15 days,  June 06



  • TIPS



Kind of travel: Alone in a wholly independent travel

When: 1st-15th   June 06

How I moved: the typical yellow steel buses are cheap, relatively clean and they reach every corner of the country

Freezing or baking?: the lowlands were quite hot and damp but still not unbearable, while on the mountains the temperature is was fresh!!! It rained every day, and clear days were rare.

Where I slept: Hostel (Hospedaje) are quite common and cheap (5-15$). In Granada, Leon and Ometepe I found great places where to meet travellers and enjoy the time: the best one has been the Oasis Hostel in Granada

What I liked: travelling by bus is easy and cheap. Ometepe is wonderful, the off-of-the-beaten track in the mountains is another face of the country and surfing down the Cerro Negro is SPOOKY!

What I disliked: lack of respect of the locals to the nature, the drunk people in the mountains, the irregular raining and the difficulty to organise the trips to the volcanoes being alone. Moreover I hated people who called me "white" (chelo)!!!!!!!!

How much daily: I spent around 30$/day but consider I did not tight the budget. If you are alone in the low season (June), as in my case, it can get expensive or impossible to do the trips to the Volcanoes. Flying out Nica from Managua is 32$ tax  

Dangers/ hassles:  Managua is not the best places where to hang around, some dodgeys in the beach were quite interested to my bag and drunks in the villages of the mountains were annoying. For the rest the country looked quite safe. It seems the small Corn Island and the north-east of the country are not safe.

What to bring: I found a small umbrella very useful and the Footprint guide of Nicaragua (2nd edition by R. Leonardi) turned out really well done (sorry Lonely Planet, but this time you got beaten!!)


My God how ugly is San JosŤ!!
I landed there from Madrid and immediately I wished to flee. After few hours I was there I was already holding the bus ticket to Nicaragua and the next morning the super air-conditioned semi-empty bus was heading north along the narrow strip of land (San Jose’- Rivas 9h, 12$)
In Costa Rica the sun alternated to the clouds and the rain without any hope for a full bright day.
Crossing the Nicaragua border in Penas Blanca implied: paying 7$, a long queue under a hot sun to get a glance to the backbag by the border guards and in one hour bus ride I was in Rivas. I got off with Racheal (an English girl) and we shared a cab to the harbour (10 min, 2$) where we jumped over the ferry for a scenic trip to Ometepe (1h).
The two volcano island is really a must in Nicaragua: not too touristy (at least in June) and wild enough to be explored, even if in June the brown water of the lake makes its beaches not so attractive as in other seasons. If you wish a swim in transparent water, don’t miss the springs near the playa Santo Domingo called "Jogo De Agua".
After few days there in 1h by ferry and 2h by bus I reached the colourful Granada. There I slept in the "hostel Oasis", one of the nicest hostels I’ve ever seen: swimming pool, internet free, hammocks and a lot of backpackers. (dorm, 6$). You can have a lot of fun in Granada, but don’t expect to be the only white there!! I also had a day trip to the volcanic lake called "Laguna De Apollo"(private minibus, 1h), but to be honest I got bored like the hell being stuck on a beach the full day.
From Granada to Magatalpa it’s a 5h bus trip stopping over in Managua. The mountains are off-the-beaten-track in Nicaragua in fact once left Granada till Leon I didn’t meet any other traveller. The weather was so different than the hot one in the low lands; it was quite chilly (15- 20C), always rainy and in the morning misty. Nicaraguese mountains are definitely not Alps but for sure it’s worth to visit this rural part of the country especially if you like walking in the wildlife.
I got to the small village of Yucul (bus, 1h from Magatalpa) where on foot in 1h I got to the "Esperenza Verde Reserve". This is an area run by locals where you can sleep in wooden bungalows (12$/night) and walk around the tracks that snake in the forest.
My nexxt trip was to Jinotega (bus, 1.5h from Magatalpa) and I reached the village of San Raphael Du Norte (bus, 1h from Jinotega) characterised by the middle-aged cowboys and young kids wearing school uniforms.
Passing by Esteli (bus, 3.5h from Jinotega) I got to Somoto (bus 2.5h from Esteli) where I wanted to visit the canyon 30km from the town. It turned out a funny trip with Manuel, a local guy, who took me there first by moped, then crossing over rivers and finally by a boat "borrowed" from the local community. (read the funny story below)
The day after I entered Honduras sleeping in San Marcos then passing by Choluteca and again entering Nicaragua up to Leon. While I didn’t get particularly charmed by the town, I found great "surfing down" the volcano Cerro Negro. In fact I followed a crazy trip organised by the Big Foot hostel to climb the volcano and once at the top to slide down the very steep slope by wooden boards: my last adventure in Nicaragua before flying out from Managua (bus, 2h from Leon)



For sure Nicaragua doesn’t enjoy the same stability and wealth of the neighbouring Cost Rica, but it’s still quite a safe country to backpack in. There’re some "not to go" areas, but they are far even from the "off-beaten-tracks" and the capital Managua is definitely not the place where you wish to wander after the twilight (even before to be honest :-).
Moreover visiting the country considering its recent past will make your trip much more interesting than just bathing your ass in the Caribbean Sea as you can do in several other Central America destinations. That’s why I think that the Nicaraguese past is itself a reason to travel there rather than one to skip the country.
The last but not the least, remember that Nicaragua is not just Ometepe island and the colourful Granada!





  2. MONEY





For EU citizien its 7$ to get an ugly stamp on the passport, while to get out of the country its 3$ and, if you have to get a stamp or not, to me remained uncleared



The currency is the cordoba (1US$= 17.4C$). US$ are well accepted throughout but not everywhere. Hard to be believed, the change ratio of the black change at the borders is equal or even better of the one in the country.



I took clorichina for malaria since it seems that here malaria is still weak. Honestly despite being the rainy season I didn't notice many mosquitoes, anyway I used abundantly repellent



There's a 32$ tax to fly out of  the country from Managua internatina airport

During the low season (June) very often it's difficult to reach the minimun number for escursion to the volcanoes (2-3 people)

"Footprint giude" (I had 2nd edition) by R. Leonardi turned out really well done and updated. Sorry Lonely Planet but this time you loose :-)



In the village in the mountains there are drunks who can be quite annoying while you stand there hours waiting for the bus

I cannot tell you any personal bad experience in the capital Managua whose reputation is among the worst I've ever heard concerning big cities. It shouldn't be really bad during the day, even to me it didn't seem so attractive. However after the dawn it's not supposed to be the place where you wish to be

Generally speaking in the towns with the darkness robberies are not so rare






The Nicaguarese canyon edging the border with Honduras sounded not-to-be-missed: a few meters large and seventy meters deep gorge in the earth sneaking for four km.
I reached the nearest town called Somoto after a long day riding buses on bumpy roads: Somoto is a laid back cute town settled in the mountains where the revolutionary paintings on the walls and the "cow boys" playing on the streets are his inhabitants.
It was the beginning of the rainy season and the canyon was supposed to be off limits, but I wanted to try anyway. It didn’t take too much to get a telephone number of A guy who could guide me to the canyon.
Manuel was a robust guy who arrived riding a small Korean-made moped.
"So, how many people to the canyon?" he asked
"Just me"
"Only you???" He was surprised. He thought a little and again: " if it’s only you, we will go by moped!"
"For me that’s ok, but what about the rainy season? Is it safe to get there?"
He seemed doubtful answering: "do u want to swim?"
"Swim??!! Of course not!!" I replied without hesitation. Of course I couldn’t, mainly because I always carry the camera and the money belt with me.
"Ok let’s meet tomorrow at 8.00 am in the main square" he proposed without answering to my question about the safety.
After a quick bargaining we also agreed I would have paid 20$.
The next morning it was weakly raining while the moped was running on the desert road connecting Somoto to the border with Honduras. After ten km we left the well-paved road turning on a dirty road. Going further it was getting bumpier and bumpier to such extent that for our back bone (and bottom) it was less painful walking, so Manuel decided to get rid of the moped and proceed on our legs.
It didn’t take too much that a muddy large river passing over our road blocked us.
"Let’s cross" Manuel exhorted
"Cross!?!? Hey man, am I wrong or I said I didn’t want to swim?" I wasn’t so enthusiastic.
Anyway I didn’t have many choices, so I followed Manuel while lifting my small bag trying to stand despite the flow. I cursed quite a lot but I was surprised I reached the opposite bank preserving my stuffs dry.
Manuel began calling somebody shouting.
"We need a boat" he explained me, " and I’m calling the boy who can provide it for us"
"Uhm, another surprise", I thought
After a while a young dark boy popped up from the forest and Manuel tried to convince him about something.
"I asked him to take the boat of the community" he explained me "but you have to pay him something for this borrow"
I reacted, "to pay?!? We agreed that the 20$ included everything!"
"it’s just a matter of few dollars" Manuel justified
I got upset for this second surprise but I got even more pissed off when the third came:
"to reach this boat we have to cross the river again" Manuel shyly added
And so we did.
Once on the boat the poor young guy rowed like the hell trying to push such big piece of wooden upstream, but he didn’t take too much that the river was too narrow and we had to prosecute on foot on the steep riverbank.
Finally we reached the point from where we could see the entrance of the gorge: the muddy river was flowing out from a 80 meters deep cut in the rock that in some points was as narrow as few meters. The sound of the water flowing was echoing from the depth of the canyon.
There was no way to proceed being  the riverbanks almost vertical.
Fourth and last surprise:
"Let’s jump in the river and swim inside the canyon!!" Manuel proposed
I looked at Manuel, I looked at the canyon and I replied:
"Friend, for today it’s enough with the surprises and I want to stay alive: end of our trip, let’s come back home!"