My son and I are back home now after our nine-day spring vacation trip to Nicaragua. We had an amazing time--too many stories to relate here. In case you want to see photos of our adventure, I have them up on Facebook at these public links (i.e., you don't have to be on Facebook to see them). Our first stop was the Spanish colonial city of Granada. We got there on Good Friday, which meant a parade (complete with a crystal coffin carrying Jesus).
We then took a 13 hour ferry ride across Lake Nicaragua, stopped briefly in the scummy town of San Carlos, and then shared a launch with 25 other people, 300 cases of beer, chickens, sheep and a goat down the Rio San Juan.
Our destination was the town of El Castillo, pop. 1100, which sits at the edge of the Central American jungle. There are no roads leading to or in the town, and consequently there are no cars. There is no airstrip. The river is the only way in and out. High above the town is a fort built in the seventeenth century by the Spanish to keep pirates and the English out. Lord Nelson and Captain Morgan fought battles there. It was a delightful place with friendly people--and it was great to be off the grid.
When it was time to go, we went back up the Rio San Juan to San Carlos again, where we saw fantastic buses waiting like so many dragons to take people away.
We journeyed nine hours over terrible roads in an exhausted Blue Bird school bus and eventually got to Managua. The most amazing thing we saw in Managua was the ruins of the old cathedral, which was severely damaged in the 1972 earthquake. Though nominally closed to the public, we were able to get into the ruins, which were beautifully spooky.
We stayed in the Crowne Plaza, a 1970's era hotel that has some history behind it. Howard Hughes lived in the penthouse there for a couple of years, subsisting entirely on Campbell's soup and Hershey's chocolate bars. When Somoza fled the country, the hotel was home to his short-termed (43 hours) successor, and then for a while to the victorious Sandinista government.
You will certainly see much poverty in these pictures. Nicaragua is the second poorest country in the hemisphere. But if that's all you see, you will miss a lot. We're very glad we went.