Cruising down Rio San Juan

Published: May 19th 2017
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Rio San Juan

We decided to travel down de San Juan river, straight through a pristine bio reserve, all the way to the caribbean coast of Nicaragua. After stamping out of Costa Rica, walking across the border and stamping in to Nicaragua we got to the small but busy river town San Carlos. We emptied the only cash machine in this whole region, had a very nice diner overlooking the river and lake and next day shipped ourselves into a ‘bote’, a long but narrow riverboat. We got out in the middle of nowhere, at a small wooden platform from where we walked to a finca with a few nice wooden cabanas. Literally in the middle of nowhere, we were surrounded by small rivers, wetlands (now dry) and some wild forests from where the howling monkeys were growling and howling. The family who runs this finca took really good care of us, between their normal daily work consisting of wrangling their cows, constructing all sort of things and mainly hanging around and chatting the whole day. One of the guys guided us on a walk and got us in close contact with the monkeys. Next day we went with kayaks along the Rio San Juan and on to one of the small rivers. The nature is great and we got to see a lot of monkeys again but also a sloth (luiaard) and some beautiful iguanas. Next stop, after a short ride with another riverboat, was Boca de Sabalos, an even smaller but not less busy river town. Because it was Sunday, after a gentle stroll, we just joined the friendly locals in their hanging around drinking the local brew. Onwards we went, the next day, on to El Castillo. This place has been for ages and still is quite the centre of the river San Juan, both literally as metaphorically. This is where, close to some big rapids in the river, a large fortress (El Castillo) was built by the Spaniards to protect the river and the upriver towns from pirates. The town is nice, the people friendly and it’s really close to the large nature reserve Indió-Maiz. We visit the reserve first with a small guided trip with a canoe and we spot some kind of weird ant-eater and a large family of monkeys jumping from tree to tree right in front of us. The next day we go with a small group with a fast panga (boat) down the river and on a guided trek through the jungle. We feel like National Geographic explorers and we love it. The primary forest and secondary forest are heavily damaged by a hurricane last year but still the nature is overwhelming, with lots of huge old trees, monkeys (spider monkeys and howler monkeys) again, some very beautiful tucans, parrots, some very big and mean looking crocodiles, a tiny red and black frog and small river turtles. A beautiful place to go for a leisurely swim as well ;-) After a few days we continue our trip downriver. We have to show our passports 4 or 5 times at the military posts that are on this strategic part of the river and after 8 hours on a rather slow boat manoeuvring the rapids and shallow parts of the river we end up in San Juan del Norte or Grey-town or San Juan de Nicaragua as it is also called. This border town at the mouth of the river is not very impressive but it was fun to have made it all the way down the river and to have crossed the huge area of uninhabited jungle by boat. It’s Semana Santa, the holy week before the holy days of White Thursday and Good Friday so this means a lot of activities and partying in this normally probably very sleepy town. Unfortunatley this place is also known as one of the wettest places in Central America and although it’s dry season the locals and we ourselves are treated with some unexpected heavy downpour of rain. This means both the volleyball and baseball match are cancelled as are some of the kids' plays. But luckily some other main activities like sitting, eating barbecued chicken and drinking heavily, accompanied by extremely loud music from multiple sound systems are not affected so we decided to join :-)

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25th June 2017

Gorgeous photo!
The tone and texture of this photograph makes it look like a painting...or a sample of really cool wallpaper :)

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