Posted by: HelenRortvedt | 24 April 2006

Rio San Juan

Well. A lot has happened since I last wrote. Long story short: 14 hour (moderately miserable) boat ride across Lake Nicaragua from Granada to San Carlos. Arrived in San Carlos at 5:30am, and tried to check into a hotel before 6am…no dice.

Finally got into a room and crashed around 7am, and wandered around town a little bit in the late morning before the insufferable heat forced me back inside to the saftey of the oscillating fan. My friend, Hadley, arrived around 4pm that afternoon from Costa Rica and it was great to see her after a year-long hiatus. We realized that we have spent more time in Latin America together over the last few years than in the States. I saw her in Mexico City during Semana Santa last year.

To be quite frank: San Carlos is horrible. We’re talking biblical plague of insects…made worse by the fact that the power went off, and the heat drove us out of our tiny concrete block hotel room. I promise, I have never seen such a concentration of bugs before ever in my life…anywhere…and I bet anyone reading this would be hard pressed to compete. Northern Minnesota has nothing on San Carlos. We are talking walls of green bugs. Inhaling them. If you look at a light bulb, the light reflects on your eyeballs, and the bugs swarm there because there is just so little light to begin with. I fell into a pothole at one point trying to walk quickly enough on a dark San Carlos street to avoid them…woops.

Needless to say, we were pretty happy to get out of there the following morning. We took a 3 hour boat trip down the Rio San Juan to El Castillo. We were met by absolute tranquility, a river breeze that kept the bugs under wraps, and a community with no roads or cars…the only way to get there is by boat. We happily spent two days there…relaxing…hiking through the jungle, picking fresh cacao, guava, pineapple and who knows off of the trees and eating it right there on the trail…relaxing…checking out the ruins of the Spanish fort built in the seventeenth century to ward off English pirates on their way up the San Juan to Granada…eating great fish straight from the river…chasing monkeys through the trees and off the beaten trails…relaxing…and trying to survive the ridiculous sun. This is easily the hottest time of the year…in one of the hottest parts of the country.

We had a blast. We boated back to San Carlos (regretably) on Friday morning and hung around the dirty dirty dock station all morning and afternoon before catching the ferry headed back to Granada…only this time, we got off in Altagracia, on Ometepe…rather than going the whole 14 hours, it was just 10. We arrived in Altagracia in the middle of the night, stumbled into a hostel, passed out, and woke up on my favorite island again. It was magic all over again. A very different story this time, but wonderful nonetheless.

We only had one day to spend on the island (not nearly enough time), but got really lucky by meeting some really fun travellers on the boat from San Carlos up to Altagracia. Two of them ended up “renting” a car (read: they walked around town asking to borrow people’s car) for the afternoon, and the six of us all pitched in a few dollars and we went cruising around, stopping for beautiful beaches and swimming holes, a few drinks, picking up hitchikers, and chasing the sunset. It was a great way to see a lot in a little bit of time. It’s always really cool when you stumble upon a great travel group, and your plans (or lack of plans) run parallel for a few days. Traveller relationships are so transient, but always appreciated. There is the unspoken understanding that the relationships are intended to be temporary, but in the moments themselves it doesn’t matter.

We left Ometepe on a lancha Sunday morning. This is my fourth crossing to or from the island, and have never had a problem with it, but the waves this weekend were unbelieveable. It was a bit of a roller coaster, but we made it. We caught a bus to Granada from Rivas and have been hanging out here the last two days. Yesterday, a group of travellers from the hostel got together and took a 3 hour boat tour ofthe isletas…there are 365 tiny islands in Lake Nicaragua just outside of Granada that were once on top of Volcan Mombacho thousands of years ago. It was really chill and beautiful, and we stopped to swim and have a snack at a local restaurant. Our guide was young, enthusiastic and full of local knowledge. It was one of the few touristy things I hadn’t done yet in Granada, so that was fun for me.

Today it is off to Leon, and then up into Chinandega for a few days before heading back to visit the host family on Sunday. I have just a week left in Nica…time is slipping by quickly. I have fallen hard for this country, and it will be very hard to leave it a week from tomorrow, but it has affected me so much, and helped me to redicover myself and my goals. I am so fortunate for this experience. I hope this finds you all well.



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