I want to tell you about Nicaragua. I want to tell you about its people, its mountains, cities and beaches, its culture. I want to tell you about where to go and what to see. I want to, but I can’t. We had heard much of Nicaragua and our need to save enough time to explore its bounty, so we did exactly that. And while we absolutely loved the highlands of this beautiful country, the remainder of our experiences fell short of expectations. Somehow we were unable to find the connections, smiles and warmth we had experienced in Honduras; the adventure and living history of Guatemala; the laid back vibe of El Salvador. Somehow Nicaragua became the last and least flavorful course of the CA-4 (Central America 4 – Guat, Salvador, Honduras, & Nica).
As we moved from place to place we found ourselves repeatedly judging and comparing Nicaragua; which I assure you is a guaranteed way to miss out on a country’s unique worth. I’d also be remiss if I didn’t mention that we were hitting a bit of a traveling wall. It shouldn’t have, but Central America was beginning to blend together, and whispers of South America’s treasures had reached our ears. Sprinkle in some overpriced camping here and super-touristy-ness there and we became numb to spending more time getting to know Nicaragua.
So why write about Nicaragua at all? Mainly because our experience there doesn’t mean shit. If there is anything meeting other travelers has taught us it’s that everyone has different experiences. Different modes of transportation, different speeds, different seasons, different styles. The local family that invited you to dinner in their home won’t be at that table for the next traveler. A town can greet one person with blue skies and piss a month of rain on another. Just because we didn’t find our groove in Nicaragua doesn’t mean you won’t, and you sure as hell won’t know unless you go.
You’re obviously loyal followers of our social media pages, so you know that it wasn’t all turd muffins and stubbed toes. We did enjoy our time in Nicaragua, even if it fell a bit short of the high expectations. We found some gems and made great new friends. Here’s some of our travels to prove we’re not Debbie Downers, as well as a new section at the end.
Finca Esperanza Verde – Endless coffee, gardens and hiking. Apparently there are sloths on the property but those lazy jerks never moved so we couldn’t find them.
Volcan Masaya – You can drive to the top of this volcano and peer straight into its guts. It was so active that we were only allowed 15 minutes at the top. Drive up, snap pics and get out!
Lake Apoyo – The best part of Lake Apoyo was jumping off the dock like kids all day.
Granada – Beautifully colored, nice food and a slightly sketchy market. We love visiting the local markets in each town, on foot. Unfortunately, we were unaware that our GPS route to the hostel put us straight through market street, on a Sunday morning! Tortuga – 1, Bicycles – 0
Oops! The hotel where we chose to camp ended up being directly in the center of Granada’s Sunday street market. Once we turned into the madness we knew we had screwed up. It’s hard to tell in the video, but our truck and camper were far too wide and this 60 second clip is about 15 minutes of stressful driving. We barely fit between the the crowds, market stands and produce spilling into the road; during the cut in the middle of the video we were blocking traffic and paying a guy after we hit his bike. ? #travelamateurs #theadventurecontinues
Ometepe – Getting to Ometepe was a little adventure. The ticket office feels like you’re at a border crossing with several people offering help and quoting different prices. Apparently it’s as simple as talking to the guy sitting on the curb smoking a cigarette, as he’s obviously the one selling tickets for the barge. He walks behind the office window, takes our money, gives us a return time, settles back onto the curb and fires up another smoke. Easy does it fella…don’t wanna work too hard!
Once we load Tortuga onto the boat we settle into our seats and are handed life jackets. It’s already windy and something large and grey is rolling in over the water. I note the placement of our tires and periodically check during the ride over; the rocking of the boat has moved our rig almost six inches by the time we arrive.
On the island we relax with other travelers, cruise some of the sights and take it slow. Ometepe was a very cool place but we’re not sure it lived up to the hype, and at this point we were really wishing we had spent more time in the highlands. Relaxing days of hiking, coffee, yoga and cool mountain air are hard to beat.
San Juan del Sur – On our way down the coast we noticed a roof-top tent on a vehicle, then a hi-lift jack and U.S. plates. Great Odens Raven that must be an Overlander! Another loaded rig leads the pack and we all pull into the camping spot listed on iOverlander…figures. The roof top tent folks are Taylor and Mitch (South By Land) along with their friend Dylan.
After a few introductions and Instagram handles, Jenna and I set up camp while the others head to the beach. We’re settling into a place like so many others we’ve stayed. A hotel, restaurant or park of some sort, noticeably in the latter years of its operations. There’s a pool, palapas, water slide or stage, that’s gone from attraction to liability. The guise of these places scream big crowds and good times, but the reclusive owners and missing staff point to an end of days. This particular hotel-has-been boasts a fuzzy green pool and double-decker restaurant, but all we need is a level-ish parking spot, the location of the bathroom and the price of the beers.
We’re the only people on the property but the manager is all about hospitality so he sets up some big-ass speakers and a throwback playlist, volume level 1000! We crack open a couple beers for the mandatory party and wait for our friends to return. “It’s getting dark.” “Didn’t they say they were coming back to drink with us?”
Mitch & Taylor Have a Bad Day
Well past dark we open our camper door to catch the news from Taylor; some jackass broke into their car while they were surfing and got away with important gear. Now, this isn’t our story to tell but one part should and will be passed along. Only hours after having their home violated, these guys pulled out the “shit happens” card, cracked some beers, built a bridge and got over it. We loved their positive attitude in the face of tough times.
Mitch even recovered enough to go surfing again…and was subsequently stung by a sting ray. Maybe that’s our cue to head to Costa Rica. 🙂
In the Moment – I’ve decided to throw in a little section where I describe what’s happening as I write each post. How it’s going. Where we’re at. What we’re doing. So here goes.
Laptop on my…lap I hear trucks braking, scooters scooting and muffled Spanish all around. It’s Wednesday, but I wouldn’t have known that without checking, and we’re at a rest stop outside of Salento, Colombia. Yah, I know…our blog is behind the times, hella wack! It’s a cold rain, socks in bed, not-want-to-do-a-damn-thing kind of day. We watch three episodes of House of Cards, roll out of our sleeping bags and walk passed the ladies at the information window. They wear crisp matching red uniforms and I wave to the Coca-Cola pit crew, but instead of fresh rubber and a top off, we receive a smirky “Buenos dias” to our sandals, shorts and jacket attire. In our defense, Colombian weather is tricky, but in reality, we’ve been on the road too long to care. We’ve camped here two nights because it has wifi, nice bathrooms and it’s free.
I’m relaxing in the “loft” of our camper and Jenna’s in the kitchen/hallway/ guestroom/living room. She’s baking beer bread in our stove-top oven even though I told her doing dishes in a rest stop bathroom is gonna suck. My suggestion was to visit the restaurant across the street for the menu del dia. It would be our third visit but I prefer the cheap, and more accurately, lazy option. Secretly this also means I’ve distanced myself from the responsibility of said dishes while still getting to enjoy fresh baked bread. In an effort to sound productive I announce that I’ll write a blog post while she cooks, and here we are. No adventure, mishaps, notable occurrences or meaningful interactions today. Just resting at a rest stop, baking a lil bread and planning where to go next.
You definitely took the higher road, and that almost makes me want to give Nicaragua a third chance. Almost. We agree, everyone has a different experience, and most people love Nicaragua. For us, the border, the cops, the vibe just overshadowed the few great experiences. Great experiences like days spent at Rancho Los Alpes near Leon. In the end, we’ve decided life is too short, there’s lots to see, and not everyplace deserves 3 chances. Looking forward to reading about your travels in South America, be safe, and keep having fun!
Thank you for the comment, Colin! We couldn’t agree more. 🙂 Look forward to sharing a few beers and stories with ya’ll one day!
You were able to finally summit a volcano and see what’s going on!
Yes, and it was a little toasty up there! 🙂
Thanks for posting this after we visited Nica ; ) We couldn’t agree more so get your butts in gear and post some things about Costa Rica before we fly back to our van!
🙂 haha Would you expect anything else? Don’t worry, we’ll probably have CR posted by January or so…
Less than stellar times make for awesome stories later in life.
If it was always blue skies, it would be the same everywhere. That’s what we run from in order to see our world differently.
Here, here! Cheers to that. Thank for the comment, Mark.