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Saturday 2nd December 2006

Nicaragua

To be honest if you'd asked me 6 months ago where Nicaragua was I probably would have replied "somewhere in Africa" ... but No, it's smack bang in Central America between Honduras and Costa Rica. It's the largest country in Central America and also the poorest but probably has the friendliest people. It has a huge lake called Lago de Nicaragua.

The Honduras-Nicaragua border was as chaotic and disorganised as we've come to expect and as usual we waited for a couple of hours while the customs officers examined our passports. It was a slightly different procedure to other border crossings, this time everyone on the bus (some more reluctantly than others) handed their passports to the bus driver along with $5US (not sure if it was a bribe or a fee) and he then passed them on to the officials ... whatever works right.

We met a bunch of Poms on a tour group (Toucan Tours) who were headed to the same town as us so the group of us ended up in Leon together! We had heard great things about Leon and The Big Foot hostel had been recommended to us on many occasions and it didn't disappoint. It is run by and Aussie bloke called Darren and he's a total legend and so full of energy! He really has created a special place with that hostel! Leon is a small Colonial town and there is not a great deal to do so we tested a few Nicaraguan beers and just soaked up the atmosphere. We visited our first cultural venue, an Art gallery which was cool!

Next on the agenda was Granada which was only a couple of hours away by bus with a quick change in the capital Managua. Granada was another colonial town so we only stayed a night before catching a ferry to the Island of Ometepe. The ferry took about 4 hours (damn big lake) and we arrived on the island in darkness. We departed the ferry and were greeted by the usual entourage of cab drivers yelling at you in Spanish in a hope to win your business ... that's all I needed after a peaceful 4  hours on a ferry. The island wasn't very impressive at all, it was very poor and run down and the houses didn't seem to have any doors or windows in them. The hostel was just as bad, I slept on a mouldy mattress and the pillow was just too nasty to describe. To top things off, the hostel was full of weirdos including the old American dude that would start drinking at breakfast time and spend the day abusing the people in the bar including me and Frank. I wanted to smack him one! We spent the next day climbing the Volcano (Conception) which was well worth it as the views from the top were spectacular. A storm crept up on us which turned the descent into a mud slide which was fun for a little while.

We got a ferry off the island and headed to the coastal town of San Juan del Sur for some surfing. The hostel there had a cool vibe and there was heaps of cool people so we spent the next few days surfing and the nights drinking with our new mates. We hung out with a bunch of crazy Swedish blokes who ensured that there was never a dull moment! The surf beach was about 30 mins North so each morning we would pile onto the back of a truck and head out on the dusty road and spend the day amongst the waves. The surf quality was amazing, consistent 4-6ft sets and the water temp was 28C which meant you could stay out all day ... awesome times!

Friday 1st of December signified Frank and my last night together and the last few days of my travels in Central America. We celebrated in style with the Swedish blokes and the $4 Fleur de Cana Rum ensured that I slept through my 5:30am alarm (apparently everyone in the hostel heard it except for me) and had to catch the late bus to Costa Rica. It's all coming to an end ... :(

Photos from Nica:
http://www.danscapers.com/gallery/Nicaragua




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