As we made it down the hill from Saint Cristo, we walked up through the local neighborhood area rather than back down to the beach. We decided to keep with our spontaneous theme of the day and go to an area we’d never explored before. Past the neighborhood was a long dirt road that seemed to go on for miles. It did.
We walked for what seemed to be hours, passing isolated homes on large pieces of land with several malnourished cows grazing the small amount of grass on the ground. We could see their bones from the road. Up ahead, we saw some locals hanging out together near the barb-wired fencing that divided the street from the lots of land. One man broke off from the group and walked towards us holding something in his hand. As he got closer, I realized that in his hand was a very large and sharp knife.
My stomach dropped. I instantly grabbed Jon’s hand and asked him if he thought where we were going was safe for me to be walking down. Jon looked just like a local with his tan skin and fit right in with nothing but his brown board shorts and flip flops on. I, however, did not. I was wearing a long bright yellow maxi dress with flip flops on and felt my white skin getting burnt by the sun (with spontaneity sometimes comes consequences like not being able to put on sunscreen). Needless to say, everyone we passed was staring at me.
We passed a pickup truck whose back was filled to the top with bananas. Maybe the man’s knife was for cutting down fruit from the trees out here? There were many expats driving quickly by us to the surf hot spot of Hermosa Beach, which was at the end of this road. We decided to try to make it down to the beach and kept walking. Eventually, we made our way out of the dry desert area and into the green jungle. The trees around us were beautiful, but as I was admiring our surroundings, I realized how alone we were. “You know, someone could kill us right now and no one would ever know,” I said to Jon half joking. He nodded his head and laughed.
All of the sudden my stomach started turning and I started to sweat. I was getting really nervous the further we walked. The dialogue in my head was going back and forth. I wanted to be adventurous and explore undiscovered territory. I didn’t want the scared and naive Carmel girl to let her inexperience in Central America to be the reason to not see things. But my instincts were completely against the area we were walking into and my instincts are usually dead on.
As I kept going back and forth in my head I noticed a large increase in the amount of trash on the road. Much more than usual. I looked up to my left and saw why. In the midst of the tropical trees was a massive hill with piles upon piles of trash: the landfill. I’d never seen so much trash in one place, just sitting there. There was also a flock of about 30 huge black vultures hanging out on the fenced off land. Why are there vultures? I looked to my right and there was trash all around me: in the trees, the small creek, in the bushes and on the dirty road. Now, my instincts were telling me to stop, turn around and get the hell out of there. Jon’s instincts were in-sync with mine, thankfully, and before I said anything he said, “Let’s turn around.”
This is obviously not the landfill. Unfortunately, we could not take a photo with our iPhone nor camera there because it was too dangerous.
He could tell I was really nervous, so he gave me a hug and tried joking with me. I wanted to run. I couldn’t even listen to him. We walked by the sketchy area (where we saw the man with a knife) again, but luckily no one was there. All of the sudden a group of 15 young kids on their motorcycles sped by us. I was so relieved to see other people, we’d been walking alone this entire time back. We finally arrived back to the local neighborhood near the beach that we walked through before we got on that scary road. Ok, maybe I was overreacting. I mean, nothing happened to us. No one approached us. I’m actually glad that I saw the landfill because it gave me a much better understanding of a major problem in the area. Maybe I needed that. I should try to do something once a day that scares me and takes me out of my comfort zone. I never did anything that scared me daily in California, it was all very safe.
We made it down to the beach and quickly jumped into the ocean. The warm salt water felt amazing. As we got out, one of our local friends Chuckie (the nephew of Elizabeth, who’s house we’re staying at) came up to us on his bike to say hi. We told him where we had both just gone– his mouth dropped. In Spanish and with is hands, he explained that where we went was the most dangerous area in San Juan del Sur. He explained that tourists don’t ever go down there without a car because they are warned about it right away. He said that anyone, both locals and foreigners, who walks down the road of the “basura” (trash) gets a knife pressed against their throat to force the individual to hand over all of their belongings. He said that we were both VERY lucky, especially me because I am “rubia” and am their main target. The criminals here think that because I have white skin I have a lot of money and am therefore a great opportunity to steal from.
So that man’s knife we saw might not have been for cutting down fruit from the trees. I wanted to cry.
We walked back home to our Nicaraguan family and they told us how dangerous that road was as well. It was definitely an adventure and we’re thankful that nothing happened. We won’t be walking down that road again anytime soon, that’s for sure.