Nicaragua was my favourite place, and I can’t really put my finger on why. There was something about the feel of the country, the culture and the colours and the friendliness. Bus boys who didn’t speak a word of English but would try so hard to communicate, laughing and lifting us with our luggage onto old school American ‘chicken buses’. And of course the beautiful landscapes.
We didn’t visit many cities in Central America, but I’m so glad we chose Granada. It’s a small colonial city, very pretty and colourful with lots of impressive buildings and hidden gems. I could have stayed there longer than two nights, especially because we spent most of our one day taking a day trip to Laguna de Apoyo! This had been highly recommended and for good reason, it’s a beautiful lake with lots of surrounding resorts where you can spend a day relaxing. We paid $5 at San Simian Eco Resort for access to their lounge chairs and facilities, including kayaks and tubes. We took some tubes out to a little platform in the lake and had a great sunbathing sesh. Shortly after our return to mainland, a model and her crew turned up and started shooting yoga photos in the lake which was mildly amusing people watching as she struggled to balance on the floor of rocks. Don’t blame her. The rest of the afternoon was so chilled out, what we needed after lots of travelling, pure bliss!
Granada had a very zen vibe, so no surprise that lots of yoga was offered there. I squeezed in an 8am slot at Pure Gym which was a tropical paradise and one of the best yoga sessions I’ve done – the teacher even came around during our shavasana and gave us lavender head massages! Jack wasn’t so into the yoga but he met me for breakfast at The Garden Cafe, another beautifully zen location with yummy smoothies. The other foods we sampled weren’t quite so successful as we stuck to the touristy and overpriced La Calzada, but we did have another great breakfast at Kathy’s Waffle House. And although nothing will ever beat the coffee in Monteverde, the Nicaraguan coffee I sampled was close!
From Granada we took a boat to the volcanic island of Ometepe. The island looks amazing as you approach it across the lake, with the twin volcanoes Concepcion and Maderas looming ahead. We got a taxi to our hotel in Merida with an Irish couple; he dropped us off and told us to walk the rest of the way up the path. 20 minutes later and many near-misses on stumbly rocks we had found our hotel slash farm, Finca Montania Sagrada. The owner was a slightly strange Italian man who had 7 million cats and the cutest newborn puppies, ideal. It was only once we had settled in our hut, the whole island had a power cut and we were about to embark down the treacherous path to seek out dinner in the pitch black, that we realised we might be slightly out of our comfort zone. We found one hotel that seemed vaguely open so we pointed at things on a menu and hoped the extremely unimpressed woman understood. Pasta pesto you rule in all countries.
We didn’t fancy the volcano hike on our first day so instead we chose to visit the natural springs, Ojo de Agua. We had vague bus instructions and managed to get to the other side of the island, which we thought was a short walk to the springs. One thing about me: maps don’t like me. Definitely not my fault that many times on our travels we ended up walking 20 minutes in the wrong direction. This time my route took us over a stile and through an overgrown plantation, down a muddy path until we emerged at a fence at the back of the springs. As long as we made it to the destination…! The sun hadn’t quite hit the springs yet so they were mightily cool but as soon as it shone through the enclosure of palm trees the pool was a delight. We spent all day just floating in the beautiful water, lazing about and chilling by the edge. After sandwiches at the restaurant we decided to go crazy and purchased rum cocktails in coconuts, a scrummy delight. When in Nicaragua… Apparently we hadn’t learnt our lesson that this island doesn’t do evenings and stayed out far too late eating lasagne by the beach. Almost didn’t make it home but some stilted Spanish got us a man with a car to transport us back, after stopping off to meet all his family members.
The day of Volcan Maderas had arrived, and the look of our fellow guests after their hike did not encourage us. However we ploughed bravely on and followed our guide up the road towards the base of the volcano. Thankfully it wasn’t too hot and we were mainly in shade, but even so, every time our guide said ‘do you need break?’ I was like THANK GOD YES and inhaled a litre of water. This was before we even reached the steep bit. Breathing became something that you had to think about constantly, so much so that I forgot to think about controlling my farts and one slipped out just as Jacks face was in line with my bottom. Soz. It’s one of those situations where life is such a struggle that farting in someones face isn’t a big deal right? No? Okay…
The path got steeper and steeper so we found walking sticks to assist us, and then it got to the point where we literally had to climb up and over rocks and trees and hold onto branches and pray we didn’t slip. Four hours after we set off, we finally emerged into the crater and oh my was I ready to collapse. Clouds were everywhere and we were all thinking ‘if I don’t get a view and there’s no reward for this torture, then seriously what is life…’ but thankfully they started to thin and we saw the beginnings of a view!
We stayed up there for a while hoping to see more and luckily everything cleared and we saw some amazing views across the island to Volcan Concepcion, as well as into the crater itself. I would have happily stayed up there all day seeing as my legs were absolutely gone but our guide was all ‘yeah we gotta go back’. Meh. Downhill is always bad on the knees but nothing was going to be as bad as the climb up so I enjoyed it comparatively. Finally we made it back to our hut, having completed probably the hardest thing of my life. Proud. Never again.
That was enough Ometepe for us so we took the boat the next day to the mainland and got a short taxi ride over to San Juan del Sur, ready for a bit of beach time and the infamous Sunday Funday. HC Liri was one of the nicest hotels we stayed in, big clean rooms, a fantastic pool and a cheeky hammock. We spent our Saturday walking up the beach and through the town markets, and settled at a beach restaurant with fabulous shrimp and happy hour cocktails. The sunset over the beach looked glorious from our little wooden balcony!
Then came the big Sunday… 9:30am may seem an early start to an all day drinking sesh, but apparently that’s the way things go over here. We turned up at Hostel Pachamama to buy our wristbands and then headed out for a line-the-stomach brekkie whilst things were being set up. Barrio Cafe ended up being my favourite place for food, admittedly not a particularly Nicaraguan cuisine, but they had amazing Eggs Royale with fantastic sauteed potatoes, and a nutella mocha frappe. Oh wow. I actually made myself so full that the first few beers back at Pachamama were a bloaty struggle. But powering through…
The hostel filled up gradually as people got the drinks in and gathered around the pool. I was so surprised to see the crazy amount of travellers after bumping into barely any during our trip so far – Sunday Funday must be where they all combine! I bumped into my friend from uni which was utterly random but great! However this was just the warm up, an announcement was made for the start of the pool crawl and we all stumbled down the road to Hotel Anamar.
This was the real party – pool by the beach, crazy tunes, and a man with spray tattoos including 1D (Jacks first choice of course). A randomer at the bar introduced us to rum and water with lime and we didn’t look back. At $2 a drink they were most certainly flowing. Just before sunset it was time to move on again so we piled into the back of trucks and took the scenic route up the hill to Naked Tiger hostel. The location was amazing – views over the hills down to the coast, with a pool overlooking it all. We took a dancing break and chilled in the pool for a while, then as the evening truly set in the pool patio became a packed dancefloor with the DJ cracking out bangers like Sandstorm. All of the wet wiggling.
The final destination of the night (after another bumpy truck ride, this time significantly more drunken) was Arribas bar. I have to say my memories are not crystal clear but from the snapchat story it seems like we had a great time and made many many friends. Jack even found someone to get low with him when T-swizzle came on. Being that drinking had now been occurring for somewhere in the region of 12 hours, most people drifted off as the bar started closing. Not us. We got questionable pizza and sat on the floor of the bar as the lovely Nicaraguan man cleaned around us. Finally we started the walk to our hotel but on the way spied the Crazy Crab which appeared to be a very not closed and exciting bar. I’m surprised we had any money left but we somehow paid the $5 entry fee to this locals club and carried on dancing the night away. By this point Jack had lost his flip flops and was very confused about it but they were a lost cause so he went back to the wiggling. Conclusion: Sunday Funday is the best, and we rule at life. Maybe a smidgen past perfect drunk but most certainly hilarious drunk.
Monday was of course a write off, we went in search of food and ended up with broccoli pizza which was so upsetting I can’t even explain. Pool, sleep and more food in preparation for our departure from San Juan the next day. Nicaragua was equal amounts of fun and ridiculous experiences, plus so many beautiful relaxing moments. We were sad to leave, but ready for our next adventure! (With just a 4 day journey in between…)