The best way to backpack across Central America is to have no plan and even less money. It’s a plan your parents won’t agree with but unless they cough up and fund your trip, this may be your only option. The upside to travelling like this? Your wad of worthless coins will make you more adventurous and you’ll have fantastic stories to tell anyone who will listen.
By the time Amee and I arrived into Central America we were happy to do whatever came our way and that just happened to be Nicaragua. Although its the second poorest country in the west – after Haiti, it should be on everyone’s list of places to go. I’d like to return to Nicaragua and explore every part of it.
Crossing the border from Costa Rica takes a while but once border control are satisfied your not smuggling drugs/weapons or people they douse you in insecticide to protect their country from a Chikungunya infestation. (Chikungunya is a mosquito transmitted disease similar to Dengue – there is no cure.)
Back on the bus and 30 mins later we get off at Rivas. We meet a young guy who offers to take us to San Juan Del Sur in his taxi (his car), its another 30 mins away. You should be able to get a ride for as little as $4USD each way especially if the driver has found other people to pick up.
San Juan Del Sur is a well known surfing village not far from the Costa Rica border. We’re not surfers but after travelling in the Andes, beach life was appealing. This is probably the first time in a while we are in an area that is predominantly western travellers; long haired surfers with perfect bodies and a number of sunburnt tourist on the beach.
We met a guy called Rob as we were looking for directions to the Naked Tiger, he’s from New Zealand (Picton). He’s also the only kiwi we’d come across in weeks. Each Sunday in San Juan Del Sur there is a backpackers party at The Naked Tiger. This should be on your list of places to go, I’m not even going to say why just make sure its on your list. All three of us jumped on the back of a ute and went to the Naked Tiger. I like how business is conducted in these areas, if you have a ute you have a business.
The next day was rest day.
Rob suggested we go to Ometepe Island… so we did. Ometepe means two mountains, (two volcanoes). On the main island, Volcán Concepción erupted in 2010, which was pretty violent but the inhabitants decided to stay. The other island Maderas Volcano and is said to be dormant. That is the where we went.
Getting to the island wouldn’t pass any New Zealand health and safety approval. As we walked onto the boat I said to the guy we’d stay on the top deck (where its at least safer), he pushed us all down to the lower deck… then he shut the door. It only cost $2 NZD so no need to complain.
This is what it looks like from the outside.
Nicaragua lake is fresh water… and there are sharks? The officials of the lake think all of the sharks have been fished out of the lake though. They also thought the shark was a unique fresh water shark but when they started tracking them they realised they were in fact a salt water shark, swimming up the river to the lake. A little disturbing but it didn’t stop me or the cows getting into the water to cool off.
Ometepe is a step back in time, although vehicles are on the island people still use horses to cart their goods.
Most of the locals on Ometepe Island don’t speak English, they smile a lot and are very friendly.
We didn’t go to the capital Managua, instead we opted to head straight for Leon. This is where I went hiking up to the volcanoes and again we just enjoyed the laid back lifestyle. Nicaragua really is a country worth visiting, next time I’d travel further but as we were passing through we only stopped in three places.
This horse was at the volcano, at first I was a little confused as to where his owner was… then I found him (the owner) later as the sun was going down. He was sitting further around the mountain with a chilly bin selling beer… opportunist.
- Check out the Naked Tiger Hostel on Sundays
- Taxi drivers are often people with cars – there is no sign.
- A lot of the volcano’s are still active but worth the hike for the views and to see the volcano in action, up close
- While at Ometepe Island we stayed at El Caballito Del Mar – no air con but its cheap! The opening picture to this blog is the view from this hostel.
I hope to be back in Nicaragua very soon!