Recuperating from an Injury on Ometepe Island, Nicaragua

We all take risks. They are a fundamental part of life. Without risk, there can be no personal growth. We put ourselves out there to explore the world and our own potential in order to create a life worth living. We learn much from our successes, but we learn even more from our failures.

I’ve had lots of failures on my adventures. More than I can remember. I’ve failed to reach the summit of many mountains I attempted to climb, both literally and figuratively.

And during an adventure on Ometepe Island in Lake Nicaragua, I had another setback. In a moment of lost concentration, I found myself flying through the air head first toward the rocks. The flying part, if I had time to think about it in all its brief duration, was quite exilarating. The landing, however, sucked.

Conception Volcano from Lake Nicaragua

I relearned the lesson that there are times on an adventure when it’s okay to daydream and revel in the glory of the view, but that there are times when one needs to focus completely on the task at hand. Don’t be staring at the horizon when the danger is right at your feet.

My wounds were primarily superficial, mostly just scrapes and bruises, although there will likely be permanent disfigurement to my forearm, where I lost a bigger chunk of flesh. The palms of my hands were torn badly when I reached out to protect myself from the fall. I’m not sure yet if there will be permanent scars on them. All in all, I’m lucky to have avoided broken bones or a head injury. Time would heal these wounds.

A recipe for recuperation – a healthy sandwich, a smoothie, and Leo Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina.

I’ve had lots of injuries on the trail in my lifetime, most of them, thankfully, quite minor. I’ve been lucky that the lessons I’ve learned have come with only minor scars. There have been cuts, scratches, bumps, and bruises, and I’ve left bits of flesh and blood behind in over thirty countries. And now I can add Nicaragua to the list.

A lovely setting to recuperate.

I opted not to go to the hospital right away. I kept my wounds clean, applying dressings to my forearm daily. As the days passed, it became apparent that I was going to make it through without any infection. For the better part of two weeks, I confined myself to the hostel, reading books, and limping regularly to the market for healthy food. The hostel staff was particularly accommodating, checking on me frequently to see if I needed anything.

A small home in the village of Moyogalpa.

With nothing to do, I spent time on the hostel balcony just watching the villagers of Moyogalpa go about their daily activities. Many of these people have probably never left the island in their entire lives. Even when nearby Conception Volcano erupted violently seven years ago, almost everyone ignored the government order to evacuate the Island. Instead, they just carried on with their lives, working, cooking, talking with friends, attending church services, playing soccer in the town square, being part of their community.

Conception Volcano from my hammock.

Very quickly, I began to recognize all of the people and animals in my neighbourhood. The brothers with the work animals across the street, efficiently securing the yoke to the oxen, and steering them up and down the street with loud words and stick thrashings. The old woman with no teeth who sat in a plastic chair all day chatting with passersby. The boy who liked to bang sticks against a metal pole to make his own music. The horses that wandered out of their yard each day on their own and then returned without being called. The man who spent most of his day chopping wood with a machete. The pack of dogs that vied for the female in heat. The meals being prepared by the mothers and wives, and eaten by families in front of the television. Laundry being washed by hand and hung over barbed wire fences to dry. Young lovers holding hands under the dim streetlights. Men sitting along the bits of sidewalk, smoking cigarettes and drinking beer after a day of work. I watched the daily patterns of the people and soon settled into a wonderful feeling of community.

My neighbourhood.

There is good that comes from every setback in life. A traveler’s life is often a journey along a line of adventures and tourist attractions. What this injury did was force me to stop and have a look at the real culture of the Island. To see how life is truly lived in these villages. And to appreciate their way of living.

Where my favourite old woman sits to greet the passersby.


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