FJ adventure travel update! I'm currently stuck in Bluefields on the sparsely populated Atlantic side of Nicaragua for an extra 5 days (hopefully not more) due to mass protests and roadblocks that basically block all car traffic from the Pacific to Atlantic side. The roadblock at Nueva Guinea went up at noon Thursday. I showed up at 4pm.
If my flight from Corn Island hadn't been delayed from morning to afternoon - I probably would have just made it. Or just missed it by like 5 minutes, which would have been really painful.
I spent the first night in my car along with everyone else - hoping they'd open up at some point. Btw in case you're wondering my 2007 FJ burns about 4 gallons of gas over 12 hours idling with the AC running. Then in the morning I gave up and went back to Bluefields. The minimum I heard for the roadblock was 2 days. There seems to be a word-of-mouth schedule to these things, but it changes a lot and no one really knows for sure.
The only thing I know for sure is there's a Managua/Bluefields bus trapped in Bluefields. When that moves I know the road will be open. I've got a local guy here keeping me up-to-date, for which I'm buying him a few meals. He also told me there's no panga boats to La Rama - not that that would help me much. Although he told me there were no flights to Managua, which is wrong. But he knows the panga captains so I think he's accurate on that.
Nueva Guinea to Bluefields is about a 2 hour drive but through some gnarly construction that gave me a flat tire the first time. I have since aired down to 20psi and been fine. This time it was raining on the super-slick clay mud. The mud is so slick literally you can barely stand up on it. I drove on a small patch and all 4 tires spun for a bit when I got back on the pavement, until the mud burned off. They were towing cars uphill to get through it. I saw a road-grader towing a bus towing a car.
So there's another fun factor to worry about - might get trapped by the rains. The cool part was they picked my car out of the whole line to be the first one down the hill. People were walking by remarking - "cautro por cuatro". It would be fun to try to get up it sometime. When I came back the next day they had spread rocks around and it was much better.
I went back to the front lines today and saw all the same people - no one's moved - even people in nice cars. The line was actually shorter than when I left the previous morning - as like me plenty of people gave up and went somewhere else. There are makeshift campsites all over the place. Multiple people said 3 more days. So I came back to Bluefields again. So frustrating because it's like a 5 minute walk from where my car is stuck to where I want to be. They don't block foot traffic, bicycles or horses - only motorcycles, cars, buses and trucks.
Myself and my car get a lot of attention in that line as the only gringo with a weird car they never see, and with USA plates - and people get drunker and want to joke around with me more as the night goes on. It's good natured and I'm sure it's most likely safe, but I felt a little like a sitting duck. I did see my drunk neighbor who kept calling me gringo and was making me a little nervous from the night before. He had gotten a hotel room and cleaned up, and was very nice during the day.
It's hard to tell the spectators and trapped people from the protestors - maybe that's by design. Except for a couple guys walking around with makeshift rocket launchers. They fire these throughout the night as fireworks - but were also firing them at cops (and getting shot at for it) in the protests a few weeks ago.
So by my guess it's maybe 30 protestors, a few of them armed with glorified fireworks. I didn't see any other weapons. But I did see some people in the back of a truck with a serious military rifle - driving towards me, about 20km away from the scene this morning. No idea what that was about. If everyone who's stuck just banded together I bet they could push these guys off. But maybe then hidden weapons come out or something. I've heard most of the other roadblocks at least let people trickle though - not this one.
Hopefully I get out of here Tuesday or Wednesday - if civil war doesn't break out.
Hanging out in our new home away from home. I moved the tanks to upright, but they were empty until now. I filled them just in case of emergency, and now they're denting the roof a little. I think I can put one of the extra roof slats under it. Or try to find a 1x4 tomorrow.