Nicaragua!! I spent almost 3 weeks in Nicaragua helping out at the USAID mission. The work itself was pretty boring, so I'll just skip to the weekend trips and sight seeing. While I was there, I was fortunate to be introduced to a few Americans also temporarily stationed in Managua for a few weeks. Because of their short time, they planned touristy adventures each weekend, so I joined the group as they were happy to share the transportation costs (and I was happy to have Spanish speakers around to help me out).
Nicaragua is known for lakes and volcanoes, leaving the rain forests to its southern neighbors of Costa Rica. There are quite a few volcanoes in this small country and many boast the typical cone like shape, pretty impressive geography!
LEONMy first trip was to Leon, a colonial city north of Managua. We decided to hire a guide (thanks trip advsior) to give us a tour of the city. Nicaragua was quite the political history filled with colonialism, guerilla war, civil war, dictators, and revolution. The guide had fought in the recent civil war (1979-1990) and definitely had his opinions on Nicaragua and American politics.
OMETEPEThe second trip was to an island, Ometepe, within Lake Nicaragua. We had to get up super early to drive to the dock to catch a ferry that would take us to the island. We again hired a guide and began our "jungle cruise". Ometepe is a pretty interesting place where many of its people never leave the island. The island is hour glass shaped and boasts two volcanoes, the word actually means two mountains in the Native language. Here we drove around ond half of the island, exploring and hiking, trying out a natural freshwater spring, and eating fresh fish off the side of the lake. I really wanted to hike a volcano, but as it was the rainy season and we didn't have 6-7 hours to hike, I was vetoed. But even though we didn't hike volcanoes, we did see petroglyphs and pre-Columbian stone idols, which have been discovered by archeologists in the last 50 years or so.
MOMBACHOAt the end of the second week, Mike came to join me and I had my own personal translator!! (don't worry Mike, I think of you as more than just a translator.) We planned a day trip to Mombacho, a volcano surrounded with a cloud forest. (which is really cool to feel like you are walking through clouds and randomly feel the steam and smell the sulfur pots coming from the mountain). Here we hiked, did zipling, and rode in another vehicle that felt pretty close to the Indiana Jones ride at Disneyland.
PLAYA MADERAThe next day, we headed down south to the surfing beaches, just north of the Costa Rican border. The weekend before, the World Masters Surfing Championships had taken place in this same location. I was bummed I couldn't get a ride down to watch. However, Mike and I took the opportunity to take surfing lessons of our own!!! That's better than watching professionals, right? We stayed down at the beach at this little resort owned by an expatriate. We surfed, hung out at the beach, and just enjoyed the super relaxed atmosphere of the non touristy Nicaraguan beaches.
As I mentioned, the work I did was of little note, but exploring Nicaragua was a blast! Food was great, people were nice, and the Spanish the easiest to understand of all the Latin American accents I've heard. Don't know if I'll ever come back, but I had a great time while I was there!!! ADIOS!