“To travel is to discover everyone is wrong about other countries.” -Aldous Huxley
After the epic adventure to get to this fabled land of Nicaragua I was ready to explore it. At the time of buying said ticket we were “convinced” that Leon (where we were dropped off) was every bit as charming as Granada (where we were heading). Shame on me for listening to this nonsense! After one night and half day in Leon we were ready to head out and drug our travel weary bums to the bus station for Granada.
Skip ahead a few hours and Granada was a little slice of perfection after days in dirty vans and dirty cities. This is a place where locals literally pull up rocking chairs and watch the world go by, my kind of place. We spent a few days taking it slow, wandering around town and sampling cheap local fares. We met a few other Americans at a bar, one who regaled us with very paranoid stories throughout the night. Apparently the Swedish boat we were going to be sailing on was probably running drugs and places we were planning to go in Nicaragua were very very dangerous. We met two other nice younger guys who were living in Granada for a year and would continue to run in to them in the upcoming week in Isle de Ometepe.
Isle de Ometepe was a magical place where two volcanos are connected by an isthmus which transformed the landscape into something close to perfection. We arrived perfectly in time for mango season and the dirt roads were littered with fallen fruit. Horses and pigs alike wandered the street snacking on the ripe flesh. We also wandered the street snatching up the sweet jewels and diving for cover (under tin roofs) as the wind picked up and hurled fruit at our heads. Other activities included a few swims in Lake Nicaragua (where supposedly bullsharks lurk – yikes), bicycling and picnics. We did an all day hike up Volcan Madera which we nicknamed “steep as shit” as we had to clamber up the volcano, at times, by literally climbing up trees and steel ropes. Our 20 years old guide did this in converse shoes while smoking cigarettes and was more concerned about his music selection than his footing. He put us to shame.
Our final days were spent in a small town called El Castillo on the Rio San Juan which borders Costa Rica. All transport was by boat as no roads exist. To reach this end of the road we first took an overnight ferry filled with bananas and slept out on the deck underneath the stars. Once in El Castillo we found a room that overlooked the river, hammock and mosquito net included. A local guide took us down the river and through the jungle. He pointed out medicinal plants, poisonous frogs and fresh jaguar prints.
Life seemed to move at a very natural pace in rhythm with the river.