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148# The silent island

- Bwahahahaah

- This is NOT THE TIME!

- Hahahah sorry it's just...hahaha...we gotta laugh, it’s all we have left!

Kristy spent four days at the clinic in León. She had a pneumonia coupled with a nerve infection, and the nurse did not give two fucks about her. I stayed with her until she got better. Four days in a tiny hospital room was draining, but seeing Kristy come back to life was worth every bad meal. When she was able to travel by plane, Kristy flew home to Germany. Take care nakama.

I had been dating Heidi since the kitesurfing incident in El Salvador, six weeks before. We had planned to meet up in Nicaragua on her next vacation. Heidi’s free time revolved around kitesurfing. She literally followed the wind. The closest kitesurfing destination was the island of Ometepe in Nicaragua. Heidi jumped on the bus, with her heavy oversized luggage, and joined me and La Chichona. What better way to crash test a relationship than a two-week trip in a van?

As we drove through Nicaragua, we saw firsthand the after-effects of the social crisis. Most businesses had shut down, and the few daring tourists stood out like a black man in Japan. There was only one boat to Ometepe and it had no room for La Chichona. We left her in the port's parking lot and embarked on the rusty, raggedy boat.

Ometepe is a volcanic island in Nicaragua's giant lake. As we approached, we spotted the intimidating dark summit hiding in the clouds. We berthed, hopped on a cab, and started on the only paved road. Despite being on the coast, we barely saw the water. Trees surrounded the road as if planted on purpose to hide it. Half an hour later, we checked in. Our hotel faced the kitesurfing spot, a tiny beach on the opposite side of the island. We were the only guests.

Ometepe was beautiful in spooky way. There were few people, fewer cars, and no streetlights. The two volcanoes commanded admiration. Mammals moved around them like pilgrims on a path. The wind blew strongly through the valley, yet it made no noise. Trees protected the land, creating in a silent green barrier all around the coast. Ometepe was not far from mainland, but it seemed to exist in a different dimension. A dimension where time was not divided in hours. A dimension where Nature still ruled.

We rented a scooter to explore the area. I tend to be stupid on two wheels, so Heidi drove all the time. On Christmas’ evening, we crossed the island to go to the one open restaurant in “town”. Oxen caused traffic, and wild horses raced and owned the road. We dined and took away a bottle to celebrate, back at the hotel. Sipping wine on the beach under the glittering sky was my idea of a perfect date.

The sun set over Ometepe, and the stars lit up lazily on the moonless night. Heidi started the scooter and realized the light was defective. Only the front beam worked, and she needed to be constantly pressing the button to hold it. We cursed the scooter guy and got out of town, slowly in the dark.

The road felt like a long-twisted tunnel. Five minutes into the drive, Heidi’s thumb got tired. We slowed to a stop. It was pitch black all around. From behind, I stretched my left arm under Heidi's and pushed on the beam button. Shortly after, my thumb also got tired, and we stopped to switch again. The darkness seemed to grow darker and quieter, absorbing even the sound of the engine. It was stressful and scary; but we could do it, five minutes at a time.

Suddenly, all was black again. Heidi made an abrupt stop and turned off the engine. The front beam light had burned out! Far from our destination, we were alone in the world, wrapped in a blanket of creepy black silence. She took a deep exasperated exhale; cold anger steamed out of her body. The tension was too much to bear. I burst into laughter. Heidi found someone to blame, and I laughed even more.

Our phones saved us. I lit up the way, trying my best to aim it straight, as Heidi advanced carefully, at a painfully slow pace. At last, we made it, more shaken than hurt, with 3% battery left and my lower back on fire. We hugged, popped the wine, and celebrated under the stars. A most memorable Christmas.

Moral of the story: when renting a vehicle, check the lights before you need them!

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