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Published: January 24th 2012
1/20/2012 & 1/21/2012
After narrowly making our connecting flight from Houston to Managua (we had to be taken by airport transportation to our gate and were the last to board the plane) we were finally bound for Nicaragua. We landed and got through immigration without a hitch; we hopped in a cab to take us to the bus station. The look on Erin's face was priceless as we drove through the capital city for about 20 minutes. It was obvious we were not in Kansas anymore. We both smiled and held it together for the cab ride until we arrived at our "bus station" which was nothing more than a back alley garage with a lemonade stand sized ticket counter. We were the only two nonlocal passengers crammed inside a microbus with 15 or 16 Nicaraguans. With the microbus filled way beyond max capacity, we were off to Leon.
Arriving in Leon was yet another adventure. The moment we got off the bus, a younger boy probably 17 or 18 years old offered to take us to our hostel. Because we were in a very crowded and intimidating market I agreed to the first offer that came our way. Turns out, it was a bike taxi offer. The driver was extremely nice but being that we were out in the open, slowly passing the local neighborhoods, we both had the feeling we were more of a parade float to the locals who watched us as our peddicab driver pedaled us by them. Our only housing reservation we made for the entire trip failed so we found a room at a place across the street. We briefly walked around the city, grabbed some whole red snapper for dinner, and hit up a nearby bar with a live local band for a quick beer and live tunes before an early bedtime.
The following day we decided to check out some of Leon's cathedrals after we finished our breakfast at a French style Bakery. Their most famous cathedral is the largest in all of Central America- nearly 400 years old. It was absolutely awesome. Near the mammoth cathedral were several street markets. Erin and I shopped around and found some new replacement wedding rings. Erin was starting to get hungry so we decided to try out some of the street vendor cuisine. We each bought some kind of a homemade, grilled stuffed tortilla (still don't know what it was stuffed with) served with lettuce, pickled onion, and a mystery cream sauce. It was served on a banana leaf and definitely hit the spot. After struggling to navigate ourselves back to the hostel, we finally made it and grabbed some food to cook up in the communal kitchen. Over the lunch hour we met a fellow traveller, Juan. Juan has been traveling in Central America for three months and plans to continue on for several more months before returning to his home in Buenos Aires, Argentina. We finished up lunch-and our chat with Juan- and decided we were both ready for an afternoon siesta. We awoke two hours later, grabbed some coffee at a nearby cafe, and headed back to the store to plan for dinner.
Erin and I enjoyed some budget friendly Chilean wine before we indulged in our chicken tacos dinner. We spoke some more to Juan and learned that he had plans to go to Via Via, the nearby bar that hosted last night's music. That evening Erin and I shared some beers with Juan and Andreas- a Swiss lawyer who has been traveling through Central America for several months (Juan and Andreas had met while they were both traveling in Guatemala several weeks back and happened to run into each other at Via Via). We had a great night sharing information about our home countries and listening to Juan and Andreas' stories from their travels.
We got up and grabbed a quick breakfast. Andreas happened to show up so we shared our table with him. After squaring up with our hostel, we headed for the bus station in a taxi. Again, we arrive at an extremely crowded market filled with locals only. Some kid who apparently worked for the bus system was grabbing our bags out of the taxi before we even got out of it. He tossed themm into the school bus next to us. Turned out, it was our bus...and the only bus. We were fortunate to board the bus early enough to get seats. We sat and waited as they filled the bus beyond max capacity by 50+ bodies and got on the road. I had the good fortune of having the dirtiest guy on the bus dangling his arm pits over my face as he stood for the duration of the ride hanging on to the safety rail directly above me. Yum! We arrived to Poneloya and saw a Surfing Turtle Lodge sign as soon as be got off of the bus. The sign actually led us into a shanty full of locals with a few elderly women cooking fresh seafood. They had no clue where we were supposed to catch the boat that brings visitors to island that Surfing Turtle resides. We asked around and were directed to distant buildings at the end of the beach. We walked along the beach and over rocks with packs in hand for several hot minutes. Passing the purely local crowd (no other backpackers in sight) made me wonder where the heck we were actually going. We finally made it to the end of the peninsula and spotted a decent sized boat that had "Surfing Turtle Lodge" written on it. I asked the fellas nearby if this was our boat. They had a ride for us but it was not the "Surfing Turtle" boat. Instead we boarded a canoe that was small for canoe standards. A teenage boy helped us with our bags and got us into the canoe and pushed off. He paddled us across the saltwater inlet that was teeming with fish and wildlife. In the distance to our right was a large volcano that was billowing out smoke. It was truly a spectacular landscape. Erin and I were both in awe of the entire situation.
The canoe trip only lasted about 10 or 15 minutes. We arrived on the island and grabbed our bags out of the canoe. Following arrows through the forested island, we started to question whether or not we were going the right way. There was no sign of life outside of lizards and a couple of unclaimed horses we passed during our hike. Twenty sweaty minutes later, we saw Surfing Turtle Lodge and were glad to know we had correctly navigated our way to the new temporary home. We took a long sunset walk on the beach that night before enjoying some ceviche, fresh fish, and wine.
Our first night in bed, we draped our mosquito net over the mattress and enjoyed the few moments of the day when electricity and internet is available to catch up on emails. While Erin was reading she felt something crawling up her arm. It was big- she panicked-flicked it on me-I panicked. We had a praying mantis inside our mosquito net. So with both of us bouncing around in panic, we scrambled out from our bed. We managed to get the praying mantis out of the bed-and out of our room-free from harm. A short time later, the generator was turned off and we went to sleep with no electricity near us. It is only the sounds of the waves crashing in the background that you can hear...and in my head I could hear more praying mantis friends lerking.
So now here we are at Surfing Turtle. The temperature is about 90 degrees every day with a steady pacific breeze. At night it gets down to the low 70's with the breeze staying constant. The weather is great. We started our first day of volunteering which really has very little direction. We are basically supposed to do anything we can to help out. Speaking to English speaking guests is their biggest request, however there is only one Australian couple staying here at the moment and they have been here longer than we have and haven't asked us for any real help. We've cleaned up the place a bit and helped out when the opportunity arises. However, with no one around there is quite literally nothing to do but relax....either on the beach or in a hammock (I'm in a hammock writing this). There is never anyone on the beach other than the Australian couple and an occasional local passerby. I've kept my eye out for some bait to start putting my fishing pole to use but have yet to find anything. It’s so relaxing and secluded here, it actually takes a bit to get used to it. 24 hours in, I'm used to it and love it. The mornings are so peaceful, the sunsets are unbeatable, and the mid afternoon...well thats where the hammocks come into play.
That’s all for now. We are both happy, healthy, and as stress free as humanly possible. Best wishes and lots of love for all back home.
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