It’s been five months since we introduced the world to our unique location on the Peninsula of Venecia (in this blogpost). Meanwhile, the rainy season has come and gone again and our beautiful off-the-grid brick house has been built. This is the story of what has been happening during all that time!
The house was fully designed by us, so we just needed someone to put the plans into reality. Fortunately, we had the right man living across the street from us in Chinandega, and he was happily willing to gather his team and build the house according to our specifications.
We wanted our small brick house to be nestled in between the trees, hidden in the rear corner of our property, about 200 metres away from the oceanfront. So NO, we don’t see the ocean from our terrace. But we will hear the waves crashing against the shore for the rest of our lives and are more than happy to undertake beautiful strolls through our enchanted forest in order to get to the beach.
Construction in Nicaragua is somewhat different. Everything is done by hand – if it’s moving the soil, mixing cement, installing electricity posts or putting the roof in place! Brick by brick the walls got elevated – it was a very slow process. Brick houses in Nicaragua look a bit funny because they have all these columns and beams in between which actually make the whole construction earthquake-proof. Yes, you have to think about that kind of stuff here.
We also had to think about stuff like sewage water treatment. Again, we’re totally off-grid, and the only way to not contaminate the environment is to have a septic system with a filter or treatment unit in place. Septic tanks were not new for me, but many people in Europe don’t know that this is even a thing. Because of the high groundwater table and the high sensitivy of the coastal ecosystem, finding an adequate solution which was available in Nicaragua, effective AND low-cost has been quite a challenge.
For our construction team it was also quite an adventure. They were working 15 days straight and would only take two days off before starting again. Those guys – being native to the city – had to sleep in hammocks under the bare sky, cook with firewood and do their necessities out in the woods. They also had to deal with pouring rain, power shortages, bad phone service, mosquitoes, material delivery problems and lack of… basically everything.
Our temporary base during all this time was Chinandega, which is the second-biggest city in Nicaragua and kind of a busy commercial port. We would practically only vist the construction site once every week, since it is a 4 hour-roundtrip from Chinandega to Venecia!
During our visits, we would not only inspect the construction progress, but also the property and its natural changes during the stage of the rainy season (May till November). We took advantage of the re-ocurring rain and planted more trees. However, most of the days we spent in Venecia were sunny and bright.
Rainy season in Nicaragua means that it DOES actually rain – but it does not mean that it rains every day. Usually there is the occasional thunderstrom in the afternoon or at night, while most days are sunny or cloudy. The real heavy rain comes at times when there is a tropical depression – which happens mostly when there is some kind of hurricane developing in the Caribbean. In that case, the rain will not cease for days and flooding scenarios are common.
We actually found out that every year around October – when the rains are usually the heaviest – a little creek flows across our property draining into the sea. There were even some teeny tiny baby fish inside! Once the rain gets less and the sun starts to dry off the ground, the water will become stagnant for a while and create a little heaven for mosquito breeding (urghhh…). Two weeks later, it looks as if nothing ever happened! We’re excited to see how future years will affect our temporary creek (yes, we will have to build a small wooden bridge next year…).
Living in Venecia will change our lifestyle quite considerably. We’ll have more personal space, more freedom, more tranquility, more overwhelming moments, more physical activity, more DIY-projects, and more happiness for sure! But: Gone are the days when we could just “buy something real quick” or “run to the next ATM”. Now, we will need to plan ahead and prepare ourselves to live in the wilderness for at least a week before riding into Chinandega. Once in the city, we will stack up on food, purified water, cooking gas, gasoline, materials and money, while getting rid of our garbage (did you really think there’s a garbage truck here???). Now you might wonder: What about emergencies, sudden sickness and other concerns? Well, civilization is always “just” a 2 hour-ride away! 😉
Just imagine: People have been living like this for ages. Most of the local inhabitants don’t own a car or a motorbike. They might not even leave this place for weeks. If they do need something extra-ordinary from the city, they simply take the bus at 4:30 in the morning. No problem!
So what about neighbours? Well, we don’t really have any. Venecia is a very sparsely populated area. With properties being naturally quite big, peoples’ houses are some 500 metres or more apart. This means that we need to put certain security measures in place, pay a nice guy to guard the house when we are not here, and have our phones always charged. But it also means we can sing karaoke as loud as we want! If we just had a karaoke set…
The next months will for sure be an adventure. Melvin has always been living close to the beach and he can’t wait to start surfing again on a regular basis! For all of you that are curious – YES, there are some pretty good waves out there. For me, a bodyboard will just do fine to get in on the fun.
And the turtles? Well, unfortunately we missed the 2018 high season which is just coming to an end. But turtles will keep nesting in lower numbers throughout the dry season and then will start again with full force around June 2019. By then, we should have all the necessary permits and a nice little hatchery in place!
As for the upcoming construction projects, we will soon start looking for sustainable materials and some local experts who can help with the building process. Again, we’ll take it slow slow slow… So follow our progress to see how we are coping with our new life in Venecia and to discover how beautiful our little haven will become!
And don’t forget to take part in this short poll so we can create the best volunteer experience for you and others!