A Short Flight and a Long Boat Trip

Trip Start Feb 05, 2009
Trip End Feb 23, 2009

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Flag of Nicaragua  , Río San Juan,
Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Our next stop was the Rio San Juan next the Costa Rican border.  The Rio San Juan area boasts one of the richest ecosystems on earth and is one of the wettest regions of the world, getting anywhere from 2,500 to 4,000 mm of rain a year!  We had a choice of a 3/4 hour plane ride, a 9 hour ferry trip (definitely not the preference after a puke-inducing boat trip three out of the four of us experienced in Honduras on the way to Roatan!) or a 12 hour bumpy bus ride.  It was a no-brainer!  We were up early to catch the 45 minute flight to San Carlos where we would pick up a boat or "panga" to take us down the river to El Castillo.

It was a small 12-seater plane, mostly tourists, including ourselves, two people from the Netherlands and a group of Spaniards.  We had booked our tickets prior to our arrival in Nicaragua to ensure that we could get a flight.  That was somewhat of a challenge.  This trip confirmed that both Martin and I need to continue taking Spanish if we want to travel in Central or South America.  Steve is the most proficient of all of us, having studied it in school.  Knowing some French is not terribly helpful . . . .

On arriving in San Carlos, we took a taxi into town to the docks.  Unfortunately, we just missed the express boat and ended up waiting a couple of hours for another panga.  After purchasing tickets (about $2 a piece), Steve and Martin hunkered down to wait while Karen and I decided to explore the seedy little village of San Carlos.  There was really not much to see and people were not particularly friendly. In fact, Karen and I had to contend with a group of adolescent boys who tried to pelt us with oranges on our walk about town.  I distracted them by taking their photo, though they persisted in the orange throwing everywhere we went until, admitting defeat, we returned to the dock to wait for the boat along with Martin and Steve.

The weather was cloudy and spitting as we boarded the panga.  The boat has open sides, but there were plastic covers that could be pulled down when it began to rain more heavily.  Most of the other passengers were locals who were making their way back home to various points along the river with children, supplies - and even chickens - in tow.

The people who live along the San Juan River make their livings fishing and farming.  We saw numerous cows and pigs; men were out on the river fishing in dugout canoes.  There were also numerous egrets, herons and monkeys.  We were also told there were river sharks in the water, but that they're basically harmless.  Having children at a very young age must also be a past time as there were many very young women on board who had babies and little kids.  It didn't take us long to realize that we were on the milk run.  A direct panga would have taken 1 3/4 hours - and it took us 3 hours before we finally pulled into into El Castillo late in the afternoon.
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