The Long and Winding Road to Nicaragua

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Two blog posts in two days! Look up inconsistency in the dictionary and you’ll find a picture of me.

Again, I’ve been busy teaching, but thankfully also traveling! Sometimes out of necessity. For example, two weekends ago, I went to Nicaragua. I had to do this because of my Costa Rican visa. As I write this, I’m legal in this country.

Two weeks ago, I almost wasn’t.

Visas when you arrive here are only good for 90 days and I was pushing it. I had to travel outside of the country and come back to renew those 90 days. The easiest path to Nicaragua is $3 and two hours by bus to the north. Seemed easy enough! I was off.

I woke at 4, the bus left a half hour late at 6, and I arrived at the border town at 8. Tired and groggy, and stepping off the bus, I was immediately swarmed by an army of Costa Ricans looking to capitalize on exchange rates. Colones or dollars for cordobas! Central America is amazing, when people want your money, they let you know it and they do it forcefully!

I went through the process and literally walked over the border, which was an enclosed space outside with one security guard to check your belongings and passport. After I passed through, a man approached me, and started guiding me through the process to enter Nicaragua legally. Passport, fee, checked bags, etc. When that was all done, he introduced me to the fattest Nicaraguan I’ve ever seen, who promptly led me to a bus and demanded $20 from me to go to Granada, my destination. I asked other passengers, right in front of him, if that was the real fee, but for some reason they had no idea. I couldn’t help but feel I was getting ripped off. I put the money in the man’s hand and he walked off the bus.

I was pretty dejected in that moment, I really felt like I had been jipped. Not to mention, Michael Bay’s Transformers was playing on the tiny television. My only entertainment was Shia Labeouf trying to impress skinny Megan Fox with his stupid car and bad acting (in Spanish, of course). I slept it off and awoke to my arrival in Nicaragua.

When I got to my hostel I figured out I wasn’t ripped off. NicaBus is top-of-the-line when it comes to transportation and comfort. I researched this as I fell asleep in my hostel bed at 11 in the morning. Traveling makes you tired, especially when you don’t sleep well at night.

I awoke to a new member of the dorm I was staying in. We went through the typical introductions. She was from “Germany and Spain” and on a miserable vacation from Miami to Costa Rica to Nicaragua and back to Miami. Her name was Aylin. “Want to get something to eat with me?” I blurted out. She wasn’t hungry, but agreed to hang out. So we did.

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A photoshoot and an hour later, we found ourselves locked in the bell tower of the most popular church in colonial Granada. It was a mistake. There was a mass taking place so of course no one could hear us banging on the door. “Let us out!!!” I think she said in Spanish.

“Hey! God damnit!!” I shouted, over the religious worship.

Just kidding.

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There was a man who looked over but motioned for us to stop because of mass. After 30 minutes, we were free.

We walked to Lake Nicaragua, that huge circle in the southern middle of the country you can find on any world map. We hung out in the middle of a park near the water’s edge and talked about things like how stupid the USA had been for even considering Donald Trump as president. I’m sure quite a few Latinos in Nicaragua were discussing something similar prior to Election Day in the USA. Aylin then told me about wonderful things like the profound German education system which teaches civics, ethics, and English as a second language at an early age.

Then we went back to the hostel, hoping to take a tour of islets the next morning.

9 AM came and it was time to go for a cruise in our tiny boat. We boarded and took off for paradise. A constant view of Mombacho Volcano in the background, we passed so many different islands (a few which were up for sale!).

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First we came to a fortress used by the Spanish, as well as Captain Morgan when he conquered Granada.

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Then we came to Monkey Island, the most bullshit tourist attraction I found during my time in Granada. Some idiot from Chile fed them Nacho Cheese Doritos. Everyone else objected to feeding them at all.

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Then we came to a small island which had a small bar and a small swimming pool. Drinks were half price. Aylin and I got sangria and chilled by the water. She encouraged me to become a more professional photographer and I listened. I encouraged her to teach English around the world and she listened. Then she went for a swim around the island while I basked in the Nicaraguan sun.

It was time to go.

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The tour ended so we went for a walk around Granada. We came to the chocolate museum and sampled different chocolates Nicaragua had to offer. Some of the chocolate we ate and some of it we used as a moisturizer on our skin. Who wouldn’t want a chocolate bath? Delicious. It was a spa, so it was set up like a garden.

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We walked around Granada a bit more. We got a few drinks, a bite to eat, and had fun together. She had an additional tour to the volcano, which I skipped.

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When she got back, we went to dinner and then parted ways. Again, as a traveler, people come into your life for a short period of time. You become great friends, and then never see each other again. It’s always a harsh lesson to learn.

The next morning I woke up at 4. I had no idea how to get back, so I ended up flagging down a NicaBus and taking it straight to the city I live in. I taught later that night, exhausted.

Adventuring is always fun.

I’m going back to Nicaragua this weekend and next weekend. Keep checking for more adventure stories and especially more photos.

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John DeSarno

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