Nicaragua, Part 2

El Lagartillo & El Salto

After our departure from Las Peñitas, bundling into the back of a camioneta (about 9 of us in total, plus luggage) finishing a gallon of rum made with nancites by a friend, we made the long and boozy journey to El Lagartillo. It was on this journey, somewhere near El Sauce, where a bee or something flew up  my sleeve and stung me! Not many people can boast that their first ever bee sting happened at 70mph while stood up in the back of a pickup truck! It was stinging for a good while until Tío Chema decided to rub some Flor de Caña on it. 
Arriving in El Lagartillo in the darkness of evening (it gets dark at 6pm in Nicaragua all year round), we looked up at the sky in amazement. One thing that absolutely took my breath away was the view of the stars. It’s almost impossible to distinguish any defined constellations in such a star-speckled sky, but one thing you are able to make out, as you gawp open-mouthed at the sight above you, is the Milky Way. If there was ever a perfect moment to encapsulate the sublime, it was then. 
You can characterise a small village in a relatively poor country (economically speaking) by a lot of things – the lack of street lamps, the self-built houses, the surrounding farm land that is relied on by all, the list goes on… But for me, the most striking thing about El Lagartillo, as opposed to the other places I visited in Nicaragua, was your complete immersion in nature. I joked a lot about being a jungle explorer, but it’s not even a case of exploration – there is too much to merely explore – it’s an experience that you live. 

On one of our days in the village, we walked to a local waterfall referred to as El Salto. There hadn’t been much rain, so the water wasn’t as vigorous as it usually is (or so I’m told), but it was still beautiful and very fun to swim in. In a nearby tree we found a nest of minuscule baby birds, eyes closed, mouths open, awaiting a meal from their mother. The surface of the water was dotted with flowers from overhanging bushes and trees of sacuanjoche, the national flower. It was almost too idyllic to describe. 

Teacher and pupils riding a horse in El Lagartillo, Nicaragua

After an afternoon of swimming, sliding and jumping into the water, it was time for us to make our way back to the village, bumping into one of the teachers from the local school along the way. We paused for a moment atop a huge rock to take in the views of the forest that stretched on for miles in front of us. Photos simply cannot do this landscape justice.

Untouched land in the mountains of Nicaragua

Too soon was it time to leave El Lagartillo, after some fantastic evenings shared with wonderful people, rum and music. It’s strange, I’ve had the village mapped out in my mind for so long that visiting it in real life didn’t feel like I was somewhere new, and as we said our goodbyes and left for Granada, it felt like what I was leaving behind was, in some ways, a place I could call home.

The journey to Granada was quite uncomfortable for me – I had been nursing a slight hangover from the previous night’s small leaving party, which involved a slight incident of a collapsing bench and a terrible rendition of House of the Rising Sun, and I’d also developed a pretty bad cough. Nevertheless, I was still very excited to visit a place that was new to all in our group, and my discomfort was more or less eased by our wonderful hotel for the night.

Hotel Colonial - Granada, Nicaragua

Hotel Colonial
This hotel was beautiful, boasting two gorgeous pools, a mix of stone and hardwood floors, massive four poster beds, and most excitingly, air conditioning. The breakfast was delicious, the setting was perfect for our touristic wanderings and it couldn’t have been a more perfect introduction to the colourful colonial city.

Feeding Oreos to wild monkeys on Lake Nicaragua

Monkey Island & Las Isletas
On our last full day in Nicaragua, we started off with a boat trip around Las Isletas, stopping off to visit the mischievous oreo-loving monkeys on Monkey Island. Our tour guide explained the history of the isletas, the way they were formed by a huge eruption from the Mombacho volcano nearby and are now home to some of Nicaragua’s wealthiest residents, as well as some of its richest wildlife. We stopped to have a Toña and a swim, also stopping at an old fort that housed the skull of a freshwater shark, of which there are a small number living in the depths of Lake Nicaragua. We picked some green mangoes from a tree and ate them as we continued on our tour.

Tour of Las Isletas, Lake Nicaragua

As soon as we came back from the boat tour, we had lunch at a restaurant along the main street in Granada where there had been a parade the night before (I wasn’t feeling well, so I stayed in the hotel and slept), and it was then time to leave for Managua in a hired minibus. After another comfortable stay in Best Western Las Mercedes, it was time to hop across the road to the airport and head home, sad to be leaving such a beautiful place behind.

Goodbye Nicaragua! I hope to return to you one day soon.

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