10 wrestlers plus Simon and Mooch are Nicaragua bound later today on a good will wrestling tour. Besides working out with the Nicas, we have a couple of dual meets scheduled and lots of touring. 4 guys started the trip with a wrestling camp at Brock yesterday and an overnight at Mooch's cottage. Blair's attempted shoveling puts him in an early lead for dumb-ass of the trip. Bobby and Ranbir's failed attempt to unlock a simple lock puts them not too far behind. Ponton is still shook up after being attacked by a wild animal at 5 am.
Greetings from Nicaragua. Yes we all landed safely except for Mooch's luggage and all the t-shirts we are supposed to be giving away that are somewhere but not here. Ponton was lucky he got out of Buffalo as he lost his passport before we got our boarding passes. Good thing I have new underwear, they may have to last me 10 days. Mooch's Canada hat also landed safely but it was unexplainably given away to a street urchin by Blair. He could very well be the 1st casualty on this trip. The boys tried to pick up some Christian girls from Texas heading down here to do missionary work but they didn't seem to like heathens. Booby sat with the pastor but from I can tell , his soul has not been saved. Once we cleared customs, the first 10 minutes were uneventful. Then we got pulled over by the cops for some reason. We have since been released. We had a late night chicken dinner that included pop with Nicaraguans finest ice cubes. No one has the runs yet. The Casa Grande is Grande. We even have a kitchen and a guard outside with a machine gun. Tomorrow we will go shopping so that we can do breakfast here. We had a quick run around town and saw the Presidential Palace (he wasn't home) and the old cathedral all lit up. Quite nice. We have seen more stray dogs than people thus far but head out at 8:30 am for a tour of the town. Life is good, if not a bit muggy.
A busy day here in Managua. We woke to a sunny day and the sounds of a whole bunch of noisy birds and were impressed seeing 2 volcanoes staring at us from our balconies. We are overlooking the city with Lake Managua on the horizon. Breakfast was at an outdoor cafe on the rim of an old volcano crater with an aqua blue crater lake (Laguna) far below. For 3 bucks we had eggs, salsa, hot sauce, rice and beans, tortillas and plantain. (except for jeffy who had bacon and eggs with untoasted toast) From there we went to the National Historic Park which has the remnants of a notorious prison and holds a lot of significance from the last revolution. We also strolled the waterfront, wandered around the government centre and had a good look at the old cathedral left in ruins by the last major earthquake 30 years ago. We also got into the National Baseball Stadium which has fell into disrepair and been condemned as unsafe. We got to wander around what is left of the playing field, go though the dugouts and dressing rooms and wander the catacombs. It looks like it was once a magnificent stadium but all that's left is old pictures of Nicaraguan greats from the past. A shame. We also made our 1st market visit to practice bartering. After a $4 dinner of beef, chicken and the mandatory plantain, rice and beans, the guys had an hour workout while Mooch went to the airport to stand around for 2 hours and NOT get his luggage. A busier day tomorrow (schedule has us going pretty well nonstop for 14 hours) that starts with a practice at a local high school and a meet the press session. Ranbir and Bobby have to make a speech in Spanish. That has International incident written all over it. That's it - got beans to cook for tomorrows practice.
It was an action packed day here in the land of the Nicas. In the morning we visited a school to practice and scrimmage with their team, coached by a former Cuban whose brother was once a world champ. The kids were tough, fast and wiry and we took our share of beatings but won our share as well. They were not official matches and we didn't really keep score but the wrestling was pretty intense. Don’t tell Mother Fillman her son wrestled but if she finds out, tell her his shoulder didn't feel too bad. At least he didn't get fived like Ponton. The school was like a fortress, surrounded by a wall topped with spikes and barbed wire. The classes were outdoor cement structures with steel bars instead of doors and windows making them look like jail cells. It seemed like half the school was watching the wrestling, screaming and banging on the bars and sheet medal siding. The guys were treated like rock stars and swarmed for trinkets by the young kids (it was a K to 12 school). It would seem our visit was one of the biggest things to happen there for quite some time.
From there it was off to a small town high above a beautiful lagoon for craft shopping followed by a visit to a resort on the shores of a volcano crater lake for a swim and lunch. Being a resort, lunch was expensive. It cost us almost 6 bucks. Swimming knowing there is a volcano simmering below us was quite the experience. From swimming a volcano, we proceeded to climb on top of one that's still active. As Jimmy Buffet sings, I dunno, where I'm a gonna go, when the volcano blows. Lava was bubbling almost 800 m down the crater that measured 700m across and is surrounded by several inactive craters. At night you can see the lava glow. It is also spewing out huge clouds of toxic gases which made us keep our eyes on the wind direction. Apparently when the volcano would begin to rumble, they would sacrifice kids or maidens to appease the gods. We were ready to offer Blair and Ponton but lucky for them, there was no eruption. As the sun began to set, we travelled over a half kilometer into a cave, 60 m underground. We then went to another cave that houses 20,000 bats and stood at the mouth as they swarmed out just inches from our heads. Jeffy will likely not sleep until he gets back to Milton. We ate in another shady neighborhood joint but the food was good and plentiful. No one has gotten sick yet but Croll had onion rings and that was the death of Fillman the last 2 trips. It will serve Croll right.
All in all an amazing day. Our 1st dual meet is tomorrow. We will do some zip-lining in the morning for our warm-up.
p.s. - Mooch is still without luggage but at least he did not pull a Grier and lose his passport. Grier will have a good life here as a gringo.
p.p.s. - At the shady neighborhood joint, Simon almost got picked up by a greasy little local. I just don't understand why he told him where we were staying.
It was a relatively slow paced day today. First an update. Grier found his passport under his bags but claimed he didn't put it there. It was likely one of the lizards that lurk around the room. Mooch finally got back his luggage - from another airline. After having to wander around a hot and smelly warehouse to look for it and waiting because the warehouse guy lost the storage key, the guy wanted a tip for returning the bags in less than 5 days. Sandinistas Revenge made its first appearance today with Ranbir taking the hit. Less than an hour before taking the mat, Ranbir had to make 2 visits to a toilet stall that hasn't been cleaned since 2002, with no door, a broken seat and no toilet paper. Good thing he had 2 socks.
Mooch and Simon got to sleep in to 7:30 am but Bobby and Ranbir had the rest up for a 6:45 am run to deal with some minor discipline problems. After breakfast, it was a trip to a 1.2 km zip line that runs over 100m above a lagoon. Fun was had by all except Blair who never made it all the way across and had to be rescued. It was then back to the hotel for a siesta and a pre-match meal of chorizo sausage tacos.
Our dual meet (the first ever international dual held in the country) in a small town, the next state over was quite the event with loud music and a lot of very vocal fans. We faced a team made up of members of their National Cadet and Junior teams and were taught a lesson about wrestling tough and aggressive. We only won 4 of 10 matches and should have won 5 if not for the world’s fastest, 1 shoulder pin called on Ranbir. We could have won 7 with a bit more intensity. Winners were Bobby, Jeffy, Jared and Blair. Bobby got his 200th career win (the 9th to reach 200 career wins) and becomes the 1st to reach a major milestone in a foreign land. Despite the less than stellar performance, the guys were swarmed after the meet for autographs and for pictures with every señorita in town. Let it be known though, that the first pictures the señoritas wanted were with Mooch and Simon. Some came away with earrings and bracelets from the local lassies. Jared was given a necklace with a cross on it. We can't be certain but he might be engaged. After the match, we were taken out for dinner by the State Director of Sports and then back to the hotel to get ready for a 14 hour road trip tomorrow.
Over the last 24 hours, we got to see another side of Managua as well. Our host usually takes our table scraps for his 6 dogs but last night the dogs missed out. Some local wandered into the cafe and took our table scraps to feed his family. After the zip line, we drove by a shanty town just a few blocks from the presidential Palace. People are living in lean-to shanties made mainly of tarps as well as scraps of wood, metal and anything else they can find. This morning, when the guys got back from the run, there was a guy waiting outside of our rooms. He didn't talk English so we told him to wait around for our host which he did. There was a story and photo in the paper about all the stuff we were donating so he came to us because he needed $75 for a life saving operation for his 15 year old daughter. It was all quite touching until we said we would give the money to the church that would see to looking after things for her. It was at that time that his story fell apart and we realized it was all a scam. I guess in this town, they call it survival.
Today we were tourists. We got off to a bit of a late start because it seems Cole the cook may know how to do butterfly chops with mint on top but he has no idea how to run a mess hall breakfast for 12 hungry wrestlers. We headed south on the Pan-American Highway which apparently runs from Alaska to the tip of South America. That’s good to know as if we miss our flight home, we can start walking north and will at least make it to Vancouver. Our tour started in Granada, the oldest city in the western world (founded in the 1500's and once controlled by Captain Morgan the pirate of Captain Morgan's Rum fame). Once in Granada, we started off with a boat tour of the islands of Lake Nicaragua (Central America’s largest freshwater lake and home to the world's only species of freshwater sharks). The highlight of the trip was feeding cashews to the monkeys on wouldn't you know it ... Monkey Island. Back on shore, we switched from boats to horse and buggy for a tour of the town. For $2 we were served the famous Granada lunch of the day - yucca, Nicaraguan coleslaw and deep fried pork skins served on fresh banana leaves. Simon, Croll and Mooch thoroughly enjoyed it. The other 9 plates are still on the table. If you are ever in Grenada, look for the old lady with 3 teeth and a blue bandana and tell her you are there for the Canadian leftovers. She will give you a good deal. It may be just as well that most did not eat as our canopy tour (designed and first opened by a Canadian) started with a 45 minute drive up a road best described as a boulder field. Our trip up the Mocombo volcano produced 3 injured shoulders, 6 bruised ribs, 3 concussions (all by Blair) and 12 cases of hemorrhoids. The zip-line tour itself was a blast as we sped through the trees of a mixed cloud forest/coffee plantation. Nigel Whitman set a record for the highest pee in Drury history. Faced with the choice of peeing his pants or letting loose 200 feet up, he chose to fertilize the environment. May the trees grow well. Once back on solid (and level) ground we headed for the town of Masaya for craft shopping and the Jueves de Verbena (Thursday Night bash featuring Nicaraguan music, song, dance, cigars and delicacies). Except for the cook who picked up yesterdays torch from Ranbir, we all enjoyed a great night mingling with the locals as well as a few groups of Yanks and Canadians who also got off of the well beaten path.
Tomorrow, it is a tough practice to get ready for Saturday, a beisbol game and a barbecue at our hosts house/mansion. Everyone else has been in bed for close to an hour. I too am signing off.
And then there were 9 (solid and regular). Chevy Chafe, also known as Blair Norland had a run of the runs today. While we know Ranbir's and Coles's grief were the result of a variety of sub-tropical microorganisms, Blair’s walk on the wild side could be attributed to the volume of food, the speed at which he ate it or just the fact that he swallows it whole.
It was a slow paced day today after yesterdays, 3 days in 1. Just a note on that, the whole day yesterday cost us just $30 a head. They actually appreciate tourists here and so far are not trying to rip anyone off. After breakfast today (fresh mango and pineapple plus rice and beans naturally) we had a really good practice. The beatings the other night must have reminded guys why we are here. We spent the afternoon at the beisbol game (Managua won 6-2) and we were much appreciated by the crowd for handing out baseball cards from the World Baseball Classic. The cards were supposed to be for the kids but we also got swarmed by adults including the gang from the press box.. Apparently they talked about us on the radio broadcast. We were also told that our dual meet on Wednesday was on all the TV stations yesterday and this morning but we missed it. A father brought his son to the game just because he heard we were coming and wanted to talk baseball. He came with a bunch of prepared questions and while most of our guys have limited knowledge of the game, I coached rep ball for many years and Simon has played and coached as well so we were able to have a good discussion despite some language barriers. Blair was the hit of the game. When he fell asleep in the stands in the 3rd inning, we all quietly got up and moved 2 sections over. The locals were observing our prank and were quite amused. When he eventually woke up in a panic thinking we left him, he got a warm applause from the fans.
After the game, we went to our host’s home for a swim in his waterfall pool, a visit with his 6 singing dogs and a traditional Nicaraguan dinner. We were told some fascinating stories about his defection from Iran (at age 16), his escape when being shipped back for public execution and his life since then. It is a great story but too long to write about here so ask one of us when we get home. Tomorrow, we have a morning hike in the jungle and a dual meet here in Managua in the afternoon that has received a lot of press already. Hopefully, we come prepared for battle.
Our day started with a rumba in the jungle as we hiked the hilly trails of the Chocoyaro - El Brujo Nature Reserve. To get there, we had to travel dusty roads through rural Nicaragua, past banana plantations and field after field of pineapple. The people here are very poor, living in ramshackle houses with no running water or electricity. They seem happy though. They live better lives than the poor in the city. From our hosts balcony last night we could see the same smoke rising that we have seen since our arrival. It is the dump where they burn the garbage but is also home to over 1000 people. They survive by scrounging through the rubbish and either using the stuff or selling it for pennies. They also breathe in the smoke. Apparently the average life span is 35 years. The kids in the dump and in the rural areas never go to school so most just continue to live like their parents have.
Once in the reserve, we hired a guide ( $2.50 for a 2 1/2 hr tour ). One of us never made it past the interpretive centre after the guide pulled a snake out of his pocket that he found on the trail earlier in the morn. Jeffy had a nice nap in the van though. The rest of us were introduced to various plant parts used by the Indians for spoons, shoes, jewellery, and even insomnia. We could use that as about the only thing we haven't done is slept in. We visited a waterfall where hundreds of parakeets live in holes in the rocks. Unfortunately, they were off to the parakeet market and don't return until late in the afternoon. We did see other birds including a close-up view of an owl and could hear the constant chatter of birds in the tree tops. The only thing to drown out their racket was the fierce howling of the howler monkeys (we ran into a troop numbering 7 or 8 of them). We also saw killer bees, some strange crabs and what was left of a deer eaten for supper by a jaguar last night. We also ran into 3 biologists who capture birds in nets hung along the trails. They then weigh them, check their health and band them. We met a bluebird who was banded in Canada last summer and is here on vacation.
We returned home for a siesta before going off to our dual meet. We wrestled much better today, winning 6 of 9 (the cook sat out due to injury) and could have won all 8 with a few breaks. No one got beat up today although Miguel (formerly Nigel) Whitman got launched for 5 twice. Winners were Ranbir, Andrew, Justin, Jeffy and Jared and Blair. We celebrated with a meal at a restaurant that has the slowest service north of Chile. Early to bed tonight - we have to be up at 6:15am as we head out for 2 days on the Pacific. Likely no e-mail there so this will likely be the last post until Monday night.
p.s. - Please excuse the typos. Fillman usually proof-reads these posts for spelling and typos. Reading them over today to see what I've written thus far, I noticed he has done a sh*t-ass job of it.
Granger! I don't know what we did to deserve it, but our trip ended with a perfect day at a perfect spot overlooking the crashing surf of the Pacific and a beach we pretty well had to ourselves ( they stl got to check out the locals Chico’s at the town beach earlier in the day ). Oops, our driver is here. We are taking him, our host and his wife out to our farewell dinner. Will have to finish this later. Everyone is burnt out except for Ponton who is still running around like the energizer bunny so I am guessing it will be an early crash tonight preceding our 4:45 am wake-up call.
Back from dinner. It was a great spread served buffet style with a vast collection of Nicaraguan food, deserts and drinks. If there was a food we hadn't tried yet, we have now. We even had waitresses in traditional Nicaraguan dress and a singer who did Frank Sinatra in Spanish, Santana and for us Neil Young. All this for $10 each including tip and us paying for 3 guests. Gotta love this country. All the guys made a short speech thanking our hosts and telling their favorite memories. The gesture was much appreciated.
Back to yesterday, we got a 7am start and were on the coast before 9. Our beach house had a kitchen, 3 bedrooms and a huge outdoor living room under a thatched roof. You just had to look over the wall to see the crashing waves. After settling in, we headed to a nearby fishing village to buy dinner. The kids went Chica hunting (not very good at that) and showing off their tans. Too bad only Jared and Ranbir are brown - the rest are either white or various shades of red. Our host took Simon and me shack hopping. In Canada, we might call it bar hopping but in Canada, the shacks have doors and windows. We finally ended up at an oceanfront restaurant for lunch and the kids tracked us down. Mooch and Ponton had the biggest and best damn lobster bisque in the world. Blair had shrimp chowder that gave him hot flashes. Bobby, who is just hours from making it home without winning his 3rd consecutive puker of the trip award, had the fried banana with fried Nicaraguan goat cheese. Simon and Ponton were the kings though, swallowing mostly raw and totally illegal turtle eggs. The rest just watched. After that we went shopping for dinner. The fishermen bring their catch off the boats and sell it right on the beach or in little shops off the beach. For $40, we got 2 fish, 8 lobsters and 5 pounds of shrimp. The boys tried to buy the 17 year old fishermen's daughter to take home but had to settle for pictures and longing memories. The housekeepers at our pad cleaned all the fish for us and cooked the pasta for a divine meal. We tipped them almost a half month's salary ( they get $40 a month). Before dinner, we frolicked in the waves that were among the biggest any of us have ever been in. It was a blast. Good thing we had Miguel the life guard on duty. A fantastic sunset capped off the afternoon. After a night of cards and stories with the constant roar of the ocean below, most hit the sack at 11 but 6 of us did a midnight stroll to watch high tide come in. Blair and Mooch in hammocks and Miguel in a cot decided to sleep outdoors. It was great until 2 am when a cool breeze began to blow in off the ocean. We thought we were cold until a blue Simon came out of his room at 5 am. Apparently, Cole the cook turned all the air conditioners on frostbite, and then went to bed with the only remote control. Since he and his roomy Jeffy are scared of everything that moves south of Highway 5, they locked their doors and left the others to freeze. One by one they began emerging, frozen stiff making sleeping under the stars not so bad. The only one unaffected was Ranbir who had his fur to protect him. (p.s.- It seems the Nicaraguans cannot handle the Punjabi dialect so Ranbir's name was turned into Cranberry). Up and on the beach by 8; we had a relaxing day to end our trip and one final trip to the Mercado. Pretty well everyone is now in the sack. As of an hour and half ago your time, I am retired so just finished my retirement Tona.
Unless we change our minds and decide to stay, we are on our way home in 8 hours.
It was a fantastic trip enjoyed by all. While the guys missed 2 days of school, they made up for it with a lot of education. They will all see the world in a different light and I hope they will appreciate what we have in Canada far more than they did a few weeks ago. We helped raise the profile of wrestling in this country and brought a lot of happiness and excitement to people that have very little opportunity to experience or see things out of their own little worlds. The boys were great ambassadors for Canada and the school and Simon and I am proud of them. I know they will remember this for their lifetimes.
As I write this I am listening to my $2 CD from the market - Musica Tipica Nicaraguense. It actually works. So does my DVD about Che Guevara although it is not in English as guaranteed.
No, our flight left on schedule. It might have been nice to spend another day in Nicaragua but we all arrived home last night safe and sound even though Jeffy had a few anxious moments. While leaving Managua he got busted for ignoring the 3 oz container rule and trying to smuggle 2 jars of jam, 3 bottles of sun tan lotion, another bottle of something or other and a can of insect spray. 2 of them were aerosols - another no-no. After much discussion with a number of security people I convinced them to let him keep the jam and non-aerosols. He had to fill out a form and a waiver that allowed him to take his bag to the gate and check it there. In Atlanta, we had to collect our luggage, go through customs, re-check our luggage and then go through security again. For some reason, Jeffy tried to take the same bag and the contraband as a carry-on again. We all got through and noticed he was missing. Sure enough - detained once again. Lucky for him, he still had one of the forms he was supposed to have already given to someone and they let him through without too much delay. Jeffy wins the prize for the final dumb move of the trip (and there were many). Did I mention Ponton almost getting run over? He will have to tell that story.
It was great to sleep in today while the others went to school. Apparently there was still some left-over excretory system distress (how many times have you gone now Simon?). I hope anyone afflicted did better than Grier. A missed story from the beach involves Justin, who in the middle of a swim felt the strong urge for a natural body function. He began sprinting up the hill to the beach house but realized he couldn't get there in time. Now, despite the fact there were bushes and a ditch along the roadway, he chose to answer nature's call smack-dab in the middle of the road. Who said we were more civilized than third world countries? This would be the prize winner for the most disgusting story.
Simon is working on putting all the pictures on disc and some of the guys will put together a DVD from the video footage. Hopefully we will have photos on the web-page soon. I will put together a journal and will need everyone's favorite memories and funny stories (I think Bobby is coordinating this). Guys from the trip - don't forget to hand in your Dynamo singlets and jackets if you have not already done so.
That's it, that's all for one hell of a trip. GRANGER.