El Castillo de La Concepción

Trip Start Sep 28, 2009
Trip End May 02, 2010

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Flag of Nicaragua  , Río San Juan,
Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Pleasant fast boat ride to El Castillo, a really traditional river town, with many stilted wooden houses over the water, all overshadowed by the scenic fort. Strategically located on the last upriver set of rapids,(there are numerous rapids & shallows from here downstream to the Atlantic) so they could  so they could pound (with cannon fire!) the already exhausted potential attackers who were trying to negotiate the shallow rapids against major current.

Found a great cheap place to stay with river views, hammock & good restaurant - just $6 a night with private bath - all the grey water just drops straight through the floor to the river.

Met 3 fun Americans who were staying there, so we got together to organise a trip to the Reserva Indio-Maiz, the Aguas Frescas area, which is less visited & therefore there is supposedly a better chance of animal sightings. Were able to customise the trip to include croc & caiman hunting, visiting the sunken steamship and swimming in Rio Bartola.

Breakfast at 5.30 with sunrise views obscured by cloud - very happy we rented the wellies for $1 for the supposedly less muddy of the 2 trails. It didn't take long for the drizzle and then heavy rain to start, so what had been a dry path the previous day, turned into a dangerous slippery mudbath!

Of course, all the animals went into hiding, except the frogs - the biggest adults, about the size of a thumbnail, were green & black and red, there were loads of small brown ones and some minute (1/2 a little finger nail!) black ones too.

Interestingly, in the park, they had built several oversized benches/low tables that visitors could climb on to thwart the angry peccaries who would end up head butting the wood - much safer than hiding behind a skinny tree, which they can bite through to access their adversaries!

Towards the end, when the rain had reduced to drizzle again, did see some new birds, several groups of howlers and one spider monkey.

Back down the San Juan river again, we saw a caiman but no crocs - not enough sun to get them out I guess! Did see a few collared toucan and a little green Jesus Christ lizard doing it's stuff and walking on water!

Also stopped to see the sunken steamship wreck - they used to ply the river transporting gold miners & supplies to the Pacific for the trip to California. This was one of the suggested routes for the Panama canal, if you get my drift!

Saw another 3 caimans, including a biggie, but our captain, a caiman whisperer, was unable to catch them. Despite swimming quietly underwater towards them, they spooked when he got closer - apparently easier at night when you can stun/distract them with strong torchlight.

It turned out that this, the Rio Bartola, was the river we'd be swimming in, though we'd be further upstream where the water was too sweet and clear for them - yeah, right!

Saw the ancient traps they use to catch the massive fresh water shrimp which have big tasty lobster like claws - had to have some for dinner that night - delicioso!

Thursday just checked out the fort & museum and hung out in the hammock enjoying the river views & breezes - better here than San Juan which is apparently rougher & pricier.

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