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Experiencing local life is not all romance

Season 6: Project Alaska

15 March 2022

I enjoy going back to countries that I already visited before. Seeing what changed over time, visiting places that I hadn’t the first time, and getting to know the local culture even better. 

My current ride through Central America gets me to think back to my first time in this area, some 10 years ago. As a backpacker, I traveled with local buses through Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador, Belize, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, and Panama. At the time, I was following what is often referred to as 'the backpacker trail'. You visit the highlights of each country, the must-sees, and you do the must-does. Usually, you end up hopping from city to city and don’t experience much from the countryside and remote places.

Traveling on a motorcycle has changed the way I travel drastically. Now that I am not limited to the public bus routes any longer, I want to get off the beaten track even more and learn more about each country that I visit. That is why I like to visit a random little town in the mountains that receives no visitors at all. Or bring a motorcycle to a town where no other traveler has ever brought a motorcycle before. 

When traveling through Central America, I got more and more interested in the indigenous people. Even though I had been in all of these countries ten years ago, only now do I fully realize how many different indigenous peoples live here. All with their own native language, their own customs, culture, and physical appearances. It fascinates me. 

Meeting the Rama in Nicaragua

After meeting the Chuar/Achuar couple in Ecuador, and the Naso tribe in Panama, I started researching the indigenous people of Nicaragua. That's how I came across the Rama Indians. 

At this moment, there are about 2,000 Rama living in Nicaragua. Most of them live on the island of Rama Cay, close to Bluefields lagoon. However, some 20 years ago, several Rama Indian families moved to the River Indio, and nowadays, almost 40 families live on the banks of this river. I decided I wanted to learn more about these people and try to stay with them for a few days.

The Rama indians are descendants of indigenous people that occupied the Caribbean coast of Nicaragua. During the Spanish colonization, British pirates formed an alliance with another indigenous people, the Miskitos, to gain control over the Caribbean coast and raid Spanish ships. According to Rama history, the Miskitos gifted the island of Rama Cay to them in the 18th century, in return for their help in fighting the Naso people (who I visited in Panama). 

Visiting the Naso people in Panama Visiting the Naso people in Panama

Romance versus reality

There is a romantic view of the way the Rama indians and Naso live. Their homes, their food, everything is organic and natural. They can live completely self-sufficient and off grid, if they want to. They eat river shrimp, freshly harvested rice, plantains, and organic honey from their beehives. On top of all, they are surrounded only by the sounds of the jungle. 

The Naso and Rama indians may have been enemies in the past, but they now face very similar issues in regard to the disappearance of their native language, land ownership, and other indigenous rights.

The Naso people are threatened in their livelihood by hydroelectric dams that will drastically reduce the water levels of the river they live along. The Rama indians face people from other parts of Nicaragua who are claiming (illegally) Rama land. When I traveled further up the river with Santo, a Rama indian, we passed several small boats with people that were clearly not Rama, I immediately felt something was off. Whenever we would pass a boat with people who now live on their lands, I could feel the tension. There were no greetings, just intense stares, from both sides. 

It was then that I learned that land was being taken from the Rama indians, trees cut down, and wild animals killed. The Rama indians are the official guardians of the Indio Maiz Nature Reserve, which includes the Rio Indio, but they are powerless to people who violently claim land in the reserve. These developments are only recent and started after 2018, the year protests erupted in Nicaragua, which led to the tragic death of hundreds of students. The Rama can only hope that the people will move away soon on their own account. From the bottom of my heart, I hope so too. 

Change starts with awareness

I found it heartbreaking to see these hardships, especially because the people welcomed me so warmly and openly into their homes. No matter how many questions I fired at them, ranging from how they cook their meals and built their homes, to politics, religion, and deeper life questions - they would answer every question patiently, allowing me to learn as much about them as I liked to. 

Traveling deeper into a country, going off the beaten track, meeting locals, will often show you a very different country than when you only visit the main tourist attractions. Sometimes you will see the absolute best, and sometimes the worst. Even though it can be painful to see horrible situations, I remind myself that I am in a privileged position of merely passing by. I don't have to live that reality every day, as the Naso and Rama people do. 

On my way north, I intend to keep looking for unknown places and meet local people like Santo. To experience the beauty and imperfections of each country, to meet and learn from locals, and share those experiences with you. Because I think any sort of change will always start with awareness. 

Ps. In this blog I use the term Rama Indians, as my guide called them that way, ‘los indios Rama’. I am aware that the term indigenous people may be more correct. 

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Noraly, I eagerly await each new episode.

Here’s a crazy suggestion. Get on the most direct route north and start hammering some 300 - 500 mile days. Don’t slow down until you make it to Prudhoe Bay. Then turn around and spend all of July and August exploring Alaska and Canada, all of September and October in the U.S., and re-enter Mexico in November with no rush.

Montesa_VR  | 

Noraly, Your travels and interaction with the people along the way are an inspiration to all of us to see the good side of daily life in all the countries through which you travel. Thank you for being such a great ambassador! Stay safe.

JRT3  | 

Inspired .
I admire you so much. Tough as nails and ready to laugh at adversity. Curiouse as to wether you plan on riding I 5 interstate or Pacific Coast Hiway 101 up the West Coast as there is not many , if any, dirt roads as direct. If you go through eastern Oregon please watch for deer, they are thick there. I hit one on my 454 Ltd on Hiway 31 once. Prayers up for your safe ride to Alaska.

Venox250  | 

Hello Noraly! My wife and I are really enjoying your videos. And you have inspired me to get back out on two wheels again. Just around town. Not the jungle! hehehe If you find yourself around Prescott, Arizona someday, give us a shout. We'll buy ya lunch! :) All the best!

Wackmobile  | 

Great stuff Noraly, I really appreciate how you take some time to learn with every adventure. Inspiring me to get out and explore more. I sent you a message on IG with a recommendation for a place to stay if you go the coastal route and head through California. Hope it helps. Ride safe.

Trajan  | 

I love CA. The people, experiences, scenery and food were top notch. The only delta I had was in Costa Rica where I was detained for a week. They were convinced I was someone else. It wasn't fun, but it wasn't scary either-my concern was being able to leave...it was quite a story. LOL
Looking forward to riding along as you enter the states, and eventually make your way to Oregon and Washington.. BTW, the border crossing into the States is easy. You will love riding here!

adventureposer  | 

Great seeing the out of the way places of Central America. When you are in the U.S. if you plan on going to or near Yellowstone National Park (which I highly recommend) try to ride the Beartooth Highway. It has been called the most beautiful drive in America.

Steve inIowa  | 

In your last paragraph you mention "the term indigenous people may be more correct" than "Indians."
More POLITICALLY correct, maybe, but I must tell you, here in urban Canada I find that the vast majority of the indians refer to themselves as indians and most have absolutely no problem with 'non-indigenous" people referring to them as indians (as long as it is not being used as a pejorative term, of course)
I am a native-born Canadian, decended from European immigrants who migrated to the Americas in the 19th century. Although I have blue eyes and blond hair, and I get awful sunburns sometimes, I have never even visited Europe, not even once. So, I must say, it kinda bugs me a little bit when somebody calls me "european." No offence intended towards any actual Europeans. LOL.

Bill Foster  | 

Hi Noraly - are you planning to go through El Salvador? Thought you might be interested in seeing this: - https://edition.cnn.com/2022/03/27/world/el-salvador-state-of-emergency-homicides-intl-latam/index.html

Lorro  | 

The latest episode is fabulous, maybevthe best so far.
Keep up the good work

Crump  | 

Noraly you have a true traveler’s heart & soul. Enjoy your time and help everyone with an open mind to feel our connectedness. The world needs this medicine. Never forget you are doing an important thing you will carry a lot of pride from for the rest of your life.

Steve Afendoulis  | 

What a lovely picture of you and the new friends you’ve made there in Nicaragua. I particularly like the photos you take with the many people you encounter all along your journeys. Not that the photos of landscape and scenery and your motorcycles are any less impressive. But people and the lives they live make your storytelling through blogs and videos fantastic! Enjoyed your livestream a lot too. Thanks for all that you share with us!!

secondcreekrider  | 

Hi Noraly, I love you and your videos. Do you think there is some competition among those who, like you, vblog their adventures on youtube? You're inspiring me to ride (57 years old... ;) )

Locprog  | 

Hi Noraly,
I have been really enjoying this series. Your vlogs are so full of enjoyable information about the places and people you visit. My wife has also started watching as well. I see so many videos these days that are downbeat. You always impress me with your fantastic attitude to your travels. Your laughter and friendliness is wonderful. There is a reason you have become successful in your Youtube endeavor. People can spot a fake a mile away, You are the real deal. Congrats on the 1 M subs
Jim and Vicki - Sydney Australia

Jim McGregor  | 

Thanks for the Itchy Boots Mail Noraly it made my week. Up here in 47 N Lat Land we're experiencing Arctic Zonal Air Boundary issues where Alaska can be warmer than Washington. 'was so glad, and surprised to see you reached 1 million subscribers way before you reached U.S. Congratulations again your content is so interesting, and entertaining with your degree, and life attitude it's no wonder you made it.

Robert Richard  | 

Nice report of yout experience.

Helio Ortiz  | 

Noraly...now your travel gets deeper meaning as you get more time to interact with local people. The 'Rama Indians' really caught my attention as here in India, we got the great king Rama, who is the backbone of great epic Ramayana. We don't know how the nations and regions spread over the entire Earth are connected. Your episodes ignite a lot of sparks to probe deeper. Thank you, dear friend.

Dr Suresh Narayanan  | 

congratulations on achieving 1 million, heres to the next million :) :)

john cluley  | 

Well done on your subscriber milestone! Could it double!?
You make your videos so watchable but as a biker I am keen to see you back on your bike again!
Best wishes.Paul.

vulcan  | 

Huge congratulations on passing the 1 million subscriber mark, Noraly! It's such a treat to follow your adventures! We enjoy learning about the countries, culture & people vicariously. May you have tail winds & open roads. Stay well & make sure to get some R&R, M.

Mulder  | 

Hi Noraly,
I get a kick from seeing “You have Itchy Boots mail!” in my email list, even more so as the news from Ukraine becomes darker each day. It is a daily battle to see the beauty in the world and to remember that most people, whatever their circumstances, are kind, generous, and empathetic. As a motorcyclist, I love the riding portions of your videos, as you navigate impossible terrain, ford crocodile infested rivers, and shoehorn Alaska onto tiny boats, and I especially enjoy the beautiful videography and your exploration and explanation of geographic and geological features. But I think your immersion in different cultures, and especially your videos about various indigenous peoples and how and where they live are the most fascinating. Thank you so much for all the work you do to bring your wonderful videos to your viewers all around this crazy world.

Bsmukler  | 

Thank you Noraly. Your river voyages brought life to my daughter’s descriptions of travelling to a remote village in the Bosowas region of Nicaragua only accessible by boat where she and her fellow volunteers helped to build a school in 2012.

Gromster  | 

Thanks Noraly, such an adventure but so much more as you educate us in so many ways. It’s very special to travel with you in out of the way places we will never visit or indeed even know about. Thank you again for your thoughtful blog and videos.

CliveAgi  | 

What a fantastic time you have shared in Central America. If a break in travels is coming up, could you do live chat sometime soon? I know that they can be a pain to set up, but would be amazing to.

Take care, travel safe, and may you always be blessed Noraly, to share your travels with the world

Mike - P.  | 

Hi Noraly,
Congratulations on hitting the One Million subscribers.
Cheers David.

Davidjeng  | 

Thank you for sharing all these wonderful experiences, i was critical of you in south America with your lack of mixing it with the locals so to speak but this trip you are on now truly shows what a wonderful gift you have for communicating with all types of peoples and cultures. I thoroughly agree with you that the human race can provide such wonderous moments and peoples and also dish up the worst, But the good prevail and I hope the journey continues with more magical moments. davenoseyparker

Dave X P  | 

The main video is your first, you decided to share your trip and free time with strangers. I don't have enough language skills to understand all the speech .. but the way you tell is easy to keep up with, the secret of popularity. I dare not say how much joy you have given, 🤩Thank you Noraly 💐million roses.

Mikko  | 

Your chronicling this journey through indigenous lands and peoples both on video and in print adds to the knowledge base we have of what may one day be lost cultures. Your takes, though, are more personal and insightful than some dry encyclopedia entry.... and you deserve our thanks for that.
ALSO CONGRATS ON ONE MILLION SUBS!!
Your hard work, endurance, skills, and personal touch deserve all the success you may have. Happy trails!
- Charles ( which I understand is Karel in Dutch... I quite like that!)

Charles Harris  | 

Congratulations to you and your well deserved 1 million subscribers, Noraly!

You bring out good and important points here, and it shows in your videos. You engage with those that you meet on a deep and sincere level, and we appreciate your commitment.

Now we all just wait for Youtube to come and meet you in the trails, and hand over a golden plaque and perhaps even some bubbly.

Jonas E  | 

You're doing great, Noraly.
1 mln subscribers on you tube!! Congratulations.

Hans Rijzenga  | 

Isn't it sad, that in all the countries you visit the locals are so friendly. Only in the last few days in South America when Covid hit where they wary of you. But in all your vids people come across as so kind. In this world we live in today, so many Top politicians in so many countries are beasts, treating everyone not close to them as just fodder to be exploited. long may it continue.

Jim Payne  | 

Hi Noraly, Since your adventures in Africa it's been very clear that you are truly an ambassador for both peace and humanity. The remarkable courage for adventure, the cool head under pressure, your ability to transcend communication barriers, and the level of self-discipline are all qualities of an incredible human.

RickFlowe  | 

Hi Noraly,
You deserve all the accolades shown to you & to passing the one million mark. I so enjoy all your adventures even if I sometimes have to view through my fingers!
A question. When you arrive at the top of the world, what then? Retirement, settle down, series 7? What about a Netflix production, it would be a winner. Over here in the UK an half hour adventure series of your exploits would equal or surpass many current productions by the BBC or commercial TV.
Keep it sunny side up.
William

Leptotila wellsi  | 

I had no idea what the Rama Indians were dealing with and I have retired in Nicaragua. Thank you for opening my eyes. I will look forward to further researching them.
Also Congratulations on 1M, I remember when you hit 100k and you joked that next was 1M. You actually made it and to me it is very understandable that you did.
Saludos,

Dale T  | 

While it is pretty normal that the closer you look, the more problems under the surfaces you see, no-one will be surprised to learnt that in many regions of central America, underneath the surfaces there bubble many conflicts on varyingly hot flames. All the revolts and unrests with so-and-so many victims dead don't come from nowhere.
Introducing the people to us brings the entire issue way further into the light of public attention. So you don't just do some pleasant travelling and show it, you serve these people's interests a bit. You become a part-time ambassador to them. I think that is a very noble purpose!
In times like these, that are laden with stuff that is hard to digest, these worries surely add extra weight to the heart. Seeing these things from our remote points in the magic little box is something different from being there and experiencing it yourself, I can only guess how that makes you feel.
I think the only possible answer is to suggest to you to trust in their strength and skill for solving their problems just like we, your #itchyholic devoted fans (🥰), trust in your strength and skill to pull you through all the situations (Rivers full of alligators, fragile disused bridges, lorries risking to push you off a cliff, ferry boats attempting Kayak-Rolls with you on them… 🥴) unharmed.
With affection for others, there comes worry for them now and then.
It is what it is. It's the price for experiencing their brilliance and lovelyness, I guess. It's worth it.
It now is official that at least 1 million Youtube-users are notified of that video and will probably sooner or later watch it and get aware of the worries of Santo's tribe. Some will live near and hopefully see possibilities to help clear all conflicts.
That 1-Million-subscriber-milestone is a perfect occasion to take a deep bow in your direction in recognition of your effort. You have already built something magnificent and unique there, and I am wibbling non-stop in anticipation for what's around the corner. Congratulations to that huge success! 🤗 🥳🥂

Zweispurmopped  | 

First of all: Congratulations with reaching the fabulous number of 1 mln subscribers 👍👍👍👍👍👍👍🥳
You bring so much joy in so many lives with sharing your adventures. many, many thanks for that!!
I hope the mosquitoes in Nicaragua haven’t eaten too much of you!
I look forward to seeing you riding on that beauty ‘Alaska’ soon!
Cheers, Martin

Mar10  | 

Hi Noraly from sunny Miami Florida!
Life for me, and where, and how I live could not be more different than the world I am seeing through your travels. Thank you so much for sharing your experiences and letting me ride along to places and people that I know I will never visit and would otherwise have never known. Your positive attitude, humility and zest for life are refreshing in these difficult times. Stay safe.

flyinglazy8s  | 

Hi Noraly,
Congratulations on 1million subscribers 👍🥳🍾👍
Mike.

Mikey uk  | 

Hello Noraly.
One million subscribers. I've been absolutely loving the journey. Everything stops, in my part of Derbyshire, England, at 3 pm on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Feet up and a cup of tea.
Thank you Dave

Dave Marriott  | 

Hi Noraly, You sure get us into some places we would never have experienced ourselves. The way you travel is mind boggling; the situations you have to endure to get where you want to go. Thank you from our armchair. Cheers, David

Davidjeng  | 
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