Hola from Nicaragua
So I caught my Atlantic Airlines flight to the Corn Islands. The plane was incredibly small and we just had to sit where we could balance out the weight. After 45 minutes we made a little stop in Bluefields where a man opened the door and shouted “Bluefields !!” What a relief I thought for a minute we might have been in the Congo or something !! Another hop, skip and a jump and we had landed in Big Corn Island. Not surprisingly the larger of the two islands, hence big and little Corn. Now, I’d been told by the guy who worked in a hostel at Leon to stay on Big Corn as there’d been an incident with a girl on Little Corn a couple of years ago. Three words for you, “are you mental ????”. Big Corn is by far more seedier, not that I spent any time there but that’s the word from the people who did and unlike Little Corn it has roads and modern things like that. My instincts told me to head straight to Little Corn anyway, so I jumped in to a taxi and headed to the boat pier. Upon arrival I met a lovely Canadian couple called Amy and Darren who told me the next boat was leaving at 10am and they were going for breakfast and would I like to join them. Breakfast consisted of beer (well technically it was the first proper day of their holiday) and a sandwich. At 10 we caught the boat. It is boiling hot. According to the books the boat journey is a back breaking 30 minutes across the Caribbean. It also recommends to sit as near to the back as possible. Amy was sat in front of a washing machine (well, I suppose it’s the only way to get it to the island !!) and there were plenty of crates of beer on board so at least we’d be merry if we ran out of petrol. The boat actually rears up a lot at the front and the driver can’t see where he’s going so they have a man up front holding a rope for balance and to make sure there’s nothing to crash in to in front. The journey is indeed like going on a fairground ride for free, and Amy and I scream a bit at first as we collide with the waves, until of course we get used to it, although we did still grab hold of the seat in front just in case. 30 minutes later we arrive.
First impressions are this is what I have come for. I think Big Corn was larger and more developed than I expected, Little Corn is a whole different ball game (come to think of it they’re even playing baseball here today). We are immediately pounced upon by the locals who hand us a map and try to guide us to accomodation, for a commission no doubt. On Big Corn we’d been recommended to go to Elsa’s on the other side of the island. The main side it very still and humid whilst the other side has a wonderful breeze. Little Corn is quite long and thin so this should mean a short walk across the island. Let’s just say the map could be a little more accurate. Darren leads the way and we walk through some houses, cross a football pitch and are then heading into plantations. Amy suddenly speeds up and I’m oblivious to the fact that she has seen a man following us carrying a machete. Luckily he veers off, must be off to collect some fruit and we keep following paths until we’re squelching through mangoes. A man calls out to us and asks us if we’re looking for Derrick’s (a popular backpacker hangout). We say no Elsa’s and some how we’ve come way to far up the island. He directs us down to the beach (we’re now looping back) and we walk back down (how does my backpack still feel so heavy when I’ve given Auntie Eileen some things ?). We come across 3 places all together – Carlito’s, Grace’s and Elsa’s. Elsa’s has a hut free and as it’s big enough Darren and Amy ask me to come and join them (well that is after I’ve reclaimed my shoe laces from the stray puppy). It has two big beds and a bathroom with a shower and sink but a sarong for a toilet door. Inhibitions will have to go out of the window – or in this case wooden shutter !! Bikini on, I head straight to the beach (a journey all of about 30 metres) and go for a swim. Ouch, there’s a lot of dead coral washed up, but eventually I’m in the water. After that I go back to shore and promptly fall asleep for 2 hours (well, I was up at 4am). I wake up a little toasted and join the others for a beer. It’s so lovely here, the sea is so turquoise and apart from our 3 little places to stay I can’t see anything else up the beach apart from one wooden building on a hill. We meet some other people and cross town for dinner. When we get back we come across a major Corn Island issue no water, so we just go to bed.
Amy and Darren get up early today but I decide to take my timeake and utilise the bathroom as the water has returned. Then something incredible happens. I go for breakfast and then don’t actually move for the rest of the day. That has to be a new record !! Just as I’d finished my breakfast I got talking to an ex Boston cop (one of the hard Irish types) who lives here. I was desperate to get to the beach but he didn’t seem to stop talking. At first the stories were amusing and then it was just a pain, especially when he said his two favourite hobbies were fighting and f*ck**g !! Then he started introducing me to everyone as his future wife – I don’t think so !! Luckily Amy and Darren then came back to rescue me after their 4 hour walk around the island, we deferred his dinner invitation, after all the guy still has a gun in his house !! Plus he was already on his second bottle of rum. Although one good story was that as Little Corn has no police the community of around 700 people appointed their own man. He’s now in official training on the main land. Basically if they have a problem with anyone they go to him with the issue (there are 1 or 2 crack heads on the island). If the person concerned doesn’t change then they get kicked off the island, the best bit is the guy in charge is known as “Bad to the Bone”, apparently he isn’t but he just has everyone’s respect. We then managed to edge the cop out gradually and got chatting to Liz and Tony and a new couple called Mel and Brendan. A storm blew up at about 4 so we decided to stay put and have dinner there. There are two tiny puppies there as well as a lot of other stray dogs and as I lifted one of them up he had fleas literally swarming over his stomach, I won’t be doing that again and went to wash the hands quickly. Tony and Liz had had to move rooms that day, it looked like Tony had got a huge dose of bed bugs on his arms, but maybe it was the fleas !! The dogs all stay here as the tourists are the only ones that feed them. Time for bed which is usually around 9.30pm when the generator gets switched off.
I had a fitful nights sleep. We keep the shutter open to let air in but Amy kept thinking that someone was trying to get in. Then she heard further noises and we think it was a mouse getting up on the ledge trying to eat her crackers. We decided to get up at 4.45am to watch the sunrise, there’s a picture of Darren and Amy above in the hammocks. At daybreak we went for an early morning walk down the beach with Liz and Tony. It’s nearly lobster season, which is where the islanders make their money so they’re getting all their traps ready. One dog with collar came along, he entertained us by sniffing the beach and then digging up crabs, we stopped him trying to kill them. He’d been adopted by a traveller who stayed here, no wonder it’s the healthiest dog I’ve seen so far. At 7am after a bit of a snooze outside we went to Casa Iguana (there seems to be an Iguana something or other everywhere I go) for breakfast. It’s arguably the best on the island. As it’s on a bit of a hill I took the above picture of Little Corn from there. Then we hiked for an hour or so to a secluded spot to go snorkelling, swimming or in my case falling asleep whilst sunbathing. By midday it felt like we’d had a full day already which was just as well as it started to rain. We headed back and sat under cover munching my mouse free crackers. We took a walk over to the main town and ended up having dinner at the Loster Inn. The owner’s grand child had been shot a couple of weeks earlier in Managua for not handing over his Timex watch !! Silly boy decided to run…very sad. A couple of us went for the boil up which was an amazing fish and potato soup and then we headed back to Elsa’s. We only had one torch this time and the path back is incredibly dark. There’s a full moon tonight and I’ve never really believed all of that mumbo jumbo about what it does to animals and the like but I do now. The path had a few crabs on it the first night but tonight it’s like we’ve had a total invasion. They are the huge blue crabs I saw in Calhuita but they were just everywhere. The rustling in the bushes makes them sound huge and then they were all over the path. The girls were screaming, laughing hysterically and grabbing the nearest person for support. The boys were being pretty manly. It was like we were in a new blockbuster “The Blair Corn Island Crab Project”, in total darkness apart from one small torchlight jumping up and down. At one point there must have been 50 in our way. My eyes were adjusting to the darkness and I could see something that resembled a small coconut about to connect with Amy’s foot. I didn’t tell her as I knew it wasn’t a crab. Upon collision she screamed and high kicked in to the air, I think she’d do well in a Can Can audition at the Folie Bergere. It was quite simply a priceless moment. With great relief we finally reached Elsa’s and had a beer with Mel and Brendan (I’m not even going to put in here what they saw happen in a restaurant this evening, too gross, just having this note will remind me). There was a full moon party starting at 9pm at Iguana. I’m thinking Thailand and Koh Pha Ngan, oh hang on a minute I’m in the Corn Islands, not the same !! One of the guys came back to report that three people were sitting around a fire. I’ll give that one a miss then….
The next morning we wake up early. There is a dog under my bed (mother of the puppies), how on earth did she get there ? Darren and Amy decide to get up and catch the 7am ferry. I’m having a “Clash” moment – “Should I stay or should I go ?”. I’m going to leave that to the Gods and the weather as it’s all been a bit iffy. There’s a 2pm boat so I can catch that and I have an open ticket on my flight. It’s sunny, it’s raining, it’s overcast – help !! By 11am it’s pouring again, well that’s my decision made, I’m leaving on the 2pm boat with Liz and Tony. We say goodbye to Mel and Brendan and catch the boat. It’s stopped raining so at least our bags stay dry. At the airport we are the only 3 to get on board. It’s like having our own private plane – now this really is backpacking !! Unfortunately at Bluefields more people got on. In Managua I say goodbye to Liz and Tony and catch a taxi to my hotel.
I’ve had a brilliant time here and it’s been made better because of the people I’ve met. Little Corn is stunning, there’s loads of snorkelling and diving, it must be one of the least spoiled and cheapest places in the Caribbean. Miss it at your peril. A word of advice though, if you don’t want crabs and other things to go bump in the night too much then stay in a room that’s not directly on the ground….
Apart from one night to go in Managua that also concludes Nicaragua. I’ve had an absolutely fantastic time here, despite the strikes and so far it’s definitely my Latin American favourite, one country to go !!
Plane = 26, Bus = 118, Train = 2, Boat =22, Sunglasses = 9, Mosquito Repellant = 10, Books Read = 31 1/2, Bags lost and then recovered = 2.
Take care all