The start of our trip to Nicaragua was an experience in itself. By chance, we connected up again with two travellers we had met the day before at the beach. It turns out they were going the same direction as us, heading from San Miguel to Nicaragua. So we strapped their belonging on the roof of our car, they laid down in the back bed and we headed off for the border. Chris was planing one night in Honduras while the rest of us were just headed straight to Nicaragua as there isn’t too much in the South for overlanders to do so we had heard. Our only Honduran experience was eating lunch together (or so we thought) at a great Chinese food restaurant where none of us spoke Spanish so Chiajeng kindly ordered everything in Mandarin.
After dropping Chris off just outside the border the 3 of us headed to the immigration office. Well, we didn’t get much further than that. Honduras let us out but Nicaragua didn’t let us in. In fact, they kept our passports overnight for 15 hours (the guys were really nice however just doing their job more thorough that we were used to). Luckily there was open wifi there and the guards let us illegally walk into Nicaragua for dinner but we were stuck sleeping in no man’s land. We barely had room for two before but now we were stuffing three in our car for the night. Chiajeng and I slept in the back and Frederik being a gentleman slept across the seats.
When the morning time came we could not have been happier to grab our passports and book it across the border. Our first stop was Canyon de Somoto. The three of us were directed by a really nice guide, who only spoke Spanish (and we almost understood everything!), through the canyon walls. Most of the time we were swimming, floating along through the walls by the current and jumping off occasional cliffs, even going down one natural waterside. It really was a beautiful experience.
Next, we drove to the neighbouring town of Somoto only to hear that there was a parade in town that night, which meant we were going to stay and check it out. The streets were filled with everyone sitting on a curb waiting or driving around playing their music obnoxiously loud. Finally, 500 horses and their owners took over the streets. It’s ranged from beautiful big well-groomed horses and their obviously dressed affluent owners to workers who looked like they just strolled in off the field beer in on hand, rein in the other on their hard worked horse. All in all, it was fun to see and watch it continue into all hours of the night. Any reason is a good reason to party down here.
On our way south we knocked on the door of a cigar factory and asked for a tour, in which we got our own free personal one with a few free cigars at the end too! The roads in Nicaragua are absolutely fantastic, the best roads we have been on since we left the states. However, that doesn’t go for the back roads. Those are all crazy to drive on throughout Central America, each time testing our car a little more. After an hour of crawling uphill, we reached the parking lot just in time for a beautiful sunset. Making dinner while talking to a local farmer on his horse who ended up eating with us and was determined to try and help us learn Spanish, pointing at every object and saying the name.
Wake up call 330am, Frederik says no. Wake up call 350am, Frederik says no again, Taylor’s says get your ass up we are going sunrise in the dark and see the lava and sunrise and your are going to like it. Frederik reluctantly gets out of bed. We stumbled up the rocky path, guided by the light from our headlamps for 30min until we reached what we thought was the first plateau before the crater. We were met by a loud noise which sounded like wind coming out of a jet engine. Curious we decided it was a good idea to walk closer to it. Well turns out we were already at the edge of the crater and the adrenalin was raging because we could see lava at the bottom. We had decided to do this hike non-guided because we are cheap and enjoy doing things ourselves. But wow, with no idea what you’re really getting yourself into or zero volcano experience it is a heart-racing experience at first. Once the sun rose you could barely see the lava so we (and yes Frederik was glad we woke up so early). On our way down there was an added bonus. Many tour groups go through a bat cave that hangs off the side of the volcano so we got the location of it and did the same.
We recovered in a nice hostel in Leon which goes by the same TrailWinds. It is owned by a Polish and Sri Lanka couple and the cuisine there is freaking phenomenal. Leon is a colonial city which was once moved, due to being buried by a volcano eruption, and now looks like the remnants of a forgotten town. It is lively yet the buildings have a crumbling, edgy look, it gives it an intriguing vibe.
Frederik got started a little late on Movember, but with the fresh cut, we headed onward to our next volcano adventure. On the shore of Lake Managua, we slept underneath the tent of a little shack in Monbotombo. The owner was so nice, refusing any money while her husband and guard tried to talk to us an explain the area and customs (in Spanish for hours it was exhausting). It was loud as every two hours from 1am onwards fisherman were heading out for work but we watch them bring all their nights catch in as the sun rose over the lake.
We originally were going to start our hike off from the lagoon next to Monbotombo to reach El Hoyo, however, our trail map didn’t download like we through it had. No problem though we can just take some back roads to a more popular site anyways. Well, what was supposed to take 20 minutes. It took 3 hours due to the maze of crazy and impassable back roads. Road conditions were so bad, that we had to pull over because our transmission oil overheated. But we made it!
It was a day full of mishaps and it continued on. We followed the trail, going non-guided again, however at one point some punk with red spray paint decided to point the trail in the longer, less travelled direction, and we followed it. It wasn’t the end of the world, we did lose the trail however we just blazed our own path. That is the easy thing about volcanoes, if it doesn’t have a steep edge then you can make your way with no path because there is no vegetation there to inhibit your view.
The sunrise was phenomenal over the lakes and volcano however and the clear day allowed us to round the opposite side of the crater and find what we were originally looking for. A giant sinkhole. We passed by a couple of old sulphur vents before, out of nowhere, walking on the edge of the famous sinkhole. It makes you feel so small looking down on giant boulders stuck inside these steep walls.
Well that is it for now! We are off to Managua, the capital, to fix a newly broken part on our car then heading for some more volcanos, islands and beaches in Nicaragua for week number 2!