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Nicaragua’s Volcanoes – And Corona Hits the Trip

Along Nicaragua’s western part. Some volcanoes to sneak around. Then traveling around is getting more complicated. Corona starts to hit Central America. Everything starts to close down. We quickly leave Nicaragua for Costa Rica, prepare our early departure and we’re on the way to Swizzyland. To wait for the end of this mess.

León, 10th March 2020

Still in León. We need a change to sweet city life: Volcano Telica. Just a few km outside town.

You drive up quite a bit, then a short hike to the crater.

On the way an amazing vista on the western part of Nicaragua’s chain of volcanoes.

Astonishingly, we’re the only tourists. The only other guys are the ones selling beer.

A huge opportunity to support local economy, …

Astonishingly, we’re the only tourists. The only other guys are the ones selling beer.

A huge opportunity to support local economy, …

 
 
 

… then we’re on our way to experience Telica’s famous sunset on the other side of the crater.

Lago Apoyo, 12th March

We’re on the way to Lake Apoyo some 100km away.

We bypass Nicaragua’s proud capital Managua and …

… soon later we descend to the Lago Apoyo. 

We stay at the Paradiso Hostal. A pretty nice place with a beach. And 1 of the very few places with quite some folk. Mainly backpackies on their 3 weeks world tour’n’adventure trip.

And there it starts. All fb groups concentrate discussions on restrictions due to Corona. El Salvador is the 1st country to close its borders. Despite the fact that Central America is still very little affected by the virus, it looks like traveling will get more difficult soon. And everybody at Lago Apoyo is just speaking about Corona, a few 1s rather look like panicking.

Time to develop our alternative plans as well. But still not in a real hurry to move on.

The next morning, we head for Volcano Masaya. Probably the only active volcano in the world where you can drive up to the edge of the crater by car. It seems there’s no problem to do so despite a car being destroyed some 9 years ago by a stone from an eruption.

A huge crater. Filled with smog.

And a few trails allowing some short hikes along the crater.

Some lava tunnels to visit. Accompanied by a friendly ranger.

Then a little further up to the Nindiri Crater. For the ultimate view.

Volcano Masaya is not really famous for its hikes, but for the magma you can see at night. Thus, definitely a reason to visit again in the evening.

By 6 pm we’re back at the entrance gate. Quite a queue of people having the same idea.

Finally, we’re in. Just allowed to proceed to the nearby visitor center. There everybody has to wait. Now you may only continue to the edge of the crater in a convoy.

Some time later we’re allowed to drive up. Always in groups of 60 – 70 persons …

… to watch the spectacle of wobbling magma for exactly 30′.

But what a spectacle.

 

Of course, after 30′ we’re on the way back to Paradiso Hostal’s rumor kitchen.

And we learn about some more South American countries about to close their borders. E.g. Guatemala, while other governments like Uncle Don’s Own Country or Bolsonario’s Private Test Site still are convinced that Corona is just a problem of fake news.

Granada, 13th March

This morning we definitely decide to move on as we don’t know how long the border to Costa Rica will remain open. And we don’t trust these guys.

Our main problem is Prado’s legal status. Of course, it still has some 85 days to remain in Nicaragua. But the country doesn’t provide any possibilities to suspend a TIP. Hence, should we have to fly back, Prado would be illegal in a few weeks – and maybe confiscated. Thus, not a great option.

We move on the Granada. Just a few hours from the border to Costa Rica. And we’ll evaluate the situation again tomorrow morning.

Along the edge of Lago Apoyo’s crater. Some nice viewpoints. And soon we arrive in Granada.

Granada – Nicaragua’s great colonial town, Nicaragua’s ultimate tourist hotspot and the place definitely no visitor should miss.

Whatever. There are definitely colonial buildings. Nice 1s. There are also a few tourists – not many. No idea if it’s Corona or the political situation in Nicaragua.

Anyway, we decide to sneak thru town this afternoon – who knows what the situation tomorrow will be.

A visit to Iglesia La Merced.

Climbing the clock tower …

… to admire the incredible view over Granada.

A visit to Parque Central …

… with its numerous classical buildings …

… and the famous Catedral Inmaculada Concepción.

A beer in 1 of these terrible eateries in Calle La Calzada.

We hear of more borders closing soon, some airlines stopping their services and some countries starting to impose quarantine to everybody. What the hell. Probably we better drive on to Costa Rica as fast as possible. We may still come back to Nicaragua later, once the world gets back on the rails.

Liberia, 14th March

Early morning. We’re on the way to Costa Rica. To Peñas Blancas.

Not an incredibly interesting trip thru flat lands and sugarcane fields.

On the way a glimpse of Nicaragua Lake and Isla De Ometepe.

Then we’re approaching the border. Visibly we’re not the only 1s. A pretty long queue of trucks. As usual we can simply bypass them.

On Nicaragua side everything is pretty easy, we just have to pay another 2$ as a sincere goodbye to Nicaragua’s immigration and 1$ to the municipality.

Costa Rica is even easier. We quickly get our stamps allowing us to stay for 3 months. Opposite a form to prepare Prado’s TIP. A few meters further customs.

Of course, before Prado is allowed to enter the country we have to purchase its insurance. This of course, independently of the fact that we already have a valid insurance for Costa Rica. Ok, we’ll do so. The insurance office is just next to the friendly customs officer. The only problem, the insurance closes for lunch break. Clients’n’custom officers simply have to wait until they’ve munched their Pico Gallo and return with new energy. 1h later they’re done. A pretty unfriendly lady asks for 50 $ for 3 months of insurance. No shorter period provided. Somehow remains the impression a little more competition among insurers might improve the situation.

Then to customs. A matter of 5′ and Prado can enter Costa Rica for 3 months.

On Costa Rica side of the border – a huge queue of trucks trying to enter Nicaragua. Probably all waiting to experience Nicaragua’s famous x-raying machines. Who knows. The poor drivers probably have to wait a week to cross. Who bothers.

Well, the landscape looks pretty different. Astonishingly a lot of forests.

We arrive in Liberia late afternoon. At least it’s not cold: 40 °C, not Fahrenheit.

Time to look for flights back to Swizzyland, before the guys put the whole country under quarantine.

We’re happy, there are still seats available for next Friday. Even a direct flight to Zurich. And the tickets still pretty cheap. Ok, our way back is booked. Hopefully they won’t close the airport in the meantime.

Vara Blanca, 17th March

We drive on. Some 200km to San José, Costa Rica’s proud capital. The 1st part of the journey an excellent road thru flat lands. Then a narrow’n’winding 1 thru the mountains.

Some nice views

Late afternoon we arrive. Find a sleepery just south of the airport. In a terrible area. But at least they have a small watering hole also serving something to munch.

The next morning we’re busy searching a nice holiday home for Prado in a bonded warehouse (almacén fiscal) for the time we’re back in Swizzyland. We follow the recommendations we received in fb groups, check ioverlander, finally even drive around with a pretty useless custom fixer. Then we know it: there’s no covered space for Prado in San José. All open parking. All have different prizes from 3$ up to more than 7$ per day. Some seem to be pretty organized and safe, while others remind us more of a dollhouse. Looks like the more expensive the worse.

Finally, the choice is easy: Almacén Fiscal El Coco. We got on fb some recommendations to go there, seems to be super organized, secure and costs 3$ a day. Ok, got it.

We have a few days left until we have to fly back. An opportunity to spend them in the cool climate around Parque Nacional Volcan Poás.

We find a bungalow in the hills near Volcán Poás at an altitude of 2000m. On a cattle farm. Not really cheap, but with a fireplace for the cool evenings …

… and plenty of space to sort everything out for our early hibernation.

And also, a possibility to sneak around on the farmland and …

… in the evening when it’s getting foggy’n’cold to enjoy the fireplace.

San José, 19th March

Just 2 days left and we’ll be on our way back to Swizzyland – should the airline still fly. Time to drive back to San José, …

… to organize a spa for Prado, …

… and to vacuum whatever needs to be vacuumed.

The next morning: To Almacen Fiscal El Coco. Prado’s new home. Easy to get the car parked, difficult to cover it. Doesn’t look very trustworthy – but it’s the best we could do with our imagination and the available car covers to protect Prado from the sun. Let’s see how it works.

Then to customs at the airport. They’re used to suspend a TIP. Just takes 5′, is free and we get a piece of paper titled Suspensió. That’s it. Once we’ll be back, they’ll just give us another TIP.

Well, what to do now? The only idea we have is to look for a beer – in the Barock Bar. A pretty lonely watering hole with a terrible view in a mall near our sleepery.

Luzern, 21st March

Today we leave Costa Rica – even without having seen it.

It’s a regular flight to Zurich, with Edelweiss – a kind of Condor for Swizzies. Not 1 of these repatriation flights which start to be fashionable for desperate travelers who initially preferred to ignore all signs of the current situation.

Nevertheless, at the check-in counter there’s a pretty dense, sometimes aggressive atmosphere. They divided the crowd into those with Swizzy passports or direct connection flights – no problem; those with a canceled connection flight – quite a problem; and those with no tickets – no chance.

Finally, at least for most with canceled connection flights the problems could be solved. And the plane does not leave with half of the seats empty.

A last glimpse of San Jose, a terrible dinner and …

… 11h later we land in Zurich. Just before landing Edelweiss informs us that they could not transport our luggage due to overweight of the plane. Thanx guys.

The airport: a ghost town. Next to nobody sneaking around. From far we discover a few lost souls on the way to their last flight to Bangkok and Tokyo. Most of them in a kind of full-body condom. Reminds us to pictures we’ve seen during the Ebola epidemic in West Africa some years ago.

Everywhere the hell a lot of police. Making sure that everybody keeps her distance to anybody else. And ignoring that all of us have been squeezed like sardines in the plane.

We’re on the way to Luzern. On the highway very few traffic – and information boards telling people that border crossings to all neighboring countries is restricted.

Then we’re back. A lot of opportunities to admire the view thru the window of our apartment.

Guys, that’s it for this post. As well as for this part of the trip from Mexico to Costa Rico. 5 months. Pretty intense, the hell a lot of interesting stuff we’ve discovered. And for poor Prado some 12 000 km to drive.

Wish you all the best. Stay healthy. We’ll be back on the road as soon as it’s possible again.

 

Cheeeers

 

Monika’n’Martin

Nicaragua's Backroads - At Least Some of Them