In Memory of Miles…

Miles Walsh
Miles Walsh

So in July, I had the pleasure of going to Nicaragua with two of my very best friends, Carolyn and Chris. Chris is an avid surfer and Carolyn (Chris’ wife) my best friend for 17+ years, was 5 months pregnant. And I, well I was along for the ride. We flew out of Orlando (MCO) on Copa Airlines. What an efficient airlines they are. That is of course, until we arrived in Nicaragua and they lost Chris’ luggage/surfboards.

We were greeted by Miles. What a nice guy. He had his truck there, and met us at the exit to the airport (it’s not a big airport). I saw the sign for Ventana Las Olas, Rancho Santana. This is the name of the place we were staying. We (Carolyn and I) were waiting while Chris sorted out the missing surf boards. Eventually they promised they’d locate them and deliver them to the villa. It was roughly an hour drive to the location we were staying. We listened to Miles’ eclectic iPod on the radio and enjoyed the sites along the way. It was bit bumpy, but tolerable. Some of the roads along the way were paved. Others… not so much. Miles gave us bits of info about where and what we were driving through. We passed some volcanoes, residential areas, farms, and lots and lots of pigs, chickens, horses, and goats.

1st picture I took. This is a horse hearse.
1st picture I took. This is a horse hearse.

They had these really weird triangles made out of sticks around their necks. When I asked Miles about this he said they were for the smart ones. This of course made no sense to me. Why the “smart ones” would be punished with these things around their heads. So Miles explained that the ones, who had learned to wander, and escape, had to be restricted somehow. And the somehow was to put these contraptions around their heads so that they couldn’t get through the fences. Remind me not to be smart please.

We came to a fork in the road, and Miles asked us if we wanted the quick way or the smooth way? We chose quickly. I have to say I’m glad we took the road we took, so we could see the reality of the way people live in Nicaragua. It sure was an eye opener. They’ve managed to make homes out of little to nothing. There is little to no electricity, but they have satellite TV. There are no doors or windows, very little plumbing but they have cell phones. They ride horses and drive mopeds and motorcycles, and walk everywhere else. They have very, very large communities and are very faithful in their faith. We saw at one point people walking in the streets, seemingly with no place to go, but all looked like they were trying to get somewhere.

This is the group I was talking about.
This is the group I was talking about.

We finally arrived at Rancho Santana! A guard stopped us at the entrance. He looked so nice, not like the serious ones you always see at the entrance to large estates here. As we drove through it, it was so beautiful so lush and green, and bumpy. Chris was anxious to get there. Miles promised him a surf and the use of one of his boards since of course his were still missing. As soon as we turned into the villa (after going up an extremely steep hill) we finally got to see the place for the first time. To say it was beautiful would be an understatement, and an insult to Miles. It was not just one big house but three separate ones. We entered through the main room where the TV room, dining room, and kitchen were. Miles explained that his room was above ours.

The villa. From the entrance.
The villa. From the entrance.

But when I walked through the room and saw the view, I literally couldn’t speak for a moment. I knew I was going to be taking a lot of pictures. I was already framing them in my head. You can see a picture of the view for yourself below.

First view from the dining room.  Took my breath away.
First view from the dining room. Took my breath away.

We immediately went to our rooms to take a look. Chris went to change so he could head out to surf. He was out and hopping in a truck before we could even walk back out. Mark and Tom, the other two dive guides besides Miles went with him. Miles stayed behind with Carolyn and me to give us the full tour. You wouldn’t believe our luck. There were some Howler monkeys right there to greet us. They were loud as can be.

Howler Monkeys right outside our villa. They came to greet us.
Howler Monkeys right outside our villa. They came to greet us.

Chris came back from his first surf and raved about the waves. He said he’d missed his boards, but that it was awesome to be on the water after such a long day between flights and the drive. Miles let us know that dinner would be served in a little while. That was totally fine with me. The sun was about to set and I had my camera on the ready! And oh what a sunset it was! God is such an artist! I really didn’t think it could get any better. Oh was I wrong.

1st Sunset and the view from our room.
1st Sunset and the view from our room.

Throughout the drive and all through the “the tour” Miles was raving about the food. He was talking about these beautiful salads, salsa, and meats. My mouth is salivating just remembering it. And as everything else so far, it didn’t disappoint! Carolyn and I were fidgeting at every insect in the world coming to join us for dinner. There were big bugs, and small bugs, beetles and spiders to deal with. We were in the rain forest after all.

Dinner was yummy and pretty! Las Olas did not disappoint!
Dinner was yummy and pretty! Las Olas did not disappoint!

After that we were all pretty pooped. And Chris was going to be up early for 1st breakfast. Yeah you read that right… 1st breakfast. Carolyn and I said we’d be up for second breakfast.

As promised we were up for second breakfast. Chris was still gone with Miles and Mark. I decided to sip some Tang while we waited. Not every day you wake up to this…

Breakfast on the patio with my Tang
Breakfast on the patio with my Tang

Chris and the gang showed up. Chris asked if I’d go this time and get some pictures. Carolyn and I agreed to meet up with them after we got dressed. We left about 20 minutes after them with Tom. When we got there Miles, Chris, and Mark were already riding the waves. We’d snagged some binoculars so Carolyn could see and I had my camera at the ready. Tom was using the better lens up above.

Popoyo Beach. Miles' last wave.
Popoyo Beach. Miles’ last wave.

It all happened so fast. One minute we were watching Miles, Chris, and Mark. The next there was a kid running up the beach asking for help. The first one to the beach was Chris. He said Miles was in trouble, and that they were going to need people who could do CPR. Me and another girl on the beach said we could. I handed my camera off to Carolyn and went running. They brought him to the beach on a surf board. He was so pale and he wasn’t breathing. We went to work on him right away. Mark and some of the other surfers came to help. Eventually we had to get him to a truck to get him to the clinic. There are no ambulances. It was a whirlwind of emotion. Mark and Tom left with Miles. The three of us were left standing there in a daze.

Eventually I remembered that Miles’ other truck was there and that his phone was likely in it. I called Tom, and he let us know he was on his way to come and get us. He was there quickly, and we headed back to the clinic with him. Once we got there we heard the news we’d been dreading. We’d lost Miles. I tell you, in the course of an hour we were having breakfast, watching Chris and Miles surf, and then performing CPR on the beach. Only to lose him in the end. Tom took us back to the villa. There were things to be done, and people to contact. The three of us had to figure out what we were going to do. After Tom spoke to Miles’ daughter she invited us to stay, and after some long discussion we agreed to. It was a pretty somber night, but Tom said Miles would’ve wanted us to enjoy ourselves.

That night we had the most incredible moon. It had this red ring around it. It reminded me of a scene from Twilight.

Miles' Moon
Miles’ Moon

The very next day we set out to enjoy ourselves. Chris was up early to surf and Carolyn and I slept in and then went down to the club house. What a gorgeous place. We had a snack of ceviche and coconut shrimp with some batidos (milkshakes). When Chris finished his morning surf he joined us for a Toña. It was so good. That and the view made for a nice day to reflect and be grateful.

Hora Feliz (Happy Hour) with a nice cold Tona.
Hora Feliz (Happy Hour) with a nice cold Tona.
Ceviche and Coconut Shrimp
Ceviche and Coconut Shrimp

Miles was heavy on our minds. We were asked earlier if we’d be willing to move to “The Penthouse”. Miles’ family was coming in, and this way we could each have our own privacy. Of course we agreed. The move would take place the next day. Mark told us they’d done a couple dry runs, and it had gone fairly smoothly. We told them not to worry about us so much. We left them in peace at the house most of the day, and Chris decided to surf Santana. The wave the club overlooked.

Santana the Club, view from a beach chair.
Santana the Club, view from a beach chair.
Santana the Wave, another view from the beach chair.
Santana the Wave, another view from the beach chair.

As you can see from above, it was a pretty relaxing beautiful place to sit by the pool and chill. There were kids and their mom’s swimming in the pool while their dad’s surfed the waves. It was fun to see some of the kids (8+) come in from the waves just raving about them. It was even more interesting to see different families reconnect. It seemed like so many of them know each other from other surf camps. I for one have only ever watched surfing from the safe haven of the sand or a hotel balcony. Chris promised I would be getting in the water at least once. I wasn’t worried about getting in the water. I was more worried about embarrassing myself, and my boobs falling out of my bathing suit.

Tuesday morning we all got up early to go out to Colorado and watch Chris surf. What Chris failed to mention was that the walk to that particular wave was over a mile out, in the sand, carrying my bag with all the towels and my camera bag. Not to mention the 5 or 6 bottles of sunscreen (because Chris has an obsession with sunscreen). It’s good for the skin, and bad for my back. But I took my time, stopping every 5 seconds to take another picture. This beach was like nothing I’d ever seen before. It felt so empty with only our footprints in the sand, and the sky reflecting in the sand like a mirror.

Reflections of the sky
Reflections of the sky
Self Portrait
Self Portrait
Surfers coming in and us heading out
Surfers coming in and us heading out
Heading out to catch some waves
Heading out to catch some waves

Pretty amazing huh? Being from Miami I’m use to crowds, picnics in the sand, and sand castles. This was just breath-taking (as you can see). This is coming from a girl who is pasty and doesn’t usually care for the beach or the sand. We were out there for a couple of hours. We watched Chris catch some waves. I also got some shots of Carolyn’s growing belly while we were out there.

Instead of asking anyone to worry about preparing us lunch, and to free up the two trucks we decided to chill down at the Santana Club House. Today’s view was so much better than the previous. The sun was out and shining. I even adopted a pet butterfly that stuck with me all the way back to the house. Overall this place is pretty amazing.

My pet butterfly
My pet butterfly
Chris catching a wave on Santana
Chris catching a wave on Santana
View from the cliff looking back at the Santana Club House
View from the cliff looking back at the Santana Club House
The view from the cliff
The view from the cliff

As it turns out it was Chris’ birthday. I’d asked Tom to find him a Cohiba and they prepared us a feast for dinner. We asked Tom and Mark to join us. All things considered it was festive. Sometimes the loss of someone makes you try so much harder to appreciate the moment. And try we did. , if for no other reason than Miles would’ve expected it. And I can’t forget to mention another Epic Sunset!

Chris' Birthday Cohiba
Chris’ Birthday Cohiba
Dinner Feast
Dinner Feast
Happy Birthday Chris From Left to right: Chico, Tom, Chris, Mark, Me, & Carolyn
Happy Birthday Chris
From Left to right: Tico, Tom, Chris, Mark, Me, & Carolyn
Ventana Las Olas Sunset View
Ventana Las Olas Sunset View

The next day it was time to move our stuff to the penthouse. Miles’ family would be arriving that afternoon and Chico and the staff needed time to clean up and turn things over. We’d also scheduled a nature walk for the morning in hopes of seeing some more mammals. Now I’m not going to lie. I’m not in the best of shape, and even Carolyn at 5 months pregnant could out walk me. But I was too excited of the prospective animals to let it slow me down. Our tour guide was basically a body leading the way. He didn’t speak very much. But you don’t need someone to point out how beautiful nature is. Saw a lot of green and some insects, but it was beautiful. We walked down the side of a cliff to see Escondido beach/wave.

Hibiscus
Hibiscus
Making the trek down to the hidden beach
Making the trek down to the hidden beach
Playa Escondido
Playa Escondido
Praying Mantis
Praying Mantis
Centipede
Centipede

After our nature trail expedition, we headed back to the new digs. We’d already been told that Miles’ family had arrived. So Chris went for a surf and Carolyn and I stayed in. When the sun started to set I was as was expected at this point outside waiting to get my shot. And oh what a shot it was. It was so perfect that I made Carolyn get off the couch with the promise that she didn’t have to make any improvements to her appearance. I was just saying how much more perfect it would be if Chris was there when he walked through the door. The result was one of the best pictures I’ve ever taken. I’ll let you decide which one you think it is.

Sunset view from the penthouse.
Sunset view from the penthouse.
Maternity Sunset
Maternity Sunset
Kiss
Kiss
Sunset through the trees
Sunset through the trees

That night since it took two days to download a movie on my iPad, and Chris had wanted to watch it for his birthday we watched Evil Dead. That has to be one of the most disgusting horror movies I have ever watched. Thanks Chris for the nightmares. But scarier still was the next morning. Carolyn decided that the best way to wake me up was to slam open my door and tell me to look outside. I swear I had no idea what I was looking for. But much to my delighted surprise (after my eyes adjusted to the light) was one of the clearest and most beautiful rainbows I’ve ever seen. I’ve never been able to see both ends of a rainbow. Have you? It’s unreal. I felt like I could almost touch it. So of course I grabbed the camera, after putting some cloths on of course, and ran outside to get the picture.

Double Rainbow
Double Rainbow
End to End Rainbow
End to End Rainbow
Through the trees
Through the trees

Since we were up and Chris was getting a birthday massage, Carolyn and I decided to go check out the barn. We had our own spa day starting shortly. Chris had previously scheduled a masseuse to come to the house to give us each a 1 hour massage. Following the massage Carolyn and I had a manicure, pedicure, and facial scheduled. All for the low price of $99.00. Be jealous. As I said, remind me not to be smart.

I decided to give surfing a shot. OMG!!! Pain, that’s what I remember. I got so beat up. And as I previously feared my boobs popped out every time I hit the water. I had to make a very conscious effort to pull my top up before I surfaced. I was scratched and bruised. But I kept trying. I so wanted to stand up on that board. But it wasn’t meant to be. The closes I got was a good kneel. Thank you Chris so much for your patience. I have to thank Mark for taking the pictures! Oh, and speaking of pictures, Mark got one of me in the water with an I don’t know what! Maybe you can figure it out.

Heading out
Heading out
Chris giving me a push
Chris giving me a push
What's the "thing" to my left?
What’s the “thing” to my left?
Random crab
Random crab

We joined Miles’ family for dinner that night at their invitation. It was so nice to meet them. I really wish it had been under different circumstances.

The next day Carolyn and I went to see the cities of Nicaragua away from Rancho Santana. We had to head back the way we came. So more bumpy roads and an hour later we arrived at Granada. We went in search of trinkets and ceramics. We passed Concepcion on the way. Didn’t get any pictures of her, but I got a couple of Mombacho.

View of Mombacho
View of Mombacho
Me with the lake and Mombacho behind me.
Me with the lake and Mombacho behind me.

After enjoying the view, we then went to the local market to do some shopping. The outside of the market was this beautiful stone wall. Inside of it was so many colors. Most everything that wasn’t a t-shirt was hand-made. They had beautiful bowls made out of the local trees, ceramic pieces, art, and cigars from Cuba, and local foods. We shopped and tried some of the foods for lunch.

Outside of the market
Outside of the market
The market
The market
Local food: Fried White Cheese & Tostones
Local food: Fried White Cheese & Tostones
Local food: Crema de Pollo
Local food: Crema de Pollo

image

image

That night Miles’ service was to happen. I’ve never witnessed a paddle-out memorial (and I missed it) but Chris made it out there. Carolyn and I stayed behind with Miles’ fiancé and his ex-wife. There was over 50 plus surfers who paddled out past the break and paid tribute to Miles. After that, they all came back to the villa. They shared stories, food, and drinks. Miles was very well respected in the Nicaragua, both by the surfing community and his staff. His daughter, Chico, and an old friend of Miles via e-mail shared their thoughts and stories. I drifted out to the terrace to watch the sunset and reflect. I ended up sitting with Miles’ daughter and his fiancé. Now I know I’ve said the sunsets were beautiful and epic, but Miles’ sunset was one of the best of the entire trip.

Miles' Sunset Take 1
Miles’ Sunset Take 1
Miles' Sunset Take 2
Miles’ Sunset Take 2
Miles' Sunset Take 3
Miles’ Sunset Take 3
Miles' Sunset Take 4
Miles’ Sunset Take 4

The next day was our last full day. We pretty much were a bunch of lazy bums. Chris and Carolyn had another at home massage and I read more books. At this point I’d already read 4. Thank you Nora Roberts for my lovely trilogy! Chris did more surfing and we did some exploring of the area. I stuck around long enough to get what was my favorite sunset the whole trip!

My favorite Sunset
My favorite Sunset
Like a ball in the sky
Like a ball in the sky

That night I decided to join Miles’ family and visit Yolanda’s Café, the oldest restaurant in the area. It was started out of Yolanda’s home, and grew into a local favorite. The food is the best food I had all week. Dinner included Ceviche, lobster, shrimp and more. A good local Toña and It was perfect. Thank you Yolanda!

Welcome to Yolanda's Cafe
Welcome to Yolanda’s Cafe
Ceviche... Yolanda Style
Ceviche… Yolanda Style
Gracias Yolanda for a fantastic meal
Gracias Yolanda for a fantastic meal

And finally that last day had come. It was with heart felt goodbyes that we bid Farewell to Miles’ family. I truly believe we were in the right place at the right time to be there for this family. You can’t always understand why things happen, or their timing. I’m honored to have been there for Miles’ last moments, to see him ride his last wave, and to have stayed in his gorgeous villa. I hope to go back one day.

Thank you Rancho Santana and the staff of Ventana Las Olas!

Rancho Santana Me, Carolyn and Chris
Rancho Santana
Me, Carolyn and Chris
Ventana Las Olas
Ventana Las Olas
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4 thoughts on “In Memory of Miles…

  1. This was so well written! I loved how you incorporated Miles and the moments you shared with him. Your journeys are always full! I can’t wait to hear about your next adventure and I’m so proud of you and your blog!

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