Matagalpa, Nicaragua – November 2

Happy Day of the Dead!!

We did not have a good introduction to Nicaragua.  The immigration official at the Los Manos border crossing demanded we pay a $20 fee in US dollars.  I refused and tried to hand him the equivalent in Cordobas – the Nicaraguan currency.  He refused to take the money, and told me to buy dollars from one of the ubiquitous money changers that infest every border crossing.  Finally Chris produced dollars.

So we drive away from immigration office and are stopped by an hombre in civilian clothes with no identification.  He tells me we have to buy Nicaraguan vehicle insurance.  Chris goes into the camper and produces the form that clearly shows we bought insurance for all of Central America from a Guatemalan insurance company.  Not good enough, no reason given. He mentions that if we’re stopped by the police without his insurance we’ll be sent back to the border. Another $10 fee.  And, for good measure, a $1/person fee to enter the nearest town.

After leaving the border we drove to the nearest town and spent the night in a hotel.  Our room was air-conditioned, but for about an hour the power in the town would blink off every few minutes.  At one point we had to open the room’s door to let in some air.

The roads in Nicaragua are the best we’ve seen south of the US border – with the exception of the Mexican toll roads.  That’s a conundrum given the fact that the country is the poorest in Central America. The countryside is beautiful.  The roads for the most part are lined with shade trees.  Driving through much of Nicaragua is like driving through a well-maintained park.  Again, Nicaragua is the poorest country in Central America.

The Day of the Dead is not nearly as big a thing in Nicaragua as it is in Mexico.  We wondered if it was a thing at all until we saw the cemeteries packed with people and festooned with flowers earlier today. Halloween is definitely NOT a thing.

We stopped at a lodge in coffee growing country – the harvest is underway – to photograph a series of 3 waterfalls.  We convinced a voice on the phone to let us camp in the parking lot for $10/night. Security is good – the gate is locked and there’s a security guard with a shotgun.

Before we left on our trip I compiled a list of national parks in every country that we planned on visiting.  Having a list is one thing, but being able to drive to the park is another. For some reason that I cannot fathom, public access to the national parks is given short shrift by the respective governments.  The problem is the abysmal condition of the access roads. They are invariably unpaved, rough, narrow and steep. The access road to the magnificent Parque Nacional Cerro Azul Meámbar in Honduras is impassable after a couple of days of rain without a four-wheel-drive vehicle.

Because of the questionable access roads, a lot of taxi and tuk-tuk drivers make a decent living shuttling tourists to and from the parks.  When it comes to negotiating the fare, the tuk-tuk drivers are the worst.  If you don’t specifically ask what the total round-tip fare for 2 people is, the quoted fare will be doubled at the end of the ride.

Comayagua, Nicaragua

We spent our last night in Honduras in Comayagua.

Ocotal, Nicaragua

We spent our first night in Nicaragua in Ocotal.

Los Naranjos, Honduras – October 29

gracias-honduras-to-my-location-google-mapsWe’ve been at D&D Brewery in Los Naranjos for the past week.  We’re camping in the brewery’s large grass parking lot.  D&D is owned by a former Peace Corps volunteer from Virginia. The beer is passable, but nothing to write home about.

We’re here because 500 species of birds have been recorded in the area – Lago Yojoa, Honduras’ largest lake.  In the past week we’ve been birding with Walter, D&D’S birding guide. We’ve listed approximately 90 species. We’ve birded the lake in a leaky rowboat, climbed up the side of Santa Barbara mountain to the cloud forest to see Resplendent Quetzals, birded a finca that grows coffee and cocao, and birded in the Parque Nacional Cerro Azul Meámber, a park with drop dead gorgeous scenery.

Bird Photos

Because the forest is so dense and the birds move so fast I could only capture a few of the birds we saw.

The following photos show the various habitats that we’ve birded in.

The leftovers

Copan Ruinas, Honduras – October 19

Welcome to Honduras, murder capital of the world.

“Houston, we’ve had a problem.”

We have literally ground to a halt in Copan Ruinas, the town near the Copan archaeological site.  The grease packed into the front wheel hubs in Chichicastenango, Guatemala drained out.  The driver’s side front wheel ground to a halt in the driveway of the El Bosque Hotel where we had just arranged to camp in the parking lot. Fortunately for us, a taller (garage) was less than a block away.

Getting the mangled wheel bearing out of the hub was one comedy of errors after another.  At one point an arc welder was used in an attempt to free a stuck chisel. Then the hunt for replacement parts began.  A maniacal tuk-tuk driver (who spent 10 years in Westchester Co, NY) almost killed us – the mechanic and I. Long story short, there are none in the town.  The garage that’s doing the repair will try to find the parts in San Pedro Sula (180 km away) on Monday.

**UPDATE** – The truck parts arrived some time on Tuesday.  They were installed early this afternoon (Wed) between a lull in rain showers. The parts didn’t include wheel hub grease caps so the garage made their own.  American mechanics would probably cringe if they saw how the work was done (I did), but it got done. The cost of the work was a fraction of what it would have cost in the US.

There won’t be any photos with this post due to dismal wifi.