Nicaragua - The Potato Chick

San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua

In a sentence...a brilliant five nights at the “Australian embassy”.

Food we loved...Monday night roast at Casa de Olas – including lemon meringue pie for dessert.

Our third and final stop in Nicaragua was just as awesome as the first two.

San Juan del Sur is a cute little beachy town on Nicaragua’s Pacific coast. Travel snobs may write it off for being “touristy” but it has all the ingredients for a relaxing time with some nice touches of home. We had sushi for lunch one day and Indian for dinner the next. There was a gym and a yoga centre. And I got a haircut from someone who spoke English. All nice things when you’ve been travelling for ages.

We stayed out of town at the fabulous Casa de Olas. Run by a couple of booze hounds from North Queensland and staffed entirely by Australian backpackers, this hostel was an excellent recommendation from our friend Mitch. It’s situated in a gorgeous spot overlooking the coast with a large swimming pool and plentiful supply of rum punch; it was pretty hard to ever leave the hostel. We spent a lot of time sitting at the bar or by the pool chatting with new friends, most of whom were also Australian.

The highlight was a very low key Superbowl Sunday where the staff (including owners Fred and Carla) really let their hair down and entertained us all afternoon with hilarious stories.

When we did leave the hostel we spent most of our time wandering the town and visiting nearby beaches where Nick attempted to do some surfing. We also walked up to the Christ the Redeemer statue which can be seen in some of the photos below.

It was with great sadness (and an enormous hug and kiss from Carla) that we left Casa de Olas and San Juan del Sur. Luckily eagerly anticipated Panama (and a reunion with Jules) awaited us.

Next stop...Bocas del Toro, Panama.

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Posted 18 February 2015

Granada & surrounds, Nicaragua

In a sentence...another lovely colonial city with beautiful natural surroundings.

Food we loved...chichiarron con yucca – crunchy pork served on top of yucca and a cabbage salad. Covered in a delicious vinegar-y dressing. An amazing traditional Nicaraguan dish.

After three hours on hot cramped chicken buses whilst feeling ever so slightly hungover I was pretty weary by the time we arrived in Granada. Luckily Nick recognised the warning signs, urgently administered some Tex Mex, and we were ready to explore the city. What we found was definitely the most beautifully preserved colonial city we have visited although I didn’t love it as fiercely as the way I loved Antigua. Every corner revealed another beautiful building and there were also a few shady squares for people-watching while eating (ridiculously cheap) Nicaraguan paddle pops.

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The next day we ventured out of the city to climb Volcano Mombacho. We stopped for really good coffee half way up before tackling the incredibly steep second half. Once at the top we completed a short circuit of the cloud forest overlooking the crater. It was all very peaceful and gorgeous until I got in trouble with the park ranger for picking flowers in a national park. Oops. Unfortunately our Spanish classes did not include any flora and fauna related conversations.

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With about 14 kilometres of walking under our belt we headed to Laguna de Apoyo for a few nights at a slower pace. We stayed at the fabulous Monkey  Hut hostel right on the lake and spent our time there relaxing, swimming, kayaking and hanging out with a Canadian couple we had met on the shuttle to Leon. The general serenity of the place was only interrupted at night time by the constant farting of the guy in the bunk bed next to me.

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After a wonderful few days I was happy to leave Granada in a much healthier state than I had arrived in.

Next stop...San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua.

Posted 15 February 2015

Leon, Nicaragua

In a sentence...good times with new friends.

Food we loved...Nicaraguan cheese – young, slightly older, fried...it was tasty in every form.

We arrived in Leon after our longest bus ride to date. 15 hours to be precise. Luckily the bus ride gave us plenty of time to make new friends who we continued to see for our entire time in Nicaragua.

We spent our first morning in Leon wandering around the very cute colonial town and wondering about the stories behind the town’s intriguing political street art. We paid short and rather unsuccessful visits to the cathedral (in the midst of Sunday Mass) and the revolution museum (totally commentated in Spanish). Our luck changed at lunch time with the discovery of the local market which had a great array of Nicaraguan Mamas selling delicious homemade food. We suspect we paid a gringo premium but we didn’t really mind because the food was so good.

We spent the afternoon at Las Penitas beach with an Australian/NZ couple we had just met. After more than 9 months away this might have been the first time we have seen proper waves and Nick took full advantage of it, only coming to shore when he was crippled by cramps.

Australia Day dawned and we did our usual split where Nick does an adventurous activity and I do something food-related.

I joined Hector, our lovely Nicaraguan guide, and fellow Aussies Rod and Denise for a cooking class. We started at Leon’s fabulous market where we tried all sorts of cheese and practised our Spanish while ordering supplies. We stopped off at the local tortilla factory and tried our hand at making tortillas – much harder than it looks. Our final stop was the home of a local family where we whipped up a traditional Nicaraguan stew with plantain, meat and vegies. It was delicious.

Meanwhile, Nick embarked on a morning of volcano boarding. This activity seems to be unique to Central America and involves hiking up a volcano and then hurtling back down on a snowboard-like contraption.

We finished our time in Leon with an evening of Australia Day drinking with some of our new friends. While I was certainly feeling less than 100% as we boarded the bus to Granada the next morning I will always have fond memories of our time in Leon.

Next stop...Granada, Nicaragua.

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Posted 9 February 2015