With 3 countries involved, 12 hours on 7 different buses and 4 border crossings (out El Salvador, in and out Honduras and in) to reach Nicaragua, it’d better be a good one, we bitterly thought. We were pretty bummed out to leave El Salvador behind(to say the least) and cranky… Those 4 border crossings were definitely exhausting and I only wanted to dive into a comfy bed ! So I must admit that we were not exactly in the best spirits when we arrived in La Playa. We were skeptical after having been wooed by El Slavador and Honduras (sorry Nkca! Again, nothing against you!) and we we were quite sure we wouldn’t like Nicaragua. We were at the point of almost regretting having crossed the border(s) too soon.
We. Were. So. Wrong. Thanks to a lovely French couple we met in Santa Ana, we started our Nicaraguan adventure the best possible way: we explored, hiked and swam 7 kilometers in (the almost tourist free) Somoto canyon and even jumped from a 3 meter high rock (which is a pretty. Big. Deal. for the control freak that I am. Letting go what an exhilarating feeling!) and had an amazing first day in Nicaragua. Phew! That was close!
With no regret, (finally) ready to enjoy our time in Nicaragua and after saying bye to our homestay family, we drove to Esteli. The town itself was not great, it felt very westernized and even though, there were two national parks to check out with hikes and waterfalls, we decided to give it a miss and travel further south to Matagalpa. After jumping on the wrong bus (as you do), both of us somehow thinking that Matagalpa and Managua were same, same, NOT different, we made it to Matagalpa. We immediately liked it and were happy with our spontaneous decision. This town is surrounded by hiking ‘trails’ that take you through forests, mountain villages, miradors and are truly far from the tourist mass. Bliss! The coffee shop ‘Café Girasol’ has created wonderful leaflets (available for free!!) if you wish to hike on your own. Brilliantly fantastic! Along the way, we met lovely locals, happy to chat with us, happy day!
The idea, after Matagalpa (and not Managua! Live and learn!), was to head to Leon, stay here for a few days, board a volcano and maybe, just maybe, hit the beach up north at Las Peñitas. Well once again, we were glad we hadn’t booked anything because the gorgeous weather invited us to stay on the coast, an unexpected offer tempted us with a two-night stay, your third night is free. Well… Who can say no to 1) a wonderful beach on the Pacific ocean 2) a private (PRIVATE!!) Eco-cabana 3) fresh grilled fish 4) cheap massages?! Exactly! So f*** Leon, f*** volcano boarding (excuse my French). Hello playa, mangroves, lazy days in the sun and long walks on deserted beaches. The people at Barca de Oro made our stay even better by being lovely and fun (not saying this because some of them were French).
It was hard to leave our little heaven but we decided to take anyway a half-day trip to Leon. We were told that it was worth to look around. Gosh this city has millions of beautiful churches but we were happy to head back to the coast to escape the heat and the tropical storm that hit the city. This is definitely not pretty when water starts to flood (and I mean flood) the streets but I hadn’t laughed this much in years. Within 5 minutes, water was already 30 centimeters high and everywhere we looked were people soaked but with big smiles and laughing. We were heavily rained on but we were happy. We hadn’t felt so alive in years and I guess this was the true meaning of live, love and laugh! Carpe Diem!
Saying bye to Las Peñitas was only easy because we knew that we were trading a beach for another beach (cheaters!!). Yes, you can call us lazy bones but after trekking a few hundred miles with a heavy backpack, driving with countless chicken buses, hiking steep volcanoes and suffering from the heat, we felt like we deserved it. It was time to treat ourselves and discover the Caribbean side of Nicaragua. After a stop over in Managua where we had the chance to meet great travelers and climb (with a car this time, boom! Generously driven by a Nicaraguan family) the Masaya volcano (it was freaking awesome! So much lava!), we are off to the Eastern Coast to enjoy the carribean vibe!
Next stop: Corn Islands!