05 August, 2010

Nicaragua: there and back again

Hey-ho, I'm back and still alive! Well, actually I've been back for a week now, but I was too lazy to write about it. After 10 days of rain, various illnesses and all other hassle it feels good to be back here :) However, the trip itself was very eye-opening, hence my interest in sharing some experiences from the land afar.

The first thing that struck me in Nicaragua was the poverty. Ok, that's really a bit of an overstatemen: the first thing that struck me was the annoying immigration, the second thing was my lovely girlfriend, the third thing was the darkness and the fourth was the jetlag. But the first thing the next morning was definitely the poverty!

To rewind a bit, my first trouble was with the Nicaraguan immigration. I was happily standing in the line for the immigration after some 20 hours of traveling. Looking around, it struck me a bit odd that a lot of people had dollars held between their passports. "Wow, is the corruption really this bad that people speed up the process at the border already", I thought to myself. As it turned out, upon arriving to Nicaragua you have to pay a tourist fee of 5 dollars. Naturally, I didn't have any dollars at hand, nor did I have any cordobas. So the immigration officer confiscated my passport and told me to get some cash for the fee. Well, I trudged dutifully to the exchange office, only to discover that they didn't accept cards! Curses! So, a frantic search for cash was in order. After raiding my wallet and all my available pockets I managed to gather around 7 euros, which just about was enough. So, I managed to exchange it for cordobas, got my passport back and got through the whole hassle, tired and annoyed.

The next morning I was wandering around Leon with amazement. Coming from a country like Finland the poor state of affairs was really something. The infrastructure was pretty bad which contributed to a feeling of insecurity and general untrustworthiness towards other people. Well, I got used to it gradually, but that's how I felt in the beginning. After two days of jetlagging (and avoiding the storm that was flooding the streets) we climbed to Cerro Negro and volcanoboarded downhill from the 400m. It was fun, even though the storm that hit us at the top of Cerro Negro was quite annoying - you couldn't hear anything from three metres afar, let alone see anything, as the rain was hitting us basically sideways.

Driving through a local horse fair in Nandaime

A regular long-distance bus in Nicaragua

The bus control panel was seriously high tech

After that it was time to travel around Nicaragua: we spent time at Isla de Ometepe, climbing Concepción (1600 m, went up to 1000 m) and not seeing much of a view due to some weather (again!). A day was well spent at the amazing beaches of Santo Domingo, after which we took a day to review a nature park near Moyogalpa.Climbing up to Concepción

The smug look of disappointment as we realized the clouds
were going to spoil the view from Concepción.
(oh btw, this guy was actually an Austrian from Graz, who we met
by chance on the way up - you can imagine my surprise!)

A moment of perfection in Santo Domingo

Then we left Isla de Ometepe and went to Granada for a boat trip. Almost immediately after that I got 39 fever and was forced to spend the remaining day in bed. Next morning at 3.30 we left for Managua to take a flight to the Caribbean side, to Corn Island. The plan was to go from Corn Island to Little Corn Island for snorkeling. But as it turned out, my body had quite different plans. I felt nauseous all the way to Managua, and my suspicion was confirmed as my previous dinner made a reappearance right after the 1 hour taxi ride. My body seemed to be enjoying this show, since encore throwing up resulted with 3-hour intervals for almost the rest of the day. Somehow I managed to survive to Corn Island, but we decided that a 1-hour trip to Little Corn in an open boat in sunshine would be too much for me - which indeed it would have. So, we booked a hotel in Big Corn and I collapsed in a heap on the bed, just trying to stay alive and keep the rest of the liquids inside me.

At 4 pm I finally gave up trying to get better with our own medicines and Sonja convinced me to go to the local hospital. I have to say that the treatment at the hospital was very good, despite the poor conditions and ridiculous pay - doctors and nurses earn about 800 $ / month. After an afternoon in there with 2 l of saline dripping in my vein I started to get gradually better. Combined with antibiotics, the excellent treatment of doctors and nurses and two days of rest got me up to shape just in time (talk about being on the receiving end of JIT!) for the flight home. Still, the annoyance of missing four full days was pretty big.

Some very strangely shaped rice fields in eastern Nicaragua

Anyway, I hope the pictures tell you more than my ramblings. Due to technical difficulties with my camera, most of the pics were taken with Sonja's - I might upload some of those later on. For now, though, you'll have to stick with my documentation :)

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