Our Express Bus ride to Managua was great. Matagalpa’s bus station is so organized complete with a wicket to buy your ticket with a seat number on it. (110 Cordobas each. $4.70 CDN for a 2 hour comfortable bus ride) There’s a slot for the bus with the destination clearly labelled above and friendly staff asking where you might want to get off. Wish our bus system was like this. We’ve recently heard that all Greyhound service in Northern BC is being withdrawn. Those guys could learn from the bus experts here!
Here’s a photo of one of hte large coffee production facilities south of Matagalpa. You can just see the coffee in its various stages…
All photos from the bus:
The Hostel Monti Christi was a short 1km walk from theAugusto Sandino Airport where we were dropped off. It’s in an interesting gated community with, yes, guards at the gates. Even though we were on foot, the guard smiled and opened the gate – no problemo when we told him we had a reservation. We’d recommend the hostel – comfy bed, costs way less than the Las Mercedes Best Western near the airport and the Korean people that run the place are lovely.
The Next Adventure
The next morning signalled a major crossroads in our tour. Flying to the east coast of Nicaragua is something we remember from our working adventure there 15 years ago. Like many things we’ll come across in the next month, we can’t resist reflecting on ‘then and now’.
Our flight in 2002 was something out of an Indiana Jones movie. Looking like we were about to embark on a mission, (well… we were) a C-23 Sherpa aircraft waited for us on the tarmac.
The thing was a rattletrap and a whole lot of fun! After a free rum and coke we landed safely on Corn Island.
There was no rum and coke this time but the aircraft is waaay updated and it was a really great flight.
We even pre-booked the flight on their website months ago from our little house in BC… At the airport just show your passport, pay the $2 tax to fly to the island and you’re there! Thanks Costena! All that said, we admit it was a little emotional on the plane just flying back to this place that had such an impact on our lives.
Now that we’ve seen a good chunk of western and northern Nicaragua, it’s incredible to think this Caribbean region is part of the same country. And, in some people’s minds, it may not be.
The Northern Autonomous Region of Nicaragua
“For a little over two centuries, between 1650 and 1860, the Caribbean Coast of Nicaragua (historically known as the Atlantic Coast) was subject to different forms of foreign control, the main being the British Protectorate in place to the mid 19th century. This British outpost ‘conditioned’ the process of integration of the Atlantic Coast to the rest of the Nicaragua which began only late in the last decade of the 20th century.
The judical status of autonomy enjoyed by the inhabitants of the Atlantic Coast, is the culmination of a long quest for peace, national unity and reconciliation among coastal families and communities. It is the means by which an intense period marked by armed conflict, political confrontation, and historical differences came to an end.
The North Atlantic Autonomous Region (RAAN) was created in 1987 and elected its first regional government in 1990.
The Statute of Autonomy notwithstanding, the territory of the Atlantic Coast remains markedly isolated in regards to the rest of the country, due to a historical lag evidenced today in limited social and productive investments, scant transports and communications infrastructure, poor articulation of the regional productive structure, citizen insecurity, low coverage of basic services, and a still fragile institutional framework.”
Thanks to fadcanic.org.ni for that.
Interesting and essential knowledge of this region.
So… here we are!
At the Corn Island airport we saw the familiar blue uniforms of the National Police and, cabs have the same authorization stickers. Yes, there are Daniel Ortega billboards here and there too. Roads are paved (they weren’t 15 years ago) and things feel prosperous – because of tourism? In the background you can feel a difference though. A LOT of English is spoken here and there is a definite relaxed Caribbean aura. We’ll have to do some more digging to find out how things are here.
Here’s some photos of our lovely cottage at “Villy’s Cottage” and the neighbourhood nearby.
We’ve had a cabbie tour around the island and it’s apparent some areas are more ‘together’ than others. We’re staying on the North End – it feels tranquillo and safe, people here like to be known as “islanders”, unlike “those people over there”, as they point towards Brig Bay. It’s home of the freight boats, the Little Corn Island panga, a bunch of little stores with a variety of stuff, a couple of restaurants and some ragged, down-at-the-heel guys who need help. Fifteen years ago, Brig Bay was the place you might find the ‘bad guys’ who would follow close behind you in a drugged stupor – looks like some of them are still here. NOT EVERYBODY is like that here though.
Most of the residents of the North End where we’re staying are of creole descent. Language? Overall, you will hear Creole, English, Spanish and Miskito languages spoken here as well as around the island.
The North End is home to some great restaurants, lodges, cottages (like ours) and… the bakery!
Every day except Sunday they offer delectable goodies but the main thing you NEED to know is… At 3:00PM every day, their coconut bread is ready for sale. The aroma in the bakery is heavenly – it can only be described as “Tropical Heaven”. When it comes out of the oven, the main ‘spice’ coconut, is in the air but there are some added exotics that add a lightly floral and slightly sweet scent. Maybe it’s the honey, the arrowroot?
If you’re into it, there’s a recipe somewhere in this link. Let us know if it turns out!
Shopping on Corn Island
Because our little cottage has a kitchen, we’ve been shopping.
The bottom line with shops here is, you have to go to a bunch of them to pick up the variety of things on your list. Fruits and veggies in the store on the corner opposite the ferry in Brig Bay, spices in the store next door, rum in the store next to that, tomato sauce and cheese in the Commissariato store in Southwest Bay, and meat in the Sally Peachy store near Long Bay on the east side of the island.
All our trekking paid off. For 1600 Cordobas we got most of the food we’d need for five – six days (equiv. to $10/day) You could spend C1600 for a nice, fancy dinner for two here.
So, other than drinking freshly ground Nicaraguan coffee, the occasional Nica Libre, lazing on what feels like our own private beach across the road and enjoying the company of our two lovely neighbours from Seattle – Ivan and Katie, life is pretty easy… Ahhh… it’s all coming back to us…