Today was going to be a good day. Casey is going to be in Tequantepe, Mesatepe, and Managua, we have no guests at the hotel, the large swell of the past few days is winding down to a little over head high, and I have all day for my first time back in the water in months. It is sunny, hot, and a water temp in the mid 80′s.
The only hitch is I have to walk. If that is a hitch. Some would say that is a blessing. Some would pay for a vacation to take this walk.
I start getting ready, excited, talking to our dog-Pinguino. He adopted us a few years ago when we started building our resort. He loves going to the beach. So I have a hiking companion.
I pack water, wax, a rashguard, sunblock, and a bowl to share the water with Pinguino.
I pick up my board and am glad its a Coil–thanks Mike Daniel-it’s really light, and that will help on the 1 hour and 20 min hike. This will be the first time for the board in good waves.
We start down the dirt road and after the first bend we come upon a pair of dung beetles hard at work with their prized orb. Al (we also call the Pinguino- Al) gives them a curious sniff and we move on. He chases a mare and her colt, barks at some Quetzels, and covers 10 x the distance I do. We are alone for the first kilometer in the pastures and hills, save for the wildlife and the farm animals.
On the main dirt road we see 3 local schoolkids on one bike. Then I see 2 teenagers on a bike and the one not pedaling is holding another bike. It looks like they are going all the way to Astillero. We cut through to the beachbreak at Playa Guasacate; now we will walk the beach down to Playa Popoyo.
Al is running figure eights in the sand with me in the center, every time I snatch out to grab him as he goes by he accelerates… he thinks he’s a puppy. All the dogs in the beachfront homes are howling at him. He pays them no mind, almost like he’s saying “Ha-see how much fun I’m having? Up yours!”
We stop and have some water. Up to now, the walk has been an adventure and painless, but I am realizing that my head is starting to ache, and I wish I brought a hat. Al is panting a bit.
But we’re good. 30 minutes to Popoyo. There’s a team of oxen ahead hauling a cart full of firewood. The 2 guys steering the team are completely covered up-long sleeve shirts, long pants, full-brimmed hats, scarfs around their necks. They must be boiling.
A surfer gets out of the water and nods at me. He looks really young, and European.
We pass the Melting Elefante Hotel. Two couples are having breakfast. Very Loudly.
Finally the End of the Road Restaurant. Al and I sit and have more water. I put on my rashguard and we look over to Popoyo.
It looks overhead. Maybe 6 guys. Fairly clean.
So we start the trek over the delta to the river.
It all starts coming back. The familiar walk. This will be easy today. Low tide. Weak shallow current. Rocks are showing. Al won’t have to swim. We get over and 2 local fishermen are pointing. Their 3 dogs are half-way up the cliff. Like mountain goats, they are balanced precariously so their heads are buried in a hole and they are frenetically trying to pull something out. The locals are laughing. I’m laughing. Al’s looking up and then looking and me like-”are they out of their f-n minds?”
We round the corner past El Volcon and stop at Popoyo proper. The Outer Reef is barely breaking. Two days ago they were doing tow-ins. Popoyo looks ok. A little sideshore. But only 6 guys. The tide has just turned from low. So it’s a careful entry.
I wax up. Time the sets. Watch Al head for some shade. And start my paddle.
Right away I feet more current than I expected. I get pushed sideways into a rockslab I usually avoid. I almost evade it. But I feet the nudge of my center fin dinging the rock. AHHH My new Greg Griffins! Not even 4 strokes! Then I paddle like crazy and get out easily. I look at it and it’s just a scrape. But still–always with a new board or fins…Murphy’s Law…
I catch a few smaller waves, getting my feet placement down. The Coil feels awesome-responsive, stable, easy to accelerate-and a great paddler. The fins feel solid on the bottom turns and cutbacks. I am starting to feel it and inch my way deeper into the main line-up. The guys are cool, everyone is rotating.
I wait. Let a few sets go by. Then a bigger set comes through. I let them all go. Then mine comes. I am lined up. In the spot.
Stroke in. Push up. AAHH PAIN!!! My front leg is seized up. Major cramp. I try to push through and stand up. I go ass over the front of the board. When I come up, my leg is still locked. I reel in my board and sit up. I have to keep my leg straight.
I’m by myself, feeling like an idiot. Thank God everyone is way inside just starting to paddle out.
As I sit there I start to realize my neck is really sore. And both my arms hurt. I am very thirsty. My back feels sunburn. And my leg is still seized.
I lay down and paddle over to the channel and watch the guys paddle past me. I am thinking that walk in the heat hurt me more than I realize. I decide I’ll catch a small one and go in. That’s when I hear Samir yell “Look out Bill!” I turn and there’s a guy coming down the line out of control, right at me. He goes up into the lip above me like he’s going to pull out, then decides he’s going to do a floater over me, but instead, he’s stuck in the lip coming straight down at me. I push my board away from us, cover my head, and dive for the bottom. I come up and he’s all apologies. Samir’s ready to keel haul him. I say it’s all cool, I’m leaving anyways.
I get to the beach and get my stuff, and find my water has leaked out. My leg has eased up, but there’s a strange tightness and pain on the outside of my knee.
So now I have a 1 hour 20 walk with no water and muscle cramps in 90 degree heat.
I take off my rashguard and head for the river. Just as I reach the bank, who appears but Al. He jumps all over me and starts the figure 8′s again. He must have mooched some food and water at the End of the Road.
I look at the river and pause. The tide is up and so is the current. We have to move downstream for a safe place for Al.
We find a shallower spot, but I wasn’t paying attention. We get halfway across when Al turns around and swims for the shore we came from. I look at the ocean , and a set and has just hit, and bigger waves are coming through the river. Al doesn’t want to deal with them so he turns back. So I go back too. And we wait. It was a big set with many, many waves, and the tide continues to come up. We continue to slide downstream. But as we do, the current gets stronger. Finally, we find a shallower spot. I put all my gear and my board in one hand, pick up Al in the other, and start wading across. After a few steps, Al starts freaking. He pushes off with his paws and I almost drop him. He squirms and squirms. My outside foot slips, my leg is about hip deep in a 6 knot current-I am on rocks. Al breaks free and goes in the water. I turn and look and he is confidently stroking at an angle towards the opposite shore. After 5 seconds, as Al is getting out of the river, I see my rashguard slowly sinking and moving at @ 6 knots towards Las Salinas De Nahualapa . I thrash across by myself with no water and no rashguard, and we start the long, dry walk home.
I don’t know what happened to me. 25 years ago, I could run a marathon in the morning and play a softball doubleheader in the afternoon. 10 years ago, I could surf Ocean Beach SF in the morning and take double Tae Kwon Do classes in the afternoon.
I spend the walk home talking to Al about it. Nothing or no one prepares you for getting older, especially if you have been an athlete.
I try to keep my mind in the zone, and think of nothing, or at least think of nothing negative, like how I kooked out. Or how I should have stayed at the resort, sat in the loggio in the shade, and practiced coming up with the perfect Mojito. I watch Al chase any and everything, and try not think about cold water. I remember a 17 mile Yosemite hike our family took when Billy was 7 yrs old, and we had no water for the last 9 miles. I told every joke, every story, every anecdote, I could remember, and then made some up. Somehow today seemed worse. Physically.
As we rounded the last bend, again we saw a pair of dung beetles, in almost the same place, with almost the same size orb. I wonder if it was the same pair, and if so, what persistence! Or what slowness! It’s been 5 hours!
Once we got back, Al and I drank water like no there was tomorrow. And I gave him one of my fish tacos.
He’s now asleep at my feet in the air-conditioning.
Later, I guess I need to scrape the deck of my board. The wax smells like really really bad BO.
…Because I am sort of thinking about dawn patrol tomorrow morning.
…but with the truck.
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