Posts Tagged ‘geology’

Red Flags come in all shapes and sizes. From relationship red flags, to red flags at work, they are there to help protect you from danger.

Red flags in Nicaragua (and a lot of Central American countries) tend to fall into two categories: conceptual and literal.

Some conceptual red flags include street drunks speaking English, children asking for money (as discussed in ABYM #9), anyone offering help in a market, anyone offering help with taxis, and people telling you there is only one of something.

Eye patches tend to be a dead giveaway….


There are a lot of educated Nicaraguans who can speak English in this country, but there are also a lot of people who live in touristy areas who have picked up English by growing up or living around tourists. Now, this skill should be celebrated, but unfortunately it is most commonly used as a way to mildly scam tourists. As I listed above, normally when people “help” you get a taxi or buy stuff in the market, it is because they approached you with English.


What really happens is many times they will forcibly inject themselves into any conversations with local merchants or taxi drivers and then demand a fee for their “help” from either the tourist, the cab driver, or both. They also can tell which kinds of tourists will be willing to give money and which won’t and so the only real loser is the merchant or the taxi driver.

Pro-Tip: This chicken is dead. Don’t buy it for lunch.


This type of situation generally arises when they ask you in English where you are from, what is your name etc, and most tourists have a strong sense of political correctness and are uncomfortable shooing them away or tell them to get lost. They are aware of this, and the more polite the tourist, the more assertive they are in taking control of any transactions that arise.

It is difficult to adjust to, but similar to telling street children to go away, you need to be very clear, and very confident that they are not needed. If (and usually when) they aren’t responding to the initial confident but courteous no, you just need to be a dick and tell them to leave you alone.


as long as you can juggle fire, English is not necessary

The red flag in this case boils down to this question: “If you can speak English…why are you street hustling?”

English is a very lucrative skill in these countries, Nicaragua especially. Anyone with fluent or near fluent English normally has very little trouble finding work. So their intentions are immediately called into question if they are using this skill on hapless tourists.

Tour guides like this rarely have trouble finding work


The other type of red flag (or pink in some cases) is a flag used by farmers and cowboys to indicate that cows are crossing the highway. This is very important to look out for as often the cattle trains encompass the entire highway for up to a few hundred meters. If you don’t see the flagger (or he wasn’t there in this case) this happens:

We fought the cow…and the…cow won.


In this case, the flagger on the East side was in the midst of the cattle, thereby rendered useless. It didn’t help that the driver was facing a setting sun at 5pm in the afternoon.

This incident taught me a lot about Nicaraguan law. For instance, it is the farmer’s fault if someone hits their cow while crossing the road and it is normal protocol to immobilize the cow immediately to identify its….cow number. I am sure there is a more specific word, but for all intents and purposes it is a VIN for a cow. Let’s call it a CIN.

This is how they should look in Nica


In addition, hit and runs can occur, but not in the way you think. In this particular instance, after striking the cow, the cowboy rushed all the cows (including the culprit cow) off into the sunset, thereby preventing the driver from getting a positive CIN.

Fortunately, communities are small here, and a local community member got a positive ID on the dastardly cow and was able to assist us and authorities to find out who it belonged to.

Look how guilty he looks….


That being said, the cops told us that they are an aggressive family and might come at us with machetes if we don’t send in a 3rd party lawyer first.

So next time you are in a fender bender and can calmly exchange information with the person without fear of violent machete death, take a moment to put things into perspective and be happy you aren’t driving in Nicaragua.

They keep one in the glove box…..always ready



I thought that this should be number one, as I always say it is the most important rule. However I realized that subsequent rules are predicated on the existence of rule number one…..because if you don’t have your machete…you are not outside. Therefore it is relegated to the number two slot. But ho ho dear readers*, there is a veritable treasure trove of evidence to suggest that as a matter of personal preservation this rule is positively paramount. There are a multitude of reasons to follow your ayudantes in whichever path they decided was best. There are hidden pitfalls and problems, masked threats and mystified reasons why they unmistakably chose one direction or the other. Or you know, it just seemed easier.

That being said, IF you never allow yourself to go first, you will never…

Step on some Espina, and have it puncture your shoe.

Espina is a horrible plant, and when it dies it becomes extremely hard and looks like this:

The lesson learned was don’t go first while reading your GPS and not paying attention.

If you never go first, you will never…

Brush into a wasps nest.

This has happened a lot more times than I am proud of. However it has allowed me to discern that with most types of wasps the anxiety associated with being stung is worse than the actual sting. That is unless you bump into….


Sometimes the sting(s) are a lot worse.

If you never go first you will never…

Walk into a Pika Pika plant. This little bastard is basically a mix of a bean sized super cactus and poison oak. Each of the 10,000 little spines has an irritant in it that will break off in your skin and burn for hours. Usually you only get an arm or a hand or something, because it’s not like you were walking first and…

Fell off the side of the mountain into a whole bunch of Pika Pika…………………….yeah. That time I pretty much just took off most of my clothes and spent the rest of the day mapping half naked with my clothes in a bag.

If you never go first you will never…

Walk right into a live Espina (yes the same plant from before) plant. These pointy hard tipped spines on the live plant are the wonderfully tiny homes of the Nicaraguan version of fire ants. So yes, just as you imagine, after you are stabbed by the plant, you are then covered in fire ants.

If you never go first you will never…

Get bitten by a coral snake. This venomous snake is fairly prevalent in Nicaragua and I have come across it at least 5 times. Thankfully, every time it was either running away or we killed it. The snake you really want to watch out for is…

Cascabel. The Nicaraguan version of a rattlesnake. Far more dangerous than the coral, and thankfully less common. Pictured is a sleeping Cascabel where I found it after I was hammering on the rock next to this hole for about 5 minutes.

If you never go first you will never get…

Poop thrown at you from a monkey…

Walk into a face full of this guy….or…

have scorpions crawl all over you.

The only time you should ever go first is when someone asks: “Who wants to play with the Tarantula!”


*(Bonus points if you get the reference)

The most important rule. This rule is unshakable, immutable, and most be obeyed at all times. There are 1001 ways your machete can come in handy…here are just a few

It can cut brush, make people hush, slice bread, leave scorpions dead, measure length, show your strength, dig a hole, replace a surveyor’s pole, light a fire or pop a tire (woops yeah that happened once…)

Your blade can jimmy a car door, make you look hardcore, or settle an uproar.

It can bifurcate your mangoes, orchestrate your death blows, or even….peel an orange or two.

It can shave your face,  clear some space, or open your suitcase (yep, happened once.)

With it you can climb hills and avoid spills, swat bees and clear trees, move rocks and forget your tool box.

Without it you will be blocked in, scared off and turned around. You will be screwed up, SOL and will run aground.

It’s your best friend or your worst foe, never pretend it won’t cut off your toe (almost happened)

But be careful when you wield… oh how you will kneel as it steals your heel, you will feel this unreal steel unleash its zeal and we’ll pray that your foot will heal. (That one definitely happened…twice)

When daybreak hits, it never quits, when dusk arrives, it still thrives.

Your machete can whittle stakes, chop snakes, and cut cakes. It’s an opaque beefcake that won’t break, flake or give you heartache. For this Nica namesake there is no fake, so for Pete’s sake don’t muckrake and always bring your machete.