Nicaragua

The most fascinating country in whole of Central America

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Exchange rate at time of travelling: 1 dollar to 22 Cordoba

 

29.01.2011

Once at the border to Nicaragua, I reluctantly paid 12 dollars (they did not even want to accept cordoba, the local currency) for the visa. When then trying to find the last bus, I got told that indeed there was no more buses, the last one having left 15 minutes early. Awesome!!!

Luckily, a King bus (an international bus full of tourists) agreed to take me to Somoto, the next town 20 km away, for 2 dollars (after much bargaining). In Somoto, I made the bargain of the months by pure luck. I asked for direction to a cheap hostel at an hotel that was really far above my means (tourist prices were 20 dollar per night), however one last room was available and that room was proposed to me for initially 10 dollars, which I managed to bring down to 120 C. Turned out that it had once been a really nice room, but now still was a quite nice room which needed a bit of a make-over (a tiny bit of mould on the wall), however never worth 20 dollars per night...Somoto is a colonial town with nice Spanish architecture. As I realised that day already, there was nothing to do in Somoto, no sights to see apart from flaundering through the town for a bit. However one interesting thing still happened to me.

As I was eating in a local eatery, I heard that a band was playing heavy rock next door. Intrigued, I went to see the place for myself afterwards. Right at the door, I already got greeted by a couple of people who amicably introduced themselves and invited me to go in to, what I thought was a rock concert. It turned out that it was a christian mass (religious ceremony)....

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Yes, believe it or not, unlike in Europe, the mass was accompanied by distorted guitars, synthesizer and drums. It was unbelievably different than the masses we have in Europe. Furthermore, everyone seemed to be singing the praise songs to God accompanied by hard rock guitars. It was quite an experience. I wanted to leave just before the ceremony because I was dead-tired, however as soon as the ceremony started the priest formerly acknowledged my presence as a guest at the ceremony, people got up to greet me and I was trapped. I could not leave right there and then. Due to my lack of spanish, I did not understand anything at the ceremony.

After half an hour, I decided to leave, however, the looks that I got when I was leaving where reminding me that not too long ago, someone was lynched in Central America for disrespecting the Catholic Church. I quickly went to my hotel and to bed...

30.01.2011

In the morning, I had a stroll through the village and soaked up the sleepy atmosphere of the town. Since it was a sunday, not many people where on the street and most shops were closed.

Somoto is a beautiful village set in a valley, surrounded by tall, forresty mountains which can be constantly seen wherever one is. As already said, unfortunately, there is not much more to the town. The mountains decidedly are not helpful for orientation. They all look the same: after about 1 and half hours of wandering through the streets, I was lost. Finding my way back again however was easy. Everybody here is really nice, so it was a small thing to stop and ask someone for directions. All taken together, Somoto is a really nice town to see, however, due to the lack of interesting things to see, not worth staying at more than one night.

DSCF1951 (Copy)The town of Somoto was relatively sleepy...

 

At noon, I left the town on an Estelli bound bus (25 C) which was 2 bus hours away. After some trouble with accomodation, I found a nice enough hospedaje (cheap guesthouse) for 80 C and set out to explore the town. Estelli again is a nice town (the spray painted murals are really worth seeing), however there is no reason to stay for more than a night.

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In the evening, I met a couple of fellow travellers. They told me about this nice place that they wanted to visit which is not in my guide. As I had no other plans for the moment I decided to come with them the next day.

31.01.2011

We had decided to meet up at the bus station at 6.15 in the morning. For me it was crucial that the people were there because I did not even now the name of the place . Still half asleep I stumbled to the bus station and luckily both Max (the guy I had met the previous day) and Elena (his girlfriend) were there. They had changed their mind and did not want to stay the night at Tisey (they had told me the name), and unlike me, did not have their main backpack. During the day, both proved to be very agreeable travelling companions.

There were two buses leaving to the national park of Tisey. One in the morning and one late in the afternoon. Right upon arriving, we got told that neither of them were running.

Luckily, we met a local who told us that the only possibility to get to Tisey was to walk 4-5 kilometers from the next town San Nicholas into the national park of Tisey (luckily I pack utra-light, less than 7 kilos). That walk turned out to be a superb idea. We got dropped off at a very small town about an hour away from Esteli (so I would guess not more than 20 to 30 kilometers).

The path led through very tranquil agricultural country side, the path dotted by little cots that did not have flowing water (we saw women pumping up the water from a well) and looked really poor. In general, the way that this region looked was completely different from what I had seen in the cities (although for security reason I had decided not to go into the poor outskirts of the cities and therefore had not seen the poor places of the cities). It was really awesome.

DSCF2009 (Copy)Beautiful rural landscape in Tisey

 

National Park Tisey

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After having walked for about 50 minutes, we arrived at the Ecoposada Tisey, an absolutely beautiful hostel set in the lush nature of the Tisey valley. 

After leaving my bag (I was staying the night there), we went to the Mirador (viewpoint) of Tisey which allowed an absolutely fabulous view of the whole surrounding (we could look as far as Granada). Again the photos show it best...

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Condor: National Park Tisey

The other big attraction of Tisey were the cliff carvings made by an excentric artist of the region. First we had really trouble finding it. Tisey is already a lost spot on the map. However, to get to the cliff carvings, one has to walk twenty minutes down the road in direction of San Nicholas, and then continue right down the mountain of the path (no signs), for another 10 minutes and then enter the forest and walk through another couple of minutes of forest.

Only then, if one can find it that far, does one come to a really unrewarding huddle of huts. We had luckily met the artist by pure luck just off the path to San Nicholas and therefore were able to find it. The artist led us to a couple of stones that he had recently engraved and, considering the location, we were not expecting anything big. Turned out we were wrong.

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Engraved stones Park Tisey

A couple of hundred meters through a very lush and very well kept garden that spotted plants from all over the world, we came to a cliff. We were absolutely abashed as soon as we saw it. The man had spent 35 years carving the 200 meters or so of wall. It looked amazing, and I bet is unique in the world. Such a thing! Each engraving represented a different part of the Nicaraguan culture. Just look at the photos and be amazed.

Wall engraving continues...

Start of the wall engraving in Tisey

and continues...

...and continues...

Engraved Jesus statue

The engravings still continue...

We are approaching the end of the engravings...

The end of the engravings (actually the artist told me he wants to continue until he drops dead)

 

Afterwards, the two Italians and me went to the small town of Gagamache (or something like this). This small village is nothing special- a small village set up in a really difficultly accessible place- but for the cheesery there that produced good cheese (unlike the only Nicaraguan cheese (capadaj) that tastes as if someone vomitted in your mouth...) that was inspired from cheeses in Europe. After our dinner there (including the local cheese), we found out the reason for this "good" cheese. One of the inhabitants is an immigrated Italian that used to work in the cheese factory in Italy.

By the time our talk with the Italian ended, my travelmates had to return to catch the last bus back to Estelli, therefore I went back. Over lunch, I had my first political conversation with the owner of the Posada. During it, I learned a lot about the current political situation in Nicaragua, which I will not recount here. After that, I went to bed. It was superbly quiet...

 

01.02.2011

I woke up quite early. After finding out when the bus would leave, I quickly took a shower and left with the bus that came at 8.30. I did not have to walk up to San Nicholas this time (the town where we were dropped off): the bus had been repaired. For a mere 13 C, I took the bus back to Esteli. From Esteli, I had first wanted to go to the town of Matagalpa, however, half way, I changed my mind and headed straight to Leon, changinging at San Isidor (to San Isidor, its 15 and to Leon a further 35C). I arrived in the early afternoon and went to look for the popular backpacker hostel. I had so long not been speaking English, German or French (apart from with the Italians) that I just felt like going to a backpacker place. After some searching, I found it and it turned out not to be too bad or overpriced due to the fierce competition it had. It had a lovely courtyard and good sized rooms (actually all of the hostels I had a look at in Leon were quite good, just take any).

 

After chatting with some French Canadians, I started to explore the city. Like Somoto, it was a colonial city, built in the Spanish style, with European architecture and lovely colours. Again, the whole town was centered around a church, however this time it was a little bit more formidable than what I had seen previously.

Cathedral of Leon (with a lion in front of it. Leon in spanish)

The interior was a little spartan

The cathedral of Leon is the biggest cathedral of whole Central America and it is indeed huge. However, it can be clearly seen that it is quite bad repair. The cathedral itself is beautiful to see and the park in front of it is at all times full of people talking, eating or just sitting there.

Very distorted panorama but the only way I could get the whole on it...

The rest of the city is less interesting. Indeed, it does have its fair share of churches (and indeed quite beautiful ones), however it looks pretty much like Somoto or Estelli. Nothing special. The cheapest food I found near the parque central, where a street stall was selling a goodsized meal of arroz (rice), frijoles (beans) and enchilada (bread) for 25 C.

In the evening, I met a couple of Canadians at the hostel. We were soon joined by three German girls (the German girls were volunteering in Leon) and all of us went out partying for a bit, which was not very good. That night, I overspent my budget by quite a lot (round about 7 dollars).

The people I met at Leon

02.02.2011

After waking up, I paid my room (I wanted to leave Leon that day) and went out to look at Leon. My previous day impression was fortified. There was really not much to see apart from the colonial style houses and a lot of churches. It was still a good-looking city but, for me, who has seen so much during the last 7 months, it was nothing special. Just another city in a developing country (a quite rich one to be fair).

At around twelve, I left with all my stuff to the bus station. The bus station was "quite far" away (half an hours walk, which, for me, is nothing) which allowed me to have a nice stroll through the rest of town and gave me an extended look at the city outside of the touristy center. Leon is quite unusual in that the touristy city center as well as the non-touristy outskirts of the city present the same facade. Usually the touristy part is very clean and neat while the outskirts of the city are in total disrepair. Obviously, the most beautiful parts of the city are usually the richer parts but in most third world country cities I have seen, this is exageratedly so. Not in Leon though.

One of the many new churches in Leon

The bus was on time and the journey unadventurous and short (barely half an hour, 10C) to arrive at the tiny town of Las Peñitas. I had met a fellow German on the bus who had the same destination as me. It turned out that Julius was currently living in a small and very poor town "near" Ocotal (4 hours bus ride away) and was for the moment travelling. During the next two days we struck up a friendship.

I stayed at the hostel Playa Roca and slept in a shitty dorm that was not really worse the money- a prison cell would have been more accomodating (6 dollars). The good thing about it though was that it was located directly at the beach. It turned out to be quite fun.

Sunset at Penitas

Most of the people that were at the beach when we arrived turned out to have been day trippers, coming in from Leon and, in the evening, leaving back to Leon. Which meant, during afternoon, the beach was full and during the evening, nearly now one was staying at the hostel...

The beach was completely deserted in the late afternoon

 

After finding some cheap place to eat (I seem to have develloped a sixth sense for finding cheap places), Julius and me bought some rum and drank in the bar till late with the other three persons who were staying in the hostel (there was litteraly nothing to do in the evening... apparently during the weekend it got a bit livelier). Even though, there was nothing really to do, this chilling out by the beach stayed pleasantly in my memory.

 

03.02.2011

I had a fun day at the beach, The waves were awesome! Some were between 2 and 3 meters high! I found out that body surfing is a hilarious way to play with waves. Just before the wave, one accelerates to the speed of the waves and then lets himself be carried with the waves until the beach. I managed to body surf for say one to two hundred meters. It was awesomely fun. That night, it was only Julius and me at the hostel.

The waves were 2 or 3 meters high.

 

04.02.2011

I had decided to leave at 12 back to Leon and on to Granada from there. From the bus terminal of Las Paletiñas, we took a collectivo for 15 C to the main bus terminal to Leon where I took a bus to Managua (25C) and from there a further local bus (2.5C) to the University of Central America (UCA confusingly pronounced "ouka") from where the buses to Granada leave (20 C) (don’t ask, it is like this…). After arriving near the Parque central, I went to find a hostel. After some searching, I found an acceptable one for 110 C (however, I found out that right next to my bed, on the other side of the wall was the toilet and, since the wall of the toilet did not go all the way to the roof, I could hear every sound that somebody made in the bathroom...). By then it was near sunset and all I did was to go to the Parque central for a few photos.

The region around the Parque Central is really quite beautiful. It is immediately recognisable that Granada is, comparatively, a very wealthy city. The Parque Central is totally clean, the houses are in superb repair, the church is beautiful and the Parque is just marvelous. The best way to get an impression of Granada is to have a look at the photos.

Beautiful church right next to the plaza centrale

I went early to bed because after three nights of moderate drinking I was quite tired.

 

05.02.2011

I got up early and started wandering through the city. The first impression that I got of the city was not wrong. It is indeed a beautiful and rich city, however, here the disparity between touristy place and non-touristy place could be seen. On the main touristy strip, the houses were in superb repair, however when one left the touristy strip, the houses were in worse shape, the streets not quite as clean.

A house in the non-touristy part of Granada

 

A view in the rich part of Granada including the sumptious cathedral

The disparity however was not as big as I have seen in Asian cities (ie Jakarta or Hong Kong). However, Granada is relatively small and once I had spent two hours exploring the town and visited the market (same as any market here in Central America and far less chaotic than the Asian ones, but essentially the same) I was bored.

 

Luckily, I then met Rob, a Canadian I had met in Leon previously in company of three Nicaraguans (Elvira, a 22 yr old beauty, mother of Adriana (8 years old, outcome of a rape) and her friend Renee (very very very Gay 18 year old of undefinable gender) with whom I got to be close friends over the next couple of days. All 5 of us decided to go the new hostel just on the outskirts of Granada called Treehouse (search online how to get there, it was not easy…). It consists of several woodhuts built into trees in the middle of the jungle. From the bar, which is 200 m from the main dormitory, an exhausting trip up the mountain, the view is just stunning.

The 5 of us at the Treehouse (including a randomer at the total right)

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Here, for following on purposes, it should be said that Rob and Elvira were seeing each other and were a somewhat unlikely couple. However, as soon as I started travelling with this group, Elvira and me started flirting with each other. This part of the information will be important for understanding the next couple of days.

In the afternoon, we went to San Caterina, near the Laguna de Apoyo (Only way I can remember the name is as Laguna de Pollo, the lagoon of chickens) (from Treehouse two taxis, one there and one back for 80 and 100 C, which is very expensive. From there we went to a superb view point that overlooked the volcanic Lagoon of Apoyo. It was very beautiful.

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In the evening, we went to the bar and drank a view drinks until Adriana (the girl) started to fall asleep in the bar.

 

06.02.2011

We, meaning all 4 of us, left that day towards Rivas and Isla de Ometepe. The bus stop was relatively near the hostel (well we got driven by the owner of the hostel so it wasn't that far) and from there we took a bus to Rivas (30C). We stopped near San Jorge, took a further taxi to the Jetty of the ferry to Isla de Ometepe. The ferry left two hours later so I had, after a lunch and with conversation solely in Spanish, a nice little stroll around the "town". It consisted of a couple of huts, a sand beach and loads of Nicaraguan tourists with their kids.

A view of the Isla de Ometepe!

It really was nothing to look at, however did give some insight into how Nicaraguan people pass their Suday: near the beach with whole family, the only difference to us being in the mean chosen to travel there. In Nicaragua, it is the bus, in Europe, the car is generally preferred.

Shortly afterwards, I boarded the boat to the Isla de Ometepe (60C). On it, I met a couple of Americans with whom I started speaking, somewhat relieved that I could speak any language but Spanish with someone. Once on the other side, we took a further taxi to the Playa de Santo Domingo, although Elvira kind of got steamrolled into taking a taxi with us to Santo Domingo by Rob. She is a person working and studying in Nicaragua (no idea how she does it: she has got a full time job, studies and has a kid of 8), therefore even spending 2 dollar on a taxi ride is expensive for her (she had to pay for her daughter and Rene as well...) and, after she found a place, was so pissed off with Rob that the rest of the night, she completely ignored him and was flirting extensively with me.Rob, sensing the mood, went off to an early night, while Elvira and me were trying out our luck at Bachata dancing (a kind of 1-2 step with a little waggling of the hip) as well as Salsa (at which, to my surprise, I was quite good at, not having done it for at least 5 years) while Rene, the stereotypical gay person, was watching us. Awesome night!

Elvira and me at the dancing place.

07.02.2011

I was working on my travel diary in the morning. Elvira came over later on with her daughter and her friend. After some language difficulties, I understood that she had said goodbye to Robert and that she wanted to move onto the next town (which is understandable because there was litterally nothing to do here in Santo Domingo. On the way, we met a Spanish 40 year old guy (never really got his name, it was something like Ruben) with whom we decided to travel. We took the next bus to Merida, a town located on the more backward part of Ometepe (15C).And yes, it was far more backward. The road disintegrated to a dirt road shortly after Santo Domingo and then to an incredibly bumpy dirt track. The bus was crawling along in first gear at no more than walking speed and we were shaken from side to side. After one hour, we arrived finally in Merida, which is a relatively small town of 1800 poor farmers. The Haciendas de Merida, which is located exactly where every tourist gets dropped off by the bus, is situated on the shore of the lake. Although it looks really fine, it is far too overpriced (9 dollars per night) so instead we chose the ranchero right next door for 4 dollars a night. Unfortunately, I then let Adriana have a go at my camera and now i ended up with loads of photos of Rene posing in every position (I deleted them all and kept only the photo of Adriana in her sunglasses). 

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In general, the day was quite a lot of fun, although the Spaniard as well as Rene were unintelligible for me (they spoke too fast and with an accent that I could not understand). The other fun thing that occured was that I went swimming with the group. Not only was the dress of Elvira transparent when wet (all Nica girls are going fully dressed into the water... something that I have encountered in every third world country which probably has to do with the relatively low women rights) but I also found out that she, nor Rene, were able to swim.

The view from our hostel!

Elvira did not dare to go into the water

This on the other hand is quite understandable. They grew up in a city. In Nicaragua, things like swimming pools are usually only available to the tourists and to the very rich. In the night, we talked a bit more and then played the drinking game "21" (Adriana was drinking Fanta instead of Rum and Coke). Rene was the absolute looser at this game, somehow not being able to understand the rules. It was all really quite funny...

08.02.2011

In the morning, all of us went back to Moyogalpa. Elvira and the others had to leave that day, which I was really quite sad about. Although I had liked Elvira, I knew that there was no chance for any kind of relationship. She has a kid and I want to continue my travels. The bane of the lone traveller…

 After saying good-bye to them I went to Chargo Verde, still on the island of Ometepe, a quite bad value hostel where I met an american couple with whom I continued travelling. To be fair there was nothing really noteworthy about Chargo Verde.

 

09.02.2011

In the morning, at around 7, I went to the nearby nature park near Santo Domingo and had a round walk there.Here it is also important to mention that the lake Cicobolga (Lago de Ometepe) has been running very very high this year. Nearly all the beaches around the island have disappeared (which is why there was nothing to do at the Playa de Santo Domingo, Santo Domingo not having a playa anymore). We had to wade through just such a flooding in order to continue along our route which took us on a bit of a roundabout route through the park. We saw a couple of howler monkeys as well as lots of birds. 

A couple of Howler monkeys in the nature park near Santo Domingo

Afterwards, me and the American couple went to the town of Santa Cruz. From there, we walked to Merida. We got told that it would be a small walk of 30 minutes. Turned out that it was over 2 hours long. We came past plantain and orange plantations and past the houses of the farmers. Those farmers did belong to the poorer part of Nicaragua. The houses were just ramshackles, however the people were generally nice to us.

A child in the poor part of Ometepe asked me to take a photo of her... so I did, and it has become one of my best!

The landscape was amazing. After two strenuous hours of walk, we came to Merida where we found a cheap Comedor (can also be called a "Soda" in Nicaragua) and had lunch there (comedor means eatery in Spanish). I found shortly afterwards a hostel that also offered a camping option. The place looked awesome, right by the lake.

DSCF2716 (Copy)I took it. Later on in the afternoon, I went for a swim through the lake and decided to swim the kilometre or so from my hostel to the hostel of the American couple.

Turned out to be a bit harder than i thought because I did not have any visual clue if I was swimming in a straight line (no goggles…). Therefore I could swim 10 strokes and then had to look up in order to reorient myself. Once at the start, I didnt do that for something like 5 minutes. Next time when I looked up, had swum a 180 degree turn without realising and was swimming back the directions from which I had come….

Sunset at Merida

10.02.2011

In the morning, i had wanted to meet up with the American couple that I had met the previous day in order to go with them to the nearby waterfall (and to leave my computer in their secure hotel room. However, when I came to their hotel, I got told that they had left already on the bus, which turned out to be a wrong information. The locals can tell difficultly the difference between us whites (although the Central American people are somewhat better at distinguishing us than Asians).

Frustrated because I thought they had left me, I went back up to my tent where I had locked my tent (for security reasons had taken my computer as well as my money and passport with me). I had wanted to leave those with the American couple in their hotel room, however with them not there I had to work it differently. I had a second lock in my bag and therefore locked my bag and then locked my tent as well. I assumed that the tent could have been broken open by the people who were watching the place, however the whole bag never would disappear.

It is a risk that I was taking, however considering that it was in the countryside which has next to no criminality as compared to a city, I thought it was an acceptable risk. Afterwards, I went to walk to the next town of San Ramon. After 40 minutes of walk along the dirt track, which was actually quite nice, I arrived at San Ramon and was pretty happy that I did not stay in this town as I had initially wanted.

 It consisted mainly of very big villas, a refuge for rich expats. It wasn't a very beautiful place. The path up to the waterfall goes through a national park (entrance 3 dollars), up a long road which provides access to the small but efficient power station.

This powerstation was also very interesting. The water came all the way from the waterfall (which was a long way (40 minutes hike) up from the powerstation. The waterfall in itself is very small. It only has enough water to act like a big shower (it was dry season here...), and a single waterpipe with about 15-20 centimeter diameter was leading away from it, which cannot transport much water. It must have been the really high difference in the height that must have produced the power to the powerstation. However this would mean that the whole tube was standing under absolute immense pressure (the height difference was about 300-400 m). My scientific brain went on to speculate about the thickness of the metal needed to resist the immense water pressure at the bottom…

Anyway, the way up was really quite a lot longer than I expected and near the top, I met the American couple that I was supposed to leave with in the morning. The guy at the hostel had just confused them with other ones. After some chitchat, I continued.

On the path up to the waterfall! Once up at the waterfall, I was seriously drenched in sweat and lacking water (I had finished my bottle of water already) and nearly fell into the pool that was forming at the bottom of the waterfall out of eagerness to get in there. The waterfall itself was very small in the amount of water that was coming through, however really quite high and beautiful. Again here I am not going to describe them more: just have a look at the photos.

The waterfall at San Ramon did not carry much water but was still beautiful!

 

After running down the path again, I took the bus back to the hostel. There I phoned Elvira and asked her if she would have time for me if I came back to Leon. She did.

11.02

I took the early bus from Merida to Moyogalpa (24 C) and from there took a Lancha (a small boat) to the main land. The lanchas are a lot cheaper (30C) than the ferry and if possible take these instead of the more expensive ferry. The service is exactly the same, you get driven across the water on a very old boat.

 

 

From there, I took an express to Managua (55 C). In Managua, another local bus to the UCA and there I had to wait for 1.5 hours for a minibus in a very long queue. It was Friday, so everybody who was working during the week in Managua was going back home to Leon on the weekend. I arrived in Leon late in the evening and Elvira and me agreed to meet up in the Via via (a hostel) at 10 for a concert. She never turned up so I was just chatting to some friends that I had met the previous time in Leon. I even met Julie again who I had first met in the Bay Islands on Honduras.

My friend Julie and me meet again 600 km from where we met the first time

Later on, we moved on to Cama Leon, where I finally met up with Elvira. However, I was still quite pissed off with her for standing me up so all that resulted was a couple of cuddles and that was it. She felt ill and left early on.

 When I came back really dehydrated from a lot of alcohol, I drank some water. That’s when the worst night of my life started…

 I immediatly puked it back up and the diarrhea started as well. I could not keep a drop of water in the stomach and I was constantly losing water due to the diarrhea. As soon as I drank, I puked it back out. I was so thirsty already before going to bed and then could not take any water to me.

 

12.02.2011

I barely slept at all because of thirst. In the end, at around 6 am, I decided it would be great to keep at least some water to myself, so I drank only a gulp and had to stare at the bottle of water for half an hour like a dying man before I could take the next gulp. It was horrible. In three hours, I drank one whole bottle of water and was feeling marginally better so for the next two bottles I only took 2 hours. That whole day I wasn’t able to do anything at all apart from lying still and trying not to throw up.

 

13.02.2011

In the morning, I felt a lot better. After some very light breakfast (I still didn’t trust my stomach to be able to handle anything), i started to work the whole day on some personal stuff still left from home. At 5, I was supposed to meet Elvira for a cup of coffee, however she stood me up, excused herself and wanted me to meet her at 6. She stood me up for that again because she forgot and then I said fuck it and went back home.

 

14.02.2011

I left early morning to San Juan del Sur (my friend Malcolm who I had chatted to over the Internet had convinced me to do so). The first bus I took was to Managua (35 c) and from there, I shared a taxi (and yes, I cracked and gave in to the ease of use of the taxi) with a french couple to the Bus station that served the south of Nicaragua. I took an express bus to Rivas for 55 C. From there, I waited on the interamericana for a couple of minutes till a bus to San Juan came past (20 C). San Juan is the most touristy town of whole Nicaragua, famous for its beach (which is OK but nothing special) as well as for the beaches in the surroundings that are apparently very beautiful for surfers. It is also incredibly famous with yacht owners who can use the shallow bay to anchor safely.DSCF2759 (Copy)

In general, one can say that the town belongs to the categories of Gringo towns that are rather avoided. However, if one wants to do nothing at all but read in calm and talk to other travellers who speak English, then this town is actually not bad.

True it is touristy, however if going during low season, it is still bearable. The tourism here does not compare with the tourism in south Thailand, which is the worst touristy country I have been to. The only problem with San Juan, from a traveller’ss perspective, is that it is very expensive. Considering that Nica is in general quite cheap, the higher prices for accomodation are still bearable and as long as one applies the techniques for finding cheap places to eat (away from the beach, near the market, menu not written in English), the cost of food is also kind of bearable.

I talked on the bus with a fellow traveller that has been living in San Juan for a whole month and she directed me towards the cheapest hostel called La Esperanza (7 dollars for a dormitory!!! Incredibly expensive, though still the cheapest you could find around here). There I met two fellow Germans, one of which was named Elli with whom I was to spend quite a lot of time. In the evening, after a lunch at the comedors of the market (the cheapest places in town) as well as a dinner (50C) we bought a bottle of ron (rum), some ice and coke and had our own party. In the night, Elli, an Australian girl whose name I have forgotten and me went out to the Black Whale where we watched a band play and partied.

Elli and me staying at the beach and watching the sunset.

Watching the sunset in Nicaragua

 

15.02.2011

Like always, I woke up early. Pretty much the whole day was spent doing nothing at all and just talking to Elli. Thje only noteworthy thing that happened was that I booked a ticket down to Panama in three days time. That meant that I had to travel nearly the whole days oof the 17th and 18th. In the evening, Elli and me went for a nice walk to the surrounding of San Juan, which are very beautiful.

 I think, it would be worth spending more time in San Juan just in order to explore the surroundings. From there, we went to the beach to watch a nice sunset. In the evening, I went out with the other germans I had met the previous day as well as his travel companion, who had just returned from a trip to the embassy because he had lost his passport. He also had only received a five day visa for Nicaragua, which was extremely strange. Nothing to be done…

Elli had decided to go to bed early and I soon followed in my own.

Sunset at San Juan

 

16.02.2011

Again nothing noteworthy happened apart from that Elli and me watched another sunset and then went out to a bar, where we pushed down the average age of customers by quite a bit, then flirted a bit more. Unfortunately, Elli was dead tired and went to bed early.

 

17.02.2011

Day of travelling. I wanted initially to leave really early, however had to wait for the bank to open so that I could change my cordobas back into dollars (the local currency in Panama is the American dollar, the reason for this is explained below). The bus to the Panamericana (the road that runs from the Alaska all the way down to the southern point of Argentina) cost me again 20 C, and then wedid some hitchhiking. It went superbly. The second car already stopped and took us( I was travelling with one of the two Germans who had to do a Visa run down to Costa Rica because he only got 5 day visas) close to the frontier. Unfortunately, the car we were hitching a ride with did not drive allthe way to the frontier but rather dropped us off a kilometer before it.

The trucks wanting to pass the frontier all waiting and line was so far back! We walked past literally hundreds of them. At this point, I felt happy again that I had learned to pack light. I get the odd stares from backpacker with massive backpack that weigh in excess of 15 kilos when I rock up with my small backpack of barely 5 kilos and always I am grinning cheerfully back at them. 

 

Read on what happens to me in the travel guide to Panama

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