Ojo de Agua: The Recovery

After our hike up Mt. Maderas the entire group was sore and in need of recovery. We’d heard rumor of a lake of healing water on the island filled by a natural spring: Ojo de Agua. Our guide from the mountain had told us it was a short one kilometer walk up the road. We should have known, based on his time estimates from the hike, that this was likely a much longer distance. We set off walking with directions from the front desk: “it’s on the other side of the river on the left.”

We started walking and almost immediately a herd of horses came running down the middle of the street. We dodged to the side and watched this spectacle block traffic as the horses tried to sneak a bite to eat before the farmer shooed them along. We held still and attempted to stay out of the way to avoid being trampled.

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As we were walking, one of our waiters from Villa Paraiso caught up with us as he was walking to catch the bus home and we asked him about Ojo de Agua and said that we’d been told it was only 15-20 minutes away; he started laughing, hard, and told us that might be true, if you ran quickly. We all realized we’d fallen victim one more time to Bismark’s “15 more minutes” line, being that we wanted to see the healing waters and swim to help loosen our sore muscles. We pushed on, simply enjoying the lush scenery of Ometepe. We were enjoying the walk and talking about conquering the volcano the day before when our waiter stopped us quickly and pointed out a group of spider monkeys feasting on food refuse by the side of the road, including a mother with a baby on her back. The wild monkeys let us get up close and personal, clearly being well adjusted to their human companions on the island.

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A mother and her baby.

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Two more spider monkeys resting in the shade.

After another 45 minutes of walking through the hills of Ometepe we finally reached the river, with cattle drinking on one side and families doing their laundry on the other. It was here that I realized what a simple life most residents on the island lead. This simplicity was part of the charm of Ometepe; the scenery was beautiful, the people out of their way friendly, and life just moved at a slower pace.

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Families doing their laundry in the river, they wanted a dollar to take the picture.

About 100 meters past the river we finally came to the sign for Ojo de Agua; only another 500 meters to go and we would be able to soak in the healing waters and stretch our sore muscles. We reached the entrance, paid our three dollars and walked into this beautifully shrouded mineral spring lagoon. We all quickly changed and jumped in, eager to cool off. While the mineral spring did not heal all of our pains, the walk there combined with the swim helped eliminate most of our pains and the mineral balance of the water left us feeling clean and refreshed. Ojo de Agua is definitely a must see if you come to Ometepe.

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Ojo de Agua, a sight for sore eyes.

On the hike the previous day we had heard howler monkeys throughout the day and caught glimpses towards the end of the day but nothing up close. As we were finishing up at Ojo de Agua we were greeted by the familiar grunts and howls of the howler monkeys’ approach, and we’re pleasantly surprised to see them in the trees above the spring, apparently incensed that we had invaded their space. It was the perfect end to our time on Ometepe, and though we were sad to leave and part with our new friends, we move on to adventures in Costa Rica, knowing we will be back.

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A howler monkey in the trees above Ojo de Agua.

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The dirt path as we leave Ojo de Agua at the end of a long day.

The Climb Up Volcan Maderas

We arrived at La Isla de Ometepe on Thursday evening on a ferry that was, let’s just say, a bit out of date. The ferry ride was a bit windy and seemed to go on forever, but was nothing compared to the boat adventure we had between the Corn Islands. We had traveled by taxi from San Juan del Sur to San Jorge with our friends Ryan and Alouette. Upon arrival in San Jorge we were quickly greeted with information and offers for tours, taxis, and hotels on Ometepe. With some difficulty, we were able to decline their offers and go have a quick lunch in peace before boarding the next ferry. While eating, we started talking to a father and son from Santa Barbara who were planning to take the next small boat to the island. Drew convinced them it would be worth it to wait the half hour for the larger ferry boat and we had increased our group to six. Bruce and Ian were interested in hiking one of the volcanoes on the island, as we were, so we all decided to look for a place to stay together so we could arrange a hike for the following morning.

The island is in Lake Nicaragua and is made up of two volcanoes, Concepcion and Maderas. Concepcion is an active volcano and Maderas is inactive. Maderas is also slightly smaller than Concepcion so we had all decided to hike that one. When we arrived on the island, we hopped in a “colectivo” van, which is basically a taxi you take with a bunch of other people to make it cheaper per person. We had a total of 13 people in the van and it worked out to be $4 per person for the approximately 45 minute drive across the island. Since the 6 of us were planning the hike for the morning, we decided to check out a place we had heard about that was right at the base of the trail. After dropping off the other 7 passengers at various hotels and hostels, we made our way up a muddy dirt road to Finca Magdalena.

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A view of Ometepe from the ferry.

As we pulled up to the main building, my first thought was “this can’t be it.” In front of us was an old farm house that even from the outside looked like it was lacking in comfort and security. Drew tells me to go in first to make sure we can get a private room so I walk up the steps and find a girl who works there. I asked for a “habitacion privado” and after confirming that she had some, she proceeded to show us the shared bathroom and showers. I wasn’t thrilled about that but I figured I could deal with it for a day or two. When she showed us the rooms, I really started to have doubts. We walked down a dark, drafty hallway to a series of private rooms that were locked with padlocks and with doors that appeared to be made of nothing more than plywood. Inside each room was a simple bed with a worn mosquito net that had at least a few holes. The walls of the rooms did not meet the ceiling. No one looked terribly excited about the place but for $12 a night, no one could think of a reason to go elsewhere. Until Bruce asked if they take credit cards and the girl said, “no.” Bruce literally ran down the steps to see if Maximo, our driver, was still there. He was and we all heaved sighs of relief as we grabbed our stuff and jumped back in the van.

With the help of Maximo, TripAdvisor, and Bruce’s fluency in Spanish, we landed at Villa Paraiso, a very nice hotel, for a reasonable rate. We each had our own Cabana with private bathroom, AC, hot water, and even TV. The hotel is right on the lake and has its own restaurant and pool. The service was excellent and the place was really comfortable. After we had settled in, we all agreed that the other place made us feel like we were entering a horror movie and we were all so glad to be at Villa Paraiso. Before he left, we arranged for Maximo to pick us up at 6:00 AM, along with a guide, for our hike up Volcan Maderas.

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Ryan hanging out in front of Villa Paraiso.

After a comfortable night under the cool air of the AC, we awoke shortly after 5:00 AM to get ready for the hike. We dressed, packed a bag, and met in the lobby at 5:45 for coffee. The hotel had prepared bagged lunches and bottled water for us. Maximo arrived with our guide, Bismark, and we all piled back in the van. We made our way back up the dirt road to Finca Magdalena and the head of the trail. After dividing up the food and water among everyone’s bags, we were on our way.

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Starting out on our journey!

Bismark took off at a fast pace that left some of us a bit out of breath but we mostly kept up at first. The trail started off just a little slippery and uphill but nothing too difficult. The higher we got though, the steeper and wetter we got. Bruce and Ian did not bring backpacks and at one point offered to carry mine and Alouette’s. That turned out to be a life saver as I don’t think I could have made it with that pack on. Big shout out to both of them, but especially Ian who kept up with Bismark all the way up and down with my backpack on his back! As we got higher up the mountain, our pace slowed and it seemed every time we asked Bismark how much longer to the top, the answer was 40 minutes. The first time I fell I felt like giving up but I was determined to keep going. The next time I fell I landed right in a puddle of mud and I was ready to cry. I pushed through the tears though and kept following the group. I think having Ian up front with my backpack full of food helped motivate me like a dog following its owner with a pocket full of treats.

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View from a lookout point on the way up.

We managed to make our way to the top after a brief encounter with a poisonous snake, a bee sting, and a few scrapes and bruises in about 4 hours. When we got to the top, I was a bit underwhelmed. There was just a small clearing but we were still mostly under the cover of trees and it was cloudy so there was no view. I have never enjoyed a ham sandwich like I did that day though. We were all famished. The hotel had packed us 2 sandwiches each, crackers, fruit cups, and bananas and we ate it all. There is a lagoon in the center of the mountain that I was really looking forward to all the way up, but it was actually quite cold at the top of the mountain and I had no desire to go swimming at that point. Bismark said the lagoon was another 5 minutes down the trail and that he would stay there with our stuff if we wanted to go check it out. We started off but Drew and Ryan very quickly decided to stay behind. A little further down, there was a pretty big jump down that I wasn’t so sure I’d be able to get back up so Alouette and I turned around as well. A few minutes later, Ian and Bruce were back as well. Apparently there was an even bigger jump, into a large mud pit, and they decided to turn back as well. Perhaps there was a reason Bismark was going to stay behind all along.

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Alouette, Bruce, Ryan, and I starting out for the lagoon.

We didn’t get to rest for long before it was time to start making our way back down. Bismark was concerned it might start raining, hard, which would make the descent more difficult and more dangerous. The “trail” was actually more of a stream bed so I get the feeling we would have needed a raft had it started pouring. The way down turned out to be much more difficult for the most part. It was slippery and hard on our knees. I fell at least 8 times and my wrists were starting to hurt from catching myself. Everyone was worse for wear and we were all ready to just be done with the whole thing. It was the thought of a shower and a hot meal that got us all safely down the mountain. Safely might not be the most accurate word, but we were all alive and still able to stand at the end so that’s something. Bismark and Ian were literally running down the mountain at times and apparently at one point Bismark slipped and caught himself just before flying off a cliff.

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The whole way up was lush and green.

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A petroglyph we found on the way down.

The highlight on the way down was a group of howler monkeys in the trees. Ryan had stopped and turned around to wait for those of us who were behind him and looked up at just the right time. There was even a little baby monkey. I had been hoping to see monkeys this whole trip so I was so excited to finally see some. By this time the trail was starting to flatten out and we were on the home stretch. We got down to Finca Magdalena and Drew got a round of beers to celebrate our success. We cleaned off our shoes with a hose, drank our beers, and truly enjoyed being able to just sit down for a bit. Maximo’s wife had come to pick us up but couldn’t make it up the dirt road in her truck so we walked down a bit to meet her. Bismark, Drew, Ian, Ryan, and Alouette hopped in the bed and Bruce and I sat in the cab.

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A howler monkey in a tree.

That morning, Drew had asked Maximo if there was somewhere on the island to get Nacatamales, Nicaragua’s version of tamales, and he said we could get them on Sundays. On our ride home though, Bismark pointed out a house that had been making them and had them available right now, so we had to stop. We picked up one for everyone, at less than a dollar each, and headed back to Villa Paraiso. When we got there we gathered around a table and savored those Nacatamales. Nacatamales are larger than Mexican tamales, with the same corn meal but also rice and potatoes. They are filled with fatty pork and onions and are wrapped in a banana leaf. They were the perfect after-hike snack.

After getting cleaned up and resting for a bit, we all met up for dinner at the hotel restaurant and discussed our day. We were all hurting and exhausted but I think everyone was proud that we completed the hike. I know I am.

Ometepe: Lakeside Paradise

Laura and I have moved on from San Juan del Sur to the lush island paradise of Ometepe. Since arriving three days ago we have hiked the smaller of the two volcanos on the island, Maderas, a 1400 meter high volcano that at times involved us scrambling on hands and knees to go up. The trek took a total of 7 1/2 hours. The four hours up were difficult and our traveling companions helped urge us along and without them I doubt we would have summited the mountain. After our lunch on the mountain top we were feeling energized and ready to begin our descent, only to discover that the descent was harder then the climb, we were on our butts and scrambling through the mud all the way down the mountain. It was only at the bottom that I found out that the guide and Ian one of our traveling friends had been racing and running down the hill and nearly killed themselves running off a cliff. When we got to bottom we had a celebratory beer and the endorphins started flowing, we were all happy to be done with the mountain, but proud of our accomplishment.

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The group before the climb; left to right Laura, Alouette, Bruce, Ian, Ryan and Drew.

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Foliage on the hike from a vantage point looking down the slope.

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Mist drifting down the mountain.

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Laura and I at the halfway point of the hike, and the best vantage on the mountain.

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The summit party, all smiles after conquering the mountain. Little did we know what came next.

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Bruce, Ian and our guide, Bismark, in the moss forest.

It was a difficult day, but definitely an accomplishment to remember for years to come!

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Maderas from the beach on Ometepe.

Día de San Juan Bautista: La Fiesta Patronales

We arrived in San Juan del Sur with a bang, literally. Fireworks were being set off all over town with thunderous booms from early in the morning to late into the night. We spent our first 24 hours trying to figure out what on earth was going on in this seemingly sleepy seaside town, or if this was just normal; it wasn’t until after we followed a parade featuring a hewn tree trunk through the streets of San Juan del Sur that we got our answer: the birthday of St. John, the patron saint of San Juan del Sur. The weekend marked the start of festivities in the lead up to the saint’s birthday. It included everything from potato sack races to celebrations of the saint’s baptism of Jesus to firework-laced ‘bull’ icons racing through the crowd. The celebrations continued with each day seemingly getting larger as more and more businesses around town closed down for the celebration and the streets got more and more crowded. We were fortunate to get to see this celebration first hand, despite being startled out of bed at all hours of the night by fireworks and church bells.

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The whole community came out for the celebration. There were bouncy castles for children, concert stages setup through the town square constantly blasting popular local dance music. This was clearly the community event of the year. Residents set up chairs all over the church plaza and talked, ate, laughed, and drank; and my did they drink. Flor de Caña sponsored the entire event! The square was packed from late morning till early morning (the last firework show of the night went off at 4:30 in the morning). Everyone was incredibly friendly and inviting and it almost made us feel as if we were part of the community. It makes you realize how in different parts of the world, patron saint’s are still very much a large part of the community and the celebration brings people together.

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Bull efficacies chasing the crowd with fireworks.

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May pole celebration in front of the Catholic Church in San Juan del Sur.

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Jesus being paraded through the crowd in celebration of John the Baptist.
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The sunset from our hostel above the church where all of the celebrations were.

San Juan del Sur: Haven for Surfers, Yogis, and Catholics

Where can you surf, practice yoga, and visit one of the largest statues of Jesus Christ in the world? San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua is home to all of these things and more. A town with an eclectic mix of local and ex-pats, San Juan del Sur has quickly become one of the most interesting places Drew or I have ever visited. As I write this, I am sitting in a restaurant right on the beach, drinking a cappuccino, being solicited for sunglasses (which is probably a cover for the drugs he’s really selling), watching pelicans float on the waves in the rain, with a large statue of Jesus Christ on the hilltop overlooking the whole town.

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It seems that, more than anything, surfing is what brings people from all over the world to San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua. So, Drew and I decided it was time to take a lesson. We ran into a guy from Colorado who we had met on Big Corn Island and he told us about One Love Surf School through which he had just taken a lesson. We went down the next day and signed up for a lesson. The guy, when he asked where we were from, was surprised to learn a couple of Californians had never been surfing before!

The next day we showed up at the shop, ready to hit the waves. We hopped in their truck with the boards in the back and headed for Playa Remanso, South of town. Apparently, the best beach for learning to surf is Playa Hermosa but it is closed through September because the next season of Survivor is being filmed here. Playa Remanso was beautiful though, and not too busy which made it just that much better for learning.

The lesson began with our teacher talking to us about the nature of surfing. It requires patience and being able to relax and just go with the flow. He said you’ll spend 80-90% of your time waiting or paddling and only 10-20% actually surfing. After this brief talk, we got to practicing on land. We learned how and where to lay on the board, how to move our arms for paddling, and finally, how to actually stand up. We practiced over and over until we showed that we had the motions down.

Finally it was time to try it out in the water. We attached the boards to our ankles and walked out into the waves. When it got a bit deeper we hopped on the boards and started paddling out. This proved to be the hardest part for me as I am not a very good swimmer and my arms are not terribly strong. Finally we got out far enough and it was time to try to catch a wave. The first time I basically just stayed down on the board and felt what it was like to just ride the wave. The next time I was able to get up into position 1, which is basically Cobra pose in yoga. For the next 2 hours or so we kept trying, again and again. We were both able to stand up for at least a few seconds by the end of it all.

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Overall it was a lot of fun and something I might try again but I wouldn’t call it my new hobby. I can see how it requires the ability to relax and just stay focused on where you are. In this way it is very much like yoga, which is something I really enjoy. The day after our surfing lesson, in fact, I found a yoga studio and joined a class. My body was a little stiff and in need of some good stretching. It turned out that most of the people in the class are here for a surf camp and so the class would be focusing on restorative poses for surfing. Perfect!

Now one of the things I love about yoga is the quiet relaxation it brings. This class turned out to be far from quiet. Imagine you are on a serene rooftop with soft music and birds chirping. Now throw in a live band, amplified for miles, and cannons and fireworks going off every 30 seconds or so. The entire building shakes every time the cannon sounds. So much for peaceful yoga class, right? It actually turned out to be pretty amazing how class was able to go on and we could stay focused despite the uncontrollable distractions.

You will read more about these “distractions” in Drew’s post, but in short, we happen to be in San Juan del Sur during the festival of San Juan Bautista (St. John the Baptist). This is a huge celebration in this heavily Catholic town. As I mentioned earlier, a huge statue of Jesus overlooks the town. We decided to hike up there, along with our new friend from the Netherlands, Alouette. We headed out, with directions from the owner of our hostel. He said it would take about 50 minutes…not too bad.

We started off along the beach and then began to wind our way up through the streets leading up the hill. We rounded a corner and the road just got steeper. We were beginning to question our desire to go all the way when a guy with a pickup showed up and offered us a ride. We gratefully hopped in the bed of the truck with another guy and his bike and rode up the rest of the hill. At the top we still had a steep set of stairs to climb and a $2 entrance fee to pay but finally we arrived.

The view from the statue was incredible. We could see all the way south to Costa Rica. The hills are scattered with huge houses that would cost tens of millions of dollars in the Bay Area but probably come in under a million here. The statue itself is quite impressive though is not as large as the famous statue of Jesus in Rio de Janeiro.

Having surfed, stretched, and hiked throughout San Juan del Sur, I find myself still intrigued by this town. We have already extended our stay here by a couple of days as we continue to explore the great culture, great food, and great people that populate San Juan del Sur.

Little Corn: A Photo Essay

Included in this post are a few of the pictures Laura and I got on Little Corn. This post will be updated when we get home with properly edited and much higher quality copies. I chose not to travel with a laptop and instead have been doing all of my photo editing on an Android tablet. Needless to say this work process has been cramped and difficult to manage, but I will get into that in a ‘nerd out’ post later.

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Little Corn is full of isolated beaches which goes with Beach and Bungalow’s almost Robinson Crusoe theme.

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The fastest form of transport on the island.

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Lola, Little Corn Beach and Bungalow’s local rescue parot.

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Your marker to let you know you’d arrived.

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The island is not particularly high, so to get a 360 view required a bit of climbing up an abandoned lighthouse.

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The view was definitely worth the climb.

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American College volunteer groups frequently come to the islands to help teach English and repair and build people’s homes, there was a group that arrived about halfway into our stay.

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World cup

And of course everyone needs their world cup fix, Los Delfinos is the only bar on the island with a public TV for the games.

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But even there you get a fantastic view.

More pictures to come when we get home! Laura and I are celebrating the festival of San Juan Bautista here in San Juan del Sur, the concerts and fireworks went till 4:00 am and picked up around 9:00, hopefully we make it all night tonight!

Looking Back on the Corn Islands

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It’s hard to believe that the first part of our trip has come and gone. We have moved on from the Corn Islands and are now in beautiful San Juan del Sur on the southern Pacific coast of Nicaragua. I’m sitting in a coffee shop looking back at the pictures I took, the places I saw and some of the friendships I made on the islands and realized what a little piece of paradise it is and how completely it is disconnected from the real world. People who come to the Corn Islands for a couple of days routinely push their trips into weeks, months and some even turn to living and working on the islands.

The places we stayed at on each island were incredibly different from each other, but both were comfortable. Ike Siu’s cabanas on the north end of Big Corn were small and comfortable but offered all of the amenities of a modern hotel; A/C, fast wifi and a delicious hot breakfast all contained with a magical Caribbean view (see the picture above), all for an incredibly affordable rate. The thing that really makes this place though is the owner, Ike, he greets you at the airport and immediately takes you on a driving tour of the island to show you all of the best spots and places to explore. I can’t recommend his cabanas strongly enough!

On the opposite side is Little Corn Beach and Bungalow; your very own Robinson Crusoe living experience with many of the luxuries and amenities of a 5-star resort. The beds were amazingly comfortable, draped in an all enclosing mosquito net to protect you from unwanted visitors and a fan (that only worked till 6:30 am when the village power went out). Each morning you would awake and have coffee on your porch, sans electricity and alarm clocks, enjoying the sound of the waves breaking the beach not 100 feet from where you lounged.

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Owners Scot and Christine are dedicated business owners, constantly training and working with their employees to provide their guests with an experience they might receive sitting at a five star restaurant in the United States. This constant process of refining the experience guests receive helps keep their employees sharp but also provides them skills that in a tourism minded locale like the Corn Island will give them a leg up when competing for other jobs in the future (both front end managers at the hotel are locals). All of the employees showed an incredible dedication to the needs of the guests, and the food at the Turned Turtle Restaurant cannot be rivaled anywhere on the island (I have not eaten that much steak in a long time!). That being said the cost of staying at Little Corn Beach and Bungalow rivals staying at a 4-5 star resort in somewhere like Puerto Vallarta, we utilized their ‘RADD’ deal which provided two meals a day and all the domestic beer, soda and juice you could drink (I drank a lot of Toña – the local Nicaraguan beer) and discounts on various activities and your room rate. The cost of this deal as well as the room has gone up since we booked and makes the deal, which was already borderline to me for making economic sense a little less enticing, I think I would rather pay a bit more and have it include absolutely everything. The one negative comment I have is in their accounting system for meals/drinks they utilize a paper notebook where they annotate what was eaten/drank by guests but provide no accounting of this to the guest at check out. We were told we consumed 29 meals during our stay of the allotted 24 meals, however Laura and I went back and calculated our meals and realized we had only eaten 26 (the 4 per day plus breakfast on the last day), if you are limited on the meals you eat on the inclusive deal I would like to see some sort of coupon exchanged for your meal, that way each party can account for their use. That being said we had an amazing experience at Little Corn Beach and Bungalow and would strongly recommend staying there for anyone looking to have a tropical getaway that disconnects them a little bit from the modern world and takes a bit of an adventure to reach.

Little Corn Island: A Quiet Paradise?

One of the great things about our relationship is our unique and ongoing interest in the qualities that make us different and make us work well together. The first difference one would notice upon meeting us is, simply put, Drew is loud and I am quiet. There has been much media attention lately on introversion and extroversion and how these personality characteristics play a role in out interpersonal relations and communications. In case you haven’t come across any information on the subject, here is my quick explanation. First of all, there is a scale with introversion at one end and extroversion at the other. So we all fall somewhere along the continuum and no one is exclusively introverted or extroverted but many of us do tend to lie heavily on one side or the other. Basically, a person who is more introverted will gain energy from being alone and will expend energy when communicating with people. This doesn’t mean he or she is scared of people or dislikes them, but rather it just requires more energy to engage with other people. A person who is more extroverted, on the other hand, gains energy from being with other people. There are times when they need to be alone and “come down” from their high but they quickly feel the need to go out and communicate with people again, in person.

Now that I’ve given a brief explanation, I can tell you that I am definitely far on the introvert side of the scale and Drew is on the extrovert side. Developing a deeper understanding of what this means for each of us is what allows us to travel together for long periods of time. For example, we were at Tranquilo on Little Corn Island which was the place to be on this Wednesday night. There was live music and dancing and the place was packed with all kinds of people, but especially, it seemed, young people in their early twenties, here on a volunteer trip. They were loud and drinking and dancing and singing. The DJ was a white guy, apparently from California, whose radio voice was rasta in style and who played a reggae mix that included Shaggy and Snoop Dogg hits from the late 90s. Drew was enjoying conversation with some travelers we met earlier in the week and I was just sitting quietly watching everything. At one point, Drew turned to me and asked if I was feeling overwhelmed, the word I use to describe the feeling I get when my energy is spent and I need some alone time to recharge. I said that I was but that I was ok to just sit quietly and watch because I knew that he was really in need of the time he had to just talk with a couple of guys about cameras and rum and I don’t know what else as I had tuned them out. In this way we are able to make sure one another’s needs are being met. The next morning I was allowed plenty of time to sit in a hammock at Little Corn Beach & Bungalow and finish the book I had picked up at their book exchange. The book, by the way, was “Little Bee” by Chris Cleave and was amazing.

One would think that Little Corn Island with its population of about 1,000, no cars, and laid back feel would be the perfect place for an introvert like myself. A paradise where I can have the beach to myself, read a book, and drink piña coladas. It turns out, you can feel more crowded on a small rural island than you might think. Don’t get me wrong, I have truly enjoyed my time here and would be more than happy to return. I have had plenty of opportunity to be alone and refresh my energy. However, I have also found that the small-ness of it all means you are sort of required to spend time talking to new people all the time. It’s like staying in one big house or hotel and everywhere you go you run into all the same people.

I haven’t met anyone I disliked but for a strongly-introverted person like myself, getting to know someone is an energy-taxing activity. So every time we sit down with someone, whether we met them today or yesterday, I feel my energy draining. As I told Drew, it is sometimes easier to be alone in a big city where no one knows you than it is on a small island. I can see Drew’s face lighting up as he is getting to know new people and talking to them like they are old friends. So sometimes I join in and sometimes I excuse myself to our room where I can rest for awhile. The great thing is that I know Drew understands and I never have to feel as though something is wrong with me for needing some space. Just as Drew knows that I understand his need for social interaction and I make sure that I don’t take that away from him when he needs it most.

The $6 Boat Adventure

We arrive at the waiting area of the municipal pier on Big Corn Island just before 10AM, the scheduled departure time of our voyage to Little Corn Island. The waiting area is an outdoor, covered patio with benches and a couple of ticket counters. There are about 40 people milling about, some tourists, some locals, some tourists-gone-locals. We set our backpacks, smartly covered with black trash bags, on a bench and I sit while Drew goes to buy the tickets. $6 USD each and we have our laminated tickets in hand. The couple next to us, we learn, are Americans who came to work on the island temporarily two years ago and never left. They are just returning from a shopping trip in Managua.

After a few minutes they get up, grab their stuff, and start heading for the dock. There was no announcement as far as we could tell but we figure they must know how things work around here so we follow suit. We get to the dock, not really knowing what sort of vessel to expect. In front of us is what reminds me of a plastic toy bathtub boat and it is already holding about 20 people. It is bright blue and quite literally made of some sort of plastic material. It has maybe 8 or 10 benches going straight across, all the way along. Behind the benches are the motor, steering wheel, storage compartment, etc. Along the starboard-side of the boat is a wadded up plastic sheet and all along the benches and scattered across the floor are bright orange life jackets.

A man instructs us to pile our bags on the dock from where he will load them into a compartment under the deck. We spot a couple who we met the night before at dinner and decide to hop in next to them. The four of us comfortably fit on our bench but people are still piling in. The boat is unnervingly lopsided and I wonder if we might capsize right there at the dock. I’m already holding onto the bench in front of me, white-knuckles and all. It seems like we are sitting there forever but people are still trickling in. Two girls, about eleven years old, look with concern into the boat, wondering where they will sit in the sea of people. A man looks at our row and instructs us to make room for her, in the middle. We shuffle around and help her to the middle and all sit back down, now quite literally squished next to one another on the bench. I am between Drew and the young girl and I can’t help thinking about what will happen if we capsize and how now I am responsible for this young girl too.

Finally it is time to untie from the dock and head out on the 8 mile journey to Little Corn Island. Weather is overcast and windy, but luckily not raining as it had been. As we pick up speed, the cool breeze feels good on my face but I am still holding on for dear life. We begin to get further out into the deeper sea and now the cool breeze has become intense, drowning gusts of wind and water. The people on the side with the plastic sheet begin pulling it up over their heads and eventually it is passed all the way to the other side.

The rest of the journey is about 45 minutes of bouncing and wobbling across the waves. Again and again the boat goes up and lands with a frighteningly hard slap in the water as we navigate what, to me, feels like a severely dark and stormy sea. Drew is sitting next to me telling me how the swells really aren’t that big; it’s just that the boat is too small and there are too many people on it. But at least the guy driving knows what he’s doing, Drew says. Yes, at least there is that. I tell Drew to tell me about it when we get there and can we please not talk about it anymore. He says to just keep looking at the horizon and we will be fine. Finally we are in close sight of Little Corn and the waves are beginning to calm. I feel relief as we get closer and closer and I think I could probably swim to shore if necessary. In no time at all we are tying up at the dock and beginning to unload. It feels good to be on land. We see a sign boasting “Welcome Andrew and Jonathan” from Little Corn Beach & Bungalow and we are here.

Bon voyage!

Hello and welcome!

Thanks for stopping by! This is the blog of Drew and Laura MacLeod as we set off on our first trip as a married couple for a month in Nicaragua and Costa Rica. We will be making stops in the Corn Islands, San Juan del Sur, Ometepe, Granada,  and Tamarindo. Stay tuned for pictures and blogs about our activities and the people we see!

Drew and Laura