Little Corn, Nicaragua

My trip to Little Corn was more then slightly ironic. I spent 3.5 weeks in Nicaragua, and most of my time was spent taking classes and studying. Towards the end of my classes I decided to spurge a bit and go to an island in the Caribbean, Little Corn. After my research the island seemed exactly the place I was looking for: small, low key (there are no cars or roads on the island), beautiful beaches, good diving, paradise. So I spent $100 and 48 hours and arrived on the island ready to relax….. apparently the universe and I were not on the same page. It was stormy and I was sick the entire time I was on Little Corn.

One day after my arrival I started to have a severe headache. I woke up more than 4 times that night with a splitting headache, feeling like someone had taken an ice cream scope to my eye balls. The next morning I was feverish, nauseous, and weak. I had just enough energy to walk across the island to get a massage before returning to my room to sleep the pain away. Two days of headache and then a rash started. By this time I had to leave the island. I had three days on the island and all of them were spent sick, while it stormed and rained outside. Thankfully, while on the island I befriended a lovely lady, K. K was on the island coordinating volunteers and after seeing me in my misery went out of her way to help me. She monitored my symptoms, “looks like chikungunya (a mosquito virus similar to zeka) “, helped me get off the island, and made sure I was doing alright whenever she could; every time I travel my faith in humanity is restored.

So, $400 and 5 days later I left the island covered in a head to toe rash and joints filled with temporary arthritis. So much for a vacation

Oh, and Little Corn is very beautiful.

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Homestay, Esteli Nicaragua

As I have mentioned before I had a wonderful time staying at Doña Victoria’s house while in Esteli. As a grandma, many of the members of her family live on the block and her house is full of laugher and love. She and her family treated me as an extension of the family. We danced, celebrated birthdays, played cards, and had many a pick-up soccer game in the streets. I hope to return this upcoming  year with a small group of students. I was particularly in love with her little kitten. I spent many nights reading and writing at her kitchen table with the kitten “mancha” purring, sleeping, or playing in my lap.

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Getting there (by bus/boat) Isla Ometepe ->Little Corn, Nicaragua

I’m a cheap traveler, doing almost anything to lower my cost of travel. So when looking at going to the Corn Islands in Nicaragua I knew I didn’t want to pay $200 for a flight. This determination left me with two choices: I either didn’t go at all, or I would try to get there via bus and boat. Bus and boat it was. I did my research and asked around, but I kept getting conflicting answers. I was not to be stopped however, and Wednesday morning I left Hospetaje Ortiz in search of the illusive on-the-ground path to the Corn Islands

Over view :

Isla Ometepe -> Managua (bus)

Mangua -> Rama (bus)

Rama -> Bluefields (boat)

Bluefields -> Big Corn (boat/plane)

Big Corn-> Little Corn (boat)

Isla Ometepe ->Managua

DO NOT LET ANYONE TELL YOU DIFFERENTLY, you need to go to Managua to take a bus to Rama. I took a 10 am bus from Altagracia to Moyogalpa on Isla Omepete ,and the coinciding boat ( at this time the boat and bus are coordinated to allow the bus passengers to catch a ferry) to San Jorge.

San Jorge has some of the worse taxi drivers I have ever experienced. They will do anything to get you to take a ride in their car, lying not withheld. My past has taught me to never ask a taxi driver for directions because once the driver senses weakness (from a tourist) they typically will try to pounce. I didn’t listen to my own advice in San Jorge, and ended up in a taxi with a driver spinning all types of tails. He told me first that there weren’t any buses to Rama, then that they were unsafe ( I wouldn’t even take one of those buses, he said) and then that I would be able to take a bus easier from San Jorge del Sur (Don’t worry, he could drive me all the way there). Eventually I caught on to his nonsense and got out of the taxi at the bus station. This is all a long winded way of saying that I took a bus to Managua out of the Rivas terminal, but you should be able to take a bus directly from the port where the ferry drops you off in Managua.

When the bus entered Managua I asked around and a nice woman offered to tell me when to get off for the terminal Ivan Montenegro. While disembarking, myself and another tourist couple made the connection that we were going to the same place, which made the upcoming trip much more enjoyable. Cost: 50c

Managua ->Rama

Upon arriving at Terminal Ivan, I bought an “express” bus ticket to rama leaving at 9pm that night (We purchased tickets for both the bus and the boat from Rama at the same time. note this doesn’t give you specific boat, it only guarantees you a spot on a boat) …. 6 hours later the bus took off, 9pm only to stop at Terminal Mercado until 9:45. This leads me to believe you can take a bus from either location, you just need to make sure you buy your ticket in time. At the end of my trip I ran into a man trying to get to Little Corn, and he ended up stuck in Managua for an extra day because the tickets had sold out. The bus was relatively nice and reminded me of the overnight buses in South East Asia. The bus arrived in Rama around 3:30am after multiple stops (none with a restroom) to pick people up. Cost: 160c

Rama -> Bluefields

At this point in the journey it’s really easy to figure out where to go because everyone is going to the same place. Upon disembarking the bus we walked over to a small outside  (covered) waiting area with a small office. We waited in line where we then received a ticket with the boat number. Some how our bus was the last of a few to arrive in Rama and we ended up with the last 6am boat, giving us only 3 hours from when the 1.45 hour boat left to catch the ferry to Big Corn. We waited under the overhang for a couple of hours until we went to the port (Paying a port fee of 15c) Where our boat actually left at 7. Cost: 250

Bluefields -> Big Corn

We arrive at Bluefields, walked off the dock, took a left into a small office, and then followed a small path between buildings until we reached a road. At the end of this road we could see the ferry preparing to leave. Wednesdays at 9am is the only consistent, government ferry to Big Corn. There are other boats, but their trips are not consistent. We arrived in Bluefields with just under an hour before the ferry left. We waited in line to buy tickets for 45 minutes moving no more than 2 feet, before an official announced there was no more space. About 10 more people were able to plead their case and get the precious ferry ticket; myself and the couple were not so lucky. After missing the ferry I had to again make a decision: did I want to role the dice and see if Captain D left the following day, or did I want to take a plane. I chose the plane. I said goodbye to the couple ( they chose to try and take the ferry) and went to the airport without buying a ticket. I was able to save about $30 buying the ticket from the airport versus online. The flight was a smooth 30 minutes. Cost: $98 round trip flight bluefields, Big Corn. 

*I chose a roundtrip because it was only $30 more, and I didn’t want to worry about potentially missing my flight back to Managua and thus Seattle.

Corn Islands

Once on the big island I thought travel wouldn’t be as stressful, and in part, it wasn’t. Getting to little corn was simple and I caught a 4pm panga to Little Corn the same day I arrived. Getting off Little Corn was incredibly more stressful. Because of an impending storm the boat schedules were all up in the air and inconsistent. I ended up taking a 9pm boat out of Little Corn 4 days later. My friends, the Couple, arrived  on Little Corn the day after I left. It had taken them 5 days to get from Bluefields to Little Corn; I’m glad I choose to fly.

 

As always let me know if you have any questions!

 

Horseshoe Making workshop, Esteli Nicaragua

After our stop at the leather workshop we made a quick detour to a horseshoe making workshop. In the back of a house, just after the kitchen, two men worked in a rhythm heating, pounding, and cooling the metal until it was ready. Once ready it was placed in a large canvas bag, already bursting with completed horse shoes, to be sent off to Masaya or Matagalpa, two big market towns. ( We also met a young boy very excited to show us his little bird and tell us all about how you know the gender-I love kids)

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Off-The-Beaten-Trail Guide to Nicaragua

I always try to find the most possible information whenever I plan to visit a new location. Where should I stay? What should I do? What shouldn’t I do? Unfortunately, very often I am either unable to find enough information, or the information I do find keeps me on the beaten “back packer trail”. Occasionally, I enjoy traveling on the common path, but the more I travel the more I find myself drawn to the off-the-beaten path adventures and locations.

In Nicaragua I was able to travel very much off the beaten path. I thought it may help someone to post where I went and what I did. A so called guide.

Spanish School

I had the most amazing Spanish school experience in Esteli with Sacuanjoche Spanish School. I have taken Spanish courses in 5 different countries (outside of the US) and Norma was by far my favorite. She is engaging, hilarious, and pushes you to be your best. I learned about the country, the history, while also learning about conditional and the subjuntivo.  Every where I walked with her, people would greet her by name or the informal “Profe!” shout. Norma is very active in her community, and I truly believe my money went to a good place and person.  Through her school I was able to have a complete Nicaragua/ Spanish immersion. I paid $370 (2016) for 2 weeks of 4 hour one-on-one Spanish classes, two excursions, and room and board. Compared to my past experiences, this was an amazing deal.

I can’t say enough about the amazing Norma and the Sacuanjoche Spanish School. By far, this would be my first suggestion for anyone interested in studying Spanish, or visiting Nicaragua. Most of the following experiences were a direct result of Norma and her knowledge of her country.

Co-Ops

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Las Mujeres Ambientalistas

With Norma I had the opprotunity to visit two amazing female lead co-ops. The first co-op ,Las Mujeres Ambientalistas, is ran by single mothers. Las Mujeres Ambientalistas makes recycled paper products: cards, notebooks, posters, book marks ect, and is the only place in Nicaragua using all natural dyes and process. A woman showed me around the small, but beautiful location and demonstrated to me the paper making process. She offered to teach a lesson in paper making if I ever return with some of my students. This non-profit has trouble finding consistent funding and relies heavily on selling their paper products to remain open. If you are interested in learning more or buying some products I grabbed the information. I figured I could at very minimum try to connect some of the people and resources I have with the amazing women and products there.

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Las Mujeres Ambientalistas

Del Barrio Boris Vega, Esteli- Nicaragua

Contacto: Agustina Arúaz

tel: 8627-8956, 8425-4175

Email: mujeresambientalistasdeesteli@gmail.com

I’ve posted more pictures here.

 

Manos Magicas

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Manos Magicas was another CO-OP I had the privilege of visiting. This CO-OP, just like the previous, is a women owned and ran business. The woman showing me around lived just above the building in a small village. Manos Magicas makes items with pine needles. I was blown away at what they created with items I’d never given a thought further than “these are great from throwing at my sister” Earings, hot pads, boxes, baskets, hats, all beautifully sewn together with colorful yarn. Just like Las Mujeres Ambientalistas, Manos Magicas has a hard time generating income and funding. Unfortunately, they live far from most tourist cities, the places where the money is, and the combination of the drought and downturn in tourism as a whole, has not help the women generate income.

If you’re interested in visiting or purchasing something their numbers are 55023123 or 89420733

I’ve posted more pictures here.

Home stay

Esteli

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While in Esteli I stayed with an amazing family who allowed me to catch a glimpse of life in Nicaragua. I played with their kids, ate the amazing food Dona Victoria cooked, and even got a cooking lesson in before I left. Not only was the family amazing, it was incredibly cheap. My room and board was included in my Spanish lessons, but had I wanted to stay outside of my time taking classes, Dona Victoria charges only $10 a day for room and 3 meals. If you’re looking for a place to party and go out, this is not your fit, but if you’re searching for somewhere authentic and family orientated, I would urge you to check her out. She has enough room to fit 10 comfortably with over 4 different rooms to choose from.

She doesn’t have an email but her number is 2734122. Spanish essentially required to arrange reservation

More pictures coming soon here.

Isla Ometepe 

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I stayed on Isla Ometepe for two nights and had a good time at Hospetaje Ortiz. You can find their posting on airbnb.com. There was very much a hostel vibe, but without the swarms of tourists; it also happens to the cheapest room on the island, and is ran by locals. Hospetaje Ortiz is not fancy but the owner Mario and his son Archiles are very welcoming and have many tips for exploring the island. Through the hospetaje I rented a bicycle one day and they arranged a guide to hike one of volcanoes the next day. Hospetaje Ortiz is located in Altagracia.

More pictures and a recount of my harrowing volcano climb coming soon here.

Corn Islands

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Soon there will be a post about my adventure getting to Corn Islands, I definitely choice the off-the-beaten-trail for that one, but for the moment I just wanted to mention, The cool spot, the place I stayed at while on Little Corn.  Not exactly off the trail, but it was located on the backside of the island, away from the main path. The host was incredibly nice and for $12 I found a decent bed with a bug net and electricity during the night. Interestingly, on Little Corn you can’t barter for cheaper rooms like many of the places I’ve been to in the past. You try to barter they say no, and then you’re forced to keep walking.

If you have any more questions please feel free to ask away. Hope you enjoyed, happy traveling!