El Castillo and the Lodge on the Rio San Juan

Trip Start Aug 07, 2009
Trip End Jul 14, 2010

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Sunday, December 27, 2009

We were up early this morning and took a walk around the small town of El Castillo. It hasn't got any roads, as access is only by boat. High on the hillside is the fort, and this was the controlling point of the crossing between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. Boats would bring people up the river from the Atlantic to the rapids at El Castillo and then they would get off and walk around the town to get onto another boat, which would take them up and across Lake Nicaragua, and then again take overland transport to the Pacific. In 1780, Nelson (aged 22) was here and led an army which overthrew the fort; his army ran the fort for 9 months, but after many died of illness, they left. Lord Nelson does get everywhere!

Mid-morning, we picked up our luggage and we were back on the river boat to continue for another half hour downstream to a lodge. It was a lovely relaxing trip this time, and just on occasion had to call in at military check-ins. The lodge is located right on the banks of the river and we enjoyed a couple of hour's R and R, with a cold refresco, gazing at the lovely view. A lunch of tarpon (fish) under the thatch hut rounded off the morning nicely and set ourselves up for the busier afternoon.

At 3pm we all chose to take a motorized canoe trip further down river, looking for wildlife. It was a lovely tour, and a very relaxing afternoon. We saw several central American spider monkeys swinging through the trees, two caimans sunning themselves and many birds, including cormorants drying their wings in the evening sun. We also saw a sunken steamboat, stuck on side of the river; it sank during the gold rush days. We came back to find that the bathroom didn’t have any light and so we had to wait until the batteries charged up. The lodge runs on generator electricity, and that didn’t come on until 5pm. We had a nice evening meal and then retired to bed early, tucking in the mossie nets of course - ready for the early morning hike!

The following morning we were up at 0540 ready for the off at 6am. We did get a piece of bread and coffee before we went. Our group was split into two, and led by Fernando, we headed off into the forest, behind the lodge. The first trail we took was a little disappointing and we saw little, but on the second trail we immediately came across the Blue Jeans Frog (red = poisonous) and then saw two troops of white-faced capuchin monkeys. We watched them swing above our heads for many minutes, and I hoped that they didn’t decide to drop anything on top of us! We did learn a lot about the plants too – such as the walking tree (so called, because it dies roots off and then puts out new ones in the direction of the suns rays –i.e. walks towards the light. We came back to an excellent breakfast of fruit and yogurt, gallopinto (a mix of beans and rice) and scrambled egg with tomatoes. A leisurely morning followed, and was able to download the photos.

In the afternoon, we took a large canoe out, with the guides paddling us down the river. As the boat was virtually silent, we did see two troops of howler monkeys and a toucan. It was a lovely trip in itself. Dinner was late again, about 8pm and soon after we headed for bed, as we were leaving the following day.
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