Stop stop stop. Stop planning your volcano boarding trip, stop waxing your surfboard for your big trip to Playa Maderas and stop thinking about your visa run to Costa Rica. What you should be doing is planning to get yourself to Orinoco for the annual Garifuna Day festival…which is also the 100th anniversary of Orinoco!
Why does this event so good? First of all, good luck finding a party this cool in the middle of nowhere. There are no roads to Orinoco, just boats that take hours to arrive. But that is part of the fun.
Secondly, there isn’t a bigger celebration of the Garifuna culture in Central America. This is it! Expect live music from either Honduras or Belize, dance exhibitions, amazing local food and lots of gafiti, the local moonshine/aphrodisiac/cure-all.
Third, this will also be the 100th anniversary of John Sambola founding Orinoco. And in Orinoco they know how to party.
Check out the boat arriving the day to Orinoco from Bluefields:
(Ignore Gallo and his drunk hey-I’m-on-camera pose. Actually, skip to :39 to hear the conch shell kick it off)
From there, friends and family usually spend a few hours visiting friends and family, then people wander over to the school where there will be cultural dances and songs and lots of drums and punta performed by the different Garifuna communities around Orinoco.
Just in front of the school is where you can fill your tummy with traditional Garifuna food, including bami, or cassava bread.
Usually things calm down in the mid afternoon while people take naps, then get dressed in their going-out best to see the concert in the field. This is when the big party starts, and I expect the concert to go on until midnight or later with most of the crowd drinking beer, casusa and garifiti. After that, well, normally it would move to the dancehall, but I heard they recently shut it down. We will find out when we get there I suppose.
The Big Boat begins its journey back at 4pm the next afternoon. All day in Orinoco will give you time to roam around and check out what else there is to see.
Get your tickets for the Big Boat at the ADEPHCA office in downtown Bluefields or the Wendelyn encomiendas office at the municipal wharf. They cost C$300 (about $13, round trip) and are limited to 150 tickets. Another option would be to ask around to find out about the more expensive but faster pangas that will be coming and going during the week, or save yourself the hassle and book with Atlantic Tour.
For more information about the Garifuna culture, check out Hostal Garifuna’s site!