So, firts I´ll sum up Nicaragua and the month of July. (and forgive me that fact that I have no spell check, or natural ability to spell...)
For my birthday I took a 3-day trip to climb Cosigüina with a Quetzaltrekkers group. It started on the 13th with a delicious pacake breakfast at the QT house and then a camioneta to the terminal where we took a chicken bus to Chinandega, another camioneta to the other terminal, and another chicken bus to the end of the road... literally. We arrived in the town at the base of Cosigüina after hours and hours on the buses. First thing we did when we got off the bus was walk through town, which consists of one dirt road with 2-room cement homes on either side and more farm animals than people, to take a swim on the beach. It was by far the nicest beach I had seen up to that point on the trip and we were absolutely the only people there! It´s called the Golfo de Fonseca and we could see Honduras and El Salvador from the beach. We had a big meal of sandwitches with everything from beans and cheese to veggies and weird meat from the market. About a dozen local kids had gathered around watching, and we made them all sandwitches, which they had no clue how to eat, which was thuroughly entertaining!
We had a big fire on the beach that night and set up our tents right there (while we were eating, my new little friend Jennifer brought us delicious cuajada cheese and fresh tortillas). Between the bugs and heat there wasn´t a lot of sleeping, but waking up to a sunrise as the backdrop to dolphins flipping by was more than worth it. That morning our "guide" met up with us and we started off towards to the volcano. Although it used to be the highest volcano in the country, it is now hardly anything to see from the base. It´s a pretty easy walk out to the base and then a short way uphill, and the view is amazing! Behind you is the Golfo and in front is the enormous crater. The water is a crystaly blue-green, and suprisingly shallow for how deep that crater is. The beach was totaly chaos that night as every child from town seemed to have come out to play with us, but we had a blast. The game they taught me could be most accurately describes as an innocent version of spin the bottle, with a rhyme and having to give a kiss on the cheek to whoever you land on (they all wanted to kiss me of course, haha) . And their absolute favorite thing is posing for pictures and then looking at them on the screens of the digital cameras. And that night we had paid a local woman in town to fry up some fish for us, which was amazing! It was another hot night, but we had some Flor de Caña by the fire (which we only made for the smoke to keep the bugs away) to celebrate birthdays-mone and Shannon from San Fran... Oh yeah, that evening I had also hitched a ride from a guy in town back out to the beach (I didn´t want to walk to the whole 7 minutes it would have taken, because I didn´t have shoes). The catch is that it was on a horse!
Took all the buses back the next morning and gad lunch at "The BG" in León. It was delicious and I headed back home to Colibrí, my base hostel. 3 friends from the hike ended up staying there and we had a blast, and headed for Granada in the morning.
Granada was almost as wonderful the second time as the first! It was great to be back at Amigo´s B&B, which is actually cheaper than all the other hostels and has the best included breakfast ever! My first full day back I took a bus out to Masay, where you can buy terrible souvenirs and handicrafts. My goal was to buy wooden fruit, but the fact that it was going to be more ecpensive to send it home than buy it in the first place changed my mind. I ended up walking around for a good chunk of time, and finding the taxidermy man in the market. If only I had had an easy wat to ge a $20 stuffed rooster home!
On the 20th I took the 15 hour ferry across lago de Nicaragua to the Río San Juan. It was quite the ride, and didn´t involve a whole lot of sleep, but the sunset was beautiful. When I got off the ferry I took a boat out to Boca de Sábalos where I enjoyed a super nice hotel right on the water. I read, took naps, watched the boats go by, and listened to birds and monkeys for a day. The off on another boat to El Castillo where I saw "El Castillo Inmaculada Concepción," what used to be a fort to protect against pirates. The town is built right at it´s base along the river and is small and comfortable - aside from the twitching pig being slaughtered on someone´s front portch on the main path (there are no roads). One thing i appreciate more than all the others is that it´s just El Castillo and not the "Nicaragua Canal;" they almost put the canal in there instead of Panama.
After that I took a short 23 hours or so to get through Costa Rica (which has changed more than I could have imagined in the 4 years since I was last there-not for the better!), and on to Panama. Now, here´s a little story about Immigration: It probably took about an hour, several trips between window #1 and window #2, getting ripped off by the money changer, and ultimately having my passport cut ahead of everyone in line and being stamped because some guy told me he could help me but his friend in charge may want a "gift" for it (which turned out to be $15). So, there´s the condensed version, and the beginning of Panama...