This post was supposed to be an itemised account of our expenditure in Nicaragua as a travel guide thing. However, due to unforeseen circumstances our situation changed and so that idea went out of the window. Now, instead of the accountants wet dream of a post, you’re saddled with the usual nonsense. So here goes…….
Nicaragua is known as being the cheapest and safest place in Central America but due to the afore mentioned circumstances, we spent a fortune and ended up in two different hospitals. Bah! We’ll get into that later though. Let’s start at the beginning.
After crossing the border and getting two buses we arrived at our first home for the night in Nicaragua: Esteli. Esteli is a small town and we pretty much saw all we needed to see in the first couple of hours of being there. Although it is safer than Honduras, on first impressions it was nowhere near as friendly. My constant “Holas” at anyone and everyone were largely ignored. Some people grunted back at me but we didn’t have strangers stopping us for chats or even smiling at us.
We had decided to take a day trip to Somoto the next day so after some food, a wander and some beers, we organised our trip through a tour agency and got ourselves an early night.
Somoto is a tiny little town not too far from the Honduras border. There is not too much of note in the actual town, but just outside is a canyon which was only discovered by the outside world in the 70’s. It was this canyon that grabbed our attention and the reason we would be getting up at the crack of dawn to head back in the direction of the Honduras border.
The canyon was ace fun. Dressed in shorts, T-shirts and borrowed footwear, we walked through some fields until we reached the canyon. Once entering the canyon we swam, climbed and jumped our way through until we reached the end where we were met by boats. These boats then took us to some more fields where we finished off the mornings fun and games with another brief walk back to the meeting point for a spot of lunch.
The first signs that Nicaragua was going to be a bitch to us, appeared in Matagalpa. After a stroll round the town we stopped for street food. There was little choice and everything contained gluten. Whilst I got myself a hotdog, a meal which is fifty percent gluten, Dom opted for a keebab from the stall next door. The keebab was also a meal that had a high percentage of wheat but her options were slim. She gave me the bread and for once in her life, did not offer me any of the meat. This selfishness backfired and that evening, she spent the whole night being sick out of both ends.
Aside from a hike up to the cross of Christ, the local baseball team parading their trophy through the town on the back of a truck, some new food discoveries, and a couple of coffees with a Latin American Brexit fan, Dom’s food poisoning episode was the main memory of Matagalpa.
Leon was cool. An ace city with loads going on. Our first night turned out to be a pricey one as we fine-dined and drank two bottles of wine. We even went to a karaoke bar where a kind stranger helped out when Dom took her turn on the microphone.
The following day we took a day trip to the beach where we body surfed and burnt our feet on the red hot sand. We also met an old sea dog who got us excited with tales about boat adventures. Luxury yacht owners desperate for company, would pick up tourists in Panama and sail them to Colombia. All you had to do was go to an island and wait for the rich sailers to come and pick you up. We’d be lazing on a deck, drinking bubbles in the Caribbean sea in a month or two. Thanks to the Internet, we later found out he’s a liar and our ideas of hitting the high seas on a super yacht were scuppered.
We left Leon again the next day, although only temporarily. We went to Jiquilo and again swam in the sea all day. I am turning into a water baby out here. The water is lovely and I am taking full advantage. We pretty much had the entire beach to ourselves too. Our only company were a couple of pigs which we assume were digging up crabs and eating them.
The next day we went on a canoe tour which was murder in the heat. The sun beat down on us, forcing me to squint and ensuring that I didn’t see any of the promised wildlife that was on offer.
Following the canoe tour, we went swimming again. This time we didn’t have the beach to ourselves. We were joined by a Dutch couple we had met over dinner. After a soak and a spot of lunch, me and the Dutch dude hired a surfboard for an hour. Surfing was ace fun, but obviously pretty difficult for someone with the balance of a one-legged drunk.
Leon part 2
After three days of the beach it was time to soak up some culture rather than sun, sea and surf. Our day started with an art gallery and ended in a museum that was like a child’s version of Madame Tussauds. The waxworks resembled the Guy Fawkes that kids used to knock up in the UK in the approach to bonfire night. An excellent day out.
If the day of culture wasn’t interesting enough, the following day we decided to hike an active volcano. The hike itself was pretty easy and the views at the top were awesome, but as it had been raining overnight, the ground was quite slippery and on the descent, Dom slipped and did herself in. A trip to the hospital was in order with a suspected broken ankle, cuts to the face, and yet another bout of whiplash.
The hospital gave Dom an X-ray which showed that her ankle wasn’t broken. It was just heavily sprained but would still take a lot of time to heal. There wasn’t a doctor qualified to examine her neck X-rays however and so we were transferred to a different hospital. The other hospital said it would be £1,000 for the MRI scans. A doctor had kindly looked at the neck X-rays free of charge and said that it was probably just whiplash. Satisfied that her neck wasn’t broken and terrified of a £1,000 bill, we phoned our mate in Granada and arranged transport to his house. It had been a nightmare day and as Dom was pretty much wheelchair bound and unable to carry any bags, our friend sent a taxi for us.
Whilst in Leon we had spoken to a girl who taught English as a second language. She told us that she worked online and chose her own hours. This sounded good to us and as fate would have it, a friend who lives in Granada emailed Dom to say there were places available on a TEFL course at his school. We would get the course and accommodation for a bargain price of £300 each. Perfecto. We both signed up.
Unfortunately, Dom’s body wasn’t allowed out of bed for a while and so she was unable to do the course. She also couldn’t shower, cook, wrestle or anything else that involved anything other than simply using her eyes. This meant that I was now a student and carer, and for the first two weeks it was exhausting. Hat’s off to all those that nurse people back to health. It’s no easy task and you’re all heroes. Fortunately, Dom was bored out of her mind being a patient and so after a fortnight of watching TV in bed, she courageously went against Dr Leeroys orders, declared herself almost fit, and took it upon herself to cook all the meals. She also did a two week Spanish course to try and improve her grasp of the language.
It wasn’t all work and no play in Granada. I managed to accidentally take part in a bull run one Sunday whilst attempting to go to the bakers for some cakes. I knew there was a bull run that day and watched from the safety of a pick up truck as a load of people ran from them. I didn’t see any bulls though as they apparently ran down a different street. I took this to mean it was now safe to continue my journey to the bakery and followed a large crowd up the street. Within a couple of minutes the crowd in front of me turned and ran back in the direction we had just come from. I guessed this meant the bulls had found us and so turned and ran too. I was in flip flops so it wasn’t easy and my footwear offered no protection as I kicked a kerb and cut my toe open. It was a false alarm too. Again people were running away from no bulls.
I went on to pass my TEFL course and so as soon as I get my certificate, some unfortunate souls will be having me as their teacher. If only my actual school teachers could see me now.
Isle of Ometepe
With my TEFL course passed and Dom fit enough to continue our adventure, we escaped from Granada and made our way to the Isle of Ometepe. After a sweltering bus ride and a journey across the lake on what felt like a death trap of a boat, we arrived on the island which is home to two volcanos. Dom’s ankle meant hiking them was off the cards though and so we rented a motorbike and went exploring.
I hadn’t ridden a motorbike for years and so was a little rusty at first but soon we were flying. The road signs confused me too. I was looking at one wondering what someone looking under a car could mean when a speed hump appeared out of nowhere. I eventually found out that the sign was a speed hump and not a badly drawn person inspecting his car.
We rode the length of the island, stopping only for lunch, ice-cream and when I went through a river in the wrong gear. We also went for a dip in a natural swimming pool which was freezing cold. Nothing like the seas which I have grown to love. The day of biking is up there with the best days we’ve had on the trip. Nicaragua had been in fun in parts but the memories will mostly be of the hard times, and so we were not sad to say goodbye and continue South. Next stop Costa Rica.