Nicaragua for a happy ending

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After selling Big Llama and saying goodbye to South America, we made our way to Nicaragua (or “Nica,” as the locals call it) for our last 4 weeks of sun, sand, surf, yoga, and volcanoes! After arriving in the capital city of Managua, we caught a bus straight to San Juan del Sur, a surf town along the southwestern coast. Arriving a few weeks before “high season” started, we had the entire town to ourselves. We joined a local yoga studio for our daily morning yoga sessions, and spent most afternoons taking the shuttle to Maderas beach, where we would surf and boogie board until our muscles were sore. Back in town for the evenings, we enjoyed $1 happy hours with new friends on a terrace overlooking the stellar sunsets. We like this country. 😊

After a week of soaking up some much-needed sunshine, we headed back to Managua to welcome Severine, a friend from Geneva for her two-week stay with us! For our first adventure, we crossed the bull-shark invested Lake Nicaragua to Ometepe, an island in the middle of the lake that is home to two beautiful volcanoes (one active, one not so much). We spent 3 days on the island, enjoying the simplicity and relaxation of the island culture.

Cyril and Severine sweat their way to the top of the non-active volcano Maderas through jungle conditions while I nursed a thrown-out back and took advantage of the traditional Nica breakfast of rice & beans, eggs, and cheese 😊. Once I was healed, we hiked to the San Ramon waterfall, we swam in Ojo de Agua, a natural pool infused with volcano minerals, and we even rented scooters (sorry Antoine…) to explore the island.

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Volcano Concepcion – Ometepe

Since neither Severine nor I had ever driven a scooter before, we had the option of renting a quad for twice the price or someone learning how to drive a scooter. I can now officially say that I am a phenomenal “scootist,” having learned in the most ridiculous conditions. Luckily there is only one road on the island; unluckily, this road sometimes becomes a river, a trail the width of a balance beam, or a pile of rocks. We made it through with no casualties (neither ourselves nor the bikes!).

Back on the mainland, we made our way to Grenada, a beautiful and colorful town that is a must-see in Nicaragua. We spent our days visiting churches, testing numerous cafes, and even getting a massage with chocolate (when in Nicaragua…?).

One evening we took a tour to the Volcano Masaya, an extremely active volcano that last erupted in early 2016. From the top of the crater, we were able to see the churning lava below, so powerful that we had to duck behind a wall or look away when the wind blew our direction. It was such an incredible experience to witness active lava, really making you realize how alive our earth is.

From Granada, we made our way to Leon and spent the day site-seeing. The Leon highlight for me was our hike to the top of volcano Cerro Negro, a dormant volcano that has one side completely made of sand – what better reward for hiking a volcano than getting to sled down?!

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Volcano Cerro Negro

 

 

After hiking nearly 1 hour to the crater, we jumped in to our Mario Kart suits, strapped on our goggles, and made the entire journey down in less than 1 minute. I wiped out like a washing machine after being unable to avoid a divot in the sand, but the brush burns were totally worth the adrenaline rush of travelling faster than you would imagine.

From Leon, the 3 of us made our way to Las Peñitas, a tiny surf town on the coast near Leon. We stayed at the Simple Beach Lodge, with direct access to the warm, clear water and sandy beach. It’s a real treat to be sipping your coffee in the morning with your giant bowl of fresh local fruit and deciding whether you want to read a book or catch the wave that’s only a few yards away.

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Sunset at Las Penitas

We took a tour one afternoon through the mangroves, where we saw countless beautiful birds. At the end of the mangrove, we jumped out of the boat and headed to the beach, where we were able to witness a sea turtle rescue mission and release hundreds of baby sea turtles back to the water, guarding them from pelicans and other predators.

It was so sad to hear that only 1% of the little guys that we released would survive to lay their own eggs on this beach – I’d like to think that we gave them some luck and all of those adorable little ones will be back. 😊

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Reserva Natural Isla Juan Venado

 

 

 

After a few days in Las Peñitas, we made our way back to Managua. While we hadn’t heard great things about the city, we decided it merited a quick visit to the historical district. We were wrong. There were a few pretty buildings, but we couldn’t get close due to the fact that they were unstable from the earthquake that hit in 1972. The streets were empty of pedestrians and there was an overall feeling of “what are we doing here?” Fortunately, I had just enough Hilton points leftover from my days of business travel that we were able to book an executive room at the Hilton in Managua – we spent our remaining hours with Severine enjoying the pool, the fitness center, the free happy hour and even a free dinner before heading out for a farewell mojito on Severine’s last night in Nicaragua. It’s crazy how fast 2 weeks flew by, but we were thrilled to be able to share this beautiful country with Severine!

With about 10 days left before our flights back to the US (…what?), Cyril and I made our way to the Popoyo region, another surf spot on the Pacific coast. We stayed in a lodge far away from everything, where we felt real vacation vibes. Days were spent in the pool, making new friends, reading, drinking fruit juice, and walking 3 minutes to the beach for surfing and sunsets.

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Sunset at Popoyo

For our last few days in Nica, we headed back to San Juan del Sur – the difference a few weeks made was palpable. Yoga classes were full, beach shuttles were more expensive, and new restaurants that we had never seen seemed to appear overnight. The town was in full “high-season” mode and we were so grateful that we were able to see both sides of its personality! We loved our second stay here, surfing at Playa Hermosa, visiting our favorite spots and learning new ones. It was bitter sweet to know the end was near, and we spent our last night on a rooftop terrace remembering all of our favorite moments from the past year.

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San Juan del Sur

We can’t believe all that we’ve been able to do throughout this year and are so grateful to have had the opportunity to experience this adventure. We’ve seen some of the most beautiful places in the world, we’ve made true friendships that we will carry forward, we’ve made connections that were beautiful but momentary, and we’ve made memories that we will hold brilliantly in our hearts for the rest of our lives. We know that we are fortunate to have had this opportunity and we don’t take that lightly. But we’re also so proud of ourselves for taking the jump, for taking the risk, and following what our hearts were telling us was right. We’ve learned countless lessons about the world, about ourselves, and about each other. (And we’re pretty darn proud to still be completely in love with each other after 11 months of being together almost 24/7 😊.) There’s a quote from Azar Nafasi that I find fits perfectly for the way I feel as this comes to an end: “You get a strange feeling when you’re about to leave a place. Like you’ll not only miss the people you love but you’ll miss the person you are at this time and this place, because you’ll never be this way ever again.” I’d be lying if I said we were completely ready to leave. But we are excited to bring what we’ve learned into our next adventure, whatever that may be. 😊

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The sun is going down, we’re ready to wake up for our next adventure !

Difficile de s’imaginer qu’il s’agit probablement de notre dernier post relatif à notre voyage en Amérique du Sud. Difficile de s’imaginer que nous avons acheté Big Lama il y a plus de 11 mois, parcouru le continent sud-américain du sud au nord et réalisé tant d’incroyables expériences. Et pourtant…

Et pourtant, il est désormais temps de changer de continents, de changer de vie, de commencer de nouvelles aventures, à deux, et de garder tous ces souvenirs en mémoire pour enrichir et faire fleurir notre futur chemin. Rien de tel que le Nicaragua pour atterrir, sans voiture, sans objectif, sans stress, et avec beaucoup de cocktails. Arrivés sur place, une grande différence nous frappe d’entrée avec l’Amérique du Sud. La chaleur et l’humidité. On peut enfin sortir les shorts et profiter du surf et des couchers de soleil incroyables que nous offre la baie de San Juan del Sur, petit village situé sur la côté sud-ouest du Nicaragua.

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San Juan del Sur

Le temps de ramasser Séverine à l’aéroport, une ancienne collègue de travail de Genève, et nous voilà partis pour l’île d’Ometepe sur le lac Nicaragua. Imaginez une île constituée de deux volcans, plantée au milieu d’un lac, lui même planté au milieu d’un pays dont les deux côtes touchent deux océans différents. Voilà, vous y êtes ! Le trajet à lui seul vaut le déplacement, avec des anciens bus scolaires américains, de vieux paquebots et un coucher de soleil fantastique sur le volcan Concepcion.

Séverine étant super motivée à en baver, on décide de se lancer le lendemain dans l’ascension du volcan Maderas, inactif, et qui nous récompense d’une splendide vue sur sa lagune une fois arrivés au sommet. La tempête de début octobre a cependant fait beaucoup de dégâts et c’est sur un sentier glissant, boueux et entrecoupé d’arbres arrachés que Séverine recherche désespérément son troisième poumon. Après tant d’efforts, le réconfort des sources naturelles d’el ojo de agua tombe à point nommé.

L’île d’Ometepe ne cesse de nous surprendre par sa diversité, et c’est à travers une jungle dense où les singes hurleurs s’en donnent à cœur joie que nous marchons jusqu’à la cascade San Ramon pour nous rafraîchir par ces journées torides. Le temps semble s’être arrêté sur cette île posée au milieu d’un lac, et la vie a une saveur particulière dans ces moments-là.

De retour sur la terre ferme, nous nous dirigeons vers Granada, un bijou de ville coloniale posée au bord d’un lac et surplombée par le volcan Mombacho. Nous y passons quelques jours à arpenter ses rues piétonnes accueillantes, ses cours intérieures ombragées où le café fumant a une saveur incomparable et ses églises à l’architecture absolument splendide.

Profitant d’une bonne fenêtre météo, nous nous dirigeons vers Masaya pour visiter son marché artisanal avant de partir à l’assaut du volcan actif Masaya que nous atteignons… en voiture ! Eh oui, haut de seulement 600 mètres et continuellement actif, le parking nous permet de profiter d’un spectacle de lave en fusion absolument hors norme, avant de rapidement redescendre afin d’éviter les vapeurs toxiques. Une des plus belles expériences du voyage !

L’avantage indéniable du Nicaragua est la multitude de choses à voir et à expérimenter, concentrées dans un périmètre géographique très petit. Ainsi, après un rapide trajet en bus, nous voilà arrivés à Léon, jolie petite ville au centre du pays, où nous profitons de se balader pour y admirer ses nombreuses églises.

Mais l’attraction de Léon reste indéniablement le volcan cerro negro que nous devons grimper en portant une luge sur le dos. Après 45 minutes, nous voilà arrivés au sommet de ce qui ressemble à une grosse colline noire, mais les fumerolles et surtout la chaleur du gravier nous rappellent gentiment que nous sommes sur un volcan encore bien actif. Pour en redescendre, c’est tout simple, vous enfilez vos tenus de Luigi, mettez vos lunettes devant vos yeux et enfourchés votre luge pour glisser sur les pentes de sable volcanique. Mega fun !!!

La côte pacifique étant toute proche, nous nous dirigeons vers las penitas, un petit village situé à 30 minutes de Léon. Et je vais vous révéler un secret : cet endroit est le nouveau paradis du Nicaragua. Vous pouvez visiter en bateau la mangrove de la reserva natural isla juan venado et ses nombreux oiseaux, relâcher des bébés tortues au coucher du soleil, surfer les vagues devant votre hôtel et déguster des mojitos au coucher du soleil. Mais chut ! Ne le dites à personne !

C’est avec grand regret que nous devons laisser partir Séverine à Managua, qui par ailleurs ressemble plus à une capitale de Corée du nord que d’Amérique centrale, mais toute aventure a une fin et la sienne se termine ici après deux semaines de franches rigolades en notre compagnie.

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Managua

Quant à nous et grâce au cadeau de Séverine pour nos fiançailles, nous profitons de la plage et du lodge de Buena Onda à Popoyo pour se relaxer, surfer et admirer encore une fois ces couchers de soleil sur le Pacifique qui vont bien nous manquer. Je vous écris ces quelques lignes depuis le Costa Rica où nous nous apprêtons à décoller pour les Etats-Unis afin de passer quelques jours en famille. Cette aventure sud-américaine fut absolument incroyable, vivement la prochaine !

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Goodbye Nicaragua, we’re ready for our next adventure !

Coups de chœur – Tips & Tricks

Granada – Garden Cafe:

Petite cour intérieure, excellent choix de café et de nourriture, hammacs, livres à échanger, qu’attendez-vous pour y aller ?

Small courtyard, excellent coffee choice, tasty food, hammocs, book exchange, what are you waiting for to go there ?

https://www.gardencafegranada.com/

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Garden Cafe

Granada – ChocoMuseo:

L’endroit parfait pour déguster du chocolat, des liqueurs, du café et même profiter de leur magnifique piscine pour se détendre lors de chaudes journées.

Perfect place to taste some chocolate, liquors, coffee and even take a dip in their refreshing swimming pool to relax during those hot days.

https://www.chocomuseo.com/

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Ducks at the pool !

Las Penitas – Simple Beach Lodge:

Vous cherchez le paradis ? Plus besoin, vous y êtes et profitez de ces magnifiques moments.

Are you looking for paradise ? No more need, here you are and enjoy those great moments.

http://simplebeachlodge.com/las-penitas-hotel/

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Simple Beach Lodge

 


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