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Ometepe: La Isla Bonita


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From wonderful Granada to a place far out of our comfort zone…

We caught a taxi to San Jorge, where we took a ferry over to Isla de Ometepe, in the middle of Lago Nicaragua, the largest freshwater lake in Central America. As we approached, we saw the sun setting back on the mainland, and as we got closer and closer Volcan Concepcion rose above the clouds. Once the sun had set, a string of coloured bulbs lit up around the edge of the boat, and music played from a loudspeaker on the deck. It was a magical entrance to our island adventure.

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The drive from the port was terrifying, and I wished I’d had some spare valium. Stupid planes. Visibility was really poor – there seemed to be a mist over the whole island – so there was a lot of swerving around bikes and people walking in the road, who didn’t seem very bothered about the approaching traffic. Further on, we drove up a long, steep and very bumpy hill, our heads hitting the roof of the car due to an unsurprising lack of seat belts.

At the ecolodge, we were shown to our cabin, which had a composting toilet and a thatched roof, and there was no boundary between us and the wildlife whose environment we had the privilege of sharing. There were geckos and all sorts of beasts crawling around the room, and we shared our shower with four little frogs and a cricket.

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After dinner, a delicious plate of samosas, corn fritters, pineapple salsa and salad, and a divine chocolate brownie, and after propping up the bar until it closed (early, at 9.30 p.m.), we found our way back to our cabin with our insufficient torch, and we clung to each other in the dark room, surrounded by unknown cries and squawks, which seemed to be closing in on us by the second. Having dashed around getting ready, we climbed inside the mosquito net around the bed and lay down, tensely, torch in hand, still clinging to each other, sleep seeming very far away.
 
Eventually, amid half-waking dreams of being attacked by mosquitoes, jumping frogs, monkeys or worse (Erik, who worked behind the bar, told us that there are boa constrictors in the trees, which did not make Matt feel better), we did fall asleep.

The next morning, our fear was forgotten immediately, as the views from the ecolodge were incredible. Volcan Concepcion rises from the mist late-morning, and becomes bolder throughout the day, until the sun sets behind it in the evening. We spent a few days in rocking chairs on our porch, in the small infinity pool, and sitting at a definite contender for the title of bar with the best view in the world.

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While on Ometepe we went kayaking between the two volcanoes, and hiked in the wetlands of the Rio Istian where we saw numerous exotic birds, and howler monkeys in the trees. The wetlands are currently dry (rainy season starts soon, but the wettest months are September to November). As we walked, our guide, Emerson, told us that during the rainy season there would be much more wildlife around, and you would usually see caimans and turtles. I then made the mistake of asking where the caimans went during the dry season, at which Emerson swept his arm around and said, 'Well, they just stay around here,' proceeding to tell us a delightful story about his cousin being attacked by a caiman in his garden. 'They're very dangerous on dry land,' he said. 'Fine in the water, but very dangerous on dry land.' Excellent.

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After a few days we'd had enough 'rustic', and headed back to Granada for some relative luxury (i.e. patchy air-conditioning).

P.S. Some of the photos are a bit grainy, as they were taken on our camera, and we don't have a cable, so I've used my iPad to take photos of the camera screen. I'll start using my iPad to take photos now. Yes, I'll be *that* wanker.

Posted by Clammy Clemmies 17:28 Archived in Nicaragua Comments (0)

Toto... we're not in West Wickham anymore

First few days in Nicaragua


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We've been in Nicaragua for a week now. We landed in Managua, the capital, a hot and dusty sprawling mess of concrete, the main part of the city having been destroyed in an earthquake in 1972. Everything we'd heard beforehand warned us that Managua is a dangerous city, especially for foreigners, and advised us to get out of there as soon as possible. But, arriving in the dark, we had decided to stay for one night, and make our way to Granada in the morning.

After taking a taxi through dark, sketchy streets, where groups of people hung around snack stalls at the side of the road, music blaring, we arrived at our hotel, a big yellow and blue pyramid which stood out a mile, particularly as we'd left the main city for a quiet residential area, where there were iron railings and security guards outside the other small non-descript houses.

The eccentric nature of the building matched that of Manfred, the German owner. We could barely get a word in edgeways, and before we knew it we found ourselves in his car being driven to a restaurant with no map or Spanish language skills, and having left all our belongings in our unlocked room.

Manfred assured us that the staff at the restaurant spoke English, and swiftly drove off. Fearing that we may never see daylight again, we ordered a feast, using our rudimentary Spanish and pointing as, no, the staff did not speak English. A mountain of food appeared: gallo pinto (rice and peas, a familiar staple from our Brixton days), plantain, meat, fried cheese and bottles of Toña, the local beer. Not a bad Last Supper.

When the time came to leave, we tried to remember Manfred's directions and walked back to the hotel. We succeeded, with only a few wrong turnings, and fell into bed tired and full.

The next morning, feeling pleased with ourselves for surviving the dangers of Managua, we awoke refreshed, and the oppressiveness of the city night had vanished. The neighbourhood did indeed seem safe, and we discovered a canopy of green above the rooftops.

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After more gallo pinto, this time with huevos fritos, and the best black coffee I've had in a long time, we made our way to the bus station, from where we were headed to Granada, and colonial splendour.

The station was a chaotic, ramshackle headache of stalls, buses, donkeys, carts, and people selling fruit, corn, cashew nuts and many other indiscernible things. A few men by the bus shouted at us to 'Vamos! Vamos!' and threw our bags on the roof of the tiny local bus. We clambered aboard, and prepared to sweat in the 36c heat.

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We alighted in Granada an hour later, and saw the colonial beauty of which we'd dreamt. Streets of colourful houses are set against a backdrop of Volcan Mombacho wherever you walk – which isn't far for us, as we can only manage an hour at most before we start to drown in our own sweat (you're welcome) and we need a rest. But that's okay, as there are many quaint courtyard cafes in which to wile away the hours. It's a hard life.

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Posted by Clammy Clemmies 16:27 Archived in Nicaragua Comments (0)

¡Bienvenido a Miami!


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When we booked our flights a few months ago, we had no intention of visiting Miami; we were headed straight for the exotic-sounding Nicaragua, which we knew next to nothing about. However, a short stopover in Miami was necessary, so after some research and asking around, we decided we'd spend our time in South Beach, or SoBe, as the cool people like us (ahem) call it. This was mostly because we thought we'd fit right in with our tanned, toned model-like bodies, and our penchant for glitz and glamour. Yep.

Anyway, we thought South Beach would be a fun place to start our adventure, and it didn't let us down. We arrived at the hotel late evening, and were swiftly provided with a glass of prosecco each, which added nicely to the jetlag and numerous valium and double gins we (okay, I) had sunk on the plane. We drank our prosecco lying on hammocks on the hotel's roof terrace, which overlooked the Miami City Ballet. ¡Bienvenidos a Miami! as Will Smith would say (told you I was cool).

The next day we explored the Art Deco district, drank in the News Café, and marvelled at the neon-lit hotel exteriors along Ocean Drive. As it was raining most of the day (we're good at taking bad weather wherever we go; I managed to spend two weeks in a cold and rainy Australia a few years ago), beach time was restricted to a quick walk, but it felt nice to be by the sea.

Now, on to Nicaragua, where the real adventure begins.

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Posted by Clammy Clemmies 18:23 Archived in USA Comments (0)

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