I’ll preface this post with the fact that up until now our internet has been TERRIBLE and unusable, so in the future if I don’t post for a while, its likely because my internet is either not present or unusable.
So my trip has finally begun! Unfortunately posting on a blog might not be quite as easy as I had hoped. It turns out that this new little computer that I got for my trip, a chromebook, only really works on line.. you can’t even type in any sort of word document without being connected to the internet since it all gets stored on the google drive [a cloud sort of thing], and then once you’ve gotten past that, you also can’t download photos onto it without being connected to the internet, and thennnn you can’t edit photos without downloading another app (which you have to use with the internet as well). And the internet here is very sketch. At this particular place, you only get it in one particular corner of the entire ranch and it takes about 10 minutes to open each link that you click.
On top of which, there is no software on it for ARW files (a raw file format) and I was planning on shooting all my photos in raw format since its better quality, and so I did that all of the first day and now I can’t open this files (so unfortunately I won’t have any photos to post of day one). And all the photos from then on are compressed jpegs so they’re not as good of quality.
But besides that its been mostly lovely here!
My mom and I got in to Managua Sunday and I was immediately hit by total culture shock and confusion. First off its so humid and hot here that my hair and skin are just permanently greasy, but my mom claims that I will adjust. Also, apparently my “proficient” Spanish does not seem to sound right because no one understands me and everyone here speaks so quickly with their words almost slurred together that I can’t understand them. Once we picked up our very rickety rental car from the airport in Managua we had to make our way 2 hours south to Rivas, a town on the south-west side of Lake Nicaragua. It was certainly an adventure. To start off, there are ZERO street signs or numbers on any of the roads here. We were relying on directions we had printed off from google which told us the directions entirely based on street names so once we had no street signs, we immediately got lost. Basically we got lost about every 5 minutes, ended up in some crazy areas, and asked multiple people how to get towards Rivas. We made it after lots of hectic and crazy driving thankfully and got on a ferry there to Omatepe, an island made up of 2 volcanos in Lake Nicaragua. The ferry was quite long and slow but beautiful and we got to the island right at dark. The rest of the family was supposed to meet us at the dock and guide us to our finca (the word for farm, which usually also serve as hotel retreats of sorts), but they weren’t there so we had to try and get to our finca ourselves. It’s not a terribly huge island but somehow we managed to drive past this finca 4 different times and ask probably 15 different people for directions before we FINALLY, after 1.5 hrs of driving back and forth, we found it.
So day 2 we woke up nice and decompressed and got to see our finca in the daylight. It was so beautiful there. There are lots of little hacienda places with big patios covered in chairs and lounge chairs and hammocks. On one side of the lodging parts of the finca is Lake Nicaragua (which is so big that it looks like the ocean) and on the other side is a wetlands area filled with birds. The patio of our hacienda faces the wetlands.
We sat on the patio and watched birds all morning and added bunches of new species to our bird lists. There was a cinnamon hummingbird (my favorite), these beautiful jays with little head bobbing things and long flowy tails, parakeets, and lots more.
Then we took a nice long walk on the very narrow strip of beach, which has incredibly soft sand and fairly warm water (although its so incredibly hot and humid here that cold water might be pretty refreshing).
Then we sat in little lounge chairs on the beach and all caught up. Its so nice to spend the holidays with family.
In the late afternoon, we went on this 3 kilometer hike through the jungle here. It was so great and so beautiful! We saw lots and lots of white faced capuchins (they look like fuzzy little monkeys) and howler monkeys and there were parakeets and other birdies flying all around the canopy. The sounds were just beautiful, and the howler monkey’s calls are so intense. It was great. I got a couple photos of the capuchins and monkeys but they’re pretty low quality.
Finally we ended the day with a night hike. It wasn’t terribly exciting but we sure saw lots of spiders. There are tons of these massive Goliath spiders and other big spider species as well. We also saw a couple baby snakes, a HUGE bullfrog, and tons of bats, so that was fun.
Yesterday we woke up early to rain and wind (but it was still hot). But, as I was told would happen, the rain only lasted 5 minutes before it was hot and sunny again. Then we went on this crazy hike up to a HUGE and tall waterfall. It started off with a long drive over very volcanic and rough road. There was a very cute turtle crawling along the road too.
Then we went up and up and up on a road and parked there right off the road. Supposedly from the “parking area” to the waterfall, it was a flat hike, but this was NOT the case. It was a fairly pleasant and mildly uphill hike up to a gorge with rainforest on either side and then once we reached a gorge it turned terribly strenuous and was almost vertical for a long ways. However, the waterfall was incredibly worth it! It was really huge, much bigger than I was expecting. But I forgot a bathing suit so I had to go in essentially naked but that was ok. It was super refreshing seeing as I was covered in sweat from the hike up.
Then on the way back to our finca, our little car’s tire popped. I guess the rough road and my dads driving were too much for it. It was a quick fix and we got back to a nice restaurant on the beach in time for late lunch.
After late lunch we got dressed in nicer clothing and spent the evening drinking Pina Coladas and watching little xmas parades. The town of Altagracia where all the parades were was covered in Christmas lights, really even moreso than in the US.
The main parade was later in the evening and it ended in the main church on the island. It was a very interesting cultural experience with lots of kids singing and acting out the roles of Mary and Joseph. We came back and I worked on my Rubiks Cube skills and now I can successfully complete it in 3 minutes and 13 seconds 🙂
Woke up this morning very early to pack. I was very tired seeing as I was kept up all night by a group of very loud Howler monkeys right outside of our hacienda. As we were pulling out of the driveway, the monkeys that kept me awake decided to appear. There were tons and tons of them leaping around in the trees outside of our room and a lot of them had little babies on their back.
We took the ferry back across to Rivas and drove over to San Juan del Sur, a city on the beach. We’re staying in a very nice casita that’s part of a local hotel. Its beautiful and on a cliff overlooking the Pacific ocean, with a view of the tropical dry forest as well, and is covered in lounge chairs and hammocks. We were even greeted by howler monkeys here too.
We walked down the 100 meters to the beach for lunch and it is very very nice. Nice soft sand and beautiful water and no rough waves, so its good for swimming.
We returned again to the beach to watch the sunset which was wonderful and then sit around the beach and watch terns dive into the water catching fish. Finally we sat around our casita and did Christmas-y things like opening gifts 🙂
Also, theres excellent internet here at the new hotel so far! Feliz Navidad!