It's All Up Ahead

Granada, Nicaragua

Yesterday I finally caved and rented a scooter. I couldn't help myself. I strolled past the bright red bikes standing proudly beneath a merciless sun the day before and swore they were calling my name. Of course, it may also have been the heat. Who'd have thought it'd be hot in Central America in the middle of August?

The man working behind the counter went by Juliano. He was what you might expect a guy renting scooters to be like. I'm not entirely sure what I mean, but my tone is definitely complimentary. All this to say he was kind and outgoing enough.

"I want to go to Laguna Apoyo," I tell him. "Yeah, you could do that," he confirms. "Just don't take it to San Juan del Sur." I didn't know how far San Juan del Sur was but I did know it wasn't terribly far from Costa Rica, which meant it wasn't near. "No problem," I assure him as part of me fantasized about the seed he'd just planted.

I make my way through the busy streets of Granada picking up as many stares as exhaust fumes from the locals. I must have embodied a thousand stereotypes under my tight red helmet though the looks are familiar no matter what corner of the planet I saunter through; people trying to play world atlas with my face. I just sit and smile.

I reached the turn off for Laguna Apoyo without a great deal of trouble. I stopped a few times to ask for directions, which was surprisingly productive considering I knew neither the land nor the language.

I zip through country roads circling the lagoon. I don't see it yet but can feel it. I manage to climb quite high at one point before spotting this majestic oasis. There she is, I think to myself. It's beautiful. Moments later I fall off my scooter, while trying to get up a steep and bumpy road scratching up the no longer impeccable front fender. I'm okay but it certainly takes a bounce from my step as I begin to dread breaking the news to Juliano back in Granada. I wonder just how much of my $100 deposit he plans to pocket.

Eventually, I get it together and make my way back down the mountain so I can get a closer peek at the lagoon. I pass schoolchildren, stores, gaunt looking horses, and resorts all within a single stretch of mile. I feel mixed emotions as the wind and a sense of freedom wash over me. I have so much, I think. Yet, there's an intensity to the poverty here that's unsettling -- the same destitution I saw in Nepal, Haiti, and South Africa. It seems with each place I visit the level of need gets dialed up a hair.

As I inch closer to the lagoon it begins to rain. My body is drenched as I weed my way out of the forest and back to the main road. I've seen what I came for.

I reach the highway and must now decide to turn back or make my way home to Granada. I'm not ready for it all to end so I hook a left and off I go. Big rigs, motorcycles, and impatient cab drivers swerve around as I begin to appreciate the dose of insanity riding such a thing on a Central American interstate demands. Perhaps it's why I don't see a single tourist doing the same. This, I must admit, I absolutely love.

I haven't felt freer for as long as I can remember and in this moment I'd drive to Russia if I could. I don't ever want to get off this bike. Everything, as in my youth of youths, is out in front. I suddenly feel I've started over and there's a calling to be realized, a land to be explored, a girl to fall in love with.

It's all just up ahead. I can practically see it.

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