Nicaragua is our tenth country to visit on this trip. We were eager to explore Nicaragua as we have been hearing great things about the country. The border crossing we were not looking forward to as we had heard of it taking 5 hours to cross with many hassles involved.
We headed to the border at 6am to be there when the border opened. We encountered the usual long line of trucks parked alongside the road. It can take 1-3 days for them to clear their load and cross the borders. We now know to bypass them and head for the migration office.
There were many people who had the same idea of getting to the border early, as there were about 80 people already in line. After crossing so many borders, we know the process we have to go through. The challenge is finding the exact building in which to complete the necessary paperwork.
First on the list is obtaining an exit stamp in your passport, this time for Costa Rica. Then we have to hand in our temporary import permit for the vehicle so they know we have left the country with the vehicle and have not sold it, which would incur import taxes. Finding this building proved to be a challenge and required us walking some 100 meters in the opposite direction. All clear to leave Costa Rica we headed across “no mans land”, a section of road that is in between both countries, to complete our entry into Nicaragua.
We had heard that there were many steps involved, so instead of trying to negotiate the process ourselves and loosing hours of time, we hired a helper for $20 USD. They basically know the system and pay a little bit of their tip to the officials at each point to get the paperwork through quickly. So we got our passports stamped with entry for 90 days, then we had to secure car insurance, get the temporary import permit and have the vehicle inspected by a customs officer. Although we got 90 days on our personal visa entry, they only allow 30 days for the car to be in the country. The process all went relatively smoothly, and within a 2 hours window we had completed the crossing and were officially in Nicaragua.
There were a few shouts of yippee that echoed through the car. Murphy who had just experienced his first land border crossing, observed the change in stress levels as we made this transition. The worst of the border crossings is the “unknown”.
It wasn’t long before we got glimpses of our first volcano. We headed to Lake Nicaragua to have some breakfast and get a better view of the vista. We had a paddle in the lake, which was a little relief from the escalating heat.
FIRTS IMPRESSIONS OF A NEW COUNTRY:
In the first half hour of driving we were already seeing changes, more motorcycles on the road, more horse and carts and tuk tuks (motorcycle like taxis). It felt like a different country, unlike Costa Rica, which felt extremely western.
We did our usual ATM run, acquired groceries, a “claro” card to create a wifi hot spot, and we were on our way to the beach.
We had chosen Popoyo as our beach location hearing from fellow travelers that it was not touristy and a good beach. We read on ioverlander app that a hostel called Café Con Leche (coffee with milk) was allowing camping and overlanders to access their facilities. The owner Mark is Canadian and is an overlander himself. The atmosphere at Café con Leche was very relaxed. It had a kitchen, common areas, hammocks and a pool. It was the perfect place to rest up for a few days.
We went swimming, had walks on the beach, generally hung out, and enjoyed the company of fellow travelers. I did my exercises on the beach in the mornings and Murphy did some meditating.
Unfortunately the winds picked up, and Murphy had to abandon his tent for the sofa for a couple of nights. The property dogs that wanted to get in his tent also plagued him.
FISH FOR DINNER:
Mike made a homemade spear and the boys went spear fishing, which was not fruitful due to the murky waters. They did come back with a big fish, however it required buying it from the locals. Photos: by Michael Murphy
BEAUTIFUL OCEAN SHOTS TAKEN BY MICHAEL MURPHY:
We were all captivated by the site of the pelicans as they swooped in formation across the water. It was breathtaking. Murphy took the opportunity to test out his waterproof camera and took some amazing shots of the pelicans and the surf. Below are these photos.
MEETING NEW PEOPLE:
One of the really great things about traveling is meeting interesting people. At Cafe con Leche we got to hang out with fellow travelers sharing stories, meals and a few drinks. Conversations usually end up in discussions of future plans for travel and life. It is a really therapeutic (for want of a better word) to be able to discuss your hopes and dreams for the future in a non-judgemental environment. It often helps you to form new ideas or thoughts or to solidify your plans and resolve.
We had the pleasure of spending time with 2 Aussie girls, Tash and Beau. Both girls were brilliant with Keira. Tash (Natasha Parker) is a professional musician and spent time with Keira playing ukuleles and composing little songs. (Visit: tashparker.com or search for Waking Up by Tash Parker on iTunes.)
An american couple, Danny and Travis received dinosaur and butterfly tatoos from Keira's fake tattoo collection. They are returning to the Maine area to begin a crab fishing business, captaining their own boat. Sam, a seasoned traveler visiting Nicaragua for a break, celebrated his birthday with us. Rolf, Bettina and their dog Nera are fellow overlanders, and although we didn't get to spend a lot of time together we shared stories and information, hoping our paths would cross again. And then there was Leche, the little white puppy who liked to cuddle and who stole our hearts.
I had a very disturbing experience whilst on one of my morning walks. I came across a turtle laying her eggs. It was pretty special to see. Right up until I realized that the locals who were collecting the eggs were not taking them to protect them but were in fact going to fry them up and have them with some salsa. I was devastated.
Speaking to Mark, he said it was a regular occurrence and that there was nothing that could be done. The people here are so poor and uneducated about conservation and they do not see anything wrong with eating the eggs. For generations their families have been doing so.
Overall, we really enjoyed our time in Popoyo. It gave us all some much needed rest.
“Movies are actually real Daddy, it is what is in them that isn’t” – a quote from Keira when Mike told her movies were not real, trying to make her not scared of the content she may see.
HIGHLIGHTS/CHALLENGES OF THIS AREA
MOST VALUED POSSESION: hammocks
BEST EXPERIENCE: Mike-not drowning- had a near drowning experience in rough surf; Keira- playing with the puppy Leche/swimming in the pool; Riss- relaxing and being at the beach
MOST CHALLENGING EXPERIENCE: Mike- trying not to drown; Keira- saying good-bye to the little puppy, Leche; Riss- seeing the locals taking the turtle eggs to eat.
BEST FOOD DISCOVERY: Mike- mmm, big bottles of Rum/fresh fish, Keira- not fish- yuck; Riss- Mike’s cooking
BEST CAMPING SPOT: Popoyo, Café con Leche
HIGHLIGHTS/CHALLENGES OF THIS AREA:
Challenge: Keeping out of the line of fire when Mike is “snorkeling” and packing a homemade spear gun. Highlight: Getting my toenails expertly painted by Keira.
MOST VALUED POSSESSION: Beer. My tent, and the rocks that held it in place, for a while…
BEST EXPERIENCE: Taking pix while simultaneously body surfing. The view from “Magnific Rock”
MOST CHALLENGING EXPERIENCE: My first land border-crossing (into Nicaragua).
BEST FOOD DISCOVERY: ParrotFish (that Mike “caught”)
BEST CAMPING SPOT: On the beach (right up ’til the tent blew away)
Just a place to keep our mates informed on where we are at, and what we are up to.