Karin has recovered from Dengue and two days before New Year Eve we go on to Nicaragua. When we were young we only knew the country from stories about violence, civil wars and dictators. After his re-election in 2011 President Ortega gave the people at least a feeling of stabilization and the economy recovers slowly from what the war left behind.
However the economy heavily relies on the support from Venezuela and after the death of Hugo Chavez in 2013 the future is unclear and the country still is the poorest in Central America. For tourist Nicaragua has some interesting spots and we look forward to discover the highlights. Border crossing is totally chaotic and for the first time ever we take a guide for a few bucks to support us with the paperwork. In the opposite direction to Costa Rica long lines of people are waiting to get to the counter and even more have settled for longer on matrasses. Thanks to our guide we make it in two hours and drive to the Pacific Coast to the beach of Macella not far from Juan del Sur. Close to the cities we meet more ox-cars than petrol cars and driving thru Rivas is a spectacular adventure. It´s market and passing is normally only possible for bicycles. But like a miracle we get thru the crowd. All are very friendly and move their belongings away with a smile. On the beach all is very narrow and not made for our car. Finally we park for the night on a parking lot from a hotel 1km away from the beach. We think there must be something better for the last day of the year and go on to search for another spot the next morning. Next to unpaved roads away from the main road we see people living in very basic huts and ox, horse and human beings building the manpower. Also we see puppets in front of many huts which are traditionally burned on New Year Eve and when we stop for pictures the people are very friendly and enjoy that we pass by. A few kilometers further North we find our place at the beach of Popoyo to celebrate the beginning of the New Year. Two Canadian brothers have opened a small surf hotel a few months ago directly on the beach. The hotel is closed for a private wedding however we can park in front and spend a very nice and romantic evening with candle light and stars. That was the scenery we were looking for.
The place is nice but the heat and strong wind together with sand in every corner gives us a hard time. After two days we have enough and move on to the wonderful situated lagoon Apoyo, a crater lake in the middle of the country. We hardly fit on the parking place of hostel Paradiso and enjoy the beach and the nice bar directly on the lake. Since a long time we can swim in sweat water which is a real pleasure. MOMO gets a general cleaning and is made sand free. Otherwise our only duty is to turn the body in the right direction depending on the sun and take a bath in the well temperatured water of the lagoon.
We nearly stay a week before we go on to Granada the oldest colonial town in Nicaragua founded in 1524. We find a very central overnight place at the Red Cross and can explore the city from there by foot. We stroll thru the nice city center and make a tour with a horse coach. But we also see a lot of beggars, homeless people and street kids. In contrast to this poorness stands the tourist mile where you pay the same prices for food like at home. But honestly we must say that the steak at “El Zaguan” was one of the best since a long time.
Our next stop is the volcano Masaya where you can drive up to the edge of the crater. The Masaya is the most active volcano in Central America and it`s only allowed to park in driving direction in case the volcano explodes. This is not a joke! We look into a smoky hole and we quickly realize why warning signs remind you not to stay longer than 5 minutes directly on the edge because the smoke stimulates your throat. We do a few hikes around the crater but Karin is still not in a good condition due to her Dengue fever a few weeks ago. We can stay on the parking place in the National Park and are alone after 5pm apart from a security guard who protects us with his shotgun.
Close to Leon we spend a few nice days on Ranch Los Alpes. It`s a wonderful place to relax and the owner, Axel, often serves us delicious trifles. Because of the real hot whether we don`t visit Leon and go on the Esteli where we find a good overnight place at the public bath. The next morning MOMO gets a car wash while an express laundry tries to get our clothes clean. After this is done we drive to the Somoto Canyon. Until 2003 Somoto was a small and sleepy colonial town close to the border to Honduras. Then two Czech scientists discovered the Canyon. It was not a real discovery because the locals knew the Canyon since a long time with the exception that it was not known to the public. Meanwhile the local community has formed a cooperative who organizes tours thru the Canyon and it`s good to see how the farmers have generated themselves a separate income for reasonable prices. The tour lasts four hours with walking and swimming and some jumps in deep water holes. A nice half day hike which I unfortunately did alone because Karin felt not fit enough.
In the next days we cross the border to Honduras and quickly drive on to El Salvador. For Honduras our travel book tells us a murder rate which is twenty times higher than in the USA and in El Salvador the murder rate has doubled from 2014 to 2015. We press the pedal to the metal and tell you more in the next blog. Hasta Luego