Tag Archives: latin america

Leaving Nicaragua

So there I was, waking up inside the crater of a 23,000 + year old volcano.

  
  I’d arrived the previous day to beautiful sunshine, and a pristine, blue lagoon.  The night brought with it a Nicaraguan style thunder storm, and although that caused me to lay awake listening to the clangs and thunderbolts from the moody sky above for much of the night, it also brought with it that calming sense of safety; of me laying in a big double bed with white linen and four pillows all to myself, as I listened to it pour down violently outside my window, feeling thankful for staying in a hotel rather than a dark and damp hostel.  
The little things in life make themselves clear at times like this; such as meeting a fellow traveler whom I can share a room with; otherwise I’d certainly still be sleeping in a hostel.

We had chosen a guesthouse called “Casa Aromansse”.  We’d researched online whilst still in Ometepe, for somewhere that wouldn’t give us a party,instead, somewhere that would offer us a nice and relaxed atmosphere; somewhere preferably with yoga lessons that we could participate in each morning, before spending the remainder of the day relaxing and doing our individual writing, studying, reading or work.

  
Unfortunately when I awoke that first morning, I was to find that there weren’t to be any yoga lessons for the duration of my stay, due to the owner being ill (maybe that was my fault for not calling beforehand) but he welcomed me to practice yoga myself on their platform.  
The platform was elevated to look over the lagoon, surrounded by big white drapes and the sounds of the wildlife making odd and interesting noises from the surrounding trees and bushes.  I took myself down there embed with my iPad and a yoga YouTube channels and whacked out my best downward dogs and trigangle poses ’til I felt my butt cheeks no thigh were sufficiently stretched in all the right places.

 
  

  

   

  

  

  

     
After two nights here, it was time to leave; my flight out of Nicaragua was ever impending, and after being scared off cities by the monstoursly loud and fear-inducing Managua, I felt I owed it to the country to try one more city, so I took a taxi to the city of Granada.

Before parting ways, Sarah recommended to me I stay at a hostel called La Libertad, in a central location.  I’d been informed that grandad was a “Gringo Town”.  Make of that wan at you will.  I myself, took that as an indication it would be somewhere I’d be less sexually harassed, verbally, maybe because they’re used to seeing more of us Gringos around?  I’m not sure.  However as soon as I dropped my bag at the hostel, and walked into the streets, I was experiencing it all over again.

I’m not being big headed.  This isn’t me saying that I’m the female equivalent to a guy in a Lynx advert; where men see me and drop everything before running over to me to lick my face and tell me they love me.  
No, I’m pretty confident in saying that any woman walking down the road without having a man next to her is pretty much going to be subjected to this behavior.  It’s disgusting, and it’s degrading, not to mention exhausting.
Trying to feel comfortable running all over the city to see the sights, but questioning if you need to walk a different direction because you see a large group of men and don’t want to be harassed really means a lot of extra foot work.
If this behavior was to result in just one positive aspect, however, it would have to be the moment I got shouted at: “HEY MAMI”, and in that moment right there, I felt like Jennifer bloody Lopez.  Not aesthetically of course, however I was in Latin America, and the guy did roughly resemble Pit Bull, so I enjoyed my moment whilst it lasted.

Moving on, I spent two fabulous days in Granada, doing the whole tourist side of things that my mother would be proud of.  I paid real life money (58p) to climb Iglesias de La Merced, which is a lovely old shoddy  church which doesn’t have a lot to offer (in my humble opinion) however it does offer a beautiful view of the main attraction in Granada, Catedral de Granada, (the yellow one in the pictures online), and also the rest of the city, including Mombacho Volcano.

   
   
  

There’s a lot of churches in the city of Granada, however the main reason people visit would have to be the architecture.   It was founded by the Spanish conquistador, Francisco Hernández de Córdoba, back in 1524.  Now to be honest, I just read that from the internet, however I think you’ll agree, that sounds pretty European, hence looking a lot like Spain.
  

      

 

   
On my last morning there, I decided to walk down the main street that runs behind the main yellow cathedral, Calle La Calzada, and ended up on the shores of Lake Nicaragua.  

  
Here, I was greeted by a nice man named Luis, on a moped, who kindly took me to the part of the bay, about 3km away, where boats were waiting to take tourists to the Islets of Granada; a group of 365 small islands where, from what I could gather, very, very rich people had houses. 

  

I was told to clamber upon a little fibreglass boat with about 4 local teenage girls, who took more selfies than me (if you know me then that in itself is ridiculous) and with them screaming out excitedly in Spanish, asking questions to the boat driver, I sat back, and looked around, only wondering what kind of people lived on these islands.

   
    
 
After a lot of pointing at beautiful homes on tiny islands, the screaming suddenly accelerated tenfold when we approached one island, with no building or infrastructure on it whatsoever. 
I suddenly hear screams in Spanish, and the only familiar words I can make out are “Michael Jackson, Michael Jackson” repeatedly.  Pretty sure this guys dead, I suddenly have irrational thoughts of the King of Pop having not died, and instead sacked off the fortune and fame, instead deciding to retire to a small bushy island scattered around the Asese peninsula.  
Alas, no. Instead crawled out a little monkey resembling MJ’s long suffering household pet, Bubbles, who I’m pretty confident in saying was never owned by Michael Jackson himself.

  
After suffering, much like Bubbles, for a little longer, the boat returned to shore, and I made the walk back to town.

Granada was nice, however I’m fairly certain in saying that Nicaraguas main attributes have to be its beautiful coast lines, and volcanic getaways.  
It’s a simply magnificent country, and I am SO glad I was fortunate enough to visit.  
I’ve met some hilarious and fabulous people, at the same time as meeting people who reminded me why I love traveling alone (God I sound like a miserable bitch), but I wouldn’t change any of my experiences.  I whole heartedly recommend this part of the world to everyone, as long as you’re aware that you’ve got to keep your wits about you.  
You can’t relax as much as you can in other destinations, the chances of getting mugged or assaulted are rather high.  I’d personally recommended girls to travel with friends or partner, unlike me, who as much as I’ve loved it, I’d have felt much safer with someone having my back.  
Saying that, I was fortunate enough to not encounter any real trouble, but did have to be careful with certain situations, which I’d have much preferred to not have.  I felt it was a place that pushed and tried my morals and views as an alone, independent woman, and indeed feminist.  
Things that were said, and ways in which I was sometimes treated, made me want to lose it; rant about how unacceptable and disgusting it is to be treated in such a way, or to be made to feel a certain way, however instead I’d find myself having to bite my tongue and breathe calmly, acknowledging that me sticking up for myself was going to land me in a lot more shite.  Example; some man gropes my bottom in London, he’s going to get shouted at and dressed down in public, however Nicaragua when I’m alone?  Absolutely not.  Instead my head drops down, and I shuffle away from the situation, embarrassed and angry, and that’s what I hated more than anything.

Saying that, I do hope to return one day.
  I’ve certainly ended this leg of my trip in a far better way than when I started it.  I’ve practiced yoga nearly every day, I’ve drank barely any alcohol, and I’ve appreciated my luck and self worth in a way that I certainly wasn’t before leaving the UK.

I now sit here in Houston Airport awaiting my flight to Denpasar, Bali, where I’m due to embark upon a yoga retreat.  I’m sure this whole healthy living thing will loosen up a bit soon, having been to Bali in March this year, I know what kind of debauhery it can bring out in a person.   However, saying that, I will endeavour to keep it up as much as I can. My bottom’s a little less wobbly, and I must say, I’m starting to like what I see. 
  
  
 

Changing Plans | Changing Places; Nicaragua

The thing about travel that resonates with me and attracts me so much, has to be the ability to totally change plans.

  
At the time of writing my last blog, I would have told you that I’d still be living as part of that yogic community in the forests just outside of San Juan del Sur. And although I am geographically still pretty close to there, in every other sense of the word, I’m a million miles from it.

So I left San José, Costa Rica, that morning and boarded a Tica Bus bound for Managua, Nicaragua.

I excitedly checked my bag on to the bus, paid my exit fee of US$12, and grabbed myself a microwaved breakfast of eggs rice and beans (Gallo Pinto).

It was 7am and I’d secured myself a window seat for this 8hour journey. I had a plan. To get on that bus and to sleep. Sleep and read. I’m not traveling with much music at the moment due to a broken laptop and freeing space on my phone for more photos; which I’m quite happy to do as it means I am more aware of what is going on around me on all these long bus rides. I’m sure you can imagine my distinct frustration to board the bus, American Psycho in hand, to be greeted by two Ticos (a polite word for native Costa Ricans) who were watching loud music videos, and seemingly not very funny comedy shows on their phone, and continued to do this for two hours straight, whilst laughing hysterically out loud. Once they finally stopped this, the male of the pair decided to take the seat behind mine to stretch out for his sleep. That’s fine. Sure. But he wasn’t a small man, and managed to stuff his knees up against the back of my chair, kicking like a small child on an aeroplane, whilst sticking his feet through the centre of my chair, and the chair next to me. You won’t be surprised to hear I have since downloaded some more music on my phone.

At the border things got very confusing. The entire bus load were directed off the vehicle and into an office, where we had our passports stamped. “Great” I thought. That was quick. Back onto the bus we got. Then a man in uniform came and asked me for money into Nicaragua. An entry tax, which again is common, and not a problem. He also took my passport, which I was slightly uneasy about, however, I watched all the other passengers and I followed suit.

We then pulled into a big concrete coach park, with about 8 other coaches. Everyone got up to leave the bus and again, I followed. No one spoke any English and my Spanish is coming on very well, when asking for an apple and if anyone has seen my trousers, however, those sorts of phrases are somewhat redundant in such a situation.

  
Everyone dispersed and I left the bus to be greeted by an abundance of moustached, Hispanic men, waving currencies at me. Dollars, Colones, Cordobas. Luckily it wasn’t for the reasons you may think, and they were simply carrying out their own business as exchange bureaus. 

I looked to my right and my bag had somehow exited the bus and was left on the floor. I picked it up, confused and sweaty, and shouting “No Gracias” as nicely as I could to the army of people trying to sell me things and exchange my money. I entered a big official looking building, that unfortunately was as unofficial as the car park, with people running around and yelling things in Spanish.

I followed the crowd, where I had my luggage X-Ray’d, before returning to the bus where someone grabbed my bag, asking me, “Managua?” before throwing it back into the underbelly of the bus.    

The bus driver sat in his seat, reading the newspaper, feet up on the dashboard, blasting the air conditioning, whilst keeping us locked outside on the Tarmac for around 45 minutes. Luckily there was no shortage of vendors selling food, so after perusing all my options, I settled for my second Gallo Pinto of the day. This one was served with, what I thought was cheese, but turned out to be the most disgusting curd I’ve ever tried, so I fed it to a stray dog hanging out in the immigration bus park. As I did this I looked up to meet the gaze of an angry looking local, standing next to the old woman I’d bought this from. Suddenly, wracked with fear that I’d just gravely insulted his mother and would be punished, I slithered off into the crowds to locate the ice cream man.
Eventually, we were allowed back on the bus, and my passport was returned to me, with a big Nicaraguan stamp. I was in.
Finally I got to Managua, where unfortunately I had to visit in order to run an errand, and hit the hay almost instantaneously.

The next day I was up early and got myself to Huembe Bus Terminal, to catch a bus south, to Rivas.

Entering the bus terminal was like going back to India. It was crazy. People yelling things, pushing, shoving. My bag got taken by a helpful yet unsettling man and thrown under what is known as a chicken bus. I didn’t see any chickens, however I wouldn’t have been surprised.

  
I felt like I was a child in wartime Britain (although everyone speaking Spanish) and was being sent away because of the Blitz. People were hanging out windows, saying goodbye to loved ones and crying; I was hanging out a window trying to buy a packet of crisps due to getting rushed and pushed onto the bus before having had time to eat.

  
After many people getting on the bus trying to sell a range of goods from tacos to colouring-in crayons to seeds, we finally were on the move.
 On this journey I experienced the most insane thunderstorm of epic proportions.
I shan’t bore you with details, however, was thoroughly convinced of own impending death due to fork lightning crashing down from the skies at alarming rates, and the fact I was riding, what was essentially, a tin can for adults rather than tuna. 

  
Alas I made it to Rivas after a thoroughly eye opening journey, where a nice man in a car said he’d take me to where I needed to be.

And so the treasure hunt began. I’d printed a set of instructions sent to me previously by Xian, who runs the commune, and it was certainly not the easiest of places to find. All I knew was that I was in Rivas. And there is a town 29KM away called San Juan del Sur. And on this road at some point between the two there is a gap in the barrier on the left, that has a very small sign saying “Rancho del Oro”, and I must follow this sign, even though where I’m going, isn’t Rancho del Oro.

After driving around and past the sign a few times, the taxi driver and I finally found it. I asked him to drop me there at the road side and I’d make my way in to the forest myself, not wanting to make a big scene of my arrival, as I knew that Xian doesn’t want to promote her commune to the neighbours, thus disrupting their way of life.

He insisted he drove me and after the car struggled to climb a very steep hill, pass a pack of very snarly and angry dogs, and almost get lost amid trees, I must say I was grateful for his persistence when I finally reached the sign for the commune.

I paid my fare, donned my backpack and walked through the overgrown path, over a chain barrier and into a vegetable patch, where I was greeted by Xian and one of her beautiful baby twin boys.
    

  
After remarking at how unsweaty I was considering the big climb with my backpack (didn’t tell them about the taxi), I explained “oh I don’t really perspire” (another lie) and sat in the back garden and talked to Xian and the three other volunteers helping at the Ashram / commune.

  
The day was drawing to a close, and some of the others made a big vegan-friendly dinner, whilst Xian warned me to keep an eye out for scorpions, tarantulas, a spider that lived under my bed that they weren’t sure if it was a scorpion as it moved sideways like a crab yet had a leg-span bigger than my left ass cheek, oh and of course the coral snakes whom are venomous. I took this onboard along with trying to stay level headed that it can’t be THAT bad, seeing as she lets her twin babies roll around on the floor freely.

  
I spent that night having a very uncomfortable sleep under my mosquito net, waiting to be abused or harassed in some way by various arachnids and reptiles.  

  
After sleeping for what felt like an hour, I was awoken by the chants of a Hare Krishna recording, and Xian making some odd bird like call, telling us it was time for yoga.

  
We each took out matts and did some poses on the floor, however, I found that maybe this place was less about the practise of yoga, and more about the theology behind it. There was a lot of talk of the art of breathing, Tibetan monks, and something that didn’t sit well with me; the importance of celibacy.

That was my first twinge of “maybe this is over my head”. After all, I want to do yoga to get fit and gain better balance, not know about the seven different ways I can breathe through my dominant nostril.

We then went outdoors to do our three hours of gardening in the commune, where I planted some nectarine seeds and raked out a path.

  

  
  
  
After playing with the babies some more, and reading my book, I could feel the beginnings of a headache coming on. To cut a long story short the headache turned into a migraine, which turned into a cold sweat, which turned into an anxiety attack which turned into a projectile vomit.

All this whilst a white guy with dreads insisted on playing his didgeri-bloody-doo that he’d just made from a piece of bamboo.

Debating over being a failure and then being reminded by the Trustafarian that nothing was worth this new form of torture, I made the decision to leave the next morning.

After saying my goodbyes (especially to the babies who I’d totally fallen in love with in that short amount of time) I again donned the backpack and made my way out into the forest and onto the dirt track, to find my way back to civilisation and toilets where people flushed their poo.
It’s nice now I’ve got to the grand old age of 26, where I don’t need to prove myself like I used to. I’ve lived in Fiji, and many other examples have been experienced by me to demonstrate my lack of fear in roughing it. However, I’ve done that now. And living in a house, however lovely the residents, where people generally have the runs and yet there’s no soap or cleaning products due to their chemical content, well….I just don’t need to do that any more.

  
 
   

  
I finally emerged from the forest, sweaty and exhausted on the side of the road, where I hailed a car and got a ride to the town of San Juan del Sur.
I checked into a cheap and clean hostel, and showered with soap (hurrah) and spent a couple of days practising yoga without having to discuss giving up my sex drive (hurrah again) and eating cheap, fresh and delicious fish.

  
  
  
    

I then caught a shuttle about an hour and 30 minutes up the coast to a tiny little hamlet called Playa Gigante. The minute I got there I fell in love with the beauty.

  
  
Nothing was there. Nothing. Just a selection of small restaurants and hostels; most of which were closed due to it being low season at the moment. I checked into a $10 per night hostel, which was bloody lovely as far as hostels go (own fan and everything, in big natural wooden bunks) and relaxed.

  
  
  
Later that day I met three people from the USA; Alexie, Kyle and Juan, and Robbie who was cycling through the Americas (although Australian), and instantly I hit it off with them all. I had a group, and it wasn’t even difficult.

  
  
The next day we met some more people, one of whom being Sierra, also from the States, who was just all round bloody lovely. We decided to all go on a catamaran booze cruise for three hours, which is probably one of the best $10 I’ve spent so far. We were all just mindlessly bobbing up and down on inflatable rings and life jackets, drunk as skunks thanks to the unlimited “Pirate Punch” we were given. I can’t tell you how much salt water I drank that day, having continually dunked my cup of Pirate Punch into the sea, however it was all worth it, and we had a great time on the boat.

  
The next day was our last all together, and after hours of lounging in the sun and swimming in the beautiful sea, we climbed a peninsula jutting out into the ocean called Giant’s Foot. From here we watched the sun set, beautiful colours pouring from behind the clouds and onto the sea, and we all got sentimental about how much we all liked each other, and drank some tinnies.

  
  
We’ve since split up, Which is really sad as we had the best couple of days together. However I guess I started this blog saying what I love most is freedom when traveling; I suppose even better than that is the people you meet who make the best impacts that last lifetimes.

  

  

  
I’m now in a small town called Popoyo, further up the coast from Gigante, where my current plan is to finish reading American Psycho. It’s a tough life. Peace ✌🏻️