Boats, Bikes and Zip lines

Trip Start Apr 06, 2010
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Flag of Nicaragua  ,
Friday, August 20, 2010

As soon as we boarded the 'luxury, air-conditioned, comfortable' Tica bus we regretted it. We realised that they were in no hurry to get us to Managua as we sat outside the terminal for over 30 minutes and no sooner had we started to move the conductor came down the bus collecting peoples passports for the immigration process at the border and quietly saying that the price for the tourist card to permit entrance into Nicaragua is not $5 anymore but $15. Something did not sound right here and after unsuccessfully trying to refuse his inflated price we gave in, agreeing that this is not the way to see these countries and that we'd have been far better off on the good old chicken buses. True to our suspicions after crossing into Nicaragua we received our passports back with a $10 tourist card and an explanation that the remainder was a service charge for the company. The saving grace was the scenery from the window during the rest of the journey with volcanoes and the huge Lago de Managua. On arrival at Managua we knew we had little time to spare before the last connection to Granada where we had hoped to reach that evening, so we jumped in a taxi (after getting the fare down from $8 to $5) to a different bus terminal across the other side of the city. During a vastly improved final hour on the microbus full of locals from the capital to Granada we decided that overpriced, air conditioned tourist buses with assigned seats are so uninspiring and that we will try to avoid these wherever possible from now on.

The bus from Managua dropped us off in the Parque Central in Granada, and after wandering around for a bit we booked into Hospidaje Cocibolca with a balcony view of the beautiful colonial town. We spent four nights in Granada, walking around the market, the huge yellow cathedral and down to the lake front from where we could see the two giant volcanoes on Isla de Ometepe which is where we would be heading to soon. We took a tour of Las Isletas, a group of 365 islands created when the nearby Mombacho volcano erupted into the lake. The islands are now a mixture of privately owned by Nicaragua's elite, and in contrast to this modest local families who make their livings as fishermen. One island with a mansion built on it is owned by the richest family in Nicaragua (the owners of a rum company), another is owned by a vet and is now a monkey refuge home to white faced and spider monkeys. The islands are also a good place to see wildlife, and although we didn't encounter any of the bull sharks or crocs that roam these waters we did see some freshwater turtles and parrots. There were local men rowing their kids across the lake to school in canoes, and beautiful fishing communities in traditional houses who rely upon this lake for their every need including washing, cooking, cleaning, and fishing.

We met a nice couple from London, Stacey and Jono, at our hospidaje who are travelling a similar route to ours and who we hope to meet up with again at some point over the next few months. We also bumped into Sarah and Phil who we met in Merida, Mexico a few weeks ago and we all booked a tour from 'Leo' to the jungle canopy to ride the zip lines. When we arrived the next morning it was absolutely chucking it down. We waited there for the rain to stop, drinking free coffee for as long as the staff there would allow, but in the end decided to try again tomorrow instead. We returned to an annoyingly sunny Granada 15 minutes down the road, so borrowed a couple of bikes from our new mate Leo who let us take them for free and checked out some more of the town, lake and old train station. As usual the rain came again that evening and we spent it watching Toy Story 3 with Sarah and Phil (not quite the cinematic experience we would have liked, watching it on our laptop, propped up on books with one portable speaker to huddle around) and got some delicious chicken from a street BBQ set up outside our place.

The next morning we woke up at 6.30 to the sound of heavy rain on the corrugated metal roof of our room and we knew it was going to be an interesting morning in the jungle. We were leaving that afternoon and so had no choice but to dig out the 'kags' and embrace the weather. We checked out and trudged up to Leo's in the pouring rain with all of our gear to meet Sarah, Phil and our driver and all piled in to head up to the zip lining. As soon as we arrived we were being kitted out with harnesses, runners, gloves and helmets completing the action man look along with the raincoats and walking boots...fetching. The cables are strung from one huge tree to another about 40 foot from the ground and over a distance of up to 300 foot long. We all stood on the platforms watching the guides go flying down the line bouncing up and down shaking off the water from the rain and began to wonder if we were doing the right thing here. It turned out to be so much fun, we went flying through the trees upright, superman style, backwards and upside down for 10 zip lines until the last one when they bounced us up and down until we felt the runners leave the cable. Soaked through and buzzing from the zip lines we were dropped off on the side of the road for the bus to Rivas where we could catch another onto San Juan Del Sur. A tree had fallen across the road back towards town allowing only one bus through which was obviously completely full before it even got to us and four more soaking wet people with backpacks made for a very cosy ride. We made a quick bus change in Rivas onto another packed bus heading for the coast, and were delighted as we pulled into San Juan Del Sur that the sun was shining and the surf looked sympathetic to a bunch of beginners like us.
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