This is the pack I took for three weeks. Small enough to be a carry on bag. I thought I had packed light, but Andy had an even smaller bag.
On our way to Nicaragua, we were very impressed by this statue of George H.W. Bush at the George Bush International Airport in Houston. So . . . majestic.
Photo by Andy. This is the hostel we stayed at our first night in Managua, the Managua Backpacker's Inn. It was a nice friendly place, we met some cool people and ended up drinking much too much rum.
After we waited out our hangovers, we got an afternoon expreso bus to Matagalpa, in the northern mountainous region of the country. This is Andy walking the streets of Matagalpa.
This bridge was wiped out by the river when it went over its banks during a hurricane.
Photo by Andy. The river seemed to be the sketchiest part of town . . . near here we were mildly harassed by some local youth. I should say that in general we were very impressed by the friendliness of the local people, who don't have much and really have plenty of good reasons to be angry at Americans.
I was surprised and happy to see a monitoring well in Matagalpa.
Photo by Andy. We took a bus up to a hotel/coffee farm called Selva Negra (meaning "black forest") which had been established by German emigrants. This tank left over from the war was parked at the highway where you got off the bus and started walking.
Photo by Andy. By the time we got to the hotel, it was dark.
The hotel was really nice, this is a photo of the restaurant and the man-made pond in front of it.
The owner of Selva Negra (Eddy Kuhl) built this wedding chapel for his daughter's wedding.
Another photo of the beautiful chapel.
On our second day at Selva Negra we explored some of their hiking trails.
Andy crawling under a downed tree.
Photo by Andy. We were very impressed with the size of the ferns . . . here's a fiddlehead with my hand for scale.
'Nother bee photo.
Photo by Andy. Me taking advantage of one of the trailside benches. Those industrious Germans.
Andy taking a photo of a howler monkey. We had an awesome experience where we stood in the trail for about 15 minutes while they climbed through the branches above us and watched us.
Andy had the telephoto to get a monkey photo.
Another shot of the restaurant and pond. The sunlit ridge in the background is where we hiked up to.
This mural in the Selva Negra restaurant depicts El Terrocarril, a steam locomotive that the German emigrants dreamed up that brought their coffee to port WITHOUT RAILS. We couldn't hardly believe it, but Eddy says it made six round trips to the port of Corinto (at least 80 miles away). We thought it sounded like something a James Bond villain would dream up.
Photo by Andy. We're not sure, but we think this was part of El Terrocarril.
We decided to walk back to Matagalpa. Here's Andy on the road.
And on the bus from Matagalpa to San Ramon. Which was a real nice town that we somehow didn't get any photos of.
From San Ramon, we hitched a ride to the village of Yukul, on our way to Finca Esperanza Verde (a coffee farm/ecolodge). This was one of the highlights of the trip, a great ride in the back of a pickup truck through some spectacular mountain country.
Photo by Andy. Me in the back of the truck.
Photo by Andy. An example of the scenery we were enjoying during our ride.
And the sun started to go down as we got close to the Finca.
The kitchen and hammock lounge at the Finca.
My tent set up with the rain fly. And we needed it, it rained hard most of our time at the Finca. I was unprepared for camping in the cold (Nicaragua is HOT, right?) and had a pretty miserable night.
At about 4:30 I gave up and got out of the tent, went for a hike.
A pretty plant at the Finca.
And another . . . what a weird flower.
Nice bunch of bananas. Bananas were plentiful and free at the Finca.
Coffee berries and beans.
Some of the mountain countryside we hiked through during our time at the Finca.
Obligatory leaf-cutter ant photo.
Andy enjoying the hammock deck.
On Christmas day we left the Finca but got stuck in Matagalpa, since most buses weren't running. Since most stores and restaurants closed up for the holiday, this was the best we could do for Christmas dinner.
Our feet in our Matagalpa hotel room, along with clothes we were trying to dry from our time in the rainy mountains.
The next day we bused it to Leon. Leon has a bunch of old buildings. We took photos of them like good tourists should.
Another old building photo.
This was a cool mural depicting the Sandanistas crushing Uncle Sam.
Up until this point in our trip, we had been struggling to find kerosene to fuel Andy's camping stove. This was a moment of great victory.
Photo by Andy. La Tortuga Booluda, a nice hostel we stayed at for a while in Leon.
Photo by Andy. Me cooking up some kind of dinner at the hostel.
Photo by Andy. A photo of one of the toughest chicken bus rides we took. This was about a three hour ride from Chinandega to Jiquilillo. And it was hot. And the road was bumpy as hell.
But at the end of that hellish bus ride we found paradise: El Rancho Tranquilo. This was a very chill hostel on a beautiful beach where we stayed about five nights, enjoyed the good company and the excellent food, drank many beers, swam, and just generally took the vacation time that we were in need of.
Very fun game of beach volleyball.
Andy cruising down the beach.
Toña! Our favorite Nicaraguan beer.
Matt (a Canadian friend we hung with several times in Nicaragua) making some excellent rum drinks.
One of several dogs living at Rancho Tranquilo
Andy and some more fresh fish we cooked up on hot coals from the previous night's bonfire.
Some of the wonderful jewelry that was made by Jacques, a fascinating guy we met at the Rancho.
Matt dancing with Mami, the excellent cook at the Rancho.
Photo by Andy of Mami and her kitchen.
Tina, the way chill owner of Rancho Tranquilo.
Nice photo Andy took of some palms and the main rancho.
Photo by Andy of my tent set up near the beach.
Another beach photo.
Photo by Andy. Me watching a sunset.
Matt and his girlfriend, Theodora, enjoying the sunset.
The crew headed up to crash a New Year's Eve party at Monty's Surf Camp, an upscale joint about a mile down the beach. Left to right: Andy, Theodora from Canada, Natasha from Sweden, Susan from Canada (Theodora's sister), and Matt from Canada.
New Year's Eve bonfire.
And on to Granada, another old city with beautiful old buildings that we dutifully took photos of.
Another old building.
A cool door I saw on a street in Granada.
Photo by Andy. After a night in Granada, we bused it to Rivas, took another bus to San Jorge, and got on this ferry to go to the island of Ometepe.
This is one of two volcanos on Ometepe: Concepcion.
During our taxi ride from where we got off the boat (Moyagalpa) to where we intended to stay (Finca Zopilote) we saw these guys cutting tree branches to make room for a new overhead power line. I was glad to see they were wearing hardhats.
Photo by Andy. The entrance to Finca Zopilote, an interesting permaculture organic farm/ecolodge. We stayed there two nights.
Photo by Andy of the camping area at Zopilote. We stayed in the loft of the palapa visible in the background . . .
Andy enjoying another well-earned Toña at the lookout platform at Zopilote.
On our only full day at Zopilote, we hiked the other volcano on Ometepe: Maderas. Most of the guys we hiked with were Canadians, though the woman on the left (Elise?) is from Minnesota.
It was a fun hike (about 8 hours) but most of the time we were in thick clouds and rain.
Photo by Andy. Me soaking wet from sweat and rain.
Paul (one of the Canadians). The trail was incredibly muddy for most of the hike.
Elise from Minnesota
Photo by Andy of Hector, our guide. When he showed up in the morning wearing rubber boats, I knew we were in trouble.
This lagoon is located within the crater of the volcano, but it was too foggy to see much of it.
A photo of the cloud forest.
A well-camouflaged toad we spotted on our hike down.
We got to see some more howler monkeys on the way down, too. Andy took this telephoto shot.
Andy took this photo, too, trying to show the size of this immense tree. There are some monkeys in the tree, I think.
We hiked out of the clouds and had this great view of Concepcion. We never saw Concepcion without that cloud on top.
And a view back at Maderas, which was starting to peak out of the clouds.
A stick bug back at Zopilote.
And a monster of a frog! Photo by Andy.
And a tarantula waiting in its lair for a meal to walk past. Photo by Andy.
We waited on the side of the road near Zopilote for this bus to take us back to the ferry. Photo by Andy.
Photo by Andy of me in the back of the bus. This thing was jammed full. We hit a couple monster bumps, too, and all aboard made contact with the ceiling.
Back in Granada, Andy had to take off a couple days before me. I spent my last full day at the Crater's Edge hotel up at Laguna de Apoyo, which is an amazing place, a beautiful lake located within an old caldera . . . perfect temperatures for hanging out and for swimming.
A photo I took of a palapa along the shore of the laguna while I went kayaking.
A panorama I stitched together to try to give a sense of the laguna.
The laguna at sunset.
And one last critter . . . this guy was living in the sink at the dorm at Crater's Edge. The owner smashed him, though, so he's not there anymore.