Posts filed under 'Nicaragua'
Our last day in Leon was actually a day of admin â€“ our CA-4 visa had just about run out of days (the CA-4 is a common visa for Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras and Nicaragua and it gives you a total of 90 days stay in those 4 countries) and se we did a day trip up to Managua to the immigration office. It was very straight forward to get a 30 day extension, so we spent the remainder of the morning browsing around the shopping mall where the immigration office was trying to find a new bikini for hails.
Knowing that we didnâ€™t have to shoot straight for the border now, we decided to move on to Grenada and see what that town was like. A couple of busses later and we were in the central square, looking out at all the colonial buildings surrounding it. They have spent quite a bit of time and effort in Grenada smartening up and refurbishing a lot of the old buildings and it really shows, the town is a visual feast for the senses. We checked out guide book and spotted a place called the Bearded Monkey, grabbed ourselves a private room and then set off to explore. That evening getting back to our room we met some people staying at the bearded monkey who gave us warning about how dodgy the place was, and to cut a long story short that was our one and only evening in Grenada (if you want to read the slightly longer version of the story, check out our review we left on TripAdvisor.com here).
After our unsavoury experience at The Bearded Monkey hostel in Grenada, we considered our options (either head straight for Isla Omatepe or hit one of the places we had seen a couple of posters for) and decided to treat ourselves and do the latter and head to a tree house hostel called Poste Rojo, just a 15 minute drive outside of the city. We met Fred (one of the owners) and Geoff (the manager) at the pickup point in Grenada and jumped into an old land cruiser and headed for the hills.
After a rather hot walk up a steep hill, we passed a large wooden building up on stilts in the trees with a dorm, a few private double rooms and several hammocks.Â The main house, bar and restaurant area was situated a bit further up the hill â€“ and what a cool tree house it was!Â A small dining and kitchen area upstairs complete with fireman pole access to the deck below which was the bar and chill out area, and this was connected to a yoga deck by a suspension bridge between two huge trees (which was fun to walk across after a few rums, if anybody has seen Takeshiâ€™s Castle, it was like the level with the suspension bridge and the golden ballsâ€¦) Below was an authentic mud and brick pizza oven and a few hammocks under the deck.Â The property had 2 open air cold showers (during the dry season until they get some pumps sorted out all the water is carried up by a couple of locals in 25 litre barrels each day). 3 long drops rounded up the ablution facilities.
The management quarters and main kitchen were situated upstairs and on the second evening, we enjoyed watching the sunset from the main deck whilst helping out making the communal dinner. The regular volunteers had gone off to the beach for a few days so Dyl and I jumped in to help chop veggies and provide some support. During our 3 evenings there we enjoyed delicious homemade wood fired pizza, pasta and salad with wood fired garlic bread, a â€œTex Mexâ€ feast of chilli nachos and salad and many, many rums.
After several days of chilling out and vegging in the trees, we decided it was time to move on and we headed off to Isla Omatepe, which is a big double volcano island in Lake Nicaragua. We had been trying for one hostel, but when we stopped for lunch after getting off the ferry we found out it was full and so it was back to the book trying to work out where to head to next. We settled on a spot called Hacienda Meridas, which was an old coffee farm back in the day and has now been converted to a hostel/hotel. Sounded cool in the book, but when we got there we found it pretty expensive and not quite what we expected â€“ part of it was now a school for the local kids and they had put the school literally right in the middle of the hostel rooms (which formed a U shape with the school in the middle). No chance of sleeping in there! The weather wasnâ€™t too good while we were there either, lots of wind and period rain so after just one full day there we decided to duck and head back to the coast where at least weâ€™d have the beach to swim at and have shops where we could buy our own food and do our own cooking and all that.
So, back to the ferry, back to the mainland and then off down to San Juan Del Sur. We ended up sharing a taxi there from the dock where the ferry dropped us off with 2 other backpackers. They were heading to a spot in San Juan which wasnâ€™t in our book so we thought weâ€™d give it a try. The hostel was called Pacha Mamma and it looked like it was in a great location, just meters off the beach and it had a nice communal area downstairs and a kitchen with all the main appliances. So we checked in, unpacked and went for a stroll. Only to discover swimming isnâ€™t recommended in San Juan Del Sur as the water is too polluted. Bit of a let-down when you were after a beach hostel. Then we found out that Pacha Mama was like the party capital of San Juan Del Sur â€“ the communal area was open to anyone off the street, and every evening hordes of backpackers from all the surrounding hostels would descend on the place and party it up before heading out. It made it very social and we did get to cross paths with a bunch of people weâ€™d met along the way, but it wasnâ€™t our scene. Unfortunately being so close to Semana Santa and Easter, all the hostels were pretty full and were inflating their prices big time (San Juan Del Sur gets a temporary influx of an estimated 50,000 people during the week of Semana Santa, most of the hostels simple double their prices during that week pretty much because they can), so we ended up staying there for a couple of nights. One of the benefits of it being such a party place, our dorm only had 5 beds in it and most nights the others did not come home till the sun came up in the morning so it was actually quite nice and quiet to sleep once they had all gone out :-)
San Juan Del Sur did have a use to us though, the hostel had a really good internet connection and so we took a day off and did a whole heap of planning. We had been putting it off for quite a while, but now that we had gotten to the border with Costa Rica, we needed to know what our next couple of moves would be. Everything weâ€™d looked at in Costa Rica looked really expensive, and it was only days away from the start of Semana Santa. So in the end we decided weâ€™d shoot straight through Costa Rica on the overnight TicaBus, then head straight for Bocas Del Toro in Panama and spend at least two weeks there until weâ€™d gotten the Semana Santa-Easter combo behind us. And then the bulk of what we spent our planning day on â€“ what to do from Panama. The main options available to us were basically head into the major Caribbean islands and work our way up towards the States, carry on South into South America or fly straight up to the States and start that leg of the trip early. In the end we decided to carry on South and do our loop around the â€œfatâ€ part of South America, as with our current travelling speed it will still hopefully let us do our American road trip in the latter half of summer and into early autumn. Watch this space..!
Anyway, more on that as we get there. Enjoy the photos from those couple of days after Leon:
For the gallery of the photos, click here.
1 comment April 16, 2011
From Utila we caught a couple busses over to Tegucigulpa, the capital of Honduras. We overnighted there, then the following day bussed on over to the border with Nicaragua and after a relatively uneventful border crossing jumped off at Leon. 5 countries under the belt so far!
Anyway, we ended up signing up for a couple of â€œtoursâ€ in Leon, the first being the famous volcano boarding. We went through a company called Bigfoot, theyâ€™re the original dudes who started up the whole volcano boarding concept. Would you believe it was a bunch of Aussies who first dragged up a variety of objects to test out on the volcanic ash? Apparently the queen size mattress was too slow to be practical, the surfboard was sanded away to nothing by the super abrasive ash only part of the way down but the fridge door was a bit of a hit. Several years of experimentation later and theyâ€™d finally settled on a working design, and by working we mean something which can get you up to speeds which would earn you hefty speeding tickets and a large number of points on your driving license if you tried them in an urban areaâ€¦ The guys at Bigfoot actually have a radar gun they use for checking your speed, and at the office/hostel they run they have a top 5 leader board. Top menâ€™s speed is 84km/h and the top womanâ€™s speed, set by an allegedly bat-shit crazy Israeli girl is a highly respectable 87km/h! (Although the story goes she was absolutely gunning it to get that speed and lost control right at the bottom and ended up in hospital with 14 stitches to the headâ€¦)
Itâ€™s quite an interesting day out too. The volcano is really new; it popped up back in the 1850â€™s and has been rather active since then. The last big eruption was in 1999 although our guide was saying that the big quake which hit Japan a couple weeks back was detected by the seismologists and there was enough rumbling coming from the volcano that the boarding was nearly shut down for a while! The hike up takes about 45 minutes and takes you past some active gas vents â€“ you can see the sulphur deposits from the gasses and on parts of the volcano digging just a couple of centimetres into the ash you hit temperatures too hot for the bare hand. Once weâ€™d caught our breath back it was time to move over to the launching spot, don our protective gear (orange boiler suits and safety goggles), go through a quick briefing and then finally launch ourselves down the mountain side.
The going is slow at first, but as you get more used to how the board handles you start releasing the breaks (lifting your feet off the ground more). The noise is ferocious and thereâ€™s so much stuff flying up you have to keep your mouth shout otherwise it fills up with volcanic ash and pebbles pretty quick. But by far the most intense aspect of the descent is how quickly you pick up speed. When your bum is literally a centimetre off the ground and the only thing between you and a mostly skinless version of you is maintaining some semblance of control while falling down a volcano, even slow speeds feel fast. In the end I managed a decent first attempt speed of 55km/h and hails, who was having doubts about even giving it a try at all (the side of the volcano we board down hits an angle of 41 degrees at one point â€“ thatâ€™s super steep, for every meter you go forward horizontally youâ€™re nearly dropping a meter) managed to pick up some speed at the bottom. And before you know it youâ€™re back at the truck, ice cold beer in hand, swapping scare-stories about how close you came to wiping out and how you could have gone so much faster if youâ€™d actually tried and all that normal post-adrenalin chatter. Then it was back to Leon for the post-trip complimentary mojitos and a well-earned shower.
The following day weâ€™d signed up for a surf lesson day but with a slight difference â€“ instead of being $30 for the day (including the 2 hour lesson, lunch and the afternoon to use the boards and gear), it was free and weâ€™d start with a 2 hour beach clean-up, then do all the rest of the normal day but instead of getting back by dark weâ€™d stay for sunset and a bonfire on the beach. Sounded like a damn good deal to us! And it turned out to be a really awesome day. Between the 9 of us we managed to get 9 full sacks of rubbish washed up by the sea, almost all of it some form of plastic. We then sorted it all (bottles one sack, bags another, etc.) so that it can be properly recycled. After that we sat down to lunch and then after a short siesta started off the surf lesson. There was quite decent surf, but with us all on soft-top beginner long-boards we were just after foamies and there were plenty of those to have fun in. Everybody was up and standing by the end of the afternoon and I suspect weâ€™ve awakened another â€œbugâ€ in hails â€“ this time to learn how to surf well!
Here are a couple pics from the two days. We have since left Leon, hit up Granada for a night then a tree-house hostel called Poste Rojo for a couple of nights. By the time you read this (not much internet up a tree out in the sticks) weâ€™ll probably be over in Lake Nicaragua on Isla Omotepe. More on all that in the next post!
Add comment April 10, 2011