Fuego y Agua Nicaragua 50/100k Race Report Chapter 1
Journey to the Island
By Meredith Beaton and Andy Marx
The beginning of this story starts at the end, and is in many ways, still being written. The finish line remains ahead of us. 50 kilometers (33.5 miles) over loose, volcanic terrain was a test of our faith and relationship.
We crossed the finish line of the 50k at 8:10pm, 15 hours and 10 minutes after beginning the race, to cheers of the crowd, medals placed on our necks and a celebratory atmosphere. We were ready to continue on as we had signed up for the 100k.
Four days prior, we landed in Managua and emerged from the plane on the tarmac to warm weather and the faint whines of the plane engines winding down. We passed through security without incident, having to pay $10 USD to enter the country, and headed towards the exit. At the sliding doors were throngs of pushy cab drivers looking for fares; we chose the one who had the sign that said “Welcome Andrew Marx” on it. My expectations of our cab were quickly discarded as we were escorted to a tricked out 4 door sedan of Japanese make and model, complete with tinted windows, LED lights inside and out, performance exhaust pipe, and broken door handles. I became uneasy and very alert as my level of comfort was immediately challenged. In contrast, Meredith held an air of excitement and wonder. Our driver navigated to Managua Hills Bed and Breakfast with deep knowledge of all the back roads in order to avoid a large construction project in the middle of the city.
The quaint B&B was hidden behind large 10 ft high, barbwire lined gates which opened into an open layout courtyard and a large rounded entry way. The staff kindly greeted us and asked what time we’d like to schedule our cab to the bus station for the following day and that breakfast is served between 7 and 10am.
We were up early, 6:30am, because sunrise is around 5:45, and decided to test our bodies in the heat and hills with a short 30 min run. Just steps out the door, we were met with instant discouragement as we both felt exhausted and sweatier than any run we had done in the last 3 months in Boston. During this brief jog, we waved to some locals, said Hola and buenas dias a lot, and stopped to pick up some oranges (6 for .90 cents) to go with our breakfast. I ate eggs over easy with rice, beans, corn tortillas and a square of the local queso blanco. Mere had the same but in an omelette.
A few hours later, we found ourselves in a cab on our way to the Bus Station at Terminal de Autobuses Mercado Roberto Huembes. We learned not to pay until you’re ON THE BUS. We were ambushed by bus station attendants who took our bags from us and loaded them onto the bus. We were told the bus is $2 USD each so I gave the guy a 5er thinking a buck for a tip. We learned our lesson when 30min into our bus ride to Rivas, the bus attendant asked for our fare. The bus itself was a retrofitted US style school bus. The one rule of the bus is, there’s always more room on the bus.
After a little more than 2 hours, we arrived in the town of Rivas and split a cab with 2 other travelers for a total of $3 USD to the Port of San Jorge (3 miles away) where we would get our ferry to Isla Ometepe. There are 3 ferries that go the island, a large car carrying ferry, a medium sized, person only ferry, and a small, local chicken ferry. We wanted to ride the larger of the ferries, but we somehow ended up on the small chicken ferry. The boat was continually listing to the right and we were crammed in the lower deck of the vessel. Pulling into the lake, we were met with strong winds and 2 foot seas. The wooden boat immediately began to take on water as the waves crashed through the open “windows” and anyone sitting on the right side of the boat was completely soaked through. As we continued, the only thing that helped overcome my nausea was fear of imminent death. Images of sunken ferries and other boat accidents in recent history streamed through my mind. Meredith looked on with helpless consideration of my condition. A week earlier, we had read from the bible John 6:16, where Jesus walked out on rough seas to meet his fearful disciples. The trip lasted an hour. We lived. Mere says she would also describe the babies screaming their heads off and the misery of it all, but I want to respect you, the readers time.