Thursday, May 23, 2013

Nicaragua Part 1 (Little Corn Island)

Little Corn Island mosaic Nicaragua

TH and I were eagerly anticipating a week long stay on Little Corn during a month long trip of indulgence to Nicaragua.  The island presented the possibility of both fishing and pristine beaching.  We'd heard rumors that the voyage out might be rough, but we'd had pretty sweet weather in Nicaragua, considering it was rainy season, which suggested a more mellow jaunt.  Here is an excerpt from TH's journal:

I feel comfortable writing that today was the worst day of travel yet. Ever. We decided to take an early shuttle from San Juan to Managua so we could catch a flight out to Big Corn Island. Even though my stomach hurt and I almost {edited to say} pooped my pants in the van, this was actually the best leg of the trip.

At the airport we had a brief moment of panic when the rum in our checked bags put us over weight. Luckily, we were able to solve this problem by taking our rum as carry-ons. I had another, more acute, moment of panic when I saw the La Costena Airlines plane that was to take us across the country and into the Caribbean blue. I know nothing about aircraft, but this thing looked like a toaster with wings. An old, rusty toaster, patched with duct tape. It got worse in the air. About the time I’d finished hyperventilating from the strange noises coming from the engines, we hit the thunderstorm. Turbulence makes me nervous in a Boeing 737. In a 1950s era toaster, huge drops and groans from the wings are downright terrifying.

Little Corn Island plane

Somehow we made it back to the ground before losing any important parts. But from the airport at Big Corn Island we still needed to take a panga across a stretch of open water so we could attain our ultimate goal of Little Corn Island. A grouchy driver at the airport gave us bad directions (probably to spite us for not hiring him for the 200 yard trip to the dock), so we almost missed the launch. Wish we had. Because we were the last to arrive, we got stuck in the front seats of the panga. The good thing about this was that it was harder for us to see the mountain-sized waves. The bad thing was that our {edited to say} rumps were subjected to 20 foot freefalls into the troughs. I knew {edited to say} stuff was serious because the captain, a {edited to say} boss who looked like he was born at sea, was running the controls with white-knuckles. And his deckhand was so busy clinging to the bowline that he forgot to charge us (I did remedy this on our improbable arrival, for obvious reasons of Karma). I feel lucky to be here on Little Corn, but I’m already dreading the trip back.

When we were deposited, astonishingly safely, on shore, those of us without reservations at Casa Iguana or Hotel Delfines tried to out-power walk each other along the beach to find accommodations.  We headed straight for Carlito's, located on the southern side of the island.  Carlito offered us a cabin with private bath for around $20 a night.

Carlito's cabin Little Corn Island

Once we'd settled in, the local guide dogs met us as we began our precursory exploration of the island.  We were told by others that the canines will accompany visitors until the gringos seem to know their way around the island's paths.

Little Corn Island guide dogs

What we did:

  • TH caught bonefish, although they were rather hard to come by.  He did have a special fishing partner, who met him on the beach each morning. 

Little Corn Island bonefishing

fishing Little Corn Island

  • Swam and snorkeled in the tranquil waters in front of Farm, Peace & Love, where our dear friends, Brendan and Siobhan, were staying. 

beach Little Corn Island

  • Fished with Alfonso, a former coke runner for Pablo Escobar.  Alfonso assisted us in catching barracuda and reef fish, and then invited us to his home for an amazing rondon dinner prepared by his wife.  Known on the island as "rundown", this stew-like dish is made of coconut milk, seafood, yucca, bananas, plantains, chile, and spices. I have never since had rondon of that caliber. 

fishing Little Corn Island

  • Played cards, drank rum, and enjoyed the view from Carlito's.  

Carlito's Little Corn Island

  • Ate lovely, economical meals at Rosa's Restaurant.  
  • Enjoyed (pricier, more gringo-ified) breakfasts from the restaurant with the best vista, Casa Iguana.

Things to know: 
  • There is now a converted YACHT taking passengers from Big Corn to Little Corn!  I think this sounds much more relaxing than a panga.  (For the record, our departure trip wasn't nearly as horrific as our arrival.)
  • Pack a headlamp/flashlight for walking around the pitch-black paths at night. 
  • Unlike other parts of Nicaragua, English is widely spoken. 
  • Bring cash and rum; there is no ATM and island booze is really expensive. 
  • Buy coco bread from the girls that roam the beach.  Mmmmm.  
  • Even though it seems remote, you might not want to leave your things lying on the beach unattended.  TH's bag disappeared one afternoon, to be found later in the bushes, open, but miraculously still containing his $500 fly reel.   

Question:  Have you had any scary experiences while traveling to a vacation destination? 

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