The big change of plan – Costa Rica to Nicaragua

It’s not everyday you get to a country and not fall in love. Unfortunately this happened in Costa Rica. We arrived in San Jose with a plan but little enthusiasm as our thoughts are now learning towards our last leg and South America.
Grey skies filled our days and torrential down pours filled our evenings. It was time for a change and after only two days we decided to up and leave Costa Rica for the unknown of Nicaragua across the border!

Nicaragua was a blank page and that felt exciting. Options were endless and the choice was ours.
The bus across the border takes you to the capital of Nicaragua, Managua but that’s not a place you want to spend any time so we hopped off early at a town called Granada.

We arrived late but instantly felt safe, which can be an unusual feeling for Central and South America. The town comes alive at night as the one road full of restaurants was heaving. The atmosphere was electric with a buzz of voices being the constant, street performers cut above the noise to catch our attention and street vendors meander through the tables trying to sell you anything from hammocks to jewellery.

We spent a few days exploring the beautiful town of Nicaragua, we instantly felt a hundred times happier than when we were in San Jose.
It’s crazy and built up here but still has an elegant charm and wonderful atmosphere, you could easily spend a lot of time here, and matter of fact we returned to Granada on three separate occasions – to exactly the same hostel!

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We stayed at a place called Oasis, which was exactly that, an oasis away from the hustle and bustle of the crazy outside. With a pool and pancake breakfast there wasn’t more we could ask for!

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From Oasis there is a shuttle to a must see destination – Apoyo Lagoon. You can go for the day but I strongly recommend you at least stay for one night.
This lagoon has developed over 25,000 years inside a volcanos crater. This means the water is warm and beautifully clear – it claims to have the warmest, clearest water in Central America.

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Every time we took a swim in the lagoon I had to pinch myself that I was swimming in a volcanos crater – please don’t do a Dontes Peak on me!
We ended up spending three days here, and it quickly became another one of my favourite stops during the whole trip.

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Another town in Nicaragua worth checking out is Leon for the infamous volcano boarding. What were we letting ourselves in for, all we new that boarding was number 2 on CNNs thrill seeker list, right after flying a fight jet in Russia, so it was a must!!
We were told to head to Big Foot hostel for the best boarding experience, so that we did. Before we knew it we were clambering up the side of Cerro Negro which is the youngest volcano in Central America but despite its youth, Cerro Negro has been one of the most active volcanoes in Nicaragua, with its latest eruption occurring in 1999. Since its birth in 1850, it has erupted approximately 23 times.
Just under an hour later we had made it to the top, 700 meters from the bottom, in fact you can’t see the bottom, just the dot of an orange lorry that brought us here. The views were incredible and well worth the climb already, we even got to look in the crater and see the sulphur rising. I’ve never seen anything like it, but we had to move quickly before our trainers melted from the heat of the rocks!

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So the time came, we sat on a wooden sledge, all that is between you and the active volcano and braced ourselves.
Wow I felt like I flew down, skimming over the tops of rocks you literally hold on for the hope of not falling off. Of course I fell off, we all did, with no control of the board you couldn’t help it!

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It was so exhilarating hurtling down the volcano, it felt as if I was travelling at the speed of light. In fact I was going 35 kmph, which was honestly fast enough. The records currently at 95 kmph – I still don’t know how someone went that fast without ripping their face off!
At the bottom we were rewarded with an ice cold beer which was warmly welcome not only as a refreshing bev but also to was out the volcano that had found its way between your teeth.

Fran and I can now say we’ve completed one of CNNs top two thrill seeker activities!

Big Foot also has a sister hostel at the beach and we spent a few easy days here hanging out and watching the surfers. We sat through a hell of a storm one night that blew the power, we ate dinner under romantic torch light and watched the incredible flashes of blue light that lit up the whole beach! Tropical storms are becoming a favourite of mine to watch.

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Enjoying the beach so much we decided to head to Surfing Turtle hostel for another couple days of beach action. Possibly the most secluded place we have ever been in our life and after a long taxi ride, a rickety old wooden boat and a old man driving a horse and cart we made it to the hostel.
The weather wasn’t on our side here so we spent a lot of time doing nothing. We did go on a hunt for turtles as the hostel names eludes they will be around. However we weren’t lucky and didn’t spot any. The do have a hatchery and rehabilitation centre for turtles though so the hostel is doing a great thing for the ever decreasing turtle population.

By now we were travelling as a four after meeting people along the way. When you meet someone that starts his stories ‘when I was hitchhiking through America..’ You know your in for a good couple days with your new travel companion.

Our next stop was The Treehouse hostel just outside of Granada. This is hands down the coolest hostel I have ever seen. In the middle of the jungle lies a huge wooden tree house where a great group of people live and work. We spent the evening partying and getting to know another group of people before we were plunged into utter darkness after sunset. A very surreal feeling hearing howler monkeys swinging through the trees around you but not being able to see the hand in front of your face.

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The accommodation for the night was a hammock with a roof above our heads. There were no walls and no protection from the bugs. None of us had a goods night sleep, if your not kept awake by the drop in temperature or the noise of the animals right on your door step it’s how uncomfortable hammocks are to sleep in. It was probably mine and Fran’s worst night sleep ever.

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We headed back to Oasis hostel a day early for a comfy nights sleep and some good food!

On our final return to Granada we found the most amazing bakery called Pan De Vida. If your taste buds are a’tingling for fresh oven baked bread or freshly baked pastries and cakes you need to check this place out!!

We all felt sad to say our goodbyes to Nicaragua, especially Granada. We’d met some great people and fallen in love with the colourful town.

It’s now time for the last leg of our trip and time for us to indulge in South America.

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