** Photo above a is reenactment of actual event
If you follow a dirt road from the colonial city of leon Nicaragua in the back of a pickup along a dusty dirt path for 20 minutes you’ll reach the beach. Bigfoot hostel opens right onto a quiet beach which barring a few locals is only occupied by the friends you make at the hostel. It is in this town where time slows to a grinding halt. There, one day can easily turn into a week which, too can turn into two or three.
For a sterling $3 a night you can rent a tent while dorms are priced at $7. The town has very little in it, and the hostel has no kitchen. Their meals, however are reasonably priced but 10-15 mins away you can find a couple small and cheap restaurants or street food.
A redeeming factor to the Bigfoot chain is the constant flow of good people, friendly staff and good parties. Las Peñitas is no exception. Here,
there’s a pool, drinking games, a beach and a great bar with tab that can pack a punch at the end of your stay.
On a day like any other day at Las Peñitas, I was personally victimised by a stingray. I was wading into the water with friends talking about an alleged stingray sighting on the beach. I began to ask a friend who had once experienced the sting what it had felt like. Within that second, before he could even answer, I felt a nip at my foot. The irony was sharper than the sting itself. To answer my own question, it felt like weak a pinch from a crabs claw which although didn't hurt immediately, began hurting very much and very quickly. With a shriek and a jump I told my friend. They quickly dismissed it as a dramatic reaction to seaweed.
It wasn’t until I pulled my foot out of the water to see blood gushing from a small cut in my foot that they believed me. The poison set in quickly and very soon I couldn't walk. I had to be carried across scorching hot sand by the hero of the day Justin, Justincredible to the hostel to see what the damage really was. Well, there was definitely a hole in my ankle and a lot of blood coming out of it. I was told I would need to stick my foot in the scorching hot sand or boiling water in order to get the poison out of the wound. This added a lot of seemingly unnecessary pain.
I was given a shot of something cheap and nasty to ease the pain which was promptly added to my ever growing bar tab. A single tear rolled down the side of my face from the pain of the poison, the cut, the sand and the shot. Some friends googled what to do which to my disgruntlement was massaging the cut in the boiling water. This gets rid of the poison. All I could do was breathe in and out while streams of poison were massaged from my cut. I can personally attest to how painful this is.
The shitty thing about being stung by an poisonous animal is that it’s not just the cut that hurts, which for me was pretty tiny. The poison from a stingray starts at the cut and makes it’s way through your body as you wait in agony for it to stop. For someone who’s never really been seriously hurt or used to pain; this seriously sucked. The poison started at my ankle and made it’s way north all the way up to my hips where it eventually stopped and receded. For me this whole ordeal lasted around 3 hours.
That evening I needed a drink. My foot was fine for a few hours before it started to swell again. I assumed I was just having an adverse effect to the poison but this time, time didn’t make it better. It made it worse. My foot became so swollen my skin stretched to the point where I couldn’t move or bend it. I couldn’t walk, only hobble or hop. The only time it didn’t hurt was when I was drunk or asleep. By day four I had been told enough times to go to the hospital that I finally took the advice and the help of a kind friend who spoke fluent Spanish. She volunteered to take me to the hospital in León. We rode in the back of a pickup which had been converted into a bus. We were directed to the emergency room. Looking around the blood stained floors and paint stripped walls, I felt pretty nervous and self piteous.
I was in a local hospital and I was the only foreigner. From what I could see I was also the least injured compared to the woman who appeared to be on her death bed, the man who’s head was wrapped in blood soaked cloth, and the guy with a bone sticking out of his foot amongst others. My friend left for a brief period and of course that was the time after at least an hour of waiting that I was called into the doctors room for the initial consultation. I had only brought a phrase book and managed to say “sting ray” “foot” and “much pain” which apparently was less than what she needed to know. I couldn't do much but repeat it. The doctor was less than impressed and I was left in tears.
My friend returned only for us to wait another few hours in the waiting room for the doctors diagnosis. My friend had to go to work and was becoming very late. We had to continually remind the doctors we were there and waiting during their consultations. This seemed to be the norm as the doctors allowed others patients to poke their heads in and out of their office for quick chats whilst dealing with patients. With the lack of immediate severity in my injury I felt pretty bad.
When I was finally allowed in they had to move a woman damp from sweat, pain and distress who looked as though she was on the verge of death all so I could sit on the bed despite my efforts to stand instead. On the bed were sweat marks, some kind of liquid and god knows what else. I assumed they were going to change the cover at least, but that was not the case. I laid on the wet sheets not knowing what I went in there for or what I would come out of there with. During my consultation another doctor stripped off an elderly lady in the same room while I was having my foot looked at. Other patients casually poked their heads in. Everyone saw her boobs but no one seemed to care. There was a serious lack of space and hygiene on multiple counts.
I was told that depending on the results from a blood test I would either have to be hospitalised or just have to take antibiotics. I patiently waited at the elevator, once again in tears, this time due to my deathly fear and immense dislike of needles. With me, others crowded the empty elevator shaft, banging on the discoloured walls to let the man inside know that we were outside and waiting. The elevator had seemingly broken a long time ago. We arrived safely on the next floor where I was to take my blood test. I managed in between tears and sobs to yell for a clean needle and insist my friend translate that multiple times. They scoffed at me. My friend told me not to watch. Turns out needles don’t really hurt.
With the results which were surprisingly quick I was told how lucky I was not needing to be hospitalised an extra day and I would be making a hospital bed home for a while. I was prescribed antibiotics, rest and a $60 ultra sound (on my foot for potential blood clots). I found out what I thought was an adverse affect to stingray poison was just an infected cut. All those shoe-less days finally caught up with me. Over the next few days I made my way back and forth to a very smiley doctor who checked my progress. With a few days rest which were very much against my will I could walk again.
Leaving on a shuttle at 3am, I never quite got to express how grateful I was to my Spanish translator and all of the people who helped my during the whole ordeal including those who just sat with me or made me feel better, The people you meet really do, more than anything else make the trip.