Reflections on Nicaragua

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Lucy

I like to call Nicaragua “knickers-jaguar” or the “tiger country”, when I forget what it is called. I like playing on the beach with all my friends. I get very sandy and it is very hot. We saw loads of howler monkeys who were very noisy. We have also seen spider monkeys. On one of the beaches I caught a fish in my bucket, I called it a “golden fidget”.

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Alisha

The best thing I did in Nicaragua was boogie boarding. It is really easy once you get the hang of it. I can go further than anyone else on a big wave. I met lots of people traveling like me and we have all been playing together.

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Gilly

Nicaragua has impressed us with its clean roads and friendly people. The colonial towns of Leon and Granada were picturesque and fun to wander around. Our time on Isle de Ometepe gave us a chance to see more of rural, agricultural Nicaragua. We’ve loved staying on the beach at Playa Madera. When so far from our home community it is always nice to meet up with other who are doing something similar to us, especially if we meet them several times.

The view from the window above our bed.

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Steve

Whilst Nicaragua is the largest Central American country we have only really travelled down the narrow side of it near the Pacific and have only driven about 500 kms in nearly two weeks. The rest of the country leading over to the Caribbean is less populated and fairly flat countryside. There is a lot though packed into the small side we visited. Colonial towns, volcanoes, a large freshwater lake and some fabulous beaches.

It has also been great catching up with fellow overlanders and swapping stories and spending time having a beer together. Been camped on the beach was great as it was such a beautiful spot and great company.

Part of the girl’s project on Mexico and Central America.

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Lake Nicaragua and Playa Madera

In the end we decided not to take the truck to Isla de Ometepe in the middle of Lake Nicaragua. We left the truck in a hotel’s secure parking and headed on over on the ferry.20140213-135247.jpg
Just the sort of security we like. It turned out to be rather false advertising, as the dog was only about a foot tall and was the biggest softie, but he did his job and we found the truck safe when we returned.

We had a lovely 3 1/2 km walk to our rustic room on an organic farm down on the lake shore. Isla de Ometepe is made of two volcanoes, so is roughly a figure of eight shape. The main paved road rounds around about half of one of the loops, the rest of the roads are pretty rough dirt. The island’s volcanic soil is very fertile and the lower slopes have many small farms. Finca Tierra Bianca had cows, horses, bananas and many different fruit trees. They had a few basic rooms overlooking the lake and Larey, the lady running it was very friendly. She whipped us up meals straight from the farm, only the coffee wasn’t hers, it was grown further up the volcano. We were the only people there. Larey is one of those great people you meet when you are learning a language, she chatted away about lots of interesting stuff but slowly and clearly enough for us to understand and was patient with understanding what we were trying to say too. We couldn’t work out quite how they came to be advertised online as it was all so low tech. After a lazy few hours we realised there was not a whole lot going on there and if we were going to see the island we’d need some wheels. The next day was Sunday and as the infrequent buses were running even less often, Steve hiked back into the town to arrange a taxi for the next morning.
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Our trip around the island took us to a sand spit with lots of birds, a nature reserve and to the largest beach on the island Playa Santa Domingo.

We also bumped into fellow overlanders Alex and Mire who we had first met in Mexico, and their friend Sharon at Agua del Ojos (the eyes of water). These crystal clear pools have water rich in minerals that bubble up from the volcanic rocks. It was wonderfully cool on such a hot day.

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On the hikes to and from the Finca we heard the distinctive whoops of a troop of howler monkeys above. They are one of the loudest animals in the world and the whole forest erupts into a cacophony of noise when they are declaring their territory to neighbouring troops. When you hear them, they are usually hard to spot way up in the treetops but on the track we got some great views of them leaping through the mango trees.

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We headed back to the mainland after two nights. We first met Alex, Mire and Sharon on the boat and then the Duchies who we’d met back near Leon, near the port. We all camped up that night with the not so scary guard dog.

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The Duchies and us turned out to be aiming for the same beach at Playa Mederas the following day. Erika and Michel are veteran beach campers which gave us the confidence to drive along the sand to the far end of the beach. Although the beach had many surfers during the day, it emptied out at five with just a few people camping and sleeping above one of the restaurants. It is a gorgeous beach with shallow exciting enough surf for us but without an undertow. Alex, Mire and Sharon turned up later in the day, which lead to another lovely evening of watching the sunset over the sea, the howler monkeys, chatting,eating and drinking.

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The girls have loved having lots of lovely fun adults around them willing to play crazy imaginative games. They have made themselves into mermaids….

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…raced hermit crabs….

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….and fallen in love with Dunya, the Duchies’ elderly dog.

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Mire, Sharon and Alex even taught them to boogy board and they were far braver with them than they ever would be with us.

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The French family we’ve been bumping into periodically since Mexico also came on foot too for a couple of days, so it was a quite an overlanders gathering at one end of the beach.

Granada

Our next stop was the still active Volcano Masaya. Even though it is still active you can drive to the crater rim to look down into the smoke billowing up. Mind you there are notices to take some safety precautions.

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As you can see we were able to park pretty close to the edge.

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We camped at the visitor centre which was really nice and informative. This was a few Kms from the crater rim. On the way back down we passed a lava field from previous eruptions.

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Since we have been in Central America we have found that we have been driving a lot less and the distances between sights are much smaller so our next stop was only 37kms away, the wonderful old colonial city of Granada. For many years Granada was the great rival to Leon. Because of this rivalry the capital was moved to Managua and Granada became more of a backwater but it still has a magnificent history. In its history it was also sacked by pirates a number of times who sailed in small boats across the lake.

As there are very few real campgrounds in Central America we need to be more imaginative where we stay. The best place to stay in the truck in Granada is at the fire station. It is very centrally located although it was a bit noisy as many people use it as a parking lot and the firemen have impromptu games of football at 11 at night.

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The city is really beautiful with magnificent churches and colonial houses.

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We also took a horse drawn carriage down to the shores of Lago Nicaragua a very large inland lake.

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From there we hired a boat to explore the many small islands just off the shore. These islands were created from all the volcanic activity in the past. They used to be a very poor part of the country but now many of the islands have been bought up by the rich and are used as holiday homes. Some are still for sale.

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This one looked like the perfect lair for a James Bond villain.

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Granada also has lots of good restaurants which we took full advantage of. However we have to admit that after nearly 7 months on the road we finally succumbed and went to an Irish bar. As with Irish bars everywhere the food is always the same so we were torn between fish and chips, shepherds pie or sausages and mash. In the end the fish and chips won out and were pretty good. All washed down with litre bottles of beer that were less than two dollars each.

We really enjoyed Granada but as you can see walking around is pretty hot. (And no that’s not me!)

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From Granada we drove to San Jorge on the shore of Lago Nicaragua. This is the port from which you can catch a ferry to Isla de Ometepe. The island is really just two large volcanos but it is supposedly the largest freshwater island in the world and we want to spend a few days there.

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The only question, is do we take the truck? Yes it will fit on the ferry!

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