THE SNAKE MAN OF BLUEFIELDS

 

Text and Photos Copyright ©2001 Mark E. Halliday

 

 

May 13, 2001:

I arrive in Nicaragua for the third time in 6 months. This time I would explore a bit more of the Carribbean coast, locally called the "Atlantic side".

The first step was to fly from Managua to Bluefields. Nicaragua has an unusual airline structure, similar to the situation in Australia years ago, where two competing airlines serve the same route and both airlines depart and arrive within 15 minutes of each other, with exactly the same prices!

The two competing airlines in Nicaragua are Atlantic Airlines and Costena Airlines.

Up to this point I had been flying Costena, I thought thier Caravans and Shorts 50 aircraft looked pretty spiffy, and the staff in Managua had helped with storing luggage, etc. on previous trips. However, an internet friend in Managua said Costena was much more dangerous, had a number of wrecks recently, and only Atlantic had FAA-approved pilots.

So this time I chose Atlantic. The aircraft here is a LET-410, originally built in Czechoslovakia. I had been in one of these planes in Honduras; the interior exit signs still said "BXOD", i.e. exit in Russian cyrillic letters!

The Nicaraguan version had signage in English, but my seat belt wouldn't close, a reminder of past flights on Aeroflot! The left engine wouldn't start after a number of spins, the mechanic looked around, went over to an identical plane parked nearby and checked something, came back and made an adjustment, and we were off!

I checked into the Bluefields Bay Hotel, about the best choice in town, with A/C and Cable TV, and a nice restaurant looking over the Bay. That evening I met Bill Thompson there, a friendly and informative man. Bill is trying to revive the Bahai Church in Bluefields, which lost much of its presence after the major Hurricane in 1988.

I had lots of questions for Bill, particularly about the next weekend's Maypole Dance festivities. Bill then asked me if I knew about the "Snake Man".....just get in a taxi and ask for the Snake Man House, everybody knows him....

 

I found the Snake Man at his house along the waterfront just south of the Police Station. His name is Steve Hill, originally from Florida, and a real expert on raising snakes.

He will take interested visitors on his regular day-trips to his farm, on the Bluefields Bay shore just west of Rama Cay.

He will show you around, explains the plants and his business goals, and charge 200 Cordobas ($15) to help pay for boat-gas.

 

 

 

 

 

Steve Hill at the tiller as we head south to his future Snake-Farm.

I mentioned that his boat looked very similar to those in Yucatan and Belize, and he confirmed they were from very similar molds. Steve lived in Belize 11 years before moving on to Nicaragua.

 

 

 

 

 

Steve has built a house on his property,

and a family as well as a few workers live there now.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Steve is ready with a generator and other supplies.

 

 

He is climbing this tree

to get a fruit for me to taste.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cashew Fruit with nut hanging beneath.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bin of Cashew Nuts drying.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Close-up of Cashew Nuts drying in bin before being roaasted in afew weeks.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Steve has planted rows of Pineapples and lots of other fruit around his acreage.

 

 

He said these pineapples are much sweeter than those from the Pacific side, but the problem is that no market exists for them as yet on the Atlantic Coast.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This is the field where a large building will go for raising snakes. He has the iron work and holes dug, next step is the cement.

 

 

Rama children and mom come in to town in the boat with us.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sunset over Bluefields Bay as we head back to town.

 

 

 

Back at his Bluefields house, Steve has a batch of Cashew Wine ready, which he sells for about $2 a liter.

 

 

 

 

This is Marlette, Steve's housekeeper, and her friend Sharon.

 

 

We bought 8 pounds of Shrimp, and had a party, with Cashew Wine to wash it down.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Text and Photos Copyright ©2001 Mark E. Halliday