Travel Days: 47 – 52
Location: Leon, Nicaragua
Accomodation: Las Vacaciones, $7 pp/pn in a dorm
After our first nights kip we woke to breakfast – a choice between eggs and toast or pancakes. We were in heaven! So much so that I went back to bed for a nap after.
I woke hungry again and head for smoothies with the girls. They weren’t satisfied with it and head for a falafel restaurant that also served Piña Coladas – sure what else would a girl want?? I refrained as I had just had a smoothie. A quick look around the restaurant proved it was a Palestinian eatery. Palestine is Islamic. Muslims typically don’t drink alcohol… I pointed it out to the girls who promptly asked the waitress if their piña coladas had rum in them to which they got an all resounding “no”. Barry and I nearly wet ourselves. Amanda was having none of it and went to the shop to rectify the situation. On her return and after scoffing down the falafel wrap, we departed promising to never get caught in that pickle again! The girls spiked their own drinks and we head for Cathedral de la Asuncíon to get a view of the city. It cost $3 to go up to the roof where you have to remove your shoes to walk around – probably too keep the white white. The views of the landscape surrounding Leon is pretty spectacular. Over the red rooftops you can see the ‘Ring of Fire’ which is the line of volcanoes on the Nicaraguan fault line.
On the way home we loaded up on veg from the market and luxuries from the well stocked, for a change, supermarket (The luxuries included 3 for 2 on cartoons of wine, so you know it’s going to be good!!!!). We feasted on a vegetarian meal of hummus, avocado and tomato salad, all washed down with some budget wine. Delicioso! Even Barry was satisfied with it!
Once one carton was cracked open it was tough to stop there so we polished off the second and head for the beer Olympics in Bigfoot Hostel around the corner. The craic was mighty so we couldn’t stop there and head to Oxygene Nightclub for a finish. A great night was had up to thepost pints food at a burger stand left. The burger stand lady was feeling a bit greedy and short changed everyone. It wasn’t until Barry picked up on it and called her out on it twice. I wouldn’t recommend her.
The next morning left me worse for wear and this was the morning we were booked in for the Volcano Boarding tour on Cerro Negro. We went through Bigfoot Hostel, which cost $35. It was the more expensive option, but it was the full package with a speedometer to record your descent, beer and snacks on the return to the hostel and a free cocktail at the hostel. It doesn’t, how’ve, includeanother $5 entrance fee into the national park! We hit the road at 9 am. I was dying. We arrived at the base to pick up our equipment. I was dying. We started the hike. At this stage I was ready to collapse. After an hour and two breaks, we reached the top. At this stage I was cursing myself for doing it. We were really high and the incline looked at least 70°. At least. We geared up in our sexy orange jumpsuits and lined up on the side of the volcano. I was 7th in the line, but first of our group, and I was shitting it. My hangover was magnifying every eventuality in my brain. By the time my turn rolled around I had accepted I was looking at a mangled face at least, if not a broken bone.
As with all of my other moments of over thinking, it all turned out to be absolutely fine. I ended up trying to position myself to go faster, but failed miserably and only reached 22km/h. The others followed and said similar to me. Then one guy came bombing down, losing all control and flipping his board. He smacked his head on the side of the volcano and rolled at least three times before coming to a dead stop. About 40 seconds later he rose and scrambled in the volcano ash for his goggles and board. He eventually hopped back on his board and rode the remainder of the slope. At the bottom, Barry rose from the board looking like a Chilean miner. The ash was caked everywhere. I couldn’t help but laugh. I laughed so hard my hangover evaporated. Before you judge, he was perfectly OK and got away with only one or two scratches on his face!!
The beer and cookie were welcome on the way home. I was famished! We got back to the hostel where a nice cold mojito was waiting for us and running water – volcano ash was everywhere, even without face planting the hillside. Then talks of a pool party at the beach started. We scrambled home for showers and a change. Not quick enough though, because by the time we got to the hostel the only one of us that was on the bus was Barry and it was now full. After some discussion with the hostel staff, we were left worth two options – don’t go or hop in a taxi and follow. The taxi would cost $12. We couldn’t make that decision on empty stomachs so went for lunch to weigh up our options. We weren’t two seconds in the door of the café when the heavens opened and it started lashing. That made the decision for us and we headed back to the hostel for a quiet night.
The next morning we were to head for Managua. Amanda, Lauren and I rose relatively early to get a walk in to the post office before getting the bus. We returned to find Barry bent over in the common area. He lost his passport. We tore the room and all of our bags apart, but to no avail. Hostel staff were made aware, but hadn’t seen anything. As it was Saturday, we agreed on staying another night in case it showed up before finding an EU embassy to start proceedings.
We walked the city that evening for food and drinks before I gave up and went home. Drink wasn’t what I needed.
The next morning we got a taxi to the bus terminal and hopped on a chicken bus to Managua for 38 cordoba – that’s just over €1 for a two hour bus. I love these things!
Travel Days: 52 – 54
Location: Managua, Nicaragua
Accommodation: Backpackers Inn, 396 cordoba
We were dropped in the mayhem of the city market where we flagged a taxi to get us to the hostel – Managua is sticky, heavy heat, there was no way we could have walked. Not without turning to bigger sweatier messes anyway!
Cleary, a college friend, is volunteering here and recommended the hostel. It was sound judgement on his part as it was kitted out with a pool, two kitchens, Netflix, free computer use and an exercise area. What else would you ever need?! Rum. That’s what. The only bad thing I have to say is the staff member that booked us in had a serious attitude problem. Everyone else was A1 though!
Cleary arrived over to show us the area and join is for the food hunt. It turns out the shopping centre with a substantial food court. Food inhaled, we browsed the grocery store for rum and returned to the hostel/haven.
We may have gone a bit heavy on the rum, because the next morning Amanda and I hadn’t a notion of getting on a chicken bus. Instead we had a glorious hangover day beside the pool, watching Netflix and availing of the relatively good Internet services, while Barry taxied around the city from embassy to embassy. For future reference, the French embassy is the one allocated for Irish in Nicaragua! That evening we kept busy by going to the cinema for Fantastic Beasts and Where to findulge them – Spanish subtitles rather than dubbed!
The next morning we head to the market bus terminal for a chicken bus to Granada – it cost 19 cordoba.
Travel Days: 54 – 55
Location: Granada, Nicaragua
Accommodation: Florysta Hostel, 150 cordoba
Granada is a well manicured town. It’s very similar to other colonial towns we’ve been in around Central America, but it feels newer. Instead of the dreaded cobblestones, they have asphalt roads – something I was glad of!
It was here we finally agreed a boat to get to Colombia, departing on the 12th of December leaving us 12 days to get to Panama. Barry was going to have to stay behind to await his passport and bank cards. We booked El Gitano Del Mar through Blue Sailing for $550 each.
We booked into a tour for Volcan Masaya through Hostel Emily, who was charging $20 instead of $35 – bargain! They picked us up from the hostel at 5pm for the quick drive back the way we came to the park entrance. From my understanding, the park reopens in the evening at 6.30pm, after which tours can enter. The tours are admitted in waves that allows people to stay 15 – 20 minutes at the crater Ooo-ing and Ahh-ing. While waiting your turn, you can see the sulphur cloud rising from the crater, glowing red from the lava below. Contrary to what we heard, there is a wall preventing Darwinism and a police man with the most shrill whistle stopping people climbing it. Still though, you can get close enough to peek over the edge and see and hear the lava flow – similar to sound from a sea shell.
All too many selfies later we hopped back on the bus and returned to pretty Granada. We met one of the guys we meet in Antigua and went for drinks in the Irish bar. It was Tequila Tuesday. Needless to say things got messy.
We befriended a group from a hostel around the corner from us that had a pool. We failed to stealthily walk passed the night guard, but a Nicaraguan man had taken a liking to Amanda and helped us out. He somehow convinced the night guard to let us in…and give us free beer. The night fell into the morning. It all ended quite abruptly when Lauren mysteriously cut the bottom of her foot. This is where my industrial sized first aid box came in handy!!
A couple of hours later we were kicked out of our hostel at check out. We dragged our very hungover bums to the bus station and hit the road for Ometepe.
Travel Days: 55 – 57
Location: Ometepe, Nicaragua
Accommodation: Hostel Ibesa, 150 cordoba; Hostel Santa Cruz 206 cordoba
The bus to Rivas was pretty uneventful. Because of our late-ish start, we were cutting it tight to get to the port for the last ferry to Ometepe at 4pm. We met a gentleman on the bus who offered to bring us to the ferry from Rivas bus station in jig time for 100 cordoba each. It seemed like a fair deal…It was not. That drive shouldn’t be any more than 25 cordoba each. A local man at the market did try to warn us, but the car was already packed and we only had 30 minutes to get there. Lesson had been learnt though!!
The ferry was 50 cordoba and takes just over an hour. They don’t instil the greatest amount of confidence as you board and are handed a life jacket. We got to Ometepe with no need for them and plus one more Irish man – Jason, from Clonmel. Jason was happy to have a bit of a crowd to hang around with. Little did he know he just inherited five dependents who had nothing researched or organised for that evening or entire visit on the island. Poor Jason.
We followed Jason to his hostel, which was sitting right on the side of the lake. Perfect for pictures and a breeding ground for bugs. My legs were destroyed in a matter of moments. The fireflies did look pretty magical though! After some overpriced but tasty pizza in Chidos, we each hit the sack.
The following morning and ever as dependent on Jason, we loaded into a taxi bound for the beach near Balgüe on the other side of the island. We spent the afternoon traipsing around with our bags in search of accommodation – funny we decided to do this when we had two hop alongs. We settled on Santa Cruz Hostel – the first one we checked. It had a pretty sick view of the lake and island and was quite close to the beach.
Eager to start the sunbathing as soon as possible, the girls led the group to the Santa Cruz beach. It wasn’t so much a beach as it was an underwhelming stretch of lake silt. We found one section that had some sand, but the bug situation was dire so we gave up. In typical Irish style, we drowned our disappointment in a few beers until sunrise.
Because we were now on a deadline to get to Panama, we couldn’t afford a hangover day, but my God did I need one. The chicken bus picked us up from outside our hostel at 9.20am and took two hours to drive what would have been 45 mins in a taxi. It was wedged, hot, sticky and there was no available seating. I got too close to passing out, so ended up sitting on the floor of the bus. It was not a good start and the remainder of the travel didn’t improve anything. The only consolation was that we were all in the same boat. We left Jason at Moyogalpa port where he was to continue his venturing of the island. Two nights isn’t close to enough on Omatepee. the island is way bigger than what we initially thought!!
Travel Days: 57 – 60
Location: San Juan del Dur, Nicaragua
Accommodation: Surfing Donkey Hostel, 320 cordoba pp/pn
Arriving into the Surfing Donkey party Hostel couldn’t have been at a worse time. Everyone was hanging. Cleary and Amanda persevered and went to meet friends for the evening, Barry continued his drinking streak and Lauren and I took an early night.
The next morning Lauren and I chilled on the beach to recharge for Sunday Funday the following day. We chilled just enough to repeat the mistakes from throughout the trip so far – pinting into the early hours. This place is very similar to that of Cancun.
We did get our first taste of Christmas celebrations in Central America that night also. We had been hearing bangers going at all times of the day and night from Leon to San Juan, but it wasn’t until we arrived in San Juan that it became clear that it was in ‘preparation’ for a religious celebration on the 6th of December. They also ‘practiced’ their fireworks display closer to the date! We joined the locals in their Christmas celebrations with Santa and food and were sitting less than 50m away from said firework display. It was pretty cool! Darwinism at it’s finest.
Waking up for Sunday Funday was a struggle. Tickets went on sale that morning at 10am for the day and you had to buy your own ticket. It cost $30, which considering it is basically a day drinking pool craw seems kind of steep, but it is a crazy good time. It starts at 12pm at Pachamama hostel where everyone is just warming up. Every two hours or so, you’re carted to another bar with a pool. We happened to get a rainy day (secretly delighted as rain clouds mean minimal sun exposure!), not that it affected anyone anyway – everyone was saturated from jumping in the pool by the second bar.
Because it starts so early, it is a long days drinking, but it makes for earlier (ish) bed time so getting up to do a border crossing is much less painful. Amanda was keen on getting more beach time, so Lauren and I packed up and said our see ya laters to not only the San Juan crew, but more than half of our travel crew! Barry was to await his passport and bank cards before catching us again.
Cleary continued on his return to Managua while Lauren and I borrowed Alejandria, our new Mexican friend, from him. Alejandria is well versed in getting around Central America cheaply. The first chicken bus pulled up and attempted to over charge us – something she didn’t take too kindly to. It was only 50c in the difference, but it was more principal. Instead we did it for free and hitchhiked – first on an articulated lorry (those cabins are surprisingly spacious!!) and then a pick up truck. It was obviously an advantage that Alejandria speaks Spanish!!! Hitchhiking is now also ticked off the bucket list.
At the border we paid $3 total in border fees on the Nicaraguan side. There are no charges on the Costa Rica side, how’ve there is a customs check of bags. Everything is scanned for prohibited animal products. It was pretty pain free though.
Nicaragua is a beautiful country and I feel we’ve seen and done everything we could here as backpackers, with the exception of the Corn Islands. I don’t think I would return solely for those islands though, unless I was to seek out a more advanced diving cert. There is always the east side for a bigger adventure though…maybe at a later date!