Nicaragua Part II

Trip Start Jan 11, 2012
Trip End Aug 09, 2012

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Flag of Nicaragua  , Rivas,
Sunday, July 8, 2012

Volcano boarding, followed by one big night in León was quite a way to kick off proceedings with the Leinbergers. Our next stop, although slightly more tranquil, would not fail to provide even more excitement for the team. This time it was back down south to the Pacific, where Lanie proved himself to be not only a natural born auditor, but also an excellent accommodation seeker. Through his extensive network of surfing contacts he somehow managed to find an incredible little place run by a friendly and characteristically efficient Swiss man. From León we caught a 2 hour bus into Managua and then a taxi to another bus station in Managua and then a 1.5 hour bus to a town called Rivas and then finally found a taxi that could take us 1 hour up the untouched Pacific coast to our destination. And then we would have killed Lanie if it wasn't amazing.

We arrived just in time to watch the end of Spain's drubbing of the Italians in the Euro final. Commiserations to my boeties Al, Richa and Jordi, I'm quite bleak that I didn't get to see you all sob. Anyway, back to the beach and after a quick tour of Buena Onda Resort, I assisted Lanie in selecting a surfboard that best suites his style or size or whatever aspect you use to select a board. I told him to use the yellow one, it looked pretty schweet, but he's quite a surfing pro, so after 2 hours of fondling 25 different boards he eventually picked the worst looking one and then asked to put the fins on himself. Show off. In the meantime, Don and Han were relaxing at the pool sampling some more Flor de Caña rum. Han was also being a bit of a show off with all the wizardry applications that she had acquired on her iPhone. As such, Han was immediately recruited as the team's photographer for the remainder of the trip. You can judge for yourself, but these photos seem to suggest that she might also have a few talents beyond the ability to count beans.

We spent 4 days at this gem of a place. Most of our time was spent relaxing at the pool or strolling along the numerous postcard beaches, where we occasionally pretended to watch Lanie surf. We also played a few epic games of "throw a piece of rope at a wooden clothes horse and see if you can make the rope stick". Ingenious, it will definitely become an Olympic sport in the near future. Rope games aside, we also had several in depth discussions about the first book of The Hunger Games. The first thing that Han asked me after I finished the book was: "Doesn't Katniss remind you of me?". For those of you who haven't read the book, Katniss is a girl that wins a competition where the object of the game is to kill all 23 of your opponents in order to be the last person standing. Fair enough comparison I suppose, we all know that Han is a pretty hectic chica.

One very big highlight of our Pacific jaunt was a deep sea fishing expedition. After an early breakfast we drove even deeper into the Nicaraguan sticks to a beautiful bay where our fishing vessel was waiting to be pushed into the big blue. It was a cracker of a morning, ideal fishing conditions, but unfortunately the wind picked up as soon as we launched the boat. There wasn't much activity on the lines for the first hour or so, but we did see some turtles mating and also witnessed a few stingrays jumping vertically out of the water. Quite bizarre. Soon after the stingrays stopped performing we were into some action with Don fighting a fish briefly before the sneaky bugger managed to break loose and avoid the frying pan. Our disappointment was short lived though and I was the lucky person next in line to have a crack at whatever was on the other end of the very stywe lyn. 20 minutes later, after a tiring battle, the old sea dog himself, Lanie "Don't Tag, Just Eat" Van Heerden, expertly gaffed a beast of a barracuda through it's brain. We estimated him to weigh around 12kg, but in all fairness he was more like 24kg. Next up was Katniss Everdeen, the fish killing machine. She showed tremendous skill in landing a very large needle fish that was also added to the dinner menu for that night. The next few hours saw numerous fish take our lures, but sadly we weren't able to capitalise on the opportunities. We definitely could have been more successful with regard to our ocean bounty, but nonetheless it was still a fantastic day out and we thoroughly enjoyed our double fish dinner that evening.

After 4 fantastic Pacific days it was time to move on, next up: Ometepe Island. Situated on Lake Nicaragua, Ometepe is the world's largest volcanic island inside a freshwater lake. That has got to be, hands down, the most worthless fact that anyone has ever come across. One unverified, but much more interesting fact is that the ferry that took as from the mainland to the island was the slowest piece of machinery ever constructed by mankind. Even that massive platform thing that used to transport the Space Shuttle from it's hanger to it's launch pad would have covered the distance more swiftly. At least the ferry had forgotten to upgrade its inboat entertainment system for the last 30 years, so we were treated to an epic 2-hour marathon of 80's music videos for the duration of the journey. Bette Davis Eyes was definitely the biggest foot tapper for most of the passengers.

We arrived at the island's primary port and then caught a taxi to our fine abode located on the shores of Lake Nicaragua, right in between the island's two volcanoes. Unfortunately the weather was not very favourable so we couldn't really see the two volcanoes, but that didn't stop us from hiring kayaks and racing to an island that is not the world's largest volcanic island inside a freshwater lake. Han and Lan somehow won the race, Don's first competitive rowing loss in her illustrious career. The following day we decided to take on Volcán Concepción, the larger of the two volcanoes, topping out at 1610m. That isn't very high above sea level, but the climb starts at about 30m above sea level, so it was to be quite a test indeed.

The four of us set out with our overly enthusiastic tour guide at about 7 in the morning with the round trip to the summit and back expected to take about 10 hours. The first part of the climb involved walking through a rainforest that contained a host of invisible animals. The rainforest leg was quite flat but it became progressively steeper as we approached the more volcanic terrain. After a 2 hour slog we eventually reached a viewpoint at the halfway mark where the team was faced with a dilemma no different to one that mountaineers often encounter when attempting to summit Mount Everest. The girls were spent, but the boys lied to the girls and said that they wanted to push for the summit. After much deliberation, emotion and some aggression from Katniss who threatened the boys with her hunting knife, it was eventually decided that the boys were to bring glory to their families by conquering the volcano. So off we set with our crazy tour guide.

The terrain was quite intense and the wind was gusting at around 80kph, so the going was slow, but we eventually found the summit. Thanks to the fog, we could see absolutely nothing from the summit except for our tour guide's gas mask. He told us that the volcano emits dangerous sulphuric gases, but we wouldn't need to wear a mask as we don't climb the volcano every day. He also told us that if he was to write a book about his life, we would read it three times and that if the volcano started erupting, he would ditch us. True story. The walk back down was equally slow but we eventually reunited with the girls and then returned to our abode for a much needed shower.

Our last day on Ometepe was sadly also the last day of the Leinbergers' trip. We thought that we would treat ourselves to a soothing swim in the nearby natural spring, but that turned out to be a budget version of Warmbaths, so we packed it in, boarded the slowest machine ever built and returned to the mainland. We then travelled back to Granada where we signed off the trip in classic Nicaraguan style with a bottle of Flor de Caña and a few Nicaraguan cigars. As we're sure is quite evident, we enjoyed a wonderful, action packed week with Han and Lanie and were naturally extremely sad to say goodbye to them at 5 the following morning. Partly because we had to wake up at 5AM, but mostly because we were definitely going to miss the laughs with them crazy Leinbergers...
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