Edit Blog Post
Published: July 28th 2010
Might stop the rashes but didn't stop the bruises.
Daniel Ortega is once again president of Nicaragua, despite the underhand dealings of the US for the past 30 years. For youngsters reading, Iraq wasn't the first place they stuck their noses in because they didn't like the regime and nearly destroyed a country.
But it does mean that a certain amount of corruption is likely to be tolerated in the communist search for parity between the little guys and those perceived to have the money. We found our dose at the border.
Our guide book tells us that it is $5 for an entry visa, but it's 3 1/2 years old and the way prices in the region differ from that time, it didn't seem unlikely that the cost was now $7. Until we looked at the receipt some hours later to find that it is still $5 and we had been royally duped for the extra ... a travelers nightmare. Then when it cost us $1 each (municipality tax) just to get into the bus station at the border, our love of Nicaragua was wearing thin quickly.
It made a swift comeback with a well negotiated taxi fare and the pleasant Pacific town of San Juan
Conception from Charco Verde
The larger of Ometepe's two volcanoes makes a rare appearance from behind the clouds.
del Sur. It's stacked full of surfers and apart from sitting in the beachfront bars there is little else to do here than surf. So we surfed.
Alfredo, a Peruvian with surf shops as far afield as Kuta in Indonesia, is simply the best instructor you are likely to encounter. His promise is that you will be surfing by the time you finish his lesson. And it's not just about standing up ... he takes you through how not to get duped when renting a board, which boards to use and how to practice if you really want to improve. For $20 we were given an hour lesson on the beach with tips on how to paddle, balance and stand up. Then for 3 hours he stood chest deep getting battered by waves while gradually improving our technique for getting up onto the board and riding the waves. And true to his word we could surf by the end of the day.
We also had bruises and aches which will help Kelly Slater sleep easy about his world no. 1 position for now, but it was a fun day and we will both be back on the boards,
Ojo de Agua
Freshwater spring .. but not a hot one, brrr!
though perhaps not in wetsuits in the UK.
On the way out of San Juan, we met Dutch guys Frank & Alex nursing hangovers having watched Holland put Brazil out of the World Cup. We traveled with them to Ometepe and were led astray, finding ourselves locked out of our hostel on two consecutive nights.
The island is formed from two volcanic eruptions in the largest lake in Central America. A volcano climb is a must in Central America. However, Conception, the larger of the two volcanoes, was closed at the top due to the heavy rainfall that the season brings and Maderas was a long way from where we were staying and we couldn't be bothered with an early start ... but there are plenty more volcanoes to climb, so we parked the idea for time being.
We spent an afternoon at the lake shore in Charco Verde where mosquitos dominate the kilometre walk to the black sand beach. Once you are there though, all you need to worry about are sunburn and the Bull Sharks which inhabit the lake ... honest, there are freshwater sharks. The following day we hired a moped. A trials
Granada, a beautiful colonial town, when it isn't raining ...
bike would have been more appropriate.
The road from Moyagalpa to Santa Domingo (long black sand beach from which you can wade out 100m and still only be up to you waist) is ok. Even to Santa Cruz you can avoid the potholes with some observant and slow progress. But from there on, Eddie Lejeune is your man ... we seriously doubted the return of our deposit after the 13th grounding the poor little Honda Melody. Not to mention the discomfort we had on wooden chairs at dinner later that evening.
On the way back we stopped at Ojo de Agua. Despite our intent to go in anyway, the ticket seller (perhaps wary that the $2 entry fee isn't really worth it) gave us the lowdown on the mineral content of the spring water and how it would improve our complexions, citing the 70 year old who spent two hours at the pool and came out looking 40. He neglected to mention it was bloody freezing. We spent a combined total of about 7 minutes in the pools and also came out feeling 40!
Granada is a pretty lakeside colonial town ... once vying for the
Might as well do something with your leftover fortress ... the bandits were now inside charging exhorbitant prices for tourist tat.
title of capital city of Nicaragua along with Leon. The hideous mess that is Managua, half way between the two eventually got the prize just to stop them fighting. Granada is better off for it. It hasn't grown massively, the buildings are still mainly colonial and the pace of life is relaxed.
Here we met Jaime, a somewhat inebriated Spanish septugenarian who gave us the inside info on what to do in the town (he'd been living there 5 years) and two happy bunnies from Holland, Frank & Alex who had just enjoyed watching their country progress the the World Cup Final and were nursing hangovers. Sound familiar?
We went to nearby Masaya to visit the market but owing to a large screen TV in the plaza found ourselves to be Spanish supporters for the afternoon swept up in mass hysteria when Carlos Puyol put them into the final ... and Nicaraguans reputedly don't care about football, preferring baseball instead. Oh, really?
From Granada we moved on to Matagalpa, not to be confused with Moyagalpa, on Ometepe. This is mountain country, cool coffee-growing landscape and home to the Resplendent Quetzal. We drank beer, not coffee, supplied by
The Magic Faraway Tree
How are you supposed to see a Quetzal at the top of this?
the chatty locals keen to practice English until the barman sent us home and failed hopelessly to spot the fabled bird while hiking in the rainforest with raging hangovers.
Via Estelí, we arrived in Ocotal intent on breaking our journey into Honduras solely so we could watch the World Cup Final. But things were going badly. 1, we didn't have a map and were wandering a bit aimlessly trying to find a hostel that wasn't charging the earth. 2, Nic wasn't feeling well (later we found out she had Dengue Fever) and we were having to break up the search with rest stops. 3, it was getting perilously close to kick-off and we hadn't even begun to scope out bars showing the match.
Then, our guardian angel stepped in and brought us Laura and her parents Michael & Susie. We had randomly chatted with them on the ferry from Ometepe, but it turned out Ocotal is Laura's home town while working in the Peace Corps and she recognized the lost looking backpackers. She took us to Mi Hotelito (the best hotel we stayed at in Nicaragua - we think we got the special Peace Corps room price) which, amongst its many benefits, had Thomas the Tank Engine bed linen. Meanwhile, Michael & Susie bagged a table at the local sports bar. Then to add to our change of luck, Michael insisted on picking up the drinks tab ... once again reminding us that while guide books tell you to watch out for the scoundrels, you are far more likely to encounter generosity and hospitality when you travel the world. Shame Holland lost, it spoiled the uplifting afternoon.
And that was it for Nicaragua, except to say that the friendliness of the citizens seems to rub off on all who go here (not bad for a country that had a devastating civil war less than 30 years ago), the landscape is varied and beautiful, you can surf on volcanic lava flows as well as ocean breaks, the coffee is great and there are umpteen more reasons to visit. But if you do, we bet you can't spot the Resplendent Quetzal!!
Tot: 0.532s; Tpl: 0.029s; cc: 11; qc: 28; dbt: 0.0144s; 1; m:saturn w:www (184.108.40.206); sld: 1;
; mem: 1.3mb