Tag Archives: Nicaragua

Random thoughts/ 1.5

31 Oct

One year and six months. Really. Ruminations on that milestone later but on to this month. We’ve had our ups and downs, sweat and froze, beached and mountained and north we still go! This month we:

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+ went back to Lake Apoyo, Nicaragua. As we headed down to the lake late and on the wrong road, I searched for Miguel, the caretaker of the property we stayed when we were there 5 months earlier. By some miracle, I spotted him on the road and arranged for us to park at the house tomorrow, as he had already left for the day. We spent 6 semi-glorious days at our old spot on the lake, which had substantially more mosquitoes now and was way hotter. But we swam, practiced the ukulele, and Olivia found her twin.

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+ successfully avoided the Managua market by finding “new” used tires on our way out of the lake. Our tires are an odd size and it’s been difficult to find replacements south of the border. Thankfully though, as one was flat and bald (the last original tire we left Key West with), we found something! They may be retreads from 1996 but they’re rocking and rolling. We WILL made it home on these same tires!

+ flew through northern Nicaragua, Honduras, and El Salvador to land in Antigua, Guatemala over the course of two days of nonstop driving. That’s SIX frustrating borders in two days. I was so beat.

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+ have settled into life at the tourist police in Antigua. We will be parked here until the beginning of November, nestled between the remains of an old hospital. We spend our days exploring the cobblestone colonial town, it’s many coffee shops and my favorite local market.

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+ tucked our swim gear away and broken out our jeans and jackets. I cannot even begin to tell describe how amazing it is not to be sweaty first thing in the morning.

+ celebrated Hani’s 36th birthday on October 12. Now we have all celebrated 2 birthdays on the road. We wandered around Antigua with the dogs, had a scrumptious dinner and then cake with all the other travelers in the tourist police lot.

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IMG_2789.JPG+ experienced our first earthquake! It was 10:00 at night and Hani was outside walking the dogs. From inside the truck, I felt Skyhorse move from side to side. Not just a sway but full on rocking back and forth. I thought Hani was pushing the truck so I yelled at him to stop messing around. He laughed that he wasn’t doing anything so I assumed he actually was. After a few more back and forths, we realized the dogs were a little freaked out. The thought that we just had an earthquake didn’t really dawn on me despite the fact that we are parked between ruins from a previous quake. It took asking two other travelers and a google search to convince me that it really was an earthquake. 7.4 all the way from El Salvador felt here!

+ launched a kickstarter campaign. We are writing a book about our travels and raising money through kickstarter to self publish it. We’ve made amazing progress but there is still time for YOU to contribute! By contributing to our kickstarter campaign, you can get a copy of our book, choose a topic for us to write about or be included in our book, depending on your donation. Click on the link, watch our video, read our book excerpt, check out the rewards on the right side of the page and donate! The more money we raise, the better our book will be! Thank you all for your support.  http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/2094800206/adventures-in-skyhorse

+ explored an amazing farm overlooking Antigua. The owner is in the process of opening a farm-to-table restaurant and invites guests to check out the property. We spent a few hours one afternoon rambling about the farm and orchid garden and watching the storm roll in.

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+ realized we cannot stay in one place for a month and live in the truck. Being the cheapskate that I am, I thought with the cooler weather, we would be fine to stay in the truck and not rent a place. I now know that for our sanity, if we aren’t actually moving, we need more space than Skyhorse offers. How many of you have been waiting for me to say that?!?

+ were visited by the Mayas! My parents last visited us on the road when we were in San Diego, almost a year ago, right before we crossed into Mexico. This time, my parents came to Antigua for a 5 day visit. They brought us a bunch of goodies we were missing from home including our favorite: my dad’s homemade pumpkin pie (and seeds!). We had such a lovely time showing them the city, eating, walking, laughing, shopping, eating and more and more walking. I think they now need a vacation from their vacation.

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+ rode the chicken bus with my parents to Pastores. It was all of our first time on these tricked out, polluting, crazy-fast beasts. I was hesitant about taking my parents on the bus but Hani insisted that it was part of the Guatemalan experience. I think he was secretly hoping my mom would have a melt down but they loved it, even danced along with the blasting music.

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+ ate our way through Antigua. The food here really is unbelievable. You can find any type of meal you could possibly want. We’ve eaten Guatemalan (duh), Mexican, Middle Eastern, French, Italian gelato and pastries, real deli sandwiches, BBQ, crepes, and the best coffee. Coffee in Antigua is far superior to any other country we have been. It’s practically an art here.

+ toured the Finca Filadelfia coffee plantation with my parents. Aside from seeing the coffee process, the highlights were the drunk man stumbling toward our tour group with a big piece of wood and my mom yelling a story at us at top volume not realizing the group was right there listening. The coffee was fabulous.

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+ bid fairwell to my parents and are continuing to venture into new parts of Antigua as Mochimo’s day, Day of the Dead and Halloween roll through town.

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Going north

14 Oct

I have to admit, when we left Panama City to begin driving north, I shed a tear. Or five. I thought since we had reached our furthest stop, our trip would be over. And it came so suddenly too. We just woke up one morning, said we had enough to Panama City so let’s go. But I wasn’t ready for our travels to be over and neither was Hani. The adventure didn’t FEEL finished.

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Going north now, we have a bit more of a plan. We know what is waiting for us is each country so we are now doing a “best of” re-visiting our favorites. We are trying to stay in one place for longer periods of time since we get a better feel for the people and day to day life that way. There is no rush “to see what’s ahead” but instead the excitement of what a new day will bring. So we’ll continue our slow crawl north for a few more months at least. And we are definitely aiming for cooler-weather towns. After 4 months of sweating, we are over the heat.

Our Best of Tour North brought us back to San Juan del Sur and Lake Apoyo Nicaragua.

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laundry day at Lake Apoyo

laundry day at Lake Apoyo

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And now to Antigua, Guatemala where we are staying through the end of the month.

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Random thoughts/ month 17

30 Sep

To the end and now back! This month we:

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+ explored the Panamanian beaches of Las Lajas, Albino Grande, Santa Catalina and surf haven Playa Venao. In Las Lajas, we had stretches of sand and surf and palapas to ourselves…until some jackass parked THISCLOSE to Skyhorse, blasted their horrible music and walked away. Fab. In Santa Catalina, beach front parking was limited and it was too hot not to park on the water so we parked here (next to the public garbage cans)

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with a view of this:

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And some local kids fell in love with our dogs (and our chairs)

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+ kayaked in Santa Catalina out to an uninhabited wild jungle island and down an estuary rumored to be home to crocodiles.

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+ found hoards of hermit crabs and this guy wearing a toothpaste cap. Fashion at its finest.

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+ bought lobster and conch from fishermen as they were pulling their boats up to the town. $10 for 2 massive conch and 4 lobster, which became a raw conch app and a heavenly garlic-butter lobster pasta dinner.

+ visited the small mountain town of El Valle.

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We relaxed in the hot springs with mud masks twice, saw multiple sloths booking it down trees in a rainstorm, visited the zoo/rescue center, and bought a ton of local produce at the market. The zoo was something else. It’s set in a botanical garden with immense mountains as the backdrop. The diverse range of animals in the zoo was pretty awesome– monkeys, parrots, golden frogs, and sheep with all different pitched voices (see our Facebook page for a hilarious video).

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+ ate the most delicious meal at Casa de Lourdes. If you find yourself in El Valle, you must go! People drive the four hours round trip from Panama City just to eat there. The restaurant is inside a mansion decorated like a home. We dined on the patio overlooking the pool and gardens. I had the most spectacular salmon (it’s so hard to find in Central America and I’ve been missing it) and Hani had a perfect bacon wrapped fat steak. Martinis and dessert… Ahhhh!

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+ really enjoyed Panama City. It’s one of the only major cities that was clean and easy to navigate, probably because we relied on taxis. We parked with all the other travelers on the street outside the Balboa Yacht Club and took $3 taxies around the city. Our first night in town, we connected with Hani’s friend Corina who gave us a driving tour of the major neighborhoods. We then walked around Casco Viejo, a cool cobblestone neighborhood with lots of restaurants and bars. Even on a Sunday night, the city was all lit up and lively. It’s been a long time since we’ve experienced real nightlife.

IMG_2633.JPG+ watched a massive cargo ship cross the Miraflores locks and enter the Panama Canal. From the beginning of our trip, I was most looking forward to visiting the Canal and seeing the locks in play. Panama City is situated on the Pacific Ocean, so huge tankers anchor at the entrance of the canal, waiting for their turn to go through. The ships are guided into the locks by “mules,” tiny trains on tracks that have cables running out to the ship. Once inside the lock, the gates are closed and water fills from underneath, lifting the ship up to the level of the next lock. The same thing happens in the second lock until the ship is at the same level as Canal. It doesn’t sound as impressive at it actually is but watching the ships pass truly was amazing, especially because all this technology has been unchanged and still efficient for the past 100 years.

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+ toured Panama Viejo ruins. You can climb up all the ruins, which are right on the water, for spectacular views of the new city. The contrast between the old demolished city and new gleaming high rises was my favorite.

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+ met up with my godmother and her husband in Panama City for a wonderful dinner. It was so nice to see family and catch up with them for a few hours. It’s funny, they live in south Florida and we finally get together miles and miles away from home in a city where both of us are vacationing.

+ had the leaf springs recurved and a reinforced shelf made for the battery bank at a mechanic outside of Panama City. The leaf springs were pretty much straight and needed curving for a more comfortable ride. And the bottom of the battery bank shelf was basically falling out. So a fix on both fronts was necessary.

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+ celebrated our mechanic Fernando’s 35th birthday with him. His shop was behind his house so we parked in his driveway. At sunset, with half the job complete, a tire off and the truck on jacks, he announces that it’s his birthday and the party is at his house. Awkward. Guess we are invited. No but the family was super nice and dragged us out of the truck to join in the festivities. They kept pouring drinks, pushing overflowing plates of delicious food and included us in conversations, speaking slowly which became more and more difficult as everyone drank more. We walked the few steps back to the truck later that night with full bellies and a few new friends.

+ took the dogs to the vet. Shae was sick, of course on a Sunday, when everything is closed. We hung out in David where we found a vet with good online reviews. We camped in their driveway and both dogs were seen first thing Monday morning. Shae had a parasite, probably from something she sniffed or licked off the street. Nothing a bunch of medicines wouldn’t fix and was back to her old self several days later. We brought Olivia in to the vet to have a growth near her eye removed. As the vet did the blood test to make sure she was fine for the surgery, he found that her platelets were very low. After another test, he determined that she had a worm. Ultimately, Olivia was fine to proceed with the surgery, was a cone head for a few days, and had to take a round of deworming meds.

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+ spent a total of 29 out of a possible 30 days in Panama.

+ arrived back in Costa Rica with 10 days left on our vehicle permit and ended up using 7 of them. But instead of heading toward the Nicaragua border, we back tracked around the Golfo Dulce across from the Osa peninsula, hugging the Panamanian border. We found the cool surfing village of Playa Pavones and parked our happy butts on a sweet spot at a point on the water.

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+ continued down that peninsula instead of going north and hit the official end of Costa Rican road at Punta Banca.

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We saw monkeys playing in the trees. The water was clear blue. The breeze was scrumptious. And we “borrowed” a wifi signal from the only thing out there, a small eco lodge. That night, I walked up and down the beach with a team out to rescue turtles. Apparently robbing turtles nests is a big problem in that area because the money is good and there is no police presence. There are a group of locals who rescue and a group who rob and each team paces up and down the beach all night hoping to be the first to lay claim to a turtle coming on land. Though we didn’t see any turtles coming to nest, it was a great experience and felt awesome showing the turtle robbing locals that the good guys are growing.

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+ have been waking up at 6…and going to bed at 8. We are so lame.

+ bottle fed a 3 month old sloth. Other overlanding friends have been raving about Finca Canas Castillo, a working farm right at the Costa Rica/Nicaragua border that has cabinas and allows travelers to camp on their property. We spent our last night in Costa Rica there, admiring the jungley grounds, listening to howler monkeys and praying the baby sloth they rescued would wake up. It had fallen out of its tree and now the owners were caring for it to eventually release it back into the wild. In the mean time, this ridiculous creature sleeps and feeds on goat milk. She (they think it’s a she) is super light, feels like a muppet and kept falling asleep as I fed her. Hani barely touched her. He was afraid she was going to claw his face off. Seriously.

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+ crossed back into Nicaragua on September 22.

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And even thought we have done this particular border before and knew where we needed to go and what we needed to do, it was STILL unnecessarily long and annoying, sending us running around in circles.

+ beelined for San Juan del Sur. This town was a food Mecca for us so we had our list of “must hit” restaurants, pretty much the same places we ate at 4 months ago when we were there. All checked off, in case you were wondering, with a .40 chocolate covered frozen banana daily.

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+spent much of our 4 days in San Juan del Sur doing this
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and this

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and this

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+ celebrated Hani’s birthday early by buying a ukulele. Nica Tiki Ukulele in San Juan sells gorgeous handmade wooden ukes. Hani picked out a rosewood uke, his new pride and joy. We also bought a local handmade bag for our Hani’s new buddy. Now the only thing left is to learn to play it!

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Random thoughts/ month 14

28 Jun

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This month, we:

+ nearly died of heat in Granada and Madera Beach, Nicaragua. We spend one day in each of those areas but could have easily stayed longer had the weather been more pleasant. In Granada, we were sandwiched between two chicken buses.

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In Madera beach, even though we had an open ocean view parked between tent campers and some businesses, it was breeze-less, thus incredibly brutal.

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+ kicked butt at trivia in Granada, winning 1st place (a bottle of rum!) among 11 teams, each consisting of more than 2 players.

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+ opted for a hotel with a/c in our last city in Nicaragua–San Juan del Sur. We just couldn’t handle the heat. Plus, being sticky and cranky doesn’t make for good company or even amicable conversation. The town was full of Americans, thus had an awesome food selection–fab pizza, tasty coffees, fresh seafood and our favorite: chocobananas for .40 each! These ladies live on the main drag and sell chocolate covered frozen bananas out of their house all hours of the day. Just knock, or yell, on their gate and out comes a delicious snack.

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+ arrived in Costa Rica on May 31. It’s been 5 years since we’ve been here and are enjoying the comfort of returning to a country we loved so much the first time around. The scenery, the people, the howler monkeys, the towns– everything is just how we remembered it. Even the crazy expensive prices for everything. Toto, we’re not in Mexico anymore.

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+ experienced decent weather. It’s definitely cooler in Costa Rica than it was in El Salvador and Nicaragua. But don’t get me wrong, it’s still hot. Just not insanely, can’t breathe or function, sweat dipping from every crevasse kinda hot. And even though it’s the rainy season, the worse rain we’ve seen has been the monsoon that greeted us when we entered the country and lasted almost 12 hours. Otherwise, the overcast days and random sprinkles have been a welcome reprieve from the heat.

+ ate our first meal in Costa Rica at McDonalds. Because sometimes you just need it.

+ reunited with the Chlobys at said McDonalds. We spent 6 glorious days together exploring waterfalls, hot springs and the Lake Arenal area, playing cards and just having a grand ol’ time!

+ had some great beer FINALLY! I’ve been dying for a dark brew, or anything that’s not the generic watery beer produced throughout Central America, and was impressed with the Lake Arenal Brewery.

+ found a free natural hot spring in La Fortuna. The area is known for pricey resort hot springs but we discovered the super secret local spot. We bathed in natural pools of hot water surrounded by lush tropical forests. Prefect activity for a cooler drizzly day. Photos thanks to Chloe who was brave enough to bring her camera 🙂

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+ camped with Toby and Chloe at two different spots around Lake Arenal for a few days. The lake was peaceful and views were spectacular, even with a storm rolling in.

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the horse whisperer chloe

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+ for real parted ways with the Chlobys. In a few days we’re going to be on a different continent for the first time in our 7 months of off and on travel together. They’ve been our besties on the road from Baja to Costa Rica, celebrating holidays, birthdays, the good and the bad and the stuff in between. Though we are jealous they are continuing on to South America, we look forward to reading about their travels and a time in the future when we can adventure together again.

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+ forged our first river around Lake Arenal and then our second around Samara. We, well Hani, walked both first to test the ground and just to make sure the water wasn’t too high. The first cross was cool because the water was super clear, calf high and running really fast. It was quite picturesque, with all the lush trees, low clouds and rocky terrain.

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The second river cross really freaked me out. Since it’s the rainy season, the water in this river was higher than usual (whatever that means) and completely murky so you had no idea how deep your next step was going to be. Hani was determined to cross this one because half the people we asked said we could do it but the other half were unsure, probably because they didn’t want to get blamed if something happened to Skyhorse. Luckily, a car full of cops arrived and guided us across the lowest points of the river–a crazy zig zag we would have never figured out on our own. Goes to show, just ask a local! And foreign police are nice and helpful!

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+ went zip lining in the Monteverde cloud forest. When we came to Costa Rica last time, we did a zip lining trip and loved it, so it was a must do this time around. We took an early morning trip, soaring well above the trees. The last two lines you “fly” in Superman pose and end the trip with a bungie jump/Tarzan swing kinda deal. Awesome!

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feeling skeptical before the long Superman zip

+ began the Nicoya Peninsula, a long stretch of beaches that are even more beautiful than those in Mexico. We started in Playa Potrero, meeting Shannon and Josh and their huge golden Kaleb from The Next Adventures. We had a great night watching sunset and hanging with them and when they left town the next morning, we decided to stay. We parked steps from the ocean behind a fruit and veggie stand, picked up a rouge wifi network, had a German pastry truck deliver sweets twice a week, found fresh fish and unbelievable gelato, and met some phenomenal new friends: Tim and newlyweds Heather and Gaurav. We spent our 9 days exploring the neighboring beaches and communities on the motorcycle, finding a perfectly deserted beach entirely to ourselves and a picturesque white sand, crystal clear water beach the next. We watched sunset on the beach and joined our new friends for some great meals.

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+ did my own laundry for the first time since Mexico–so what’s that, like 4 months? We’ve been spoiled with dropping our laundry off but Shannon and Josh were sweet enough to let us use their washer before they hit the road. It was nice being the one to handle my own unmentionables.

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+ dumped the motorcycle on a rocky hilly climb. We’re ok, just a few bruises and scratches, the prettiest being a purply blue thing on my rear. Made walking around in my bathing suit kinda awkward. So not all days for us are picture perfect.

+ were the victims of our first theft on the road– our flip flops got stolen. In all fairness, we had camped for the night on the public beach in Tamarindo and should not have left them out. I hope they’ve broken on that SOB.

+ discovered a radio station outside Tamarindo that played only Whitney Houston. It was the greatest love of all!

+ realized buying in bulk isn’t cheaper in Costa Rica. For example, a six pack of the crappiest local beer, Bohemia–tastes like water or Miller lite or Coors lite, take your pick–comes out to 514 colones per beer ($1.03). But buy the beers individually and they are 470 each (.94). I do some serious math in the grocery. And that $1.80 I saved by buying 20 individual beers, well, let’s just say it will add up to something good. Maybe. Someday.

+ embraced the country motto Pura Vida!! We’ve camped for free every night in Costa Rica and found some spectacular beaches as we headed further south along the Nicoya in Tamarindo, Samara, Carrillo and Playa Islita.20140627-153625-56185449.jpg

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+ returned to Playa Potrero 2 days ago to begin our month long stay in a cute lil house with a sweeeeet backyard. A pool, beach down the street, A/C, wifi, cable, SPACE, friends around the corner–this is going to be a gooooood month!

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The Nicaragua breakdown

16 Jun

We spent 22 days–May 9 to May 31, 2014–in Nicaragua, beginning our journey in Somotillo and ending in Sapoa. Here’s a bit of a recap of our time in the country.

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We were pleasantly surprised by Nicaragua. It’s one of those countries no one ever really talks about but we saw a lot of tourists throughout the country. The topography is very diverse– ranging from mountains and volcanoes to lush lake towns and pristine beaches.

We found long stretches of remote beaches similar to what we experienced in Baja, cool towns, good food, and was relatively inexpensive. I say relatively inexpensive because they accept both cordobas (local currency) and dollars. Many things, especially in the tourist-run towns, are priced in dollars. Since everyone uses a different crummy exchange rate, it’s necessary to always have dollars on hand to get the best deal. Gratuity is added on to your bill and a fee is imposed when you use a credit card. Because of this, stuff is more expensive but you can still find a good deal and cheap produce at a local market.

We spent a total of $1702 while in the country, coming out to $77.36 a day. Our major expense was medical and without that, we would have spent very little in Nicaragua.

BORDER
When we entered in Somotillo, it was already dark out. Because of this, it was our best/fastest/easiest crossing yet. Everything you needed to do to enter the country was in sequential buildings and windows (so rare!). In 50 minutes, we were fumigated, paid $12 for mandatory vehicle insurance, and got our visas stamped. Getting the vehicle import permit was cake too. No one went out to look at the truck or verify VIN numbers. All they needed were my original documents and NO COPIES–a first! And since no one came outside to look at Skyhorse, the dogs entered unnoticed.

We left Nicaragua in Sapoa, coming from San Juan del Sur. This exit was unnecessarily chaotic. The buildings looked like an abandoned bus depot with no signs directing you so you are forced to rely on officials to stop you and tell you where to go or ask. We drove through the vehicle exit permit stop unnoticed (is that even possible??) only to be told later we had to get some paperwork there to cancel our permit. I waited in the longest line ever just to pay (yes, pay to leave Nicaragua) and get our exit stamps.

Then I walked back to where we drove unnoticed to sweet talk the vehicle permit guy into filling out forms without Skyhorse being in front of him. I refused to drive the truck back for him to see and he refused to stand and walk the 5 steps to his left to see where it was parked. He eventually caved. (It was hot out 🙂 )

After tracking down another (ununiformed) guy who filled out some form and bringing it all to a lady in a window, I then had to find a police officer in the mass crowds to sign off on all the paperwork. 1 and a half hours from beginning this nonsense, we had officially left Nicaragua.

Total: $32.60 (we were gifted the majority of our entrance fee into Nicaragua)

SAFETY
I include this category in every country recap because people think Central America is SO unsafe, but it really isn’t. We had no problems in Nicaragua. Completely, totally safe the entire time we were there, though many told us not to leave the truck unattended without security on the streets overnight. We didn’t see as many armed guards as we had in other countries but I don’t know if that means Nicaragua is safer or they just aren’t as fanatical as other places.

Total: $0

CAMPING
Another hot hot hot country. Supposedly, May is the hottest month in Nicaragua. We would have easily maxed out our 30 day visa had it not been so hot, but hurried through a few cities we could have spent more time in. We spent 6 straight nights in hotels in Leon and Chinandega to avoid the heat.

In Leon, the hottest city in the county, air conditioning seemed to be a luxury in hotels and not a necessity. $40 a night got us a nice room with 2 beds, a/c (so the dogs could enjoy some coolness while we volcano boarded during the day), private bath, tv with cable, wifi, parking with 24 hour security and a hearty breakfast.

In Chinandega, a city to restock and get great medical care, $25 a night got us a smaller room than in Leon but still with a/c, private bath, tv with cable, wifi, and parking with 24 hour security.

We got another room in San Juan del Sur, a cool American-type surfer town, again, because it was so hot and we wanted a place to get some good cheaper eats before crossing into pricey Costa Rica. We spent $25 for an even smaller room than Chinandega but whatever. It had air conditioning and accepted the dogs.

The other nights we boondocked, trying to find a location with as much breeze as possible. We parked in town in Masaya one night and caught the breeze from a storm but our stay in Granada parked at the Red Cross was sandwiched between two chicken buses and was stifling. Up and out when the sun rose.

The best spot we found in Nicaragua was on Lake Apoyo, on a private lot paying $4 a night for an awesome view and right on the lake with our own private access way.

Total on camping (including hotel stays): $233– $205 on hotels and $28 for the rest

FUEL
Pretty much the same as what we were spending in the other countries. We didn’t fill up often because it just wasn’t needed. The country is small and you can cover a lot of ground on little fuel.

Total: $268.57

MEDICAL
Medical care in Nicaragua was exceptional. As I wrote before, Hani had a cyst removed ($100) and a fatty mass removed ($300) by a dermatologist and plastic surgeon. The remaining costs were for the initial visit with the dermatologist, a few different rounds of antibiotics before and after the procedures and antibiotic creams. All in all super cheap compared to what it would have cost stateside, even with insurance, and just as good if not better care. Minimal scars remain and both doctors answered their cell phones whenever we had questions. Ten thumbs up and worth every penny!

Total: $485.32

FOOD
I cooked the majority of the time we were in Nicaragua, mainly to counter the amount we were spending on hotels. Produce and meats were cheap but the American products (PB, chips, canned stuff) was pricier because it was only available in tourist towns and they knew tourists would pay. Beers averaged a dollar a can, which was par. We spent $121.35 eating out (none of which was typical Nicaraguan fare), $352.96 on groceries, and $36.88 at the bar.

Total on food and bev: $511.19

PHONE/INTERNET
Down to 2 companies in Nicaragua: Movistar and Claro. After much debate, we opted for Movistar because they were having a special that day, I think it was like quadruple what you put on the phone. The SIM card was $2 and I put $9 on the phone for 2 weeks of service to use 1 gb plus a lot of local minutes and texts. Here, Movistar only gave you the option of putting money on your phone by the hour, day, week or two weeks. It’s kinda annoying to monitor and recharge the phone that frequently so when the data ran out, we just used any wifi we came across.

Wifi was very easy to find. Every restaurant, cafe, bar, hotel, hostel, you name it had wifi so we had no problem keeping in touch for the last few days just relying on wifi. All the networks are locked but it was pretty necessary to beat the heat by sipping a smoothie or iced coffee while sitting in a cafe for hours using their wifi.

Total: $11

DOGS
The ladies ran out of food so we bought another giant bag of crappy food for them, which Shae decided she doesn’t like. Also we found a small growth on Shae and brought her to a vet in Granada. Turns out it’s nothing, she’s healthy and fine and we had the vet look at Olivia too, just because. The visit was $6 and they sold Heartguard for…….$10.88 a 6 pack. It’s like triple that in the states. So I stocked up.

Total spent on the dogs: $66.80

NOT TO MISS
Lake Apoyo was phenomenal! The small crater lake is pretty tranquillo with day visitors and silent at night. The water was lovely and weather was cooler than the rest of the country. Just stock up on groceries before landing there. Or plan on burning a pretty penny eating out at the hostels and restaurants that line the lake.

WHAT WE’D DO DIFFERENTLY
Definitely not visit when it’s so hot. The country was awesome and we would have liked to spend more time walking Leon, Granada and San Juan del Sur. Also, we should have surfed but didn’t because Hani needed to recoup. We landed on some awesome surfing beaches. Lessons and rentals were very cheap and plentiful.

PROUDEST MOMENT (for us)
Winning at trivia in Granada. It was just Hani and I on a team competing against 11 teams of 4+ and somehow we won when we thought we had come in last. Guess we’re not as dumb as we think. Tastiest bottle of rum yet!

PROUDEST MOMENT (for me)
Being able to recognize ODB’s “Baby I Got Your Number” after hearing 3 seconds of the intro during a rousing game of Name That Tune in San Juan del Sur.

TIMES PULLED OVER
1, for nonsense, simply to make us pull over and we were back on the road a minute later.

TIMES COPS ATTEMPTED TO PULL US OVER
1. After the above incident, we figured we could just avert our eyes. The cops stand on the side of the road and wave people to pull over. No thank you.

BEST MEAL
La Lancha’s seafood in San Juan del Sur. For $6, we got a few small lobsters in a creamy garlic sauce, plantain fries, salad with an awesome dressing and tasty rice. De-lish!

FOR YOUR OWN NICARAGUAN ADVENTURE:
+ find a beach and call it your own. There are so many stretches of untouched water
+ swim and lounge at Lago Apoyo
+ learn to surf!!
+ volcano board…if you dare
+ eat your face off in San Juan del Sur

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Random thoughts/ month 13

27 May

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It feels like we did a lot more this month than pervious ones. Probably because we were in a bunch of countries in such a short time span. This month we:

+ celebrated my 33rd birthday on April 30th while in El Tunco, El Salvador. Toby and Chloe stayed for the occasion and treated us to a fantastic noodle dinner at Take A Wok, which was the first thing I ate all day. The day before, I was close to death. I was the sickest I’ve been, progressively feeling worse, totally dehydrated and unable to hold down a thing. I finally took some meds in the morning and started a much needed round of cypro. Happy 33 to me!

33 bday

+ officially took out our first cable. We were squeezing ourself into a tight space and forgot to look up. The guy said it was his fault for the gerryrigged low set up but then asked for $5 to fix it.

+ got unbearably hot. Air conditioning seems to be a necessity out here.

+ stayed in our first hotel since beginning this trip in El Tunco to escape the heat. The girls hated it, can’t you tell?

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Then our second in Leon, Nicaragua while we volcano boarded (also escaping the heat).

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And our third in Chinandega while Hani recuperated.

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Notice anything different?

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+ got a nice stash of American goodies. When I went to the states for a wedding the first weekend in May, I had a night layover in Miami on my return flight. It was awesome spending time with my parents and weird seeing all our stuff we had packed away in their house a year ago. My mom bought us a bunch of random items we were missing/ needing from home. Now Hani has enough airborne and his manly Oil of Olay ribbons soap to last another 6 months.

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+ left Guatemala, toured through El Salvador, drove Honduras and have been in Nicaragua for 2 weeks. Our 90 day visas expire on June 8 so we’ll be entering Costa Rica soon. 4 countries down, 2 more to go.

+ chilled at an awesome surf beach hotel thanks to our new Florida friend we picked up in Honduras. Apparently there’s a group of Miami guys that have moved to the northern Pacific coast of Nicaragua. One found a wave and bam–Playa Aserradores is a destination among the surfing community. We spent a few days at Hotel Chanceletas, lounging around and had a great meal with an even more amazing view at the nearby Al Cielo property.

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+ had an extremely positive experience with Nicaraguan health care. Hani had 2 minor procedures done by a plastic surgeon and dermatologist while in Chinandega. He is now officially a woman. Ha. Kidding. He had a cyst removed that kept getting infected and a harmless-but-bothersome fatty deposit on his head taken out. $450 later (meds included), he’s healing up well and looking forward to people not asking him what happened to his head. (Central Americans can be very invasive about stuff like that.)

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+ discovered that Nicaraguans like their bombas almost as much as the Mexicans. And our poor dogs still aren’t used to the unnecessary freakishly loud blasts.

+ found the beach again at Poneloya after leaving Leon. We only spent a short time there because it was hot hot hot but the beach was pretty deserted and sunsets were spectacular. It reminded us of our days in Baja.

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+ saw the active volcano of Masaya. For $8, you can drive up the lip of the steaming Santiago crater and drive right out when it gets too hot and smelly.

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+ escaped to Lago Apoyo. I don’t know how, but we found a breezy non-sweltering area in Nicaragua and are forever grateful that it exists. This country is fantastic but we came at the hottest time of year. The lake is a volcano crater that houses a small laid back community of hotels and restaurants with a breeze to die for. We found a private property to park on for $4 a day (the owners live in the nearby town and rarely come to their lake house) and have our own little beach front. We swim and have taken the kayak out for the first time in a long while. It’s going to be hard leaving this spot, knowing our next stop–Granada–is supposed to be brutally hot.

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Surfing Cerro Negro Volcano

23 May

One of the major activities in Nicaragua is surfing down the active Cerro Negro Volcano. We volcano bordered with Bigfoot Hostel, the founding company of this sport. CNN named Bigfoot’s Volcano Boarding #2 on the “Thrill seekers bucket list: 50 things to do before you die” and Reader’s Digest rated it #4 on the “10 Death Defying Travel Destinations.”

When I told Hani I wanted to do it, he said sure, not really understanding what it entailed. I think if he knew beforehand exactly what “surfing down a volcano” meant, we wouldn’t have gone. Though I’m glad we did it, it’s one of the once in a lifetime experiences.

We boarded a 1017 Mercedes truck leaving from Bigfoot Hostel in Leon and rode a bumpy 45 minutes to the park.

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From there we were given a pair of goggles, a skateboard looking thing minus the wheels, and a bag that contained a stinky orange jumper 5 sizes too big. And we were off, ascending the jet black rocky terrain with the sun beating down on us as we clumsily carried our boards.

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It was a very hot, very tiring hike to the top of the volcano. Along the way, our guide would stop us and point out stuff no one paid attention to. Everyone was just anxious to board down.

After a brutal 45 minute hike, we arrived at the top. The view was spectacular: mountain ranges and other volcanoes looking out and black volcanic ash looking down from when it had previously erupted. You could feel the steam coming off the volcano.

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this face says it all

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Everyone put on the ridiculous jumpers and sweated it out even more waiting to surf down. I didn’t want to watch anyone go because I thought it would scare me too much and I wouldn’t want to do it. But we ended up watching everyone–all 40 others in our group–go down before us.

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Hani and I were the last two to go. I went first then Hani after me. I posted videos on our Facebook page but surfing down goes a little something like this: you sit on the back of your board, feet on either side, holding a thin rope that’s attached to the front of your board. With goggles in place, you scoot with your feet and lean back until the board catches a flat enough slope and off you fly.

Hani's demo

Hani’s demo

There’s no controlling your direction really because you are woobling so much. You just kind of go, vibrating and free falling, all the while rocks are pelting your face and body. It’s awkward and painful and exhilarating all at the same time.

Bigfoot takes a picture of you midway (notice my closed mouth to keep rocks out) and clocks your speed with a radar gun on the final almost 90 degree downward slope. I went 55km and Hani did 36km. We both fell off the boards entirely, me during that final slope and skinned up my leg pretty nice and Hani at the start of that same slope.

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:(

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We got to the bottom filthy and shaking, happy to have done it but not eager to do it again.

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