July 18, 2002 GMT
11. Nicaragua, - Boaīs, Scorpions and Volcanoes

After being spoilt rotten by the BMW Motoclub in San Jose, I headed for the Nicaragua border, but not before narrowly missing a car which lost itīs front wheel, stranded in the middle of the road....

At the border I took the easy option of using a local to guide me through - sure saved me time cutting through all the different offices.

I overnighted in Rivas, and hopped on the ferry to Ometepe Island the next morning. A few bods on the boat gave me a pre-briefing, which resulted in me heading straight for the Finca Magdelena, a co-op farm producing īshadedīcoffee and boasting a very laid back environment. Too true.

The first night there the fire flies were just amazing, little green lights whizzing all over the place, seemed like a Disneyland version of a forest. That was just the beginning of the wildlife adventures however. A belgian guy named Paul came back wide-eyed from the showers and said "..well, the shower is great, and so is the big snake that was in there with me as well !..."

With that , everybody rushed to have a look, and what Paul had sensed moving in the corner of his eye was in fact a 3 metre Boa Constrictor. It promptly dissapeared between the walls catching sight of the mob, and was forcibly extracted by one of the farm workers....


The Boa being hauled out of the showers, photo courtesy of Ilse Vandecasteele

My close encounter didnīt quite compare with Paul, but the scorpion which wandered nonchalantly in front of my naked toe was flattened in a nanosecond knee jerk while I was using the loo. I saw a second one crawl into the door jam, so I took out my Aerosol chain lubricant and lighter and torched him...

A small group of us made the climb to the crater of the Maderas volcano, 3 hours of mud slopping to reach the top, and it was clouded over - damn. The climb itself was great though, climbing through some stunning cloudforest, and seeing all sorts of creatures...


.... like this big crab, now whatīs he doing half way up a volcano ?


or this very wierd & evil looking spider.....

We'd decided not to take a guide as we figured we could do it ourselves, but one of the farm dogs decided to volunteer for the job. This dog was really something else, or should I say somebody else. If ever there was a human trapped inside a dogs fur, here she was taking us up the volcano. Every ten minutes she would wait for us all to go past, as if checking to see if everything was OK.

The wonderdog...

Our four legged guide

At the top, we got treated to this 'spectacular' view....

Myself, Sophia, Mr X and Paul enjoying the spectacular view, click here for a larger view.

On the way back down we could hear the Howler monkeys doing thier thing, which is more like a eery low growl giving the false impression of Gorilla sized apes. We stumbled upon a whole family just before getting back to the finca.

Gorilla'sin the mist...

The howler monkeys

In Granada I stumbled upon what has to be the party capital for travellers in Nicaragua. Half of the people I'd met from Ometepe Island were in residence, and there was a kind of impromptu reunion waiting around every corner.

Now Dad, if you are reading this, I suggest you skip to the next paragraph...

A bar called Circuit breaker presented me with an oppurtunity to fulfil a long held wish, as it had in-bar tatoo and piercing parlour. I left that evening sporting a nice little ring through my right nipple, and yes- it did hurt.

In the interests of preserving my liver I left Granada for Leon, which is a really beautiful city full of churches, and 1 huge Cathedral that they say was actually planned for another city. I stayed in Cafe Via Via, a Belgian owned cafe and hostel which was reccomended to me by Paul and Ilse. It was fairly spartan living in this army barracks style dorm, but it was exceptionally cheap. What really raised my eyebrows was Paul and Ilse coming to visit me, and then declaring they were staying somewhere else ! - I had to laugh.

The team of travellers staying at Via Via kept the party from Granada swinging, and the bodies littered around the place the next morning told a very sorry story. When I first arrived there I was a little backwards in coming forwards with regards to the people there, until this cheeky American called Kristen simply blocked my path and introduced herself. I was perplexed to say the least.

As we talked she revealed a most illuminating fact - only 10% of US citizens have a passport, and would you believe that only half of them are ever used ? You can make your own deductions from there.

I was just in time to catch the march commemorating the Sandanista revolt against Somoza in '78 '79. Even had the official wave from Ortega as he drove by.

The Sandanistas wear a lot of Red and Black,and I thought I should have my Canterbury Crusaders shirt...


The red and black of the Sandanistas

On the way back from the march, some drunks thought they could have my camera by offering to take our picture, but we realised what was going down and simply walked away. Man was the abuse colourful.

Walking back to the center of Leon we stumbled on another little procession, a father walking his 'just turned 15' year old daughter through the streets. I couldn't work out who looked more proud, Dad or the little guy in the tuxedo...


One proud father and his daughter....


... and a tough little guy in his Tux.

Leon is also well known for it's murals, some of which havn't fallen under the governments paint brush yet. Some are older, showing the CIA as the cause of all evil, while others are more modern works poking criticism at the status quo.


An older one, even with Che Guevara - was he ever in Nicaragua ?


A more recent statement on the current political environment

A closer view,click here for a zoom up

Now Dad, I know you've read it all, and you'll be pleased to note : on the way from Granada to Leon the piercing dislodged itself, and the hole had healed up, I didn't have the heart to force it through again....

See you in Honduras...

Posted by Jeremy Andrews at 01:54 AM GMT

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