Perched on the back of a pickup to get out to Henry Soriano's. What an exciting ride!?!?
From Leon we moved rather quickly up to Somoto where our host sisters from San Pedro had recounted tales of wonderful host families and exciting excursions. It was a bit of a ride from the city, and most people opt to stay in or near Esteli, but we had the sole intention of doing the canyon tour and being as close to the border as possible. We were met at the bus station by one of many brothers (despite having not confirmed our arrival time) that had a farm in the area and have since branched into tourism. We had e-mailed enquiring about availability and they sent us good instructions about getting there from Leon. We went to another bus stop for the local bus, but only had to wait as long as it took for a pickup to be headed our way. We hopped in the back and zipped down the highway. We stayed at Henry Soriano's which is right at the canyon entrance. Not a particularly Nicaraguan sounding name, but we'd heard that the north had been populated by various European nationalities; and with a little Giovanni running around we have the distinct impression they had some Italian heritage.
But that's not the story here. At this little place we were able to get a private room with shared bath for USD15, and all our meals were prepared in the family's house.
We had the option to join another group for the Somoto Canyon adventure trek at 1000hrs, even though we could have started at any time in the morning. It was USD25 with lunch, life vest, and runners for walking in the water included. Since it sounded like a small group of three to four people we thought that was respectable and decided to go with them instead of on our own. At about 0945hrs a pickup packed to the gills rocked up and out poured sixteen people; not quite what we'd hoped for but that was our choice. It didn't take long for us all to get sorted and begin the walk downhill to the river. Our first crossing was the most exciting since no one knew what to expect. One of our three guides crossed with rope and they strung it out for us to cling desperately to, saving many, including Ashley, from being swept off their feet. Then we hiked up and up and
up to a great, head-on view of the canyon. From there we could see we just had to go back down to catch the boats that took us about 500 meters up river (Dan read this somewhere, we didn't measure so don't hold us to that). The boats were boats as far as anything that sits in the water and floats is a boat; definitely home constructions that sat low in the water carrying upwards of 9 people. The paddlers had surprising control and did well paddling upstream with only one man at the oars while we all sat idle trying not to lean this way or that for fear of starting the float back earlier than planned.
Eventually we got out and started scrambling along the riverside rocks. I'm sure there was some footwear factor, but the rocks had excellent grip even when wet. We zigged and zagged our way up the canyon. Rope assisted crossings at some points, hopping down small cliffs at others, clawing our way up stream while floating and fending off giant spiders (well, they had really
long legs). Ashley being not a fan of jumping off high points did excellent. Once we got as far as we'd go there was a chance to do some cliff jumping and Dan took a 15 meter plunge.
Once all the people who wanted to jumped we started the float down river. It was really relaxing until the spot where we had to jump in just after the rapids and the water held you down for that extra second you didn't expect, and popped you out just when you were about to start worrying.
The whole way we only lost one person to an ankle injury. The service was great though and on the way back they sorted out a horse to take her back over the river. Where we had done our initial crossing it was a lot more relaxed on the way back. We just made chains of whoever was there and crossed giving each other support. It was funny seeing the (usually guys) who seemed like they had something to prove; they would try to swim across instead of using the rope, or refuse others hands while they were crossing. I thought it was a little rude since it wasn't them that benifat from the hands, but the others in the line who weren't as steady or confident.
Lunch was a tasty chicken dish back at our abode. And while everyone else had to get back to Esteli we settled in for a bit of relaxing before our early boarder crossing to El Salvador.
More pictures here
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