Sleep In The Dirt

The Forgotten Coast of Nicaragua

The Campfire Chronicles

In March of 2015, we found ourselves with a unique opportunity to hop aboard an old weathered panga that moved about as fast as a sea turtle could probably swim, with an old weathered fisherman. Eight hours later, we had be-bopped along through a crazy visual voyage of lagoons with crocodiles and old growth mangroves, but had only teetered about 23 km. Eventually, we landed in an indigenous beach community. Here, an elderly man met us at the wharf and insisted we sleep in his daughter’s bedroom. As creepy as it might sound, we agreed. And ended up staying for a while.

Bright and early Miskito child wake up alarm.

This place was a sleepy beach community along the Caribbean Miskito Coast of Nicaragua, in a land that appears to be forgotten by the rest of the country. It is in this region where countless, road-less pathways exist—twisting rivers, teeming lagoons, miles of coastline, all with incredibly colorful, tribal inhabitants. We met children who could climb to the tops of coconut trees in six seconds flat, and middle-aged men who journeyed out into the sea each day in dugout canoes with trash bags as sails. The world here felt like we had just walked onto the scene of a pirate movie. And after the rather short encounter in these wild and untamed parts, we knew we’d be back.

Early morning in the Caribbean Nicaraguan Serengeti. Camping along a canal built to avoid ocean travel during rough seas.

Two years later, in March of 2017, there we stood, at the same wharf where we originally met the old weathered fisherman, with a much more robust plan ahead. A little web surfing research had led us to find the perfect craft for this trip—TRAK fold-able sea kayaks — seemingly magical boats that could be packed in a suitcase and suitable for air travel (and chicken-bus travel, and bigger-boat travel, and taxi-cab travel). Because we planned for an extended journey packing with weight and bulk in mind was a necessity. The ridiculously ultralight backpacking tent, the Fly Creek HV1 Platinum, would be our sweet abode for the next three weeks. And many nights it proved itself to be the most valuable piece of equipment we brought along. Many days (and evenings) were spent in swamps and marshy regions, which meant that when dusk crept a barbaric and not-so-inviting mosquito zombie apocalypse party came to life. This was a party not to be reckoned with, and we were usually pretty eager to retreat to the only place where we could escape; our tent.

Front porch campin’. Community residents insisted we sleep in their quarters, sometimes even in the same room. Usually pretty humored by requests to sleep in the back yard. many would ask, “WHAT?? You want to sleep WITH THE PIGS?!” #oinkoink

Each day our journey hosted fresh, vivid encounters—fishing with an elderly Miskito gentleman in his trash-bag-sail-dugout canoe observing with mouths agape while he caught fourteen in one morning, watching a young Miskito mother hulling rice with primitive tools, hugging and high-fiving her an hour later after she hit a home run at a tribal softball team practice and then with teary-eyes and goosebumps hearing her belt a beautiful melody in her kitchen later the same night while she cooked coconut rice. The landscape alone was enough to grab the attention, but it was the people of the coast who captivated us beyond words. In a world where many environments and culture seem to be mottling away rapidly, finding this special sector of culture, even as it’s changing, was truly unique.

An island destined to disappear, as there were no trees to prevent from erosion. Only a few of the islands in this chain still remain.

Braden Gunem is an adventure photographer capturing the world while partner, Claire Cripps, captures the words. Read their recent article in Outside magazine HERE.

Comments (0)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *