Stop 4 : Nicaragua
We skipped past Honduras, stopping briefly to stretch our legs, bus to refuel, grab some bite and went right on to Nicaragua, hitting up Leon, Granada and the magical island Ometepe 🙂
Nicaragua was previously notorious for chaos, internal wars, danger and volcano eruptions. My experience there was quite the opposite.
The country is slowing cleaning up and what I found were quiet calm towns and beautiful scenery, so much so it is one of my favorite places in Central America.
First up : Leon
I remember falling sick here. Feeling feverish when I arrived at the hostel, and having a bout of diarrhea.
I went right to bed in the middle of the day and slept off the fever, the diarrhea stayed however. I wonder what I ate..
It was also here in Leon while chatting with the Bob-Marley-looking hostel owner that all of a sudden, my grasp and understanding of Spanish clicked. It started to make sense to me! My heart leaped! I actually understood, after 2 months of struggling with the language, what this guy in front of me was saying, with no help! Booya 🙂 Thank you my Spanish Maestro for those 2 years of spanish classes. It didn’t go to waste.
Of course, I didn’t understand each and every word he said, but I could piece it together to make sense of what he was saying in general.
It was precious moment, one I hope to remember always. From then on, I started thinking in Spanish, even dreaming in Spanish. Hopefully one day I could pick up my mostly forgotten Spanish again.
Central America has a lot of Bob Marley influence, their shirts, songs, colours, posters everywhere etc. Leon was not otherwise. Even the locals had the dreadlocks, had a cigar and bobbed along with his songs. I liked it. Reminded me of life by the beach, facil y tranquila.
The mountains around Leon.
Leon’s a little city and has a squarish easy to navigate city centre. Attractions and mountains dot the outskirts, making it a great base for various sorts of outdoor activities.
On my way in to Leon, breakfast is served.
Did some city exploring : Oldest Church in Leon City. Panorama fail.
Underground tunnels used in the old days.
Apparently this linked up 7 other churches from elsewhere. Intricate maze, much.
The pictures painted were based on bible stories ,instead of the common Latin Americanized versions of bible stories (e.g. Mary in a bright pink green poofy dress or something along that line).
No disrespect at all, I am probably just more used to the former ones.
Saw this Nana selling her drinks. The ladies usually wear such aprons everywhere. Quite a cute sight.
And of course, the lonely planet recommend Cerro Negro Volcano Boarding!
Say Leon Nicaragua to a local and they would go, “volcano boarding? cerro negro ya?” (have you done the black hill yet)
We went with Quetzaltrekkers, who else better to do this day trip than them. The local company where profits go to the street children. Get your adrenaline fix and contribute a little to the stomachs of others, good cause i say.
Cerro Negro at the back (Hill with Black Volcano Ash)
It’s still an active volcano. Last eruption was 7 years ago and you can see fumeroles and smell sulphur.
I remember this was a day after my fever. Fever had left, but the diarrhea stayed. Of course.
I was worried that nature might call while I was up and having my fun, but thank God, it was only after I came down and went back to our base when the stomach started to churn.
So smart you, my stomach.
Carrying our own boards up was quite a challenge, considering the strong winds that was blowing against us, the heavy wooden boards and the constant leaning forward motion to not fall off took a bit of getting used to.
Climbed up, made it!
Some group members started sliding down. If you observe closely, that’s our tour guide running down. Apparently a really famous person even cycled down at lightning speed,unfortunately he crashed, was hospitalized for months and went at this again a few months after I left. Hope he had more luck this time round.
Its wasn’t as scary sliding down as looking down from the top.
You could easily control the speed and you kinda end up doing all you could to make it go really really fast down! Adrenaline devils.
Me gusta mucho! and I did it twice! all that carrying and fighting against the wind was definitely worth the rush down!
I also think at this point, I had forgotten I had diarrhea. Mind over body eh.
Found this picture. A book I picked up along the way.
Homesickness was quite real. But the desire to see all the places spurred me on. Travel sometimes isn’t all that fun and glam, gets tiring and you start missing things like comfort, the constant, familiarity. I’m glad I went all the way 🙂
My second stop in Nicaragua was Granada.
Lovely town again that had a city centre not too big to navigate.
I remember the hostel was at a quiet corner, but my hostel mates? Not so quiet. I remember being woken up in the middle of the night and having to bang on the wall “Hey keep it down please” cos it was just getting out of control. Later, we just laughed it off sleepily and went back to sleep.
Spent the day exploring the city centre. Realized I didn’t snap any photos of the church and streets, hence, taking some pictures off the web. Thank you to those who took them 🙂
Lil background : The Cathedral of Granada.
Quite a long standing city since 1524, Granada was fashioned and built with European architecture influence. It’s been destroyed by civil wars etc along the way and thankfully, some buildings remain and since then, it’s been restored, slowly.
It was nice to just stroll down the street, warm breeze. Quite blissful.
Sights in the church.
Strolled down the street to a lake and saw some children throwing ball. Locals here love their baseball.
They played with tennis balls and some use their bare hands to catch the ball coming their way. They make do with whatever they have eh. Nothing’s getting in the way of their fun 🙂
Visited a cigar factory, while on the stroll down that street
Finished product – Apparently real smooth.
I’ve learnt since then, a puff of cigar & a sip of whisky – a whole new different taste. Nice after a hard day.
Found an art gallery along the way too. This captured me : Moon Bath, La Bella Luna.
The usual fare in Central America – you’ve got your plantain, your frijoles (beans), rice and some salsa.
Found pink cocadas down at the end of the street. Of course I had to get them.
The brown ones were dulce de leche. How cute, these tiny treats.
The next day, we took a local bus out to Volcan Mombacho. These were the kind of chicken buses we took within the cities. We do as local do, definitely recommended but bring along your common sense, lay low, keep your belongings close to you & you’ll make it there fine and dandy.
Finally got to the entrance of Volcan Mombacho
Lovely Nicaragua. Tops my central america list.
Decided to walk up, thinking it was just a leisurely 2 hour walk. Little did I know I was in for a continuous 2 hour ascent up. Had I known, I probably would have thought twice about saying no to taking the tour bus up.
Sights along the way up.
The “tour bus”. or rather, truck.
I was laughing at how lazy these tourists were cheating with the truck and how “local” I was, hiking up with the other locals (who had guitars to play as they hiked up!) , but after an hour in, I wouldn’t mind being laughed at just to trade places with them.
After an hour, I was soooo excited thinking I had reached the top, only to realize I was only half way there. Rewarding view though. And some respite from the heat and some rest for my very, very tired legs.
Finally after 2 hours! I made it! Was so beautiful up there 🙂 And felt so good I climbed all the way up too, the feeling of achievement is hard to beat.
Lovely view. I took random photos of this couple ‘cuz they looked nice in the distance with that view.
A few hours later, I found myself hitching a ride down the volcano at the back of their truck.
Adios to 2 hours of hot, scorching walk down.
Observe my joy.
Was such a miracle. I was only randomly thinking, while hiking up, about how nice it would be if someone could give me a ride back down.
Lo & Behold, when done with hiking round the top of the volcano and was resting in the carpark’s shade to prepare for the long walk back down, spotted a couple driving their truck out of the parking lot and being quite desperate from my tiredness and the heat, ran up to them, wearing my saddest most tired look. Viola, a ride down!
I guess looking like a tourist helped as well that I wasn’t going to mug them. Sometimes that’s the perk.
I remember previously after hiking and staying over night at the mighty Grand Canyon, I silently told myself I don’t think I could hike anything that involves going up a mountain for another year.
I guess I didn’t know what I was in for, and hiked up a volcano here. After this, I silently told myself enough for this trip. Didn’t happen too.
I love hiking don’t get me wrong, but in retrospect I guess I just needed to eat more to do such activities.
F I N A L L Y – I present : Isla de Ometepe, my favourite place in whole of Central America.
This is really one magical island. To get here, one has to take a ferry to this beautiful island that’s sandwiched between two volcanoes. This island transports you back in time, with little vehicles, and bicycles being the main form of transportation.
I remember seeing baby piglets for the first time ever and I had the chance to feed them.
I remember breathing in crisp sea-scented fresh air in the morning while playing some music to myself, staring out into the sea.
I remember spending Valentine’s Day here! In Mexico, they call it Friendship Day too – El Dia del Amor y la Amistad
I remember walking back in total darkness one night after a meal, sky lit with a million stars 🙂 I loved it.
As you can see, the island has a few spots to visit, I think I went to San Jose Del Sur and spent the days there, cycling, hitting up lakes. There’s the two volcanoes you could hike up as well, but after Volcan Mombacho, I declined. I made a silent promise remember 🙂
During one of my stay, I caught the full moon. It was really beautiful. Magical.
I guess for me, anything with stars, moon, night sky, warm breeze equates to magical.
Tropical fruits here. The fruits here are more expensive compared to Granada, I wonder why as they grow them here.
Spent a lovely day at Agua de Ojos (eye of the water). Apparently, it’s a lagoon with water from the volcano, rich with minerals and said to relax and rejuvenate one’s body, soul and mind.
Check them banana trees out! Taller than I am!
Strangely, there’s an abundance of banana trees but no bananas for sale. Or very few, and very expensive if some were to be found.
Reached the lagoon, first person here. Such pristine water, all to myself.
They say negative ions of water makes one happy…
Not sure how true that statement is, but I was definitely in a good mood that day.
Water was soo clear. Swam around and true enough, I felt really relaxed. So much so I fell asleep and woke up quite sunburnt
We moved around three accommodations on this island.
First one was fully booked the next few days so we moved on to another one nearby, which wasn’t that great.
Fallen mangoes outside the 2nd hostel’s room.
You wake up to cool sea breeze in your face as you have your breakfast facing the sea, enjoy watching animals roam around, including one big fat pig.
You also wake up to the rooster crowing too darn early at dawn (I thought dawn was 6am but that fellow starting crowing at about 4am! ).
Back to nature, I really didn’t want to leave.
Finally our 3rd hostel – San Fernando Hospedaje.
Lovely family run place, clean rooms and toilets, faces the sea and awesome host! Couldn’t ask for more honestly.
The rooms in front of the sea.
I remember walking to the sea in the morning, breathing in the sea breeze.
I remember the rooms were nice and they had hot water for shower!
That’s it – I think that was why we kept moving around !! City kids needed hot water to shower, in tropical weather, haha.
Waiting with fellow backpackers to take the bus back to the ferry.
So rustic. so hard to leave.
I miss this place.
That wraps up my stay in Nicaragua, before the trip, I’ve read that it’s a dangerous country and all of that.
Turned out to be my favorite country in Central America where I felt life slowed down and little things pieced themselves together and became magic for those who passed through.