Nicaragua, all over the place
After leaving La Mariposa, I headed to the island of Ometepe and met up with some friends from La Mariposa who were staying at an old farm house called Finca Magdelena. It was just $6 a night for a private room, and they made amazing French toast that I had for breakfast most days.
Mostly I just relaxed, caught up on reading, and worked through some of my Spanish workbook. Occasionally I even left the farm!
One day we made a trip to Ojo de Agua (Eye of the water), a beautiful green freshwater pool build over the source of a naturally occurring mineral stream. Lovely clear water, probably 50M long and deep enough to really swim laps. I could open my eyes underwater and see quite clearly, no stinging at all. The pool combined with a few "coco locos" was an enjoyable way to spend the day.
Another day, Andrei, Morgan and myself went for a hike to see a waterfall with some local guides. It was a reasonably long walk up the hill to what turned out to be a small but refreshing waterfall.
One guide had one of the toy car speakers that every Nicaraguan seems to own. Turning it on plays a loud engine revving sound and a horn honking, and then starts blaring the owners taste in music through a tinny speaker with massive levels of distortion. Really painful to listen to, and he kept turning it on at really inappropriate times too; oh look there's a nice bird, I bet he wants to hear the shitty car make some noise, oh no, he's flown off. I was silently thrilled when the batteries died. Good riddance.
On the walk back down we stopped in at a little house with an illegal still making moonshine. Andrei got a drink bottle full of the stuff, but my goodness did it taste awful!
Another day I hiked halfway up Volcan Maderas to the lookout, a nice view of Volcan Concepción. I left at 11, back down by 1:45-2, which seemed like pretty good time, I'd heard 2 hours each way. the last few hundreds metres before the lookout to Concepción was really tough; super slippery and wet. Not super muddy by that point, but I could already tell my shoes wouldn't be up to the whole climb. I'm ok with that since everyone I spoke to who had gone to the top said: a) it was bullshit hard for the second half of the climb and worse for the decent, and b) there was no view at the top. Half way was plenty for me!
After a while I started to feel like I had gotten stuck on the island. When a nice girl named Melinda who I met at the farm was leaving, I decided to go and travel with her for a few days. If not for her, I might still be on Ometepe today.
We headed up into the hills of Jinotega, home of this gaudy cross, decked out with spectacular florescent tubes.
Travelling around Nicaragua, I just about entirely got places using the chicken buses. these are the old USA school buses, often pimped out with fancy paint jobs and blinking lights. I was really impressed by their frequency, I don't think I ever had to wait more than an hour for one, even without ever checking a timetable. I managed to cover some fairly large distances in a day without much planning. Luggage would go up on the roof most of the time, sometimes with people bringing all sorts of strange things to go up there. One time that stands out in my memory, we stopped somewhere and some guys were loading ceramic pots and vases onto the bus roof, actually throwing them up one at a time to someone on the roof. I was waiting for someone to miss catching one but they seem like they do this sort of thing all the time.
Melinda had to go to El Salvador to get her flight home, so I met up with some new people and we headed over to Somoto to go and check out Somoto Canyon. I'd never been canyoning before, and it turns out that it's awesome fun!
At the canyon there's an unofficial guide office right on the highway where loads of people hassle you, but we went further down the path and found the real place, where the money is actually shared among the all the guides and a portion goes to support the local community. We got a guide named Ramone and his uncle Trino, both of whom were really nice.
The hike into the canyon was about 1km of walking in the hot sun before we got wet for the first time. The cool water of the river flowing through the canyon was super refreshing. Initially we were just wading through ankle deep water, but soon enough it got deeper and we were waist deep, and then not much later is was too deep to touch and we were swimming down the canyon.
During the day we alternated between rock hopping, hiking, swimming, and climbing over precariously steep rock faces.
We jumped off 3 rocks into the water below throughout the day. The first was probably 4-5 meters, and my feet hit the bottom pretty firmly. Glad I wasn't stupid enough to dive!
The Second place was in a deeper part of the canyon, maybe a 6-8 M drip and it seemed like a huge jump at the time. It was a difficult scramble to get back up from the lower pool to the rock again, but it was fun so we jumped off this one twice.
The third and final place was 20 M further along the canyon, a big 10 M drop. The jump itself wasn't too bad, I had a little fear before I jumped but it was fine once I was in the air. The terrifying part was the climb up to get to the spot to jump from. It involved climbing up a pretty shear rock face without great foot or hand holds, wearing shoes. It was quite challenging to not slip and fall and hurt ourselves. Compared to the climb, jumping was easy.
At the end of the canyon we saw lots of groups of Nicaraguans on the short tour (we'd opted for the long one because you get to see a lot more of the canyon. Apparently not many locals do the medium or long tour because they can’t swim.
For the last little part of the canyon, we loaded 15 people into a tiny little boat, to get us past the last long bit of river. With that many people in the boat it was barely above water. Not sure how it would have ended with a bunch of people who cant swim if anything had happened.