While I am not in Costa Rica any more I will finally post these street art pictures I took there about a month ago.
Posts tagged ‘Backpacking Central America’
The Caribbean coast of Nicaragua doesn’t have any beaches or places where the normal tourists end up, but is very beautiful and interesting in it’s own way. Here you can find amazing rivers and small villages with different indigenous people from Nicaragua, like the Miskito. If you still want to see tropical beaches you only need to go out to the islands outside the coast and you will find your postcard vacation.
Note that when traveling with ferry or steamboat you sometimes need to show your passport, and a copy of it is not always enough.
Long thin rivers like the one going to Rama
Wow I can not believe it’s already been a week here on the island of Ometepe. There are so much outdoor activities to do here and the nature is just amazing. Although there are almost no tourists on Ometepe at the moment (probably due to low season) I have spent a lot of time with the few travelers that I met here, as well as with some locals. So what did I end up doing during this week?
- Bicycling around on the island. This is really nice but a bit slow in the southern parts because of really bad roads. The price to rent a bicycle is US $5 for one day.
- Watching bull rodeo. Some locals told me there are bull rodeos every Saturday and Sunday, but at the same time other people told me that this was a special event sponsored by an upcoming politician on Ometepe. Well, if you miss the bull rodeo you can visit a cock fight instead which is organized frequently on the island.
- Trekking up the active volcano Concepción. This is one of the two volcanoes that are the base of the island. Concepción is the oldest and tallest with it’s 1610 meters and takes about 7-8 hours to trek to the top and back, or about 2-3 hours one way to the 1000 meter plateau that has a nice view. The volcano peak is usually covered with clouds so you have to be lucky to see anything from there. The other volcano, Maderas is a bit smaller and with a lake inside the volcano that is possible to visit. Because a few tourists have died trekking up both of the volcanoes, the government decided that you nowadays need a local guide to trek on them. Although there is no control of this, it’s still recommended because the paths are not well marked. Cost of a guide is US $20-25.
- Canoeing along the amazingly beautiful coast. I didn’t see the crocodiles that the local fishermen told me should be around, but I was mostly happy about that. The lake also have Bull sharks but both the crocodiles and Bull sharks should be concentrated on the east coast of Ometepe, and I can not see any locals that seem to care about them.
Besides the list above you can rent a motorbike for US $20 per day to explore the island. There are also a natural spring and a water fall to visit, as well as a ton of small charming villages. All in all, Ometepe left me with a really positive impression and I really recommend it as a travel destination for people who likes spending time in the nature.
After Bluefields I take a panga/speed boat to Rama. This journey takes 2 hours and goes on a beautiful river with a few families living scattered out along it. If you plan to take this trip I recommend you to bring a big plastic bag for your luggage (or yourself) because the panga doesn’t have a roof or any other cover, and it rains quite a lot in this area even though I was lucky.
The panga trip feels quick and when arriving to Rama I check into one of the hostels I find while walking the city. As soon as I move into my new room I see a particularly strange part of the interior design that I don’t know what to think about. The room number is written on the toilet paper holder. Not only this, but the toilet paper holder is not placed in the bathroom but in the livingroom/bedroom.
I leave the hostel and go to an outdoor restaurant/BBQ instead, but they only have one table so I sit down with a family already sitting there. This has happened to me before in India, but that time I ordered what I was thinking was two big main dishes and get two small meat balls instead, while my table mates are eating a huge dinner. Back to Rama, I have both dogs and people looking at me while I eat. One guy comes to the table and asks me for a little bit of food, but I give him some money instead. The woman next to me comments, after the guy left, that he will only use it for booze.
After the restaurant I find a pub and sit down in the bar area. Only 5 seconds passes before a drunk guy invites me to his table. They are two friends sitting there, and the guy inviting me likes to impress his friend by showing that he can speak English with me. I want to practice my Spanish as well but every time I speak Spanish the guy tells me to speak English instead. The conversation is poor as the guys English is really limited, and I quickly realize he translates wrong every time to his friend. I tell them that after my beer I need to go, but the guys kind friend order everyone one more beer. We “speak” a little bit more and I realize the guy trying to speak English is “translating” to his friend that I will pay for all their beer during the night. I quickly drink up, tell them how nice it was to meet, pay my own beer and call it a night.
In the end of my stay on Little Corn Island I had a strange pain in my lung that came when I was inhaling. Because there is no hospital on the island I waited to check this to when I arrived to Big Corn Island shortly after. There, after 2 hours waiting for my turn the nurse (through a translator) tells me “Here we only test pee-pee and poo-poo”. There are actually an ultrasound machine on the island, but not at the hospital she tells me. When I trace the place down the people working there inform me that the ultrasound machine is only there one day per month. Anyway, there is a machine in Bluefields where I already have planned to travel to the next day, perfect.
When I arrive to the hospital in Bluefields the reception woman redirects me to the sub director of the hospital. I find him and am lucky enough to find somebody to translate for me again. After a short discussion I get an ultrasound order and the translator/nurse shows me the way.
-“Do you believe in God” she asks me. I wonder where this will go, and curiously answers her question. She tells me that this is a making of God, that I can skip the waiting list until November [2 months later] and do the ultrasound test already today.
In the waiting room there are only me and a dozen of pregnant women, together with a statue of Jesus. Some hours goes by and then it’s my turn.
After the test is finished I get an old lady, who is also visiting the hospital, to translate my test results for me. She just concludes the whole document into one sentence:
“Everything is cool”
Bluefields gave me a really good vibe straight away. Maybe was it also the feeling of being on the road by myself again, an incredible feeling of freedom and uncertainty which I have become addicted to. I was also glad for all the possibilities of being in a big town, in comparison to living on Little Corn Island.
Although I do not see any other foreigners in the city it doesn’t make people stare at me. Actually I have noticed the same in a lot of places in Central America, which is nice as I am quite tall and impossible to blend in into a group of locals. The feeling here is a bit raw, in a positive way, and people seems very real without any social layers telling them how to be or act.
Bluefields have a reputation of being the refueling port for Colombian drug smugglers and this is confirmed when the music on the radio in a restaurant is interrupted by a news announcement. The traffic here are mostly Marijuana and “white lobster”, also known as cocaine. The nickname comes from smuggling boats that dumps their cargo before getting caught by the police. Then local speedboats find these packages, or they get washed up on the shore for some lucky(?) person to find it. Within one day of arriving to the city a guy on the street already tries to sell me something. This is nothing new in the Caribbean, but is usually more concentrated in the areas where the tourists are located.
The place where I am staying is a dirty family owned hotel placed next to what I suspect is a brothel. The cost for a single room is C$120 (less than 4 euro) and included in the price is shower-creme/shampoo and a condom from Vietnam. After dropping my toothbrush on the floor I quickly decide to buy a new toothbrush.
Somewhere between 2 and 5 every morning the neighbor’s rooster wakes me up. I am somewhat used to this from living on Corn Island where, again, my neighbors had several roosters as pets. I try to visit a cock fight one night to get my revenge, but the fight is mystically cancelled. Cock fights are legal in Nicaragua and somewhat common in a selection of the country’s cities. In Bluefields the cock fights can be found s few times per week behind a house in the Fatima neighborhood.
When walking around in Bluefields, even in the middle of the center, you quickly realize how open and welcoming all the apartments are. You might think an apartment is a restaurant until you take a glimpse inside and see the family in front of the television. This feels like a big contradiction as most houses have high security with metal bars or barbed wire but at the same time are so open to visitors.
There are a lot of cars in the city, and with at least 80% of them being taxis you never have to wait more than a minute to find a ride. The cost for a normal taxi ride here is C$12, about 40 Euro cent. In Nicaragua people share taxi but pay individually, which means that the taxi you jump into might not go to your destination first, but why hurry?
A strange fact is that about half of the cars have no number plates. On [Big] Corn Island no number plates are standard but on the mainland the idea is for all cars to have them. Bluefields seems to be in some kind of gray zone for this law and I can not find any local that can explain this phenomena.
The nightlife in the city is really good with a lot of great bars to choose from. Don’t be surprised when everyone clears the dance floor after each song. This is because there are a few seconds pause between the songs and with very varied music people only dance to the songs they like, but most of the songs fills the dance floor again (probably with the same people as before). Don’t expect to meet a lot of other foreigners in the bars or night clubs, although people here tell me that in May the high season starts with a month long party and then there should be more tourists passing by. I was lucky to instead stay in Bluefields on the 30th September when the Feast of Saint Jerome takes part, which is celebrated with fireworks and people dressed out like fat ladies with face masks.
How to summarize a city like this? One day when walking into a pharmacy to ask for a headache pill to cure my small hangover the clerk working there recommended me to drink a small beer instead.
That is Bluefields.
For a small 7 minute documentary about music and culture in
Bluefields, visit this link.
My 1½ month stay on Little Corn Island, a Caribbean island in Nicaragua, ended a few days ago. I came to the Corn Islands by chance after a tip from some random person I met during my backpack trip in Central America. The idea was to stay for a maximum of one week, but that changed as I got a deal with a scuba diving center on the island. To stay on the island for more than a week without working or having some sort of project would be difficult for most people, because there is not much to do during the days besides chilling out on a beach or go snorkeling. The night life is okay even though there are not that many places to choose from: three local bars and one touristic. Most people choose to go to bed ridiculously early and going up early as well, sometimes for the sunrise.
Corn Islands are two islands, with the main island called only “Corn Island” while the smaller island is “Little Corn Island”. The bigger island has an airstrip, roads and cars (without number plates) and almost no tourists. Even though you “have” to pass this island to get to the smaller island, the majority of the tourists don’t even spend one night here but instead take a taxi directly from the airstrip to the speed boat that leaves two times per day to Little Corn Island. This is a shame because [Big] Corn Island is really nice and is struggling to get their part of the tourism business. But at the moment the airstrip is being rebuilt do be able to receive direct flights from Florida, which probably will explode the number of tourists traveling to both of the Corn Islands in the future.
Little Corn Island on the other hand is built up on tourism. The island looks like the typical Caribbean island that you see on pictures in magazines and there is no problem to find an empty beach that you can have for yourself while eating coconuts just fallen down from the palms. Besides coconuts it’s possible to find mango and avocado on some of the small tracks when there is season for it.
The island is perfect for relaxing with no cars or motorized vehicles at all. Even though Little Corn Island is small you can explore paths that go into uninhibited areas of the island or just take a walk in the nice local areas north of the harbor. Passing the boats “Live your life” and “Happiness” you will get a feeling what life on the island is like.
The prices on Little Corn Island are definitely more expensive than on the mainland of Nicaragua, or even comparing to [Big] Corn Island. This is mainly because of the long difficult way the shipped goods have to take to get to the island, but also because of the growing tourism industry. Most prices are written in US dollar, making it more difficult to compare prices with the mainland. There are no ATM machine to withdraw money on the island and only the foreign restaurants accept credit cards (with a 5% fee) which is a shame for the economy of the locals. Luckily there are a few restaurants where you can ask for cash-back for a 8-10% fee.
Scuba diving is one of the main attractions of Little Corn Island and the Holy Grail for the scuba divers that come here is to see the Great Hammerhead shark. Besides the Hammerhead shark there are also a chance to see Barracudas, Dolphins (rare), Nurse Sharks, Reef Sharks (rare), Spotted Eagle rays, Stingrays, Turtles (semi rare) and a lot of mid- and small size fish and ocean creatures, together with beautiful corals of all kind. If you are not into scuba diving you can rent snorkeling equipment for US$5 or go on a guided snorkeling trip with a boat for US$15 including equipment.
My last two weeks on the island the power generator was broken which was a big problem for a few places which could not afford to run their generators and had to shut down during this period. But even when the island’s main generator is working the electricity is only on during half the day between specific hours.
Although the island life is very slow and uneventful I will miss Corn Island, even the big tarantula that lived in my kitchen.
Some other notes about the island:
- Strong thunderstorms with rain are very common
- The homeless dogs are more happy here than on the mainland, due to the fact that the tourists feed them
- There are a lot of mosquitoes on the island, but most places to live have mosquito nets
- If you hear load drums in the night, don’t worry. Once a year the school kids do a parade on the Nicaraguan Independence Day and the whole month before they practice. Even though the drums is only played by 2-4 kids the sound is like from an army.
- A few people give a bad reputation to the locals here. As a normal common sense, don’t borrow money that you are not ready to loose. The same goes for paying in advance.
- The crab divers on Little Corn Island mostly go free diving, instead of scuba diving with bad result like on the big Corn Island.