‘Bad news sells’ shocker

19 May

Estelí, Nicaragua
[by Jeremy]

We’ve been back at Spanish school in Estelí, Nicaragua while we await delivery of the new transmission – yes, still waiting. Last we heard it was, allegedly, on a ship heading this way.

Meanwhile, in a desperate bid to avoid studying the present perfect subjunctive tense we’ve been playing around with some trip statistics. As journalists we know you can make statistics say whatever you want them to – if they don’t, you just pretend they don’t even exist.

View from our Esteli apartment during a rainstorm

Shall we postpone that shopping trip, dear? – it’s a bit drizzly out. Road turns to river outside our apartment.

Even knowing that, some of our stats make for some surprising reading – others less so. And there are a few conclusions we can draw from the geeky analysis, pie charts and databases we’ve consulted. Chief among those is the fact that you people are sick.

Actually, it shouldn’t come as a surprise to seasoned hacks like ourselves, but our blog reader stats show a massive spike from the day we broke down, to today. You clearly revel in the misfortune of others. Bastards.

More bizarrely, we’ve been monitoring the search terms people have used before arriving at our blog. It’s to be expected that, for example, ‘Baja camping’, or ‘Lago de Atitlan’, or even ‘stranded in Honduras’ would rank high among the searches.

But who is it that scours the internet using the terms ‘Mariah Carey’s hands’? And imagine the shock and disappointment when their search returns our blog. Or who searches for ‘physical star jumps’ and is pleased to get pictures of us arseing about on the beach? The person who sought information on ‘gay-friendly Xela’ would have read only about one drunken night we had in a gay bar.

Surely not what they were looking for.

What we’ve also noticed is that you’re not just sick, but nosey too. The thing most people want to know about – apart from how we handle not having a toilet in the van – is how much it costs to do a trip like this. A combination of savings, selling all our accumulated stuff before we left and doing some work along the way means we have a budget of a maximum of US$30 each per day (£20). So far – after 229 days on (and off) the road – we’re running at $29 each per day.

That includes all our petrol, food, accommodation/camping fees, drinks, water, laundry, internet, taxis, tolls, visas, propane, trips and souvenirs and a range of sundries from haircuts to maps, and toilet charges to bug spray.

Jeremy sampling the wares, cigar-making factory, Esteli

First the beard, now the cigar-smoking. Jeremy’s Che delusions continue to worsen.

And yes, I am sad enough to admit that every single one of the above is accounted for, down to the last penny.

It all adds up to a fraction of the cost of our life in London.

Statistics alert! Of that budget we have spent around 5% on trips, 17% on petrol, 20% on accommodation, 9% on drinks and water, 0.4% on propane, 0.7% on laundry and 18.5% on meals out.

So some other conclusions we can draw are, firstly, that we eat too much (and that meals-out figure is down from 22%). That’s no surprise. And, secondly, that we don’t wash our clothes enough (or maybe that having laundry done is very cheap, but that wouldn’t be as amusing).

Well, as they say around these parts, the adverbial pronoun waits for no man (or woman) so we had better get back to the homework and our dark thoughts of murdering the person(s) who invented grammar.

Before we do (see how he’s avoided the homework for a bit longer there? – ed), here’s a whistle-stop tour of the past couple of weeks. Bored of waiting for our transmission, we headed to Estelí and enrolled at CENAC Spanish school for a couple of weeks.

We’ve rented what might loosely be called an apartment. The fact that the walls don’t reach the ceiling is just one of its interesting features. The electrical wires hanging from the shower are another. But, as ever, people’s kindness has been overwhelming, more than making up for any relative discomforts. Our formidable landlady brings us cooked meals and random vegetables on a regular basis. Whilst we really don’t need it, it is much appreciated.

The rainy season is just beginning and our apartment has a balcony from where we can see the late afternoon storms brewing over the mountains and heading to town, where they unleash themselves in a deafening torrent on our tin roof. The unpaved street turns into a river within minutes, sweeping rubbish and – sometimes, we’re convinced – small children down with it (okay, that was a small exaggeration, but only a small one).

Swimming in Somoto Canyon, northern Nicaragua

Floating along in the Somoto Canyon, northern Nicaragua.

We spent an exhilarating few hours hiking, wading and floating down the Cañon de Somoto last weekend and had a heady trip to a handmade cigar factory – something for which Estelí is famous. This weekend we’re heading up to the Caribbean coast and the reportedly stunning Pearl Lagoon.

By the time we come back from there we hope to have better news about the van.

We couldn’t have any more bad luck with this – could we? After ordering the transmission we had it transported overland to the port at New Orleans. But they lost the paperwork and it sat for a week or so at a depot with no-one knowing where it was supposed to go.

Then, after we hassled, they located it and sent it to the port – by which time it had missed its shipping slot. So they sent it to another port but by the time it got there the container was full and it had to be sent back to the previous port.

Finally, two weeks late, it supposedly left on Wednesday, and is due to arrive with us in San Pedro Sula, Honduras, in the next fortnight or so. But when we got the email from the shipping company, the measurements of the package were significantly different from those we gave them when we booked the shipping.

So who knows what we will get, or when. I know we’re not supposed to moan because we’re really, really lucky to be doing this, but can I just say all this waiting and uncertainty sucks!

And the sad thing about all this is that we know the part you will have enjoyed the most was that last bit – where everything goes wrong. Sickos…

Days: 229
Miles: Same as before
Things we now know to be true: There are lies, damned lies, and statistics.

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7 Responses to “‘Bad news sells’ shocker”

  1. Lucy May 19, 2012 at 1:28 pm #

    I like the UGC nature of your flooded street photo. If only that level of flooding was worthy of a BBC News story on the World site, then we could do a whole picture gallery a la ‘Brits stranded in Nicaraguan flood’.

  2. Andy Everywhere May 19, 2012 at 4:19 pm #

    Great post. You know, it strikes me that the subjective tense would be perfect for talking about delivery times for an urgent part. And the search-algorithms of Google belong to the black arts – I did a post, 14 months ago back in wintry British Columbia, about repairing our friend’s bulldozer. It remains our most visited page; only last week returning around 50 visits from North Americans farmers searching for a good deal on International Harvester oil filters (that’s a type of bulldozer/tractor). Of course, you feel kind of responsible for wasting people’s time – maybe I should update that post with a disclaimer or something.

  3. lyndacuba May 20, 2012 at 10:39 am #

    Enjoy la Costa Caribe. Enjoy Nicaragua. The Nicas have big hearts 🙂

  4. Carol & Joe May 21, 2012 at 2:24 pm #

    I say all your time on your hands is making you a bit crazy!!! Don’t blame you a bit though…love your posts but so sorry to hear you are not back out on the road yet! Such a bummer!!!

  5. Chris May 30, 2012 at 4:52 pm #

    Well it is not so much that I was laughing behind my hand, rather hiding from the grim reaper of vehicle gremins. In a sick way as you point out….

    Thus in a poetic strike, I too have been smote by transmission problems.

    Honduras and transmissions. What Gives?

    We are in Tegucigalpa so maybe you will be on the road before us…ah sweet justice.

    Dunno about you but am dying a slow death of a million cuts due to constant vehicle repairs.

    Some fun eh?

    • Andy Everywhere May 30, 2012 at 6:08 pm #

      Hey Chris – just popped onto your site – nice to practice my french, good one! I couldn’t see any “contact” link so hope you get this message:
      (a) how come your vehicle is right hand drive (I’m guessing Jap import?)?
      (b) way too many mech-gremlins on board – my commiserations and best wishes..
      (c) er, Nicaragua has a thing about right hand vehicles too. My advice is to ignore this advice, though – we got through with no problems though others had to pay a ‘fee’. see:
      http://www.earthcircuit.org/blog/2012/05/07/driving-right-hand-drive-vehicle-on-the-right-side-of-the-road/

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Drive Nacho Drive » The Fourth Option - August 22, 2012

    […] we were stranded for a week and it was devastating.  A couple of fellow Volkswagen travelers suffered a transmission failure in Honduras and it took nearly 70 days to get back on the road.  By all estimations we were in for […]

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