By Kevin Gehm – January 2013
The winter months here on the “Central American” side of the office are quite active as the November-March time frame is the prime billfishing time in Guatemala, Costa Rica and Panama and is also the time of the year where you can experience the worlds best blue wing teal shooting in Nicaragua. With the booking and logistical responsibilities that all of the folks here in the Trek office have, when a window of time to travel presents itself, it is important to get as much accomplished as possible on your trip. This was the case in mid February when I had the opportunity to make a whistle stop combo trip to Costa Rica and Nicaragua to visit with a couple of dozen Trek clients.
I arrived into San Jose, Costa Rica and grabbed my rental car for the 3 hour drive to the coastal town of Quepos, always a beautiful drive through the mountains, one everyone should make at some point. Quepos has an interesting dynamic in terms of competitors for clients as although there are a few boat owners who do not get along, for the most part that are a pretty tight group. When I arrived I met with long time Trek associate and very good friend Lupita Rojas from Flamingo Bay Charters. Lupita lives in San Jose, but was out in Quepos along with her sister Ana and daughter Nela to assist with the group of fishermen booked. Well, after a few minutes of hugs and hello’s, Lupita made a few calls and before you know it, our small group swelled to 15 + as past partners and even their family members all joined us for a delicious typical Costa Rica meal.
It is very interesting to note that although several of these folks compete for the same clients that underneath that they are all very close and take to heart the Costa Rica saying “Pura Vida”, which translates to pure life, a concept they all take to heart.
The next morning we were all up and all business as the logistical folks were spread over the Quepos area to pick up the various groups, staying in several different hotels and transferring all groups to board their boats. The situation is that there is a new marina in Quepos and about 50% of the boats in the area are docked there and the balance are anchored in the bay and just pick up clients at the municipal dock as they have always done. So, picking up a few dozen anglers from 3-4 different hotels and getting them to where their boat is to pick them up. This does take some coordination and communicating and is fun to sit back and watch.
So in a 30-40 minute period all of the anglers have been successfully moved from their hotel, to the proper area to board the particular boat on which they are booked, looks easy, but it takes full effort as with large groups, part of the same group needs to be at the marina and the other part at the dock. After seeing everyone off, it is time for all of us to meet at a local restaurant to have coffee and breakfast. We basically do not know how many folks will show up, so we take the largest table in the place and for the next 60-90 minutes guys and girls work their way through for a bite to eat, a cup of coffee, or just to say hello, a pretty interesting set up they have.
And in Latin America everyone is either hugging you, or shaking your hand, even if they saw you just the last evening, a very endearing custom ( I personally prefer the hugs, but that’s me).
Trek had several groups fishing this week, some old hands and a group of guys visiting Costa Rica for the first time. Our veterans are actually from here in Jacksonville, Fl. Mike Davidson and his crew have made trips to Costa Rica for the past 10 years and know the program as well as anyone. They have the best restaurants wired as well as headquartering their crew in the premier digs in Quepos, the Buena Vista Villas, a beautiful property.
Mike and his guys pair off daily to do their best to better their competitors in a 3 day tournament. I think the main “purse” is bragging rights for the 12 months until the next tourney is held, fun to listen to the gamesmanship. Our other group of anglers hail from Fairhope, Alabama and this trip was the brainchild of their leader Doug Harrell. Doug called me nearly a year ago to say that he and 3 friends had been buddies since grade school and were all now turning the big 5-0 and wanted to do it up right.
After discussing options we arrived at Quepos, Costa Rica and the Buena Vista Villas for their birthday celebration and by all appearances it was just what they envisioned. It was a great feeling to know that this was a very important milestone for these guys and that everything went off exactly as we all hoped and planned for it to do.
One afternoon, after all the anglers got in, me Lupita, Nela, Raul (a local boat owner and broker) as well as 2-3 other boat captains and mates piled aboard The Fishing Machine for a Sunset cruise. We just cruised off the beach with Nela at the helm. This gave these hard working captains and mates a bit of time to let their hair down and enjoy themselves for an hour or so. Also, Raul, who is in essence their boss, had a relaxed atmosphere to just chew the fat with the guys and get in a few laughs. Not a bad way to conduct business for sure.
After a few days in Quepos it was time to say good bye to all of my sunburned anglers as well as my Costa Rican friends who take such good care of our Trek clients. An early morning drive back to San Jose became very interesting when road construction sent me on a detour on to streets I’d never before seen. Normally, I would not sweat it, but with a 10:00am flight out of San Jose to Managua, Nicaragua, it tightened up the screws a bit to fight morning traffic, return the rental and get to the airport in time.
All went well and I made the flight. This is just an hours flight from San Jose to Managua, but in that time the friendly folks on TACA were able to make their way through the cabin to provide everyone a drink of their choice, followed by a cart containing a tasty, freshly made croissant sandwich with turkey, cheese, lettuce and tomato. A cookie was also in the box and then they attendants followed up with a small basket of candies as they were clearing away the wrappings. I think our US carriers should take a note on how to treat a customer, a very enjoyable flight.
Once on the ground in Managua, I was met by Nacho, the leader of our English speaking ground crew. It is very nice as our guys have special permission to enter the baggage area, so as soon as you exit immigrations and head over to find your bag, our guy likely has already found it and is standing next to your duffel with a smile to greet you and welcome you to Nicaragua. The group of shooters I was here to host was a real mixed bag, a group of long time Trek clients out of Sarasota, Fl., Cy Bispham, his nephew Jack and friends were folks who have travelled with us for more than 2 decades.
The balance of the group was made up of avid water fowler and Tennessee Commissioner of Fish and Wildlife, Tom Rice and a group of guys from Louisiana led by Louis Pitman who were chomping at the bit to shoot teal in Nicaragua for the very first time. The two hour drive from Managua to our hunting headquarters of Chinandega gave me time to listen to various stories and piece together how all of these guys were interconnected. The crew from Louisiana was made up of brothers, old law school buddies and just plain old buddies. I was entertained the entire way by the view of the world “according to Boudreaux”, Preston Boudreaux that is and he had no shortage of musings, I just cannot come up with one right now that I can put in print J You cannot help but smile when you hear a thick Cajun patois say, in the third person, “an Boudreaux say….”, great stuff for sure.
The group got settled in at our shooting headquarters, the Hotel Los Farallones and after everyone put away their gear, most met out at the pool to relax. Now, we flew down on Ash Wednesday, which amazingly follows Fat Tuesday every year, so a few of our new friends from Louisiana stayed up a little late the previous night and were taking this time to relax in the comfort of their air conditioned rooms.
Now this is a duck hunt so your day starts early, but every one of these guys was up and ready to go before the coffee was even ready. After a hearty breakfast, we loaded up into our (2) 15 passenger vans and headed out to the lagoon. For the guy who has never made this trip, it is hard to describe the feeling of getting on the airboat and skimming through the pre dawn semi darkness to your blind. You get there to see your bird boys already in action, knee deep in the lagoon, having put out the decoys, loaded up the cooler and prepared your shotguns for the morning shoot.
You literally step off the airport onto an elevated dry blind, how easy can it get, sort of feels like you’re cheating. By the time you get seated, put in your ear plugs, grab a drink, get your gun ready, the darkness is lessening and you can make out the outlines of the surrounding mountains and San Cristobal, an active volcano, right on the horizon. You will actually hear the teal buzzing by before you can even see them, but no worries, as soon as it gets light enough to see, you will have plenty of opportunity to pick and choose the shots you like. After dropping off all of the shooters, I rode around the lagoon on one of our 3 airboats and witnessed the vast amount of water and ducks that were to be found in the lagoon, even at this late stage of the season.
It is truly an amazing sight to enter an enormous lagoon and see the entire surface just explode with ducks being raised by the sound of an approaching air boat, it is something you cannot imagine until you’ve seen it. Well, there was no shortage of grins when we came back around to pick up all the shooters. Whether it was a guy who’d shot this area for 15 years, or the guy who was making his very first Nicaragua trip, each man had the look of a kid on Christmas morning. So now, on the trip back to the vans, everyone is taking out their cameras to capture this moment…flocks of ducks flying out ahead of them over the tops of reeds with San Cristobal Volcano in the distance, pretty awesome.
A trip back to the hotel to relax around the pool, have lunch and gear up for our afternoon dove shoot. By the end of the first day even the guys on their maiden voyage have made friends with and are on a first name basis with the bird boys, van drivers and hotel staff and from that point forward it is not 3 separate groups lumped together, but 1 large cohesive group of guys swapping war stories and telling lies, it is a ball to sit back and watch this evolution occur.
I cannot tell you how often groups get put together in pieces like this and from that point forward become buddies and tell me that the next time they’d all like to travel together. We are so fortunate here to be able make this happen for these guys. We understand that in the real world, all of these guys are constantly dealing with business concerns and deadlines, employee issues; all sorts of things that are hectic and stressing.
We at Trek take great enjoyment in seeing customers unwind and just enjoy a good trip with their best buddies and their new buddies, pretty rewarding. So, don’t let the real world get you down, grab a few buddies and etch out 5 days to enjoy yourself, recharge and hey, who knows, maybe make a new friend or two, you cannot get enough of those…so say Boudreaux!