"LAND DISPUTES in PARADISE"
PEARL LAGOON and THE PEARL KEYS
NICARAGUA ATLANTIC COAST
Text and Photos Copyright ©2001 Mark E. Halliday
May 17-18, 2001:
While in Bluefields, I had mentioned that I was going to Pearl Lagoon and, hopefully, the Pearl Cays.
I kept getting the same response: "Don't Buy Any Islands!".
Pearl Lagoon is easily visited from Bluefields by water-taxi.
There are three boats operating the route; they charge about $5 each way, and stop at Kukra Hill along the way.
The departure times are variable, since they depart only when full! Normally there is a boat going in either direction in early morning, late morning, and an afternoon run.
The route does not go out into the open ocean as I thought. Many years ago, under Somoza, a channel had been dredged to allow boat traffic to Pearl Lagoon through an inland waterway .
This is the water-taxi "Millenium" arriving in Pearl Lagoon.
It has two engines and a cover so provides a fast, comfortable ride.
When we arrived on the dock, one man looked at me and asked:"Are you with Peter?"
I didn't catch on at first. Then I realized the man assumed I was here to shop for one of the Pearl Key islands.
According to the local residents, seven of the Pearl Cays had been bought for $40,000 by a Greek-American named Peter Tsokos. Now he was selling off the islands one by one. Sales Ad from Peter Tsokos
I met two Canadians, Peter and Shane. They decided to jump on the Pearl Cay boat at the last minute.Now I hoped I could interest them in chartering a boat to Pearl Cays the next day!
As we got off the boat, Sven, the owner of Casa Blanca Hotel and Restaurant, directed us to his place.
Sven is a semi-retired Scandinavian carpenter, and runs the hotel as well as an adjacent woodworking factory, mostly making doors.
The Casa Blanca is a good choice, $8 single or $12 double. Nice small rooms on the second floor above his main house, toilet and showers in the halll with Euro-style fixtures!
For lunch we had our first "Rondon" , a rich stew with fish and a variety of vegetables in coconut milk.
After walking around town and asking about chartering a boat, we were pointed to the right of the dock and told to ask for "Sudlen".
We found Sudlen, and negotiated a day trip out to the Pearl Keys for the next morning.
Normally boat prices are in two parts, a fixed price for the boat, motor, and crew, and then the customer pays the gas seperately. In this case, we chartered the boat, including gas, for $150 for the full day.
The next morning we loading the "thermos" with a case of Victoria Beer, and set out through the channel into the open Carribbean.
We were planning to have a fish and shrimp lunch, so we needed some bait.
Sudlen threw out his net a number of times, but found nothing here.
Then Captain Sudlen thought we could
get some bait from friends of his
on this passing Shrimp Boat.
Unfortuantely, the crew was asleep
and nobody responded to his waving!
This is the first island we visited. It has a nice two-story house and a caretaker's shack in the back. Sudlen explained that a French man had bought this island for $60,000 from Peter Tsokos.
Then the owner put up a French Flag and a No Trespassing sign. This angered the local fisherman,who have used these islands all their life and consider them community property. Supposedly the Nicaragua President came out and ordered the French flag removed! This started a series of events which now leaves the ownership of the Pearl Keys in doubt.
Only the caretaker was at home; Sudlen and crew started gathering coconuts while we walked around the island. A storm passed through and soaked everything, but that was fun.
Another of the small islands making up the Pearl Keys
We visited a larger island, which Sudlen said had been purchased from the "Greek Man" for $240,000.
We met Jayne and Phillip Gaskin, an English couple who, with their children, were the only residents we saw on any of these islands.Jayne and Peter have renamed the island "Janique". It was a surreal experience to chat with Jayne, a gorgeous redhead with fresh bright makeup like she was going out on the town!
They hope to build cabins for paying visitors, and possibly a scuba-diving operation. When I asked our boat captain about that, he thought the Pearl Cays council would soon require them to leave the island for at least a year, after which they could lease it back and return.
"Nobody can buy these islands..they are not for sale...", he said.
(this news announcement in Spanish was translated using Alta Vista BabelFish; you can see something has been lost in the translation...)
PRENSA/CORTESIA R. CASTILLO:
orders exit of police of Indigenous Pearl Keys them accuse them of harassment, to deny to them right to the fishing and to prevent them access to the Pearlr Keys them the Court of Appeals of Bluefields ordered the retirement of police of Pearl Keys them, as soon as indigenous denounced harassment from the agents of the order to those who indicated to be to the service of Greek Peter Tsokos.
The Court of Appeals of Bluefields ordered the exit of police of Pearl Keys them, in answer to the resource of shelter interposed by ethnic communities.
This one indicates to the heads of the Pearl Lagoon police and Bluefields to have security personnel to take care of seven small barren islands that acquired Greek Peter Tsokos, and to prevent the access to same to the villagers. The natives denounced harassment from the agents of the order to those who indicated to be to the service of Greek Peter Tsokos. The previous thing by directions of Douglas Zeledón, commissioner of the National Police in the Independent Region the Atlantic South.
OF SHELTER: a Resource of Shelter was interposed the two of October of 2000 by communal Traditional Authorities of the River basin of Pearl Lagoon them against Zeledón and Salinas, maintained to Maria Luisa Acosta, person in charge of the Center of Legal Attendance to the indigenous towns.
The communitarian ones alleged the violation of the constitutional rights of the ethnic and indigenous communities of the River basin of Pearl Lagoon by part of the National Police, when sending and maintaining the presence of agents armed of guns AK in the Pearlr Keys them, added the plaintiffs Adolgah Hebbert, Roy Anthony Patterson, Digmar Benard, Ship Ingrid Cuthbert that the Police prevents the indigenous fishermen to approach and to use the Keys. Although in first instance the Court rejected the Resource, recurrent appealed obtaining as failure the decree of exit of Pearlr Keys them of police the judicial failure orders to Commissioner Douglas Zeledón and the Head of National Police in Lagoon of Pearl, Captain Marcelino Salinas, to retire immediately, and to abstain to send and to maintain members of the PN in Keys Pearls for the natives of the river basin of Lagoon of Pearl, the seven acquisition of the Keys on the part of Tsokos, is illegal. Tsokos the judicial failure to head of the Police in Bluefields, but in the police delegation affirmed to us that was outside the facilities.
Lobster Fishermen with scuba tanks
Sudlen digging in the sand.
Next we arrived on this island where we would have lunch. Sudlen dropped us near the pier, and went back out into the channel to get some fish.
Shane tries to call home
on the Conch Phone!
This island already has a nice house and well. The owner seems to have departed with no caretaker behind.
This would be a great place to camp; I hope to come back here next year with a group of friends.
With ongoing disputes over whether the land can be legally sold or not, everyone is firmly convinced that anyone can visit or camp here without anyone else's permission!
Sudlen cooking lunch:
Plantain, fish, lobster.
The ride home back to "Pearl City"
Pearl Cays in the background.
Sunset as we enter the channel to Pearl Lagoon.
Text and Photos Copyright ©2001 Mark E. Halliday