Nicaragua’s Rural Side


After spending almost a month in towns we finally migrated to more rural landscapes. First was the trip via a ferry over to Ometepe, a large freshwater island made up of two volcanoes.

The way of the laundry
I sneak myself into the blog, HIIII!
Car Maintenance

That’s kind of what our days looked like, pictures, car, food, laundry, food…we did attempt a hike but after about 15 minutes got hungry and turned back.   It seems we missed much of Nicaragua’s adventures like volcano boarding, hiking and the list goes on.  But this was healing time and our insurance would probably not believe us if we filed another hospital claim.  A few days later trying to get off the island we arrived early to find that the next three ferries were full and couldn’t leave till sunset. We spent a full day in the little port town mostly scoping out ways to get into bathrooms, something that has become a common theme of van life.

We wait, lined up for the ferry 7 hours in advance, needless to say with it only being able to fit 6 cars we were first in line.
Che Guevra Ferry getting loaded while sunset gazers gather

We left the ferry with an extra two passengers: an El Salvadorian traveling busker and a women from San Juan Del Sur, where we were headed for next. This came in handy as we arrived late and got a tour of good spots to park and sleep, as well as an overview of the town.  Therefore it took no time to settle in.

We parked on the Malecon for a good night sleep

We were not really feeling this touristy place and headed to the more secluded beaches.   We found what we were looking for in Playa Majagual. With no cost to accommodations we stayed for about a week. Nights were spent gathering at the only little spot that served food, drinks or just provided a place to hang out. This brought the whole place together and within a night we were caught up on the gossip going back about 10 years.

The trees got really funky at Playa Majagual
Settled in the only public space by the beach, we paid the night guard a few bucks to keep us safe, it worked.
The gathering hut, the beach, some funky trees and Astrid.
The hunt to catch internet took us to high grounds and nice views
The gathering hut
Ella keeps an eye out on the sneaky sun while Brett concentrates on shuffling his feet to avoid sting rays.

Another late discovery which came from a fellow rock collector was the cool rocks that hid on the beach. My collection of rocks just doubled in awesomeness. Along with the rocks there were many hermit crabs mingling on the beach.  Their attire was quite unique, making for a fascinating hermit crab fashion show.  We even saw one little fellow try out a new shell, only to decide his old one was better.


Finally our visa was expiring and we needed to move on to Costa Rica. The previous week the border closed shortly as thousands of Cubans were not allowed passage and got stranded at the border.  As we approached some week or more later, their presence was still clear.  Clothes were hung to dry, make shift cardboard beds and mattresses lined the buildings as the people hoped to make their way to USA.  After 4.5 hours of border waiting and sweating we finally made it to our original destination of Costa Rica in exactly 4 months and about 19,000 km since our departure (double the mileage and time we thought it would take).

Nicaragua and the curve balls that kept coming


The beautiful and serene morning was certainly not a precedent for the day ahead of us.  At 6 am we were on our way to Nicaragua via Honduras which was to take eleven hours (four of those spent between the two borders). The Nicaraguan one was the most chaotic with no logic to the confusion.  With the help of a border guide we managed to collect all the pieces required to get ourselves, Ella and Astrid into Nicaragua.  Leaving the border post we lined up to wait behind a long row of trucks, but a boy of about seven or eight years, came by on a bike and signaled to follow him, saying he could get us out of there. We followed squeezing through the trucks and cars going in the opposite direction and in a few minutes we were in Nicaragua.

Early morning traffic jam on the road in El Salvador
The lush green scenery with volcanos behind us.

Once in Leon, Nicaragua, we roamed the streets as long as our legs would carry us, I would say an hour, before hitting the bed at 9 to wake up at 5:30am.

Leon’s museum of revolution!
Central Park area of Leon
Central Park in day time, except you don’t see the park portion of it.


Sadly our excitement for exploring Nicaragua soon faded as Brett’s fever and sickness returned. Team Astrid moral was at its lowest, even Ella just hid under the bed for most days.  Brett slept for the next four days, yet we were determined to figure out what he had. We searched for answers and got many. Finally we decide to go to Nicaragua’s prestigious hospital in Managua. We crashed in the hospital’s parking lot but eventually after paying a hefty fee we got to see an infectious diseases specialist.   With Dengue as the main contestant we were on a watch out for the next little while. This was impressive, even for Brett, Dengue and Chikugunya in a spout of 2 weeks.

Metropolitano Vivian Pellas Hospital in Managua

Amongst all this we were getting to know the Nicaraguan police through their numerous check points. We would get so close to not being stopped and then just as we were about to pass them, they spotted our foreign faces and pulled us over.   They would tell us about some ‘infraction’ we made, like crossing some line or other such things.  We smiled, repeating that we did not speak Spanish and could not understand what they were saying. Then they would take the license and refuse to give it back until we paid. Considering we had an international license on top of our original we were less concerned with getting it back then they thought. Once they got frustrated with our lack of Spanish and realized we were not about to fork over any money, they would pass over the license and allow us to move on. But this was a process requiring patience and time. Just as we were done with one police stop we would get pulled over again to repeat the whole procedure.

In three days Brett’s results were ready and things were looking good. In the meantime we may have been getting a bit too comfortable with parking the car anywhere and everywhere.  We woke to find Astrid had been broken into, window smashed and the contents of the car turned upside down. After doing the inventory the missing items included: electric shaver, two deodorants, my favourite collection of earrings/necklaces and our fan.   We took the car to Managua in search of a new window. Luckily the first place we stopped, the guy new a guy, who knew a place to get a Chevy Astro window.

Astrid’s window in shambles
This is not how we pack our van

With hopes that the curve balls have been dodged it was time to get back to our van and be a bit more touristy then the past few weeks. Onwards and upwards we go.

Back to pictures of pretty trees and colourful homes
Brett back on his legs, Ella too.
Sometime you turn a corner and find some nicely cut up fruit
Voyage to Ometepe Island begins

El Salvador’s El Tunco


El Salvador’s border crossing much like the others was two hours long but by far the cheapest with only a 5 dollar total fee.  Soon after the border we were running out of daylight in a country where this is far from recommended.

We booked it for El Tunco as we spent a few days there last trip and figured it would be an easier place to orient ourselves and find accommodations.  The plan was to move on and explore other places, as El Tunco is a two street surf town we thouroughly explored the first time around, but this did not happen. For the first time in a while we were in a hostel.  We strolled the entire place knocking on all the hostels before finding the the right one. It came with some really funny and awfully kind friends.  The friendship blossomed over an evening of jokes, including Mujo and Sujo jokes that were not as well received as I expected.

El Sombra Hostel

That evening some ambitious surfing plans were made, and incredibly enough everyone was ready the next morning.   With seven people, one dog and 4 surfboards we hopped on a chickenbus to get to the spot without rocks, rip tides and massive waves.  It was perfect.  The beautiful volcanic sand and an empty beach for us to smash around in the surf. 

Ella catching up on some well needed rest

However, It was much tougher then it looked; with the strong currents and inability to paddle properly before getting smoked by the wave I spent most of the time gulping seawater.  Until I ended up in a spot where the waves converged and found myself farther from the shore then I would have liked to be. With a quick instinct to panic I did not loose any time. Luckily Cameron, who was a great surfer and new the waters pretty well, noticed and headed towards me.  Knowing this and finally having gotten out of the area pulling me out, I was able to take another wave back to the shore.

My traumatic experience aside, we loved surfing (if you can call what we were doing that) and soon after we got our own surfboard.  This meant staying around for a bit more to try it out.  However unable to face the currents I could not do much more then carry the surfboard over the waves.  Brett on the other hand embraced the currents, waves and the rest of it and moved up to larger swells on rock beaches.  Actually some serious waves, where he still attempted to surf.  He seems to be getting better, faster then expected.

Brett navigating the long stretch of rocks to get to the right spot for surfing on El Tunco beach
Sarah, Jonathan and Brett head into the waves (don’t be fooled by the picture, the waves were 2 metres high)

A week later it was proving quite hard to leave, as this small place started feeling quite homey. It seemed we have been here for ages, getting to know the place and the people.

Edge of town


Discovering delicious ice cream


Ella and rocks

As we were wrapping it up in El Tunco, and promising numerous people rides to Nicaragua, Brett got sick with what seemed to be Chickungunya Virus.  This very popular virus knocks you out with some intense joint and muscle pains among others and without a cure he battled it off while resting in bed for the next few days. When he emerged he did not know anyone at the hostel as everyone we new prior to Chicku had moved on.  It was time to reunite with Astrid who waited patiently over the last two weeks.