The alarm on my iPhone sharply aroused me from my slumber at 3 am, shortly followed by a loud rapping on the door from the señor allocated to accompany me to the dock. I was more alert than I expected to be at such an ungodly hour and with so little sleep, and quickly organised myself to leave. Sooner rather than later.
As I gingerly made my way down the greasy steps fully laden, I heard my amigo from the boat, Bill, call out to me from below. I hadn’t seen him since we docked and was surprised to see him as he told me he was continuing his journey home straight away. He told me he had bumped into a cousin and decided to stay for the next boat in the morning; the dozen or more empty beer cans on the table evidenced their nocturnal activities. I didn’t ask him how he knew I was here as I figured the whole town probably did. He asked for my contact details which reassured me greatly that he had higher than average expectations I would make it back to Australia in any sort of condition to reply to an email.
I looked around for the señor who was to accompany me to the dock and could not sight him. Bill assured me it would be OK to just walk by myself and as I thought I had no other option, bid him adios and left. Bill’s parting gem was “Don’t trust anyone. This place is dangerous!” Cheers for that, Bill…
I was extremely grateful for my super bright caving light which lit the surrounds to the extent I would have a fighting chance to evade any intruder. To my utter relief though, I spotted no one else until I got to the dock where a quiet bustle of locals were organising themselves for the journey. My pack and then myself safely ensconced in the little longboat, I could finally breathe a sigh of relief.
At 3.45 am, the boat slipped away from the dock and I left the craziness of Brus Laguna behind me. A beautiful moonlit sky illuminated our passage back through the waterway to the main Lagoon where we sped across the barely rippled water. As the predawn chill pervaded, I cocooned myself in one of the boat’s tarps and enjoyed the gradual lightening of the surrounding area.
La Moskitia truly is an incredible slice of tropical wilderness. With verdant terrestrial foliage melding with the aquatic vegetation which fringes the waterways and lagoons, the place teams with life. Little ramshackle huts dot the shores at random intervals. Fishermen headed out in the predawn gloom to cast their nets from carved out wooden boats.
As we made our way back to Batalla, we pulled into tiny inlets and alongside rickety docks comprising little more than a length of timber jutting out from the shoreline to drop off and pick up passengers. Despite the sensory overload of natural beauty, I found it difficult to stay awake and found myself drifting off on several occasions. The rhythmic motion of the boat and gentle breeze cooling the sticky heat did nothing to aide my struggle with consciousness.
One last military checkpoint and we were back in Batalla. As the boat slipped into the shoreline, it was mobbed by several men touting transport back out of the region. I saw my driver from the previous day and called out to him. He was surprised, although pleased to see me and waved me forward. On shore, another hombre I remembered from the previous day’s journey came up and warmly greeted me. Travel in this region is not like travel back home, with various incidents that bond its participants with shared experiences. Backpack firmly ensconced back in the Dodge, We retraced our tracks back to Trocoa.
At about 10 am, we pulled into a little cafetería where everyone piled out and piled up their plates. I hadn’t eaten anything since 8 am the previous day, so this was a most welcome respite. Dining on refried beans, spiced scrambled eggs and stewed chicken, washed down with proper coffee certainly plugged a hole.
On the road again, I found myself again drifting off, though, awoke with the sound of a loud thudding. It turned out that the bald tyre put on the previous day decided to start parting ways with its tread and chunks were whopping the side of the wheel arch. No problem – in this part of the world, one just trims off the offending portion and continues with one’s travel. Until forced to stop with yet another flat (this one more rapidly dealt with now the correct wheel brace had been secured…), and finally coming to a complete halt when said bald tyre finally gives out completely, forcing the vehicle to swerve sharply in its direction, across the road and into a ditch. Reversing out of the ditch, the overall damage could then be surveyed. Unfortunately for our driver, the offending tyre was now the very least of his problems as he watched his vehicle cry oily tears from somewhere underneath its belly. Our journey in the Dodge had finally come to a close.
The driver collected our money and herded us on to a bus heading back to Trocoa. I was sad to farewell him and the Dodge as I had enjoyed so many wonderful experiences in the past couple of days with both. Nevertheless, I was glad to not have to spend any more time on the side of the road. I changed buses at Corocito and rumbled back to Trujillo.
Historic Trujillo seduced me when I stopped over en route to La Moskitia and I wanted to return to explore it further. It was close to here that Colombus first stepped foot on mainland America and allegedly where the continent’s first Catholic Mass was held. Trujillo is one of the oldest Spanish settlements and used to be a provincial capital. Historic adobe and wooden buildings line remnant cobblestone streets.
I checked back into my previous digs and dumped my pack. The upside of having such an early start was that it was only early afternoon by the time I returned. Which meant I had a good few hours to wander around the town. The ruins of Fortaleza Santa Bárbara de Trujillo was a great start with its elevated view over the Caribbean. Trujillo is picturesquely nestled between the sea and surrounding hills and although considers itself a city, is little more than a mid sized town. Time languishes here away from the hustle and bustle of more major centres.
As dusk set in, so did a hankering for a chilled cerveza, to slough away the dust and grime. Trujillo seemed to have the same idea as the local fire brigade was washing down the streets with tanks of water. Skipping between the rivulets to my little second story restaurant from last visit, I reflected on my past couple of days of travel. It seemed inordinate that I managed to pack so much adventure into such a tiny space of time. Yet, when one opens oneself to possibilities and steps beyond the realms of the known, the unknown can sometimes provide unforgettable experiences.