After El Salvador, we decided to drive through the skinny part of Honduras to get to Nicaragua the same day. Many travelers choose to do this to essentially skip traveling in Honduras. This was one of those epic days that we dreaded – two border crossings, and a 90-mile drive across Honduras where others have reported a dozen police checkpoints and up to ten attempts at highway robbery by bogus police tickets. We had our fun at the border crossings, but the drive itself was thankfully very anti-climactic. We crossed on a Saturday and saw maybe two low-key police checkpoints that didn’t stop us, and we did not get pulled over once! The drive through the highlands of Honduras on the way to the border was also very scenic. Kids in uniforms getting out of school. People on horses sharing the highway with us. Farms and old colonial houses. Not the side of Honduras that made us decide to skip the country.
After a total of 8 hours on the road, we were happy to reach the town of Somoto right when it started to rain. Somoto is famous for its river canyon and is charming in a low key and worn kind of way. We were surprised to find a nice playground and free wifi at the main plaza in Somoto. We stayed only one night at a gross and cheap hotel (Hotel Panamerica). Sometimes we really shouldn’t trust the guidebook. The next day we decided to skip canyoning even though that is what brings most visitors to the area. We just weren’t motivated after the night in the gross hotel. Plus, our next stop was a farm, and to this family, that held much more appeal.
We love visiting farms and found Finca Lindos Ojos in the Miraflor reserve area. To get there one drives through a long and beautiful uphill bumpy road into the cloud forest through small villages that are completely off grid. Most places we have travelled through so far, even the very rural, have been on electric grid so this is kind of unusual. On the other hand, the further south we go, people seem more and more “modern” for lack of a better word. We have not seen any indigenous culture past Guatemala.
One of the things I will miss about this trip is small stuff like being able to drive with the kids in the front seat when we are on slow country roads, and not worry about losing them to child protective services.
We spent a few nights soaking up the farm animals and had another great horse ride through forests and farmland. If there is one thing that we all love to do as a family it is probably horseback riding. Jamie is always so comfortable in the saddle and Ty can’t get enough of it. The finca has dairy cattle, horses, dogs, geese and chickens. Every morning the workers milk the cows by hand and the kitchen makes fresh cheese called cuajada. With no electricity or refrigeration, every countryside household makes cuajada daily and it is served with every meal. The other countries we visited make fresh cheese too, but our favorite is Nicaragua’s and I would love to come back to learn how to make it if/when we get our own dairy cow. The milk we drank in the morning was “freshly squeezed.” The cheese we ate was just made. We rode horses during the day and every evening Ty and I went catching fireflies. A few sentences that are deceivingly simple. How crazy that we catch ourselves feeling ordinary about these experiences. It takes looking back to again realize how lucky we are.
After Miraflor we drove south to Volcan Masaya where we did a guided night tour. We haven’t done many “tours” but we figured we might as well do something educational for all of us since we were already here. This tour packed a lot into two hours. We hiked to a viewpoint overlooking two active craters spewing smoke and sulfur gas, saw green parakeets fly back at sunset to their nests inside the volcano, climbed into a pitch-black cave and saw a porcupine, bats and snakes. Ty walked on his own the entire time and was quite excited about everything. You never know what to expect with these tours and young kids so we were very pleased. After the tour, we camped in the parking lot for the night. There was supposed to be a $4 charge for camping. When the ranger came around in the dark, we were in the middle of washing the kids with a hose outside the van. Jamie was screaming while I tried to wrangle a diaper on him. Ty was crying from exhaustion. The ranger just let us be and never collected the money. We must have been quite a scene.
Masaya was our last stop in Nicaragua. We spent a week in the country and stayed to the high elevation areas to escape the heat. We only scratched the surface of what this country has to offer but we needed to keep going south.
On the way to the Costa Rican border, we saw people selling various things on the side of the road. which in itself was not unusual – there are roadside vendors all over Central America. But for the first time, we saw live wild animals. There were parakeets all lined up with their claws tied to a stick being waved to passing vehicles. (I assume for pets.) Same with a line of iguanas on a stick. (I assume for food.) Also one much larger mammal looking thing that we couldn’t identify. This is Nicaragua, a country transitioning into a new eco-tourism destination.