HOT ZONE NICARAGUA
HOT ZONE NICARAGUA
After the border crossing marathon from El Salvador to Honduras we reach with Nicaragua the next country on our journey on the same day and it’s not just the border formalities in the blazing sun that make us sweat! The thermometer climbs to over 30 degrees before it’s even noon and we are grateful for the cool airflow of the air-condition as we roll along the Pan-American Highway into the first major city.
There we meet Edwin, a young Nicaraguan who worked in the USA for a while and therefore fluently speaks English. From him we learn a lot about the current political situation in the country, which unfortunately is anything but rosy for a long time already. The people here are dissatisfied, they are fed up with the political regime and its long-standing president, the corruption and the unilateral distribution of power. That’s why there were violent demonstrations and street blockades across the whole country last year. Edwin assures us that, although the problems are far from being solved, dialogues are currently taking place between the opposition and the government and that he considers the situation unlikely to boil over in the coming weeks. We are glad about this, as we heard one-to-one from friends last year, what a hot zone Nicaragua was when they passed through.
But Edwin not only brings us closer to the country’s history and politics. As an enthusiastic Toyota Land Cruiser driver, he has good connections to workshops and we already happily noticed when entering the country that we arrived in the Toyota Land Cruiser heaven ? At every corner and in all colors there are doppelganger of the reliable base vehicle of our expedition mobile and we make the decision that it’s the perfect time to do some pending maintenance work.
Not exactly on time, we drive up the next morning and are surprised about the still closed gates of the workshop. A coffee break later – after all, we always have our kitchen with us – the first mechanic shows up, unlocks the door and starts to drive all the cars outside to make room for work in the garage. That’s when he makes the sad discovery of the demise of the old watchdog. A second worker appears and together they clear away the big animal. The floor is cleaned and disinfected with water and some spray and after a first break they attend to our vehicle. A rather bizarre start of our workshop experience… But then it doesn’t take long and the front wheels are removed and the wheel bearings dismantled. Whenever there are some material or spare parts needed, the mechanic gets on his motorbike and disappears for 20 minutes. A stockpile is expensive and so, in contrast to a well-stocked garage in Europe, every oil filter and every tube of grease is purchased ad hoc in a shop in town and used immediately. In addition, every hour or so a little bell announces a mobile food stand outside and no matter if fruits, dumplings, chilled drinks or a popsicle, time for a break and the physical well-being is a must. With those hot temperatures outside, everything works a little different here than with us back home… ?
After a long day – it’s already dark when we settle the bill – everything on our list and even a bit more is done and we drive out of the city into nature in search of a cool breeze.
Our next stop takes us – who’s still wondering – to another volcano. But for once, not only the beauty of the nature or the hike are in the foreground, but above all the fun! The “Cerro Negro” is, as its name suggests, a black volcano mountain, which is climbed with a sand board strapped to the back. Due to the heat we wait with the ascent until the sun is lower in the sky. After a detour into the foul-smelling crater, we realize that we have the whole crater rim to ourselves. We empty the black sand from our shoes and enjoy the wonderful evening atmosphere and the cool breeze up here. Only at the very last moment we wrap ourselves as good as we can, put on the diving goggles and jump on the sand boards for a fast and extremely dusty descent. It doesn’t take a minute until we arrive in a big cloud of sand at the foot of the mountain and today it’s definitely not only the heat that makes us look forward to a shower…
ESCAPE TO THE ISLAND
We travel on, make various stops on our journey through the country. It is dust-dry and we are sorry for the farmers who drive their herds of cattle past us in the scorching sun and are almost happy to hear that to see the “Masaya” volcano we can firstly drive up by car and secondly, it’s best visited at night. We then see the lava bubbling only well down in the abyss and the view from above is not quite as spectacular as we hoped, but at least we don’t sweat for once.
Because the heat makes hiking or sightseeing almost unbearable, we pack our swimming trunks, a book and a few other things without further ado into our bags, look for a secure parking space for our truck and board a small propeller airliner. The flight from the capital Managua only takes an hour but we land in another world. The “Corn Islands” are located in the Caribbean, belong to Nicaragua too and are beautiful tropical islands. We almost feel like we are sitting somewhere in Southeast Asia. ? We let ourselves and our souls dangle in the hammocks between palm trees on the white dream beaches, sip iced coffees and enjoy the cooling sea breeze. In the evening we meet other travelers in one of the nice beach restaurants and philosophize over a cold beer or a local rum about travelling and life in general. Of course, a dive in the waters around the island cannot be missed and we are especially happy that, after snorkeling with them in Belize, we can now experience nurse sharks up close and personal around us.
As the day of our return flight approaches much too fast, we realize once again how luxurious a journey with our own home-on-wheels is, since we can decide every day anew whether and where we continue our trip…
ABANDONED COLONIAL TOWN
Granada has been one of the tourist magnets in Nicaragua for years. But even here, the political crisis of the country has not stopped and the travel warnings due to the security situation have led to a decline in tourism of 80%. So, the colonial town is almost empty, the few tourists are equally courted by hotels and tour providers. Much worse than the closed restaurants and bars however are the many jobs that were lost, so that the otherwise already poor population has to suffer even more. The people here are, as in the whole country, very friendly and helpful and on our walks through the streets and alleys, the inhabitants often wave at us with a laugh. We hope and wish for Nicaragua, that its president will give in, perhaps even finally abdicate, and thus calm will return and with it the tourists too.
ISLANDS ON THE MAINLAND
Nicaragua is also home to the largest inland lake in Central America and the twin volcano island of Ometepe sits right in the middle of it. The lake is so vast, that the wind can cause high waves… We make this experience sitting in our driver’s cab on the ferry with a fruit truck parked only 20 centimeters in front of us, whose loading area hits with every wave against the railing. When the crew fixes the truck onto the ferry with lashing straps, it calms us down and worries us equally as our car also rocks violently, but is only secured with two wooden wedges at the rear wheels and the handbrake. After almost 1.5 hours of crossing, our mobile is freshly cleaned with lake water and we are glad to have solid ground under the wheels again and we suppress the thought of the return trip… Instead we enjoy our camping spot on “Isla Ometepe” with view over the lake Nicaragua, explore the island, take a refreshing swim in a freshwater spring and decide for once NOT to climb any of the two volcanoes. ?
One morning, when we wake up by the sound of a group of howler monkeys in the trees above us, it’s time for us to follow this call of the wilderness and we set out to discover the wildlife of Costa Rica. But we will report about that in our next blog.