A Travellerspoint blog

Jiquilillo and Going Home

the adventure comes to an end

sunny

I had been persuaded by a German girl named Selina who trekked Telica with us that the perfect way to end my Central American adventure was to head north from Leon, up the coast to a lazy little village on the Pacific called Jiquilillo. So after a morning of taking touristy snaps of Leon we headed off in a minivan to a town called Chinandega. The woman sat in front of us was carrying masses of cotton wool, but in the least efficient way possible. Each small ball was packaged in an inflated plastic bag so that she was surrounded in what looked like cotton wool frog-spawn. The madness you see in Nicaragua...

Anyway, on arriving in Chinandega we soon worked out that public transport to Jiquilillo was sparse at best and so we paid the $20 for a taxi straight there. On the way there our choice of taking a taxi was justified as we over-took the bus which was on its way to Jiquilillo, with about five people hanging off it. Forty-five minutes later we arrived at Rancho Esperanza where we were met by the owner, Nate, who moved to Nicaragua seven years ago to set up his version of paradise. Lying along a pristine beach are several cabañas (wooden huts) and a multitude of hammocks. There you can surf, volunteer, visit Padre Ramos - the largest wetlands in Central America, or, do nothing at all. We chose the latter option.

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One day we walked the seven kilometres along the beach to the entrance to the Padre Ramos estuary, however we didn't see much except from a lot of dead, washed up fish and I got gnarly sunburned. So we came to the conclusion that laying in hammocks all day was a better option. The evenings were occupied by darts, uno and Toña.

Feeling utterly relaxed I then had to make the stressful journey back to Honduras to catch my flight home. Crossing the border was much easier than I had feared i.e. I didn't need to bribe anyone, and although I got ripped off a bit that was expected to happen at some point. So I made it to Tegucigalpa (the Honduran capital) with plenty of time and nothing to do. Tegucigalpa was definitely the most boring place I had visited with nothing to do except see two churches (three minutes walk from each other) and sample all the different fast food joints. I managed to tick off Wendy's, Burger King, Pizza Hut and Popeye's. And then felt like shit. My flight didn't arrive quickly enough.

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Central America was definitely the most stressful and challenging trip I've been on, and yet I've still had an incredible time and met loads of great people. So as they say; all's well that ends well.

I'm now back in London, the weather's crap and there's a decided lack of volcanoes. Just have to wait until next year I suppose...

Posted by Monsk 08:29 Archived in Nicaragua Comments (0)

Leon pt 2.

Another Volcano and a spot of cockfighting

sunny

The day after returning from Telica and getting gnarly pissed was painful and not much happened. However it was also Chris' last night in Nicaragua and so there was the obvious compulsion to get on the Flor de Caña again. However, feeling rather poor we had to settle for the four years. This combined with copious amounts of Raptor (a berry-flavoured Nicaraguan Red Bull rip-off) made me feel on top of the world for five minutes, then like death for the rest of the evening.

After about three hours sleep we got up to climb another volcano (one which I'd persuaded Chris to sign up to the previous day, before he headed off home). This volcano, the Cerro Negro, or Black Hill, was only small and took about an hour to get to the summit. It was a cone made of fine volcanic rocks, perfect for the method we would use to get down. Sliding down the side on a plank of wood. Kitted out in bright orange boiler suits and goggles we sat on the boards, laid back and let gravity take over. Unfortunately, as I weigh about the same as a chunky cat, my board failed to pick up much speed and kept veering off to the right. Ultimately Chris beat me easily despite coming off his board and flipping over onto his back three times. This put him in a pretty bad mood and he cursed me for persuading him to do thing at all. Oh well.

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Back in León the three hours sleep and the volcano hike had caught up to me and I felt like death. Luckily, however, I'd also signed up to go to a cock-fight that afternoon where there would be an open bar, so all was not lost. I wasn't sure what to expect from the cock-fight, how seedy it would be, whether it would be truly authentic or aimed at gringos and how brutal the fights would be. We arrived halfway into a fight with both the cocks bleeding heavily, but it was soon all over as one fell to the floor, the other put a claw on its neck and began pecking at its eye. The owner of the defeated cock was quick to rush in and pull his bird away. The location of the fight was a small field in a residential are on the edge of town. And far from it being a seedy place, it seemed to be the Sunday entertainment for the local community who came to have a bit of a bet and drink a few beers.

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There was a long wait for the next fight as two owners would agree a bet (in the absence of a betting office, the betting system was quite convoluted) and prepared their cockerels. The claw on the back of the leg which is used by the birds for fighting is removed and instead a small (1-2mm) blade is strapped to it. All in the intrests of fairness. When the second bout came around the tension in the air was fierce and scuffles broke out several times with one particularly angry individual. The fight got under way with a furious flurry of kicks and pecks and the intensity of the fighting continued to a few minutes until blood started to leak from cuts to the cockerels' neck and heads. One of the cocks came out of the first round far better than the other. The methods used by the owners in the short break between rounds to inject some more life into their birds were intense. The owner of the cockerel who had suffered most in the first round blew into it's nostrells, gave it beak-to-mouth and even fitted the whole head and neck of the bird into his mouth to suck off the blood that had been spilt.

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The fight went on for three more rounds and although it was clear that one of the birds was well on top, the other would just not give in and so, after fifteen minutes of fighting, the fight was declared a draw. After the fight the proud owner of the almost defeated cockerel let us chat to him and he told us that despited the wide cuts all over his bird's head and its apparent inability to stand or even open its eyes, it would be back in the ring in about three months. Normally it would be sooner, but that day it had lost a lot of blood. So after the fight we left and although the fighting had been pretty vicious, the owners had shown a lot more compassion towards their birds than I had seen toward any other animal in Central America on my trip.

The bell chimes and the fight begins (this video isn't grizzly)

Posted by Monsk 04:40 Archived in Nicaragua Comments (0)

León pt 1.

Volcán Telica

sunny

The night before before picking up my passport, me, a few Americans from the hostel and a couple of local girls prematurely celebrated by drinking plenty of Toñas (the national beer) and hitting up a karaoke bar. All the locals took it very seriously and were really quite good, I asked them to whack on a bit of The Beatles and murdered A Hard Day's Night. Disappointingly no-one seemed to pay any attention.

I collected my passport the next morning (paying a further $7 for the pleasure) and got the ninety minute bus north-west to the old colonial city of León. I checked into Bigfoot Hostel, a typical gringo hangout and set about to explore the city while waiting for the other lads to arrive. I got about fifty metres down the road before Chris ran into me, telling me that the others were in the process of organising a two-day hike up a volcano. I fancied some of that action so signed up as well.

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At six the next morning we headed over to the Quetzal Trekkers (the tour agency we were hiking with) office where we ate loads of eggs and loaded our rucksacks up with eight litres of water, as we were informed that there would be nowhere to get any more from for the next thirty six hours. It turns out that eight litres of water weighs a fair amount. After rousing the ire of locals as we were forced to shove our rucksacks in their faces in order to board a bus, we headed to the base of Volcano Telica. Telica is one in a string of volcanoes near León, and one of the most active. The first four hours of the hike were mercifully under shade and on the flat. But once we left the cover of trees and began the ascent things got pretty sweaty, like dripping sweaty. The final forty five minutes was a brutal scramble up the side of the volcano to a plateau where we would make our camp. But before doing so we dropped out gear and headed up to the crater, feeling like we were almost flying without all the weight. At the crater there was a shear drop of about a hundred and fifty metres from the precarious overhang on which we knelt. The roar of escaping sulphuric gasses was like that of a jet engine and the glow of the lava in the base of the crater gave the impression you were looking into the centre of the Earth. The crater itself was, apparently, seven hundred metres in diameter and despite our best efforts, no-one was able to land a rock in the pool of lava below. After gazing at this for about half an hour, we headed down to make camp.

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After a spot of dinner, cooked over a fire for which we had earlier collected wood (and carted up the volcano) we set about to climb the crater again in the dark. Seeing the lava for a second time, in the dark, was even more incredible. The roar again was constant but the glow was much more intenense, and we were now able to see little balls of lava being fired out from the centre. Back at camp, and sat around the campfire, we began to hear a slow, loose chomping. When someone shone a torch in the direction of the sound, the sight was that of a young cow chewing on the top of one of the girls in our group, and staring straight at us. Ten minutes of Benny Hill-style chasing followed until the shirt, complete with a fat wad of cud, was pulled from the cow's mouth. We thought that to be the end of it, but repeatedly through the night cows invaded the camp trying to steal anything they could get their mouths on.

This photo of the lava is courtesy of Chris.
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The next morning we made our way down the volcano through uncontrolled forest, making for uncomfortable going. Soon everyone was just wishing to be down at the bottom and removing our rucksacks and boots. Just after midday we made it to a restaurant where we ate and waited for the bus back to town. Somehow, despite being exhausted we managed to muster the strength to knock back a bottle of 7 year Flor de Caña (some say the best rum in the world, me being one of them) and get well pissed.

Posted by Monsk 12:50 Archived in Nicaragua Comments (0)

Granada and Isla de Ometepe

and the fight for a US visa

sunny

Having turned up too late to the bus station to get a nice, luxury international bus into Nicaragua, we had to battle with public transport. So five buses and a mad taxi ride later, we arrived in the capital, Managua. On the way to find some dinner, we stumbled across a cinema showing the new Harry Potter film in English and deciding this was an opportunity that could not be missed we treated ourself to hotdogs, popcorn and coke to satisfy our hunger. The following day my fight for a US visa began (I need a US visa as they don't accept Emergency Passports under the visa waiver scheme). The first step was to go to a bank to pay the $140 for the visa and $12 for a phone call to arrange an interview to get the thing. Easy.

Satisfied with the progress made on the visa front and having eating a lot of steak that day, we decided to head south-east to an old colonial town called Granada. The town is similar in style to Antigua in Guatemala but lacking the cobbled streets. I missed a lot of this charm, however, in hunting the town for a phone from which I was able to schedule the visa interview. Two hours later I gave up and settled down in the central plaza for a dish of Vigorón, which is a local dish of pork scratchings, yucca and cabbage served on a banana leaf; and it was cracking.

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The following day I tried again to find a phone from which it was possible to ring this special number. I found a woman in an internet café that said she'd be able to help me, but that the embassy was closed that day, and to return tomorrow. Buoyed by this we spent the rest of the day wandering round and chilling out. That evening we met up with five lads who'd just ventured inland from surfing on the pacific coast, one of which was Chris' mate from home. On judgement day I turned up at the internet café, and the woman told me to come back in two hours. In two hours time she told me she couldn't do it after all. Massively aggrieved at this point, I decided to hit the most expensive-looking hotel I could find and lo-and-behold, their phone worked (though they did charge me a further $13 for the pleasure)! So with the prospect of me being able to return home renewed, we (nine of us by this point) caught the four hour ferry from Granada to La Isla de Ometepe.

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Ometepe is formed from two volcanoes and is the largest freshwater island in the world, situated in the largest freshwater lake in Central America. The first couple of nights we spent here at the base of the smaller volcano; Maderas, visiting a waterfall and a few petroglyphs while there. The third day was spent at the base of the larger volcano, Concepción. The island is pretty undeveloped which made getting about difficult and as a result we spent a lot of time doing not a real lot. In hindsight, renting some motorbikes would have been ideal.

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Leaving Ometepe, most of us headed back to Managua where I was to stay to attend my visa interview, while the others continued on up the coast to some village on the coast. Yesterday I had the interview and three hours in the US embassy later ... they told me to go to a bank in two days to collect my passport. So here I am in Managua, twiddling my thumbs until I can hopefully get my passport back tomorrow and join the others again.

Posted by Monsk 16:30 Archived in Nicaragua Comments (0)

Diving in Honduras

A whistle-stop tour

sunny

We crossed the border into Honduras at about midday to a town called Copán. Despite being known for having the best example of Mayan ruins in Honduras we decided (partly to save time, partly because we´ve seen a lot of Mayan ruins by now) to carry on to a town called La Ceiba on the northern coast of the country. The bus journey up there was ridiculously expensive (over $40 for a 6 hour journey) but boy did we experience luxury. Air conditioning, reclining seats, a complementary drink and packet of butter flavoured crisps and even a film starring Brendan Fraser was shown. The only disturbance to the journey was when we heard a chorus of banging, so we pulled back the curtain to see an angry mob beating the bus with sticks. We arrived in La Ceiba safe and sound and headed out, the next morning, to the island of Utila.

We spent six days on Utila diving and chilling out during the day, visiting the bars in the evening. The first night we ended up in a bar that, on entry, looked like we'd walked into a 6th-form disco. The place was rammed with 17 year-olds, and despite girls being able to drink free that night, it was the lads who were battered. One took it upon himself to do the worm across the dancefloor until, on completion, he realised he was knackered so just sat on the floor for five minutes. Another cracking bar on the island is called Treetanic which is the product of someone spending fourteen years sticking marbles and other assorted objects into cement to create a space that wouldn't look out of place next to one of Gaudi's parks.

The diving itself was real good fun, seeing eagle rays, sting rays, moray eels and loads of fish. However the highlight didn't even involve scuba gear. One evening as we returned from diving and got the beers in someone spotted some dolphins in the bay, the captain of the dive boat shouted for everyone to get in and so a military operation of getting hold of snorkels ensued as we ran for the boat. Once into the bay we disembarked the boat in a way not too dissimilar to paratroopers diving out of a plane. We then spent the next hour or so swimming with and chasing the dolphins through the water. They didn't seem to care we were there and just played and swam around us before occasionally getting bored and swimming off. It was a pretty incredible experience and topped off by one dolphin who took it upon himself to do a flip out of the water as we all got onto the boat, twice. According to the captain of the boat they come into the bay to rest on their migratory route once a year and so the fact that we saw them was pretty lucky.

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Mid-way through the week on Utila we met up with one of Chris' friends from home who was there to do a medical placement on the island, working in the health centre. This was widely regarded as a joke as the clinic is open for two hours a day, five days a week (sometimes) and is run by an absolute nut case. Known as "Doctor John" we were told by Chris' friend that is house was adorned with dead animals hanging from the ceiling, a full skeleton dressed in a strap-on dildo which he dug up from a graveyard, and a human foetus in a jar. Fortunately/unfortunately the closest we got to meeting the fabled man was seeing a picture of him, raving on a night out.

On leaving Utila we headed off with Mark and John, a couple of American teachers we've kept bumping into since all the way back in Belize, and Steph and Duncan, a couple of fellow Brits whom we spent a cultured evening in the capital, Tegucigalpa, with eating at both Pizza Hut and Burger King before playing Monopoly. We didn't really get to see Honduras as a country, but we had a great time while we were there; next stop Nicaragua to try and get a US visa.

Posted by Monsk 18:32 Archived in Honduras Comments (0)

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