Laguna de Apoyo – where we got pocked with a bull’s dried penis..

 We said goodbye to Avi and Regina in Granada, knowing we’d return at least one more time on our way from our next destination (it’s on the way and Itai also borrowed a book from one of the cafes in Granada so we’d have to return it anyways..).
We drove the short distance from Granada to Lago de Apoyo; the day before we have been to the mirador at Catarina overlooking the laguna, and now we are driving all the way down to its shores. Since public transportation from the main Masaya-Granada road to the shores of the laguna is scares, we found ourselves picking up hitchikers/hikers walking the long ~10km dirt road everytime we were out there with our truck.

We started down the dirt road that leads to the shores of the laguna, where the hotels are located. After a few kms, we saw a girl, obviously a tourist, hawling down the road with her backpack. We stopped to offer her a ride, and she was happy to accept. After she got in and we started talking, in English, of course, she suddenly asked suspiciously – ‘where are you from?’. Yep, she’s also from Israel, although she’d been away for many years now. Gal is working and living in Guatemala, and came to Nicaragua for a short visit. She came with us to check out some of the waterfront lodgings, and we ended up taking a room together at San Simian.
San Simian is a very nice hotel – it is located on a steep descent onto the shore, and along it there are a few cabins of different sizes. We got Mango – one double bed and one single in a big room, with a small door leading to a little outdoor, private, patio and a another small door leading to an outdoor, private bathroom. Yes, the bathroom’s in a room which does have four walls and privacy, but no ceiling!
Gal had a flight to catch back to Guatemala City the next day, so she only stayed with us for one night. The manager gave us a good price for staying another night in the same room, just the two of us and we enjoyed it very much. The laguna is nice to swim in, but because it is a crater-laguna, the water have something of a salty, sulforous taste. We did our laundry in the tub back at the Mango room, and some of it came out smelling funky, from the water.. (we did the laundry before we realized the water in the shower are just laguna water pumped into our room..).

When we only just arrived to San Simian, Itai met some local guys hanging out on the dock and started talking with them. They told him that the following day (Sunday) there’s a traditional festival in honour of the village’s patron saint at their village; suprisingly enough, it was a traditional festival that Avi from Granda also told us about! It is all very strange – they take a bull’s penis (yes, the penis) and dry it and stretch it out until it is something like a whip. During the festival they use this whip to fight against each other. Sounds weird? Well, it’s even weirder in real life.
The next day we decided to go; we never miss a local festivity, if we’re around. We arrived to the village of Niquinohomo (which is incidently also the birthplace of Sandino!), parked and started walking towards the center; it’s a very small place.. As we were walking, we saw a group of young men holding something we understood to be “the thing”, the dried and stretched bull’s penis. They were obviously intoxicated, and strated surrounding us and pushing their whips against us. It was very uncomfortable, to say the least.
We kept walking towards the music, and we reached the main event. There were many people in the small street, women and children mostly on the sidewalks or looking from te houses. One of the guys Itai had met the day before recognized us and ran to us excited. He was also completely drunk, and after hugging Itai and conveying how happy he was we came, he asked us to buy him a bottle of Rum.. Typical, unfortunately.. He was proud to shoe his wounds from the fighting he had already taken part in – he was actually bleeding… He stayed with us a few moments but then the band that was standing in the street started playing an up-beat tune and he suddenly ran towards it. He and another young man were facing each other, and everyone were circled around them. Their hands were high in the air and they were jumping to the music, dancing.
At one point, out of nowhere, they started whiping each other with the bull’s penises – and they were doing so very powerfully, not like it was a game or a “dance”, they were seriously giving their all and hitting! After a few blows, when it was getting more serious and they started kicking as well, other men jumped into the circle, jumping-dancing with their hands up, and the two men fighting both backed up a little and also resumed the jumping-dance. Soon enough, another couple came in to fight, and then there were lots of people in the circle, just beating each other and jumping to the music.
The band moved on after a while, and some of the men followed while others remained and kept fighting without the music. It was kind of a procession, and an image of the patron saint was carried on a chair along with the band, throught the narrow streets and towards the church. It stopped there and people were handing out to the band and others some alcohol to drink, and it seemed like everyone were drunk. There was a man on a horse-figure, who was circling himself, mumbling, obviously completely waisted, but he was still offered some more to drink.

This festival, like any other local events we see, was interesting but completely unclear to us. We couldn’t find anywhere referrence to what is behind this tradition, and it is apperantly practiced in a few of thee villages in the area. Maybe it was because we were the only outsiders there, or maybe just because of the violent nature of the event and the fact that everyone were drunk, I felt very uncomfortable to be there. Probably this was one of the most uncomfortable moments I felt on this trip. We only stayed for a short while and then left back to our paradise on the laguna.

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