Travel to Nicaragua (part 2): Visiting the Archipelagos
Three checkpoints later (two armed, one unarmed), we were finally on our way to explore Nicaragua.
Looming clouds and persistent overcast, we weren’t sure what the weather would bring us for the day. Our ride through the countryside along a two-lane highway lasted about 45 minutes.
Vendors were sprinkled on the side of the road selling all kinds of ware. Life was a lot slower here.
Even through the rain, the locals needed to keep their shops open. People are poor in this part of Nicaragua. Weather would not deter them from trying to make a living.
After we dropped off our guest passenger we set out to meet our Nicaraguan tour guide.
Mid-height, brown and friendly, our local guide spoke to us in Spanish. Enrique was of indigenous descent and knew very little English.
Gabriel translated as we walked through San Carlos.
Pops of color, smells of fish and rice, along with the chatter of Spanish voices let us know that we were where most of the action happens in town. We quickly observed local life around us as we made our way to our first stop.
La Fortaleza is a 17-century fort overlooking the San Juan River constructed to protect the country against Spanish English and American invasion.
If you ever visit this part of the country, this should go on your list of things to do in Nicaragua.
The fort houses a municipal library and a small collection of Nicaragua’s anthropological history. We weren’t there long.
The best part of the experience was taking photos and having an interesting conversation with Gabriel.
After stopping at a display that outlines Christopher Columbus’ activity in and about Nicaragua, Gabriel starts:
“This guy, Columbus. You Americans celebrate the day that he arrived. You know what we celebrate?”
“Well, as Black Americans we don’t necessarily celebrate Columbus Day,” we all interrupted.
“But yes, other Americans do.”
“Okay, yes. Well, do you know what we celebrate?”
“The day that he left.”
We all laughed.
“He didn’t discover anything. The indigenous people were already here.”
Enrique proudly acknowledged.
As women of color with origins around the diaspora, we identified with what Gabriel was saying. Instantly we had deepened our bond with each other.
Journey to the Nicaraguan Archipelagos Across the Rio San Juan
I have no idea why I assumed we would be traveling to the archipelagos on an air-conditioned ferry.
I had a quick internal conversation with myself. I needed to get with the Central American travel program quick.
This next leg of our adventure consisted of a windy boat ride across the Rio San Juan to explore four of the 36 archipelagos off of Nicaragua. Although we didn’t stop, we weren’t too far from Nicaragua’s own rain forest.
Two of the archipelagos that we visited were wildlife refuges. Uninhabitable, we drifted off shore.
We viewed various bird species from afar through shared binoculars.
As we sped through the waters, it was nice to see our buddy Gabriel smiling and relaxing. It’s funny what a bit of danger and history can do for strangers’ bonding.
The six of us sat in groups of two, enjoying private conversations and the peaceful scenery.
Nicaragua is a tourism bud waiting to blossom. We enquired about the price of one of the islands, contemplating whether we could buy one.
Gabriel quoted the cost of a Nicaraguan archipelagos at $250,000.
We chuckled, noting that many of our homes in the U.S. cost more than that.
The dream of my own private island might be closer than I thought. The next time I travel to Nicaragua I’ll have to think about it.
After an informative hour-long ride on the river, we pulled up to a small wood dock.
It was time for lunch on Los Gatuzos, a place marked on my GPS settings as a Wildlife Refuge.
Our boat driver owned the hotel here with his wife who greeted us with smiles and something to drink.
After introducing us to their toucans, the two retreated to the dining room to prepare our lunch. The four of us lingered about in rocking chairs, imagining if we could muster more than just a couple of hours in this super remote location.
Christie was down for the retreat. I wasn’t sold yet.
Eating in Nicaragua
After about twenty minutes, we finally sat down in the dining room to a nice simple lunch of salad, plantains, black beans, rice, chicken (or fish), and smashed cassava.
Our host, speaking in Spanish, made fun of my choice to eat my chicken with my fork.
She said that I needed to go at it with my hands “como ella,” referring to my girl Carmen who had demolished her fish with all ten fingers.
Although I understood what she was saying, generally, Sili translated so that Carmen could know what the inside joke was. Non-embarrassed, Carmen remarked, “that’s right” and continued with the last of her meal.
After thirty minutes our bellies were full.
Digesting our afternoon grub for a moment, we sat around chatting about the viability of us bypassing Costa Rica and coming back to this place for a secluded retreat.
As Gabriel settled our bill, we took an impromptu tour. I wanted the owner to show me around.
After visiting the restroom and the lodgings that they offered, though quiet and peaceful, it was too simple for my tastes.
The plant life is lush, the cabins are quaint, and the food is tasty. However, I know who I am as a traveler — I just couldn’t get past the sanitation and super basic rooms.
Carmen and Sili shared my sentiments. We thanked our host for the tour, content with visiting just for lunch.
It was time for us to be on our way.
The clouds and sun continued to play a game of cat and mouse as we departed for our boat, making our way to our next stop: Solentiname….
Originally published at Mom’s Guide To Travel .