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Sunday, 22 April 2012

Magnific Rock, Popoyo, Nicaragua

I found myself as so often happens, walking along the beach as the sun set and the surfers were trying to catch the last wave, and smiling because thats a great feeling, when the water's warm and glassy, and the sun has become a big orange glob on the horizon. I walked from the amazing view of Magnific rock (where i stayed for a few days) to the small 'village' of Guascate, which is a dirt street on the beach with a few hostels and restaurants, and where every place serves lovely locally caught lobster (It's about 200-250 cordobas or $8-11)
Just as 'that' moment ends ;o)

You have to swim across a river to get there. Be careful at high tide, and cross at the beach, where its wide and (relatively) shallow. I ruined my book by falling into a deep patch further up.

The village there seems to have a lot more going on (relatively speaking) than the isolated Magnific Rock, which will blow you away for the first day or two with its 180 degree views along both long empty beautiful beaches, with lovely (expensive) food and a gringo vibe, but more importantly, one of the best breaks for beginners/intermediate surfers in the world - nice big slow waves, that you can use a longboard on and that wont' kill you - more experienced surfers go to 'popoyo' beside the village, so i'd let that make your location decision rather than anything else.

It's a bit kind of bare though, I wouldn't want to stay for a longer time.

Strange Restaurant/Hotel in Guascate

Magnific Rock, on its...Magnific Rock.

I feel there's almost no point in me saying anything about the village right now, as by the time you get there it'll have probably (sadly) been developed to hell and full of high rises. That being said, right now its beautiful and laid back, with a few low key restaurants and $8 a night hotels, and as is the case all across Nicaragua, a long beautiful and totally empty beach.

I walked back along the beach last night to Magnific Rock, in the pitch black, with only the sound of the waves and the big fat wisps of the milky way to guide me, I really wonder at times like this, has the world always been so beautiful and I never noticed before or is it just Nicaragua? I'd say that a walk like this every night can cure the most hardcore atheist.

Monday, 16 April 2012

Ometepe Island, Nicaragua

The image of a wild white horse, washing itself in the magical lake isn't so romantic when you get close up and see its just an old nag

I was walking down the hill this afternoon and a white horse who seems to live on the beach was rolling around in the water washing itself. Then i walked along a little more and, lo and behold, a bike was coming towards me, making the noise of a pig. Then i looked closer, the driver had a squealing pig strapped to the back. He was taking to butcher it. What a surreal day, but a typical one here in Ometepe Island.
You should have heard this guy's squeals.

The island is quite beautiful, with i'd say the loveliest sunset i've ever seen. It's made up of two volcanoes (the island not the sunset) one dormant and the other not. Today i saw a little farm on the dormant side. What a view! The soil is uber-fertile and there's no need for pesticides and other poison because the soils so rich already, and so the food is delicious (and i suppose 'organic', although the locals probably don't give that much thought.)
This is how they roll here. (this is the main road to Merida by the way)

I really like the tree on the left in the back.

Awww...future rashers of bacon consider if my shoe is one of them.

Anyway. Here's some info on some places to stay, etc. etc.

The Beach at Santa Cruz. There are a few little hotel/hostels along here too that look quite ok.

Moyogalpa - This is the main city and where one of the ferries from San Jorge gets in. I stayed at El Indio Vejo which is just up the hill from the boat 3 blocks and one block right. It's easy to find, freindly, free wifi and the room was quite fine for $10 a night. The highlight is the cooking of the little old french woman who makes the food there. I don't think i've ever had such a nice pizza as the pizza she made me. Magical.
Finca Magdalena

You want to get out of Moyogalpa (or the other main town) as soon as possible if you're going to spend any time here though. I went first to the north, past the beach at Santa Cruz to Finca Magdalena which is up the hill from Balgue. The sign says 1km but actually its a 1.5km hike up the dirt track, so if you have suitcases etc. you're really better just staying in one of the little places on the main road of Balgue - one GREAT place is Cafe Campestre - well they made an amazing curry (its owned by a Gringo, with a northern english accent) and the food includes lots of western favourites that you will likely miss if you've been away a while. The rooms, i couldn't tell you but it's worth staying for the food i'm sure.
Sunset at the Finca Magdalena

I made the mistake of staying in Finca Magdalena. Ok its $5 a room, very cheap, but the rooms are grotty. There is no wifi and the menu is limited and its totally isolated - i did end up walking the 5km roundtrip nightly in the pitch black to Cafe Campestre, (a taxi's about $5 each way) but its not for everyone.

Coffee is good here (it should be, they grow it!) and the sunsets beautiful but just don't go expecting to get online or looking for lots of stimulating things to do. there are some weird and interesting petroglyphs nearby though and you can of course climb up the volcano which takes about 1.5 hours each way (2.5 for fat people)
Pigs eating Mangoes in Merida

On the other side, on the South of that island is Merida, nice little dirt track village with a lot of pigs and chickens, a little pebble beach of sorts, a waterfall nearby and Hacienda Merida , a pretty nice place to base yourself on the lakeside. You can rent bikes ($15 for your whole stay) kayaks (same), horses, and get guides for all the various adventures you can get up to. Rooms at $20 are pretty nice, but so are the dorms at $7 and hammocks even cheaper. Again the food is a bit limited but there are nice little restaurants outside. Along the lake about 50m is an old lady in a shack on the lakeside who sells fruit and water and so on, and she will cook you up a lovely steak for $2-3

Sunset from Hacienda Merida

Kayaking was great, although these so called 'monkey islands' have no more monkeys than the rest of the island...tomorrow ill seek out the crocodiles in the river.

Anyway, all in all, if its peace and quiet and good natural food your looking for, this is the place to be. The place isn't so developed (especially the roads, sadly) but look around you and everyones happy. Which more than can be said if i'm sitting on the London Underground at any given time on any given date.

Tuesday, 10 April 2012

My First Novel.

So forgive me for lack of insightful travel related blogposts of late. I'm on Omotepe Island, and have taken some lovely photos, and will write about it sometime soon...

But i'm glad to say i finally completed the writing of my first novel. (Now for the second one, third one, movie...) I'll give it one final read over then send it to the editor to tell me how bad it is.

So watch this space! I guess it'll be out on the market soon, i'll make sure to put out all the links and info. here..

Whats it about? Its all about you, dear reader. Buy it and see !

Monday, 2 April 2012

Culture Exists in Managua! (But so do guys who Think its Cool to Wear a Bandana)

Its funny how you can live in the same city as that weird guy from Austin Texas who thinks it cool to wear a bandana, and because you have no intention of ever communicating with him, you both lead a TOTALLY different life in the same city.

It could be that you spend a year in a city and try to get to know its culture, and only see mainstream stuff, American fast food franchises, expat bubbles, and so on and so on. Or you could ‘go local’ like one American friend here, which means hanging out in the shady underworld places, taking drugs, and getting in bad trouble in bad places with bad people.

But I think I can say that if you look hard enough, and meet those few interesting positive standout people that live and add to any decent city, then you find yourself in that vibe that actually makes the place enjoyable.

Almost despairing that all there was to Managua was brutally loud regitone, glue sniffing kids and Macdonalds, fortunately some local friends showed me a very different city this weekend, and for which I can be eternally thankful.

Ok but I’ll start off with a free plug for my friend Armandos bar – Claps.  If you tire of local brews it sells Heineken and all the normal imports, but I must warn you it’s a Kareoke bar so noise pollution from awful/drunk singers is de rigour. So you must be one of either to visit.

Anyway, our night started there (beer and nice rum) but more to the point, was the food afterwards….

I can’t bang on more about El Tercer Ojo, if only because it’s the only decent Asian restaurant for 1000miles.  When you’re surrounded by Empinadas, rice n beans, fried plantains and people as fat as houses, it’s quite a respite to order up a nice vietnamese prawn coconut curry and wash it down with some decent wine.

And ladies, especially ladies with sugerdaddies, you will be glad to know it for some reason it also has a womens clothes shop inside.

But the main draw is that there’s often live music in a little courtyard in the back.  Tonight was a bunch of Spanish guys, friends of my friend, who did a great gig with a host of bizarre instruments (like saws and home made violins with gramophone speakers attached, and for the first time in months, it made me homesick a little for quirky old Europe.
Drinking wine and watching guys make weird seagull noises with saws is actually great fun 

And I didn’t see a single bandana clad Texan, coldplay listening guy from Cambridgshire, or a wifebeater wearing Aussie, GREAT SUCCESS !