Nicaragua was one of the first countries on our wish list when we began planning this crazy adventure, so it was with much excitement that we approached the border. Costa Rica and ‘pura vida’ was great but the cost of the Costa we were happy to leave behind.
After another crammed local bus from Alajuela and a brief stint overnight in Liberia we were on our way. We met another English family on the way: Kerry and Mark and their kids, Josie and Olly (with names so close to our own, it was obvious we should become friends!)
We stayed in the Boyeros Hotel in Liberia which was a little shabby but we had not one, but three swimming pools (well one was a jacuzzi) and a rather frighteningly vertical water slide which daredevil Jess loved and I was a bit scared of. We were also just down the road from McDonald's (cue happy meals, 'Secret Life of Pet's’ toys and a couple of hours of kid heaven in the indoor play park)
Our excitement turned to trepidation a few km out from the border when the roadside became dotted with tented camps and countless people trailed past with a somewhat desperate look in their eyes. I had never expected refugee camps in the rainforests, especially not in Costa Rica. Costa Rica is three times richer than its neighbour, so why the presence of huge numbers of refugees on the Tico side trying to cross to Nicaragua? We were later to learn that the refugees are of African, Cuban and Haitian origin and are seeking to reach the US. The Nicaraguan government has taken a Trump like zero entry stance to all seeking asylum so thousands are now stuck in the most costly country in Central America. Yikes. See more about their plight here.
This planet we live in is certainly a mess, with displaced and desperate people struggling the world over.
We entered with little excitement: our white skin, fair hair and English passports provided us an easy entry and left me once again with a profound sense of the injustice of a world where privilege comes from happenchance, place of birth, and nothing more deserved than that.
I guess in some ways I hope travelling the world is reminding me and my family to appreciate and be thankful for the privileges we do have and remember not to take them for granted, as well as to be aware of those less fortunate and maybe even seek ways to help redress the balance.
The irony didn't escape me as we got in a taxi at the other side of the border and headed to the hedonistic San Juan Del Sur. As home of Sunday Fundays (a backpacker all day alcohol fuelled pool party/ pub crawl) we weren't holding out much hope for our first stop in Nicaragua. But pool parties aside (and before you ask, no we didn't go to one) San Juan was a great little town. It has the best kids play park we've seen since San Francisco, complete with fast, free WIFI and security guards who told me off for climbing on the equipment! The town also has a host of lovely restaurants and great bars. Yes, it has a reputation for parties but it also has lots of families including some expats so it's certainly no Haad Rin.
We met our English family again and enjoyed watching Super Saturday (much better than Sunday Funday) and cheering Team GB with them. They are on a six week tour of Panama, Costa Rica, and Nicaragua so are travelling on a slightly tighter time scale than us but we got to spend a day chilling out at Playa Remanso with them before they departed.
We spent 8 days in San Juan Del Sur, and visited nearby Playa Hermosa only once. It's lovely, by the way, if you get the chance, go. Yes, you have to pay $3 to get in but the beach is endless, the cafe is great and you can body surf in water only one foot deep.
We splashed out on few days luxury staying at HC Liri for $60 a night where we had a beachside pool and where we met the lovely Carlos from El Salvador. He has invited us to stay with him which has massively allayed our fears for the safety of crossing the smallest country in Central America. Our plans have changed a little since we decided we'd try and make a stop in the UK for Christmas. Turns out flights in and out of Guatemala are blooming expensive so we now plan on visiting everywhere in Central America (as we're overlanding it to Cancun). Where we were previously going to three countries, Costa Rica, Nicaragua and Guatemala, looks like now we will see some of Honduras, El Salvador, Belize, Mexico and Cuba as well!
We spent three more days at the secluded Playa Marsella north of San Juan where we enjoyed some amazing sunsets and good food beachside. We even had a bit of adrenaline thrown in when walking down the beach one day we were confronted with a death curdling scream from some tourists who had overturned their quad bike and were trapped underneath. The scream was followed by silence and stillness. Mikes and I dashed up the beach, bags and flip-flops flying to lift off the vehicle. Now either quad bikes really aren't heavy or that urban myth about people having superhuman strength in moments of emergency is correct, I suspect the former. We righted the bike and luckily no lasting damage was done, the driver and passenger were both fine if very shaken, I don't think they'll be trying that again!
A few more relaxing days on the beach and quiet nights dodging the red land crabs migrating to the sea to breed, and it was time to leave for Ometepe island.
Playa Marsella and the red land crabs.
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Kelly and Mikey (but mostly Kelly). We sold up in the UK to travel with our two littluns for a year or so. If you want to know more click the about us!