Nicaragua bound: Crossing borders and friendships found!
After all of the fun we had in El Salvador, we made the move to continue our adventure southward into Nicaragua. After a morning surf at beautiful Punta Mango, we opted to conquer 2 border crossings in the same day. From the beach in El Salvador, we drove towards Honduras with plans to cross into Nicaragua later in the day. Many over-land travelers do this due to the small sliver of land that makes up southern Honduras. The best offerings are in the north on the Caribbean coast where the diving and fishing are reminiscent of Belize but much cheaper. However, due to the degree of difficulty to get there from where we were, and the fact that Honduras is currently considered the most dangerous Central American country, we decided to skip it, only crossing the southern portion in 3 hours. Before we could be set free to the Nicaraguan side however, the negative rumors of Honduras reared it’s ugly head, if only for a small time.The last authoritative official bearing Honduras credentials threatened us with a ticket due to our maneuvering around the large line of semi-trucks and other obstacles, as is normal for any border crossing. He claimed we needed to hand over our driver’s licence, releasing it only after we make a trip to a bank 30 minutes away to pay for the ticket. Credit must be given here to Sarah for pushing Matt to stand strong and refuse to hand over the license or give him a bribe. So all we could do was wait him out, so we sat there patiently, waiting. After what seemed like an eternity, full of uncertainty and fleeting daylight, the authority figure returned to give us a small lecture and finally sent us on our way. We were relieved to get to business and finish our paperwork to get in to Nicaragua. Sometimes a little patience and confidence is all you need. Well done Sarah! Both borders proved to have the normal amount of stress, but we were successful and reached Nicaragua just before sunset. With plans to stop at a gas station or stealth camp in the streets of the small town nearby, we gladly drove away from the border. We immediately noticed how great the Nicaraguan roads were compared to Honduras and Guatemala (the 2 worst places for roads so far…), and construction was still under way. As we drove, a group of 4 construction workers were hitchhiking to get home. We gladly picked them up as it was dark at this point, and they told us they’d been waiting to get a ride for a long time. One by one we dropped them off in front of their homes. The last passenger, a nice woman, lived the furthest from her work but offered to let us park in front of her home. We gladly accepted, and were relieved to finish our search for a place to park in the dark.As we approached her home, we were again reminded of how fortunate we’ve been in our lives growing up in America. Her and her family’s home was crudely built with wood and tarps. It appeared upwards of 6 people lived in the small space. We were welcomed inside to see 2 small children sleeping soundly on the floor with only a wicker mat below them. They didn’t have electricity and appeared not to have running water or a formal bathroom. Regardless of this, we stayed up for a little while and chatted with them as they cracked jokes and made fun of each other. The following morning, we gifted them a cowboy hat and an LED lantern that we rarely used. The woman gladly accepted and we left their home with mixed emotions, feeling fortunate to have what we do, and sad to see people living with so little. Our first planned stop was the small beach town of Jiquilillo, near Chinandega in the northwest region of the country. On the way, we stopped to get supplies and stumbled upon the largest papaya of our lives! Matt was in heaven to say the least. At Jiquilillo, we settled into to a nice beach-side hostel with very friendly owners. There was a small beach break right in front where we sampled the surf. On our return to the beach for a sunset swim, we met an energetic boy named Jair Wilbur, who was out hunting for small fish with a net to feed his two puppies back home. He quickly took to us, and we reciprocated with as much help as we could give. All of us managed to capture enough fish to give his pups a great meal for the night, all while laughing and having a great time. Wilbur invited us back to his home to meet his family, so off we went. Again, we felt humbled to meet such friendly people living in a such small abode.Wilbur lived with 3 sisters and his parents. His father was out fishing for the night so we did not meet him, but Sarah had fun chatting with the mother while Matt stayed busy playing with Wilbur and his sisters. It sure takes a lot of energy keeping up with 8-11 year olds!The following day we relaxed and knew that Wilbur would show up again after school (between 11a-1p). Sure enough, he managed to scare us from behind the van with his fishing net full of mangoes. We happily indulged in the delicious fruits and proceeded to follow him through his village where he climbed a mango tree to harvest more succulent fruit (violently shaking the tree so Matt could catch the fruit in his fishing net down below), and show us another fishing spot. After hours of playing in the water and eating way more mangoes than we needed, we eventually returned back to Koru to play some card games (war) and juggle the soccer ball.Wilbur was a very inspirational youth, constantly looking for adventures and not settling for boredom. We felt touched he chose to spend so much time with us. Matt even decided to give him his Colorado hat, which he was thrilled about. On our way out of Jiquilillo, we stopped off one more time at the family’s house to wish them goodbye.Our next plan was to climb the highest Volcano in Nicaragua, San Cristobal. Following a rough road, we eventually made it to the trail-head where some friendly folks looked over a small hotel and restaurant. We were the only ones to climb the volcano that day, which was a treat considering we’d been in large groups with guides on our previous volcanic outings.After 2.5 hours slogging up the cinder scree, we made it to the summit to peer into the active crater. Although it was a bit cloudy, a blessing in ways due to beating the heat, we could still see the venting steam and surrounding areas. We relished our time alone at the top of this amazing volcano. The views, volcanic venting and amount of colorful insects feeding on the mineral-rich rocks at the top was a sight to see! After a quick lunch and getting bombarded by countless types of bugs, we prepared ourselves for the exciting descent. Although we missed out on a rocky mountain ski season, we felt in touch with our skiing roots as we ran/slid our way down the loose scree. What took several hours to ascend took mere minutes to slide down. Happy and feeling good after some great exercise, we headed out of the mountains to explore the oldest colonial town in Nicaragua, Leon. Leon is famous for its churches and architecture, as well as food and art scene. We took it easy and casually strolled around while the sun was setting, casting beautiful light and shadows all over the Spanish settled city. We felt safe here, so we opted to sleep in the van where we originally parked it and woke up feeling blessed to live the lives we are currently living. One more quick stroll and we set off to ‘hunt’ another volcano, Volcano Masaya.On our way through the outskirts of Managua, we opted to treat ourselves to some sushi at a place where we stumbled upon a 2 for 1 deal. We felt fancy eating such good food and sipping cocktails, as we rarely do this. Volcano Masaya is the most active volcano in Nicaragua, and at night you can peer into the crater to see the luminescent lava glowing and flowing beneath you. Both of us were in awe of this spectacle, and because it is so active, the national park only allows 15 minutes of viewing in case an evacuation is needed. Every minute was worth it considering we waited for hours to access the park after dark.We slept at the park entrance that night and planned our next adventure, beautiful Lake Apoyo. This lake resides in the crater of a long dormant volcano which despite being very deep, was one of the warmest bodies of water we had swam in yet! We managed to find a nice lakefront hotel that let us park the van for the night.The fresh water was a nice change and helped keep us relatively cool in this Nicaraguan heat. With our stay, we were even able to use the kayaks! After a nice 24hr period of relaxing, we descended into the other famed colonial town of Granada.We explored the historical city full of beautiful Spanish courtyards and architecture. Granada was founded in 1524, but pillaged and destroyed many times by pirates throughout history. It’s amazing to visualize everything they’ve had to rebuild over the years while maintaining and rich and glowing culture. After a good day and a half, we were very much ready to beat the heat again and head back to the beach to continue our surfing quest.So off we went to continue this nomadic life of wandering exploration to see what is down the next road and around the next corner. Keep it up Koru!
11 thoughts on “Nicaragua bound: Crossing borders and friendships found!”
WOW!! Just fascinating being able to share in your adventures. Just think someday you’ll be our age and look back and be so thankful you took time to do this trip!!
Thanks Gail! We will definitely look back fondly on these times.
How many volcanos have you climbed? Probably enough to qualify as vulcanologists! Another great blog, and I loved reading about Wilbur and his family. What an awesome kid, and an enriching experience for everyone…
I know, we need the usgs to start sending paychecks soon. The experience with Wilbur and family was a big highlight of the trip so far. Such nice people!
Visiting the land of eternal summer, how exciting! I enjoy traveling with you. Love you
Thanks grandma! We’re happy to have family and friends follow along. We feel very fortunate and are taking advantage of this experience every chance we can. Love you too!
Wow guys. Great job not letting those bullies take advantage of you at the border. Excited you are mingling with locals and climbing volcanoes! You are a bunch of badasses!
Hey thanks Angie! Glad to keep an eye on you guys continuing to live it up in the boat. Not gonna lie, we’re missing you guys big time, and a little jelly of your amazing photos 🙂
Come visit! We might hang out in Colombia for a bit.
…darn my former comment got cut off. Any in case it didn’t get sent…nice to be in the land of wonderful families to meet especially when they are your same height.
Wilbur sure was a pleasant surprise and a wonderful young man.
Keep having fun guys we seem to be right there with you…I have a map of Central America and follow your every mile. Much Love.
Hey Grandpa and Ann, thanks for the comment and for following along. We had a great time with Wilbur and family and it feels great to be equal height or taller than everyone in Central America 🙂 Much love to you guys!
It was great meeting you in Altagracia a little while ago. It occurred to me after I left that I should have offered you a swim and a hot showers at our hotel. We are at the Hotel FICA Venecia about eight miles down the road if you’re interested. We leave at 7 a.m. If not, safe travels. I’ll be sure to follow your blog.