We are now one week in to many of travelling around Central America. So far we have seen five places and are on our way to the next. Despite having planned how we were going to spend our time in Nicaragua, nothing has actually happened the way we though it would. Everything from buses that don’t exist to trekking through a national park in search for a random old man to awkward hostel opening times has meant that we are having to be very flexible with our plans – something that pre-Honduras Sara would have struggled a lot with but I have managed to keep any worrying (mostly) under the surface.
Our first stop last Saturday was Yamaranguila where there are other Project Trust volunteers (shoutout to Grace and Hannah for putting up with us!) and where we were going to meet up with Jesse and Lucy from Tomalá and Calum and Tom from Roatán, our travelling buddies for the next few months. After cramming 8 people into their two single beds for a night we left for Tegucigalpa the next afternoon. We arrived in the dark but I wasn’t very taken by Teguc and was glad we were leaving at 6.30 the next morning.
Enter the bus that doesn’t exist. We got driven to where it was supposed to leave and it had already left at 5am. Cue a lot of improvising and four buses instead of one but we got where we wanted to be, Estelí in the north of Nicaragua.
Our plan had been just to stay a night in Estelí but we were all exhausted so decided to add an extra night (a luxury we have because we haven’t booked anywhere to stay until Utila at Christmas so we can kind of just wing it until then). There was only one thing we wanted to do in Estelí anyway – find the stone man.
The stone man is Alberto Gutierrez who lives on the side of a mountain in the national park next to Estelí and carves amazing drawings into the rock face. We set off with the vaguest of directions and took a taxi for almost an hour to get to the area before wondering around blindly for a while. Eventually we found the sign we needed that pointed to Alberto’s (having already walked past it) and found the stone man.
He was very welcoming and had us sign his visitors book before he took us to his carvings. He’s been doing this for 38 years and has over 3,500 drawings. They were absolutely incredible. Hitchhiking back turned into a two hour walk before a car actually picked us up! Overall I really enjoyed the few days we spent in Estelí, surprisingly as its not usually a must see traveller’s spot, but the city is nice, we had a great hostel, Hospedaje Luna, and the stone man was definitely worth a trip.
The next morning it was up at 4.30am to head to León. This is in an area populated by lots of volcanos and we saw our first two on the bus on the way in. After being up so early our thoughts went to one place – the beach.
There are two beaches by León and we chose Las Peñitas to relax on. We hung out at a hostel/bar/restaurant called Oasis and spent six hours battling the huge waves, relaxing with a cold drink, treating ourselves to some expensive food ($8 is expensive for us!) and watching the sun set over the Pacific Ocean. Pretty magical.
One of things León is famous for, apart from its gorgeous white cathedral, is the fact that it’s close to Cerro Negro, the only active volcano in the world that you can board down. That was where we headed on Thursday with the social charity Quetzaltrekkers. Cerro Negro is the smallest volcano in Nicaragua at 728m but the most active. It erupts every 15 years or so and last erupted in 1999 so it could happen any day now!
Volcano boarding was an interesting experience. The trek up was hot and heavy with the boards and jumpsuits but thankfully not long. I have to say though that I didn’t enjoy the first run down. I didn’t chicken out and I went extremely fast from the start but however steep Cerro Negro looks (which is very) it’s actually even steeper. This meant I was getting sprayed in the face by the volcanic rocks, in my eyes, nose, mouth, even my ears! And then I went over a bump at the bottom came flying off and rolled down the last bit! I was fine, nothing wrong except a bruised bum and bruised pride.
With Quetzaltrekkers there’s the option of boarding down a second time which most people actually didn’t take but I was determined that I would enjoy it so braved the trek a second time and took it a lot slower on the way down. Much better and no crashes! An absolutely incredible experience and even if you don’t like the actual boarding the views from the top are still worth it.
Yesterday we took the morning to look around León and finally made it up to the roof of the Cathedral which is just as beautiful as it looks in all of the pictures. We took a late afternoon bus to Granada which was meant to be our next stop but timing issues with the particular hostel we want to stay means that we decided to change plans again. We found a hostel for the night and are currently on a bus to Isla de Ometepe which promises to be amazing. We’ll be there for four days so will probably get its own blog post written on the bus as we leave!
It’s been such a fast and furious start to travelling, it’s hard to believe I only left Candelaria a week ago today! If this is how the rest of our time is going to go, it’s going to be pretty fantastic.