A Travellerspoint blog

Las Penitas, Nicaragua - a corner of paradise

sunny 33 °C

Leon - where the revolution started
Our next stop for one night is Leon, another nice colonial town a little less renovated than Granada. Leon is also the birth place of the Nicaraguan revolution and we visited the historical museum where a lovely old boy who was part of the action narrated what happened along with vivid pictures.
he also took us on the roof of the once beautiful colonial building and the view over the city and mountains were spectacular.

Basically, prior to the revolution, the Somoza family had ruled the country for just over four decades but had done very little to help improve the lives of the people who were by and large unhappy with the state of the country. The final straw came in 1972 when a massive earthquake leveled Managua killing some 10,000 people and leaving approximately 250,000 homeless. International aid was sent to the country to help rebuild its capital city but instead of being used for this purpose it was embezzled by Somoza’s National Guard. While people mourned the death of those lost in the earthquake, they could not even afford to bury them properly and they faced the elements without food, clothing or shelter, the president’s personal finances rocketed to a whopping US$400 million within just two years of the tragedy. The injustice of the situation was clearly evident and even those who had previously supported the government now called for an overthrow due to lack of compensation. Suddenly Somoza was ruling over a country filled with subjects who simply could not stand for his rule. Minor skirmishes with guerilla forces started to become the order of the day. In December 1974, a guerrilla group infiltrated the house of the Minister of Agriculture and seized several government hostages. The minister himself was killed and fourteen Sandinista prisoners were released from jail. Of course the Somoza government fought back in all the underhanded ways that one would expect but Somoza had dug his own grave and it was only a matter of time before he was wounded and later killed. The people were liberated and the Sandinistas took power. During the initial twelve years that they were in power, the Sandinista National Liberation Front established democratic elections and a national constitution as well as instituting many other necessary governmental functions. Today the Sandinista National Liberation front is still an active political party known as the FSLN.

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Las Penitas - a beautiful fishing hamlet where life slows down
We take a shutlle from our hostel in Leon to Las Penitas. What they did not tell us is that we would be dropped of at the intersection with the main road. We started walking in the midday sun with all our heavy luggage, not realising our hostel was 5kms away! We arrive soaked and shattered! Fortunately, the hostel (run by french staff) is really lovely, beach front, palm trees, hammocks and friendly staff who offer us a very welcome juice.

We spend the next 2 days here, relaxing, reading, swimming, sunbathing, watching the sunset. It is just beautiful and the food is very good. I indulge in shrimps in coconut sauce. :)

No more to say other than admire the photos!

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Posted by Lifeis4living 11:08 Archived in Nicaragua Tagged sunsets_and_sunrises beaches animals english Comments (0)

Granada and the volcanos

overcast 29 °C
View South and Central America - Sept 14 on Lifeis4living's travel map.

Granada is a really lovely colonial town, clean and really well maintained. Lots of colourful buildings with great courtyards and a nice cathedral next to the main plaza. There is a main pedestrian street with lots of cafes and restaurant and we find an Irish pub with shepherds pie and Irish stew on the menu. After eating rice for almost 4 months, we can resist and I tuck in to a delicious shepherds pie.

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Lagoon del Apoyo
Just 10kms from Granada, we are booked at the Monkey Hut hostel which is located on the lake inside the crater of an extinct volcano, 20,000 years old. The crater is very wide. The water is really warm and is mean to have some healing properties. It's a shame that it is still really windy.

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We meet a couple of other people at the hostel and decide to do the 3 hr hike to the top of the mountain to see the view point. It's a long rocky narrow path through the forest and on the way we see howler monkeys, 2 guys with machettis (felt a little worried for a second) until they just passed us saying hello. Further up, some cows with big horns and more guys with machettis. This is obviously normal here, they actually sell machettis at the local market!

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One of the most spectacular thing we witness here is the moon rise. The moon is totally orange and rises from the edge of the crater. It looks just like a sunset but is going up rather than down, I've never seen the moon orange before! It only gets white once it rises higher in the sky.

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Santiago Volcano
Back in Granada for one night, we take a tour of the an active volcano where you can go right to the edge of the crater. We can see and smell the sulphur and it is a shame it is not clear as we are told that on clear days, you can actually see some red lava at the bottom of the crater.

It last erupted in 1782 but had a little explosion of stones and ash on 2012.

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Posted by Lifeis4living 11:07 Archived in Nicaragua Tagged sunsets_and_sunrises forest english Comments (1)

Nicaragua in January - a very windy place

semi-overcast

San Juan del Sur
Apparently January is a windy time in Nicaragua but even by their standard, it is much stronger than it should be. It is literally blowing a gale.

The next morning, I finally meet up with Louise, a girl from Jersey who I first met in Brazil and have kept in touch with. She is travelling with a young couple so there are now 4 of us.

The beach is not great in this gale so we are lucky to find a luxury hotel with a pool on top of the hill and they let us use the pool provided you buy drinks from their bar. Sounds very nice - we spend the whole afternoon there and watch the sunset.

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Eco lodge and playa Maderas
The next morning, we move a little further to a lovely eco lodge with a very nice restaurant and pool in the hills. Only $9 for a dorm bed, it's great. We spend 2 nights there chilling between the pool and the beach but it is still very windy.

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An interesting journey to Granada
After a couple of days, we move on again. We get to a town called Rivas where we split up. Louise and I want to go to Ometepe Island for a couple of nights as we have heard it is beautiful. It is also going to be completely ruined with the canal they are starting to build. Basically, the Nicaraguan government has approved the construction of a canal (by the Chinese) which will be like the Panama canal. They have not consulted the public, nor care about the massive environmental impact it will create. On top of that the Chinese are bringing their own people to build it so it will not even create jobs for the locals. People here are not happy about it but are afraid of their government so do not revolt or demonstrate against it.

Anyway, after paying $4 for a taxi to the port, we find out that the ferry is not running as it is too windy. Real disappointment! All we can do is go back to the town to find a bus to Granada.

We get into this taxi to go back and I soon realise that this is not a real taxi. Everyone with 4 wheels call themselves taxi drivers here. The driver asks us where we are going and we said we want to take the bus to Granada (about 1hr away) and he offers to take us there but there is no way I am going more than 2 miles in this pile of rust.

When we ask him to drop us off at the station, he says he can't go down that road as there might be police. He certainly did not have a taxi licence, and probably not insurance or even driving licence - who knows! So we leave him there and walk to the station.

My first time on the Chicken Bus
We board the only transport available, the chicken bus which will takes us to Granada for $1. My only condition is that my luggage does not go on the roof. Whilst we wait for the bus to leave, there are sellers waling up and down the bus shouting their goods, anything from drinks, food, shampoo, to dodgy watches. It's quite entertaining!

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Posted by Lifeis4living 17:22 Archived in Nicaragua Tagged landscapes beaches english Comments (1)

Costa Rica/Nicaragua border crossing - 4hrs in the sun :(

sunny 32 °C
View South and Central America - Sept 14 on Lifeis4living's travel map.

3rd January
Leaving windy Monteverde very early in the morning, the bus takes me through an unpaved mountain road where it is best not to look out of the window at the 200m drop. I (and a few other travellers, thankfully) eventually get dropped off at the intersection with the main road where we wait 10mns for the bus from San Jose. As expected the bus is already full (they always sell more tickets than seats) so it is standing space only hanging on to what you can for the next 50kms :(

We eventually get to the Costa Rica/Nicaragua border and as soon as we get off the bus there are hordes of people hassling you for anything from taxi, to money exchange and food/drink. Fortunately, I chatted to a nice Nicaraguan man travelling with his young daughter on the bus and he guides me to the right place, avoiding all the hasslers. I pay my $7 dollars for the privilege of leaving Costa Rica, get my passport stamped and we start walking across no-man's land to the Nicaraguan border.

First we have to get checked for dengue. Under a tent, a man takes your body temperature with a laser to check you have no fever, and then gives you a piece of paper to take with you. Walking along, there are hordes of people queuing in the sunshine. It looks likes total chaos.

We find the right queue and it is 4 hrs before I get to the kiosk. We see officials walking past holding bundles of passports, clearly a huge amount of bribery taking place for queue jumping from people who are on a tour bus., Whilst every other border I have been to took less than a minute at the kiosk, here everything is manual and the official has to fill in 3 forms for each person (4mns!) - Welcome to Nicaragua!

Whilst queuing I chat with a young guy from Quebec and a couple from Argentina who are all going to my destination (San Juan del Sur) so we share a taxi there. On arrival in the coastal town, everywhere is booked up for the night so I end up sharing a 4 bed room with the Argentinian couple.

Posted by Lifeis4living 16:41 Archived in Nicaragua Tagged english Comments (1)

Monteverde - Costa Rica

Zip lining over the forest canope

storm
View South and Central America - Sept 14 on Lifeis4living's travel map.

31st December
My trusted taxi driver Pedro picks me up at 8am to take me to Quito airport and I say good bye to him (no kiss this time lol) and to South America as I get on the plane. I have a 2hr transit in Bogota, Columbia, where there are more armed security and dogs than I've ever seen and I actually see a girl being escorted somewhere by 4 security guys. They don't mess around here and I am glad that my bags are padlocked.

I touch down in San Jose, Costa Rica and a taxi driver is waiting with my name on this sign - a good sign. The hostel has potential but the staff is less than friendly and not very knowledgeable. Also there's only one shower for 12 beds, not great! I have dinner with a nice lady from Switzerland and go to sleep early as I am tired from the travel. Ear plus in and I sleep right through the fireworks at midnight :)

1st January
Absolutely everything is closed in San Jose today so can't visit or see anything. As the hostel is not very nice, I decide not to waste the day and take the bus to Monteverde a day earlier than planned. Mountain dirt roads on the bus, a little scary but I eventually get there and find a nice hostel for the night and book myself a couple of tours for the next day. There's a group from Slovakia in the hostel playing their music really loud (bloody awful music too! :( )

2nd January
In the morning I visit a coffee, chocolate and sugar cane plantation which is really interesting. We go through the whole process which I won't go into here as it quite lengthy. A 30kg basket of beans produces about 3.5kg of coffee and the person harvesting gets about $2 per basket which takes about 40-45 mns to fill. Oh and I see a sloth, an animal I had never seen before.

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In the afternoon, I am booked for the zip lining tour over the forest canope - I know, mad! It is the longest in Central America with one zip line 1.5kms long and the equivalent of a 69 storey building high. We also do a 'superman/women' zip line where you are strapped horizontally and the finalle is the Tarzan swing which is basically a bungy jump but not upside down. A freefall for about 2 seconds and then swinging for the rope. I'm glad I did it but I dont think I would do it again! lol

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It is very windy in Monteverde and there is a storm in the evening and all internet is down which means I can't communicate with my friend Louise who I first met in Brazil and whom I am supposed to meet again tomorrow to cross the border to Nicaragua.

Posted by Lifeis4living 15:54 Archived in Costa Rica Tagged mountains landscape english Comments (1)

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