The Best and Worst of Nicaragua

I think we can safely say, Nicaragua has been one of the best countries either of us have ever been too. With the exchange rate at 23 cordobas to a dollar, which equals around 60p it’s incredibly cheap. A slap up meal (if you can find one) will cost around 3 quid and a taxi journey covering 20 miles or so can cost you less than a pound each.

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From our first week here we’ve tried so many new things from volcano boarding in Leon, surfing in San Juan Del Sur, Gaz even made it onto the back of a horse for his first ever gallop down the beach – sorry no pics of this one, I forgot my camera!

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We’ve also witnessed scenery unlike any other. Nicaragua is covered in volcanoes, old and new, active and extinct. We’ve been to a lake in a volcano (Laguna de Apoyo) and a volcano in a lake (Ometepe) and we’ve even squeezed in time for the best scuba diving of our lives! So here’s our top three good, bad and, of course, ‘the achieved’ during our time here.

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The Good

1) The price. This has to come top because it means we’ve been able to spend much longer here. We’ve stayed in amazing hotels and eaten the tastiest meals and all for bargain prices. Don’t think it’s all been luxury though, there has been some cereal dinners and sharing a single bunk bed along the way too. It just makes those luxurious moments even better.

2) The range of activities. Because of the landscape and the coastlines, on both the Pacific and the Caribbean it means you’ll never be stuck for something to do. The Pacific side attracts surfers from all over the world, who come to do battle with the immense waves on beaches like Playa Hermosa. Whilst the Caribbean side boasts calm, clear waters perfect for diving.

3) Little Corn. I was going to try to avoid listing particular places but this one had to make the list of the best things about Nicaragua. It’s a six-hour (express) boat ride from Bluefields on the Caribbean  coast. The boat docks on Big Corn (still very tiny but in relative size to Little Corn it is considerably larger) Then you squeeze around 40 people into a tiny panga that whizzes across the sea and plonks you on Little Corn half an hour later. So you could say that this is somewhat remote, but wait for it… there’s no cars on the island, the main form of transport is walking, although there are a few push bikes. There’s one main path around the island which we nicknamed the M1 because it’s the route everyone uses, you’re guaranteed to pass the same faces at least three times a day. And they only have electricity from 2pm until 5am ish. I say ish because whilst we were there it often came on much later and switched off a lot earlier, one night it didn’t even come on at all. A couple of hotels and restaurants do have their own generators though so you can normally fumble your way through the blackout. Basically the island is a step back in time to what life used to be like, fair enough the views and blue skies help the mood but this little gem is so relaxed without all the fandangled technology of today it really makes you think…and you realise you’re in the ultimate paradise.

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The Bad

1) The heat. I know you all hate me for moaning about this so I’ll keep it short. Anywhere by the sea is fine, in land or in the cities like Leon and Granada you’ll sweat (til you can’t sweat no more ala la la la long) with the temperature hitting around 39 degrees at points, with no breeze it’s hardcore. And we’ve had six months acclimatizing. Anyone going straight from a british winter to that heat – good luck! (Haha sorry Ollie!)

2) The food. The food has been fabulous in some places so I’m not completely dissing it. Normally in the cities you can find gorgeous cuisine, as well as more westernised places like San Juan del Sur. But once you get into proper Nica countryside be prepared for fried plantain (basically a big banana) boiled plantain or plantain chips. And if you’re really unlucky you’ll get it with a side of horrible deep-fried salty cheese and of course the standard Central American side of beans and rice aka gallo pinto.

3) Health and Safety (or lack of). Never thought I’d be saying this and part of me still votes for this as a positive. But there have been a few bus journeys and our last boat journey that terrified me. Our 16 person boat was overloaded with nearly 30 people and tons of luggage. It was a tiny boat called a panga, which is the only method of transport to get from Bluefields to El Rama, the gateway to start busing our way to Costa Rica. Flying down the Escondido River at about 40mph with about an inch on either side before we’d be underwater… I was sh*tting myself! Two hours later we arrived, totally relived with a seriously sore arse, ready to catch a bus down the worst road in Nicaragua :-O

The Achieved

1) We can both stand up on surf boards! As you can imagine Gaz has it down slightly better than I do and works the surfer look pretty good as well. Hopefully with a bit more practice in Costa Rica and Ecuador we’ll actually be able to catch some waves… and not break a finger whilst doing so, oopsie!

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2) We saw our first shark! Scuba diving in Little Corn was fantastic, being so far away from anywhere means the sea surrounding it is full of life. We even had a shark swim right up to us, it almost kissed Gaz on the head, although he was peering straight into a hole in the coral and missed the whole event. But the real highlight were the eagle rays, such beautiful creatures and it’s made my dream of swimming with manta rays go up a few notches on the priority list.

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3) I have a dread! Woohoo! Gaz is very jealous of this point as it rained on our last day in Little Corn so we didn’t go out for the six-hour stint to get his hair dreaded and I snuck in for a ‘test run’ As james would say – drum circle here I come ;)

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