And so it was that we had arrived in Nicaragua after a crazy long bus ride, and yet we had failed to book any accommodation resulting in a delirious walk through Leon before finally finding somewhere to collapse in to bed.
On the bus I had a sneaking suspicion I was getting sick and woke up with a full blown cold, which wasn’t surprising as I had been pushing my body a tad too hard the previous few weeks. So instead of going out to explore I spent the first
few days sleeping and resting, thankfully my travel buddies were happy to stay put so that I could rest, and finally on the third day I was feeling a bit better and was able to venture out in to Leon.
Leon was yet another colonial city, north of the capital of Managua in the midst of what seemed like sporadic construction all over the city. This meant to navigate Leon you had to wind your way over, through and around road works. Later in the evening we joined a street party winding its way through the city, and tried to get out of the way as a 12 wheeler truck tried to drive through the comically narrow streets and then reverse directly in to the crowd. After four days of rest and sleep we packed up for another chicken bus journey to Lagoon de Apoyo.
Having visited Lake Atitlan in Guatemala I was prepared to be underwhelmed by Lagoon de Apoyo as tragically so much of the natural beauty in Central America is marred by rubbish and pollution; so I was stunned to see a gorgeous crater lake with clear blue waters as far as the eye could see. With our accommodation perched on the edge of the lake shore I jumped straight in for a swim out to the pontoon. Unfortunately the security situation was similar to Lake Atitlan as we were advised against hiking in the surrounding bush as you were likely to get whacked on the back of the head with a baseball bat and have your stuff stolen, so we stuck to hiking around the roads, kayaking, paddle boarding and a lot of swimming.
After three days we moved on to to Granada, a pretty colonial city on the edge of Lake Nicaragua. Unfortunately this lake was not suitable for swimming but Granada is a nice city to walk around, as well as scramble up to the rooftop of churches before hitting the bars for some karaoke with the locals.
Next we journeyed to Ometepe island nestled inside lake Nicaragua and flanked by two active volcanoes on either side; we caught a rickety boat over Lake Nicaragua with an incredible view of the approaching volcanoes. Once there we checked in to another eco lodge and cycled down to swim in the natural water reserver Agua de Ojos. Most people who go to Ometepe go to climb one of the two volcanoes, I was yet to decide if I would participate after my harrowing experience climbing Acatenango in Guatemala, so instead decided to do an easier walk to a waterfall. As usual easy is never easy in Central America, so after walking several kilometres to the waterfall before catching a ride on the back of a pickup truck for the final leg I set out on an ill prepared for 3km (closer to 5km) straight up ascent through the sweltering Nicaraguan jungle to a waterfall that was frankly underwhelming (I am from New Zealand after all). Thinking once we returned the journey was over I was chagrined to realise that the only way to get back to the hostel was to walk back until we could hitch another ride, in total a 6km hike to the waterfall ended up being a 12km hike through the sweltering heat with no lunch. Central America is equal parts amazing and challenging, but at least this informed my decision not to do an 8 hour hike up the volcano the following day. As the rain set in the next morning we decided to move to our final destination in Nicaragua the surf town of San Juan Del Sur.
San Juan is the most popular surf town in Nicaragua with an average beach, but a great jumping off point for other local attractions. In the bays surrounding San Juan are pristine stretches of white sand beaches which remind me quite a lot of New Zealand. I was lucky enough to be here when the olive ridley turtles were laying and hatching eggs, so after a bumpy hour long ride in the back of a pick up truck we arrived to the Playa San Flor that although very remote; is patrolled by locals to protect from poachers who hunt for both turtles and eggs. The only building on the beach is a turtle preservation centre where they also incubate eggs that wouldn’t otherwise survive, and as we were there at the right time we were able to release six small turtles in to the ocean, watching them wash away in to the tide and hoping that the one I released (mini-Joss) would be the one in one thousand that survived.
After a week at San Juan we decided to end our week with a sunset boat cruise sipping wine and catching fish. Tomorrow onwards to Costa Rica!