When I heard about the volcano Cerro in the Cordillera de los Maribios mountain range in Negro where you can literally sand board down the volcano ash, I knew immediately what was going be my first Nicaragua stop. The volcano is located near the city of León, which is also worth a visit. I then spent three more days on the Ometepe Island and due to the lack of time I headed to Costa Rica. Nicaragua, however, is a super beautiful country that would deserve at least two weeks. I’ll be back!
The journey from Hodnuras to Nicaragua was definitely the most expensive one but also the most adventurous of all.
Before I left, I exchanged myself an emergency $150 in cash. I had it on me hidden in my money belt throughout the entire trip. US dollars are widely accepted all over Central America, and in my opinion 150 should be enough to survive for a few days just in case I couldn’t withdraw money from the ATM, for a lift to anywhere or a bribe … I had no idea I would need this emergency money very soon.
The bus journey was endless. When we finally arrived on the border of Honduras with Nicaragua it was already evening time. Everyone left the bus to queue for the passport check. Soon it was my turn and I handed my passport to the customs officer. He flipped the pages back and forth for a while and then said, “You have a no entry stamp … and we don’t even have you in the system.” I did not understand. I normally passed the passport check when entering the country. “Well you’ll have to pay $ 300 and I’ll put you back in the system so we can let you out of the country.” “$ 300?! And can you show me written somewhere that this is a standard procedure? “I protested. “So little girl, to explain the situation, the whole time in Honduras you were illegal in the country. And that’s a really big problem! The standard procedure is to call the police. They’ll take you away, put you in custody, check you and if they let you go, you’ll pay a much bigger fine than the $ 300! ” I realised the officer is asking for a bribe. “But I have only 150 dollars on me.” I replied in a shaking voice. “That’s definitely not enough! Helping you like this can put me in prison. Do you understand that?!” I started crying while saying I really don’t have more than 150 so I don’t know what to do. Me crying had absolutely no effect, I suppose he has desperate people crying over there all the time. On top of all that the bus driver came over saying they will have to leave soon, so wondered if he should leave me there or not. The officer looked as if nothing will change his mind. I didn’t even know if what he was saying was true, but I definitely didn’t want to stay with him alone in the middle of nowhere and so late at night. By the way, all this scene is going on in Spanish because the officer didn’t speak a word in English. The driver said something like that 150 is better than nothing. The officer continued to look like he didn’t care about what anyone was saying but then suddenly he took the 150 $ that I kept holding in front of his face the whole time, threw my passport on me and told me to fuck off.
We moved to the entering point of Nicaragua. The officers took the passport of each of us and took them to the customs office for check. After about an hour of waiting I asked the bus driver why the fuck is it taking so long. “Sometimes they do these in-depth checks. That means they’re going through your social media, and anything else they can find online about you.” After another hour, one officer finally came out. Everyone started cheering because we thought it’s finally done. “Who is Karolina Mackova?” The officer asked. “You must be fucking kidding me, I thought to myself. “Come in please.” He called on me. He started asking me many strange questions about my education, parents, siblings, origins … he recorded the entire conversation on a Dictaphone. Then he sent the record to someone by an e-mail. In about fifteen minutes, the answer came back. “Well, it’s ok, you can go.” When entering the bus, I asked the driver what that supposed to be. “You were probably the only suspicious one to them.”
We arrived in León with a five-hour delay. My Couchsurfing guest was already long time asleep. Luckily, he did not mind when I woke up and with a smile opened the door for me.
In León, there are few different agencies offering volcano boarding and the prices and services offered don’t really differ. I chose the centre called the Volcano Day.
First, it’s about an hour’s climb to the top of the volcano and you carry your board through the whole time. As always when I climb on some volcano, a very heavy rain started and we all got soaking wet. The view over the multi-coloured crater at the top of the volcano is breath taking though. On top of that, Cerro Negro is still active and the closer to the top the more heat you can feel.
Just a few words of instruction and we are ready to go. I started off sliding down. Soon my goggles were completely covered in volcanic dust and I saw absolutely nothing. At the end my board turned over ale for the last few meters I was only rolling down. It was fun.
Isla de Ometepe
The next day, I headed east to the island of Ometepe, located in the centre of the lake of Nicaragua. The journey took me all day and I just about caught the last ferry that took me to the island. I was already getting dark when got of the boat. I was told that there was no direct connection to the location of my hostel and that I would have to change the buses. The first bus took me to the transfer station. A small stop on the road crossing a dark forest. No street lights, no houses, no people, nothing but jungle all around. When I asked the driver when is my second bus coming, he told me he had no idea. “Hopefully it’s gonna be until tomorrow morning.” He said, closed the door and left. Without the bus lights, absolute darkness spread all over the place. After an hour of waiting, I already started to panic a little bit. (The man at the harbour told me I won’t wait more than 10 minutes.) According to the navigation, it was more than 4 hours walking to the nearest village. After another hour of waiting, I finally accepted that no bus is coming for me and I started preparing myself for the walk. I put my backpack on, walked for about five minutes and then suddenly I saw a big car coming towards me. The driver pushed the break and stopped few meters behind me. Inside the car there was a local family. A man with his wife and two young kids. “Do you want a ride?” I started jumping around. Of course I wanted a ride. They took me to their home, gave me a dinner, let me stay over in their house and then gave me lift to where I needed to go on the following morning.
I stayed at the hostel El Zopilote Finca Ecológica. A beautiful place located on the hill in the middle of the jungle. With an organic restaurant, free morning yoga classes and outdoor showers with no doors. For a hammock, you’ll pay 4 USD per night over there.
The island seems tiny on the map, but the distances between places hardly walkable and buses run only a few times a day. I rented a motorbike and spent the following two days exploring the island. Ometepe is a beautiful place and I would love to stay longer. However at this point I was slightly rushed by time so had to make a move and head to Costa Rica.