First stop in Nicaragua, on route to El Castillo

Trip Start Apr 21, 2010
Trip End Jun 29, 2010

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Where I stayed
Hotel Leyko

Flag of Nicaragua  , Río San Juan,
Sunday, April 25, 2010

As soon as our riverboat emerged in the beautiful Lago Nicaragua, we could see the town of San Carlos, and it was not a particularily pretty sight. It is basically a collection of delapitated wood, tin, and concrete shacks that have encroached onto the river so far that the first row of buildings are all on tall stilts in the water.

There was the usualy flurry of dock activity when our boat pulled up, and we were quickly ushered to immigration, where the two officers were a little surprised to see us. We paid $7 each in immigration fees, and then picked our way over broken dock boards until we reached the very busy market place where we felt very conspicuous and vulnerable. So we hopped in the first cab we saw and asked him to take us to a nice hotel that was not too expensive.

He drove us about two blocks to Hotel Leyko, which is a nice-looking building with a view of the lake. It seemed professional and clean, and our room was fairly large ($13 per night for the room). It also turned out to be what Lonely Planet recommends as the best hotel in San Carlos. Upon closer inspection, however, we discovered little holes in the cornerns where tell-tale little turds seemed to have falled on the bed. It was unmistakably mouse shit, and we could hear scurrying in the walls. Also, the bathrooms were shared and in a tin shack with cold water only. We asked the owner about the turds on the bed sheets and he just wiped them off and told us it was nothing to worry about...OK...It was also sweltering hot and very humid, but we decided to just push the beds away from the walls and suck it up for the night.

We walked around the town for a bit, where we were stared at by the locals. We ate at a nice-looking restaurant, where we discovered the delicious domestic beer, Tona. Unfortunately, the ceviche was not good and our server totally ignored us. So we gave up on exploring and went back the to hotel to try to sleep. Unfortunately, the heat was too much for me and the mouse shit was too much for Jason, and neither of us slept.

In the morning, we had cold showers, got ripped off on the exchange rate for Cordobas (by the hotel), and visited a rather unhelpful government tourist office, which seemed to me like a place where people are paid to socialize and who never encounter tourists. They at least told us what time the boat left for El Castillo.

So we decided to leave San Carlos and boarded the slow boat to El Castillo, which drops people off on the side of the river during the trip. We decided to take the slow boat to have more sightseeing opportunities on the boat ride. It turned out to be a very long boat ride (about 2 hours), and a whole lot of river, jungle, and tiny houses every now and again. Which was cool for about 45 minutes, then we wished we had taken the fast boat. Oh well.

Passed Sabalos after about 1.5 hours, which is the first major settlement downstream of San Carlos on the Rio San Juan. It looked like a pleasant little place with smiling locals. We continued on the El Castillo, which is the next settlement dowstream, and one which canīt be missed due to the large stone lookout castle for which the town got its namesake.
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