they deal with the issue quickly. Second, drugs from Colombia and elsewhere go up the Caribbean side, so there are no cartels in the Pacific region.

Still, I wouldn’t drive at night. But during the day I generally went wherever I wanted. In the dry season you can get a way with a 2-wheel drive vehicle. But if the price is not much different then go with 4-wheel. I did end up using it along the coast to drive a section of road that terminated on beach front. It also gave me more confidence on dirt roads with potholes and stream crossings. In short, you are not limited and instead prepared for anything.

I’d tell you more about the surf breaks, but I just can’t do it. You’ll find it somewhere else. 😉

But I will tell you that I look forward to returning soon.

Have Kids Will Travel

Life has changed. Vacations no longer consist of sitting idly by the pool, or packing a nice, light bag solely meant for me.

There is no:

  • Why don’t I spend a bunch of time setting up this super artful photograph?
  • Gosh, that was such a great ski line, why don’t we hike up the mountain and do it again?
  • Man, I have been surfing for hours. Let’s go and chill on the beach with a beer.
  • Hey, let’s grab our kayaks and disappear for a few days down this super dangerous river where there is no cell reception!

You never know how much doing you are going to do when you say, I do, right? Now I have two young boys and life is very different.

When my first son was born a good friend said, “Welcome to manhood.” He couldn’t have been more right. Kids are the real test of will and perseverance. I swear every time I hear the word, “Dad,” another hair pops off my head.

But it is exactly what the freewheeling, fun-soaked, and child-free folks often hear from a subservient procreator like me….

It’s so rewarding.

Life is more challenging, and some days I feel like I’m walking around with my pant pockets turned inside out. But what a thrill to play witness and direction to my two boy’s endless discoveries. Here a just a few precious moments from this new adventure.

Click any image to view the gallery.

Costa Rica 2016

Quite a few changes to Costa Rica since visiting in 2007.

  • No Americans, French, or Germans to speak of.
  • All the roads are dirt.
  • Good luck finding air conditioning or a mobile phone signal.
  • No one is out surfing.
  • Realtors and developers have all moved on to Nicaragua.

Actually, only the last bullet is partially true.

Despite the changes I have to say it was nice not being so gripped on treacherous roads, although you still have to get your Costa on. I also have a fond memory of turning in to a decent size city for Costa Rica and being presented with a large bloated dead dog being picked apart by 6 or so vultures – now there is culture kids!

Other creature comforts consisted of not dealing with two young boys with chronic stomach cramps – thank you infrastructure and water treatment! Gas stations and grocery stores are prevalent, and more often than not the ATMs have cash.

So there you have it. It was indeed a great couple of weeks. The wildlife and surfing are still stunning, and the people are still charming. And I always thank my lucky stars for not having to be airlifted to a hospital; or more likely being placed in the back of a pickup truck and bounced down through the jungle as I come in and out of consciousness. Winning!

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If you want to see more photos go here – https://www.flickr.com/gp/rpayne/0r341B

The Light of the Lowcountry

I captured the above image in the direct sun of the afternoon by raising the f-stop up along with the shutter speed to cut the glare and sharpen the contrast. It reminds me of my youth when I would spend countless hours in the water idly passing the dog days of summer by with nary a care in the world. My how things change!

Click here to see the full image.

Center for Birds of Prey

If you have ever traveled between Charleston, South Carolina and Pawley’s Island then you know there are many historic and beautiful places to visit. One more recent addition is the Center for Birds of Prey. More than a zoo, the Center provides educational opportunities through interactive presentations and informative conversations with professional biologists and ornithologists. It is best to time your visit during one of the presentations at the outdoor amphitheater. There you will see owls, kites, hawks and falcons demonstrating their innate capabilities, and sometimes even flying directly over your head.

A Charleston Christmas

Thanksgiving in Charleston

Fall light in the woods

Camouflaged patience

Leaves crackle in anticipation

Rain on the coast

Wetsuit feels like armor

Grey waves carry ageless friends to shore

Wood smoke on my sweater

Oyster shells lay empty on the table

Blue crabs whistle in the boil

Food and family laugh in story

Thankful to be together

Charleston stretches out the front door

Photography

Despite being a father and a working professional, I still enjoy playing around with photography when I can.

I took a recent course at Piedmont Park focused on lighting. Plenty of factors to consider, much of it requiring more gear than I care to sport around. But if you want to expand your knowledge and live in and around Atlanta, check out Mike Moreland. He brings the models and the gear, and you’ll certainly learn a few tricks. The true art though – in my humble opinion – is directing the model in the context of the scene.

Yes, I got these:

But I actually like this one – no light and off the cuff.

Rock

I can’t pretend to know for sure, but for me it encapsulates what I think many black men, especially in Ferguson, feel about the world around them. Want to get a greater appreciation? Hit the new Center for Civil and Human Rights in downtown Atlanta. We’ve come a long way, but there is still work to be done.

Family

Wow, I’m 40. Chased a few dreams, found one or two. But nothing compares to my wife and two boys. Houston will soon be 6, and Heyward is approaching 6 months. They all recently joined me on the trail for a great 10 mile hike. My birthday wish is for more time by the fire as we share a common respect for the world around us and plans for the next adventure.