Our shuttle picked us up at 3:30 AM, yes, 3:30 AM and drove us directly to the coastal town of La Union, El Salvador. We arrived around 7 AM, and waited about 1.5 hours in which time we also went through immigration (to exit El Salvador).
At about 8:30 or so we walked out onto the pier and boarded a boat to cross the Gulf of Fonseca from El Salvador to Nicaragua. The boat ride was about 3 hours, with beautiful weather and some great views. Upon crossing the border into Nicaragua, which was in the middle of the gulf, we had to put on life jackets. (I guess the risk of capsizing in Nicaragua than El Salvador. Or perhaps swimming becomes more difficult on the Nicaragua side of the gulf. 😊)
We beached at the village of Potosi, Nicaragua. It was fun to enter the country by walking up the beach from the boat. On shore they made a thorough manual search of our luggage before allowing us to walk up to the immigration office. It took perhaps an hour for the Nicaragua immigration process, but it didn’t matter since our shuttle hadn’t arrived by the time we finished. The shuttle drove us to León where we rented a car. (The alternative was a 110 USD private car to Rivas, so I considered the cheaper two-day car rental a steal in comparison.) Of course, by the time we were driving away with the car we didn’t have sufficient time to catch the ferry we were hoping anyway, so we adjusted plans and headed for Granada, Nicaragua instead.
In the morning, we woke up an went for a walk around town. It had a stereo typical Central American feel with some beautiful parks and splendid cathedrals. It was great to walk around except for the staggeringly littered Lake Nicaragua shoreline. Really? The cause is obvious as we repeatedly saw Nicaraguans just throw trash to the ground, but why they weren’t bothered by it was baffling.
Following our walk I worked for a few hours before we packed up an headed to the ferry to travel to the world’s biggest fresh water island, Ometepe. Unfortunately, we missed the first boat trying to figure out our plans so we didn’t actually catch the ferry (leaving out car parked at the dock) till 2:30 PM – at a total cost of approximately 10 USD for both of us. The boat, however, took a full hour to go the 6-9 miles. At this point we adjusted our plans to catch the 4 PM return ferry leaving only half an hour on Ometepe. Obviously, while not enough to do anything significant but we quickly walked up to the Iglesia Católica Santa Ana, and then, in my wisdom, I casually directed us to purchase some ice cream. My thinking was the surely the boat had arrived late and couldn’t possibly unload and reload in 30 minutes. It turns out, I was wrong. By the time we were back at the dock the boat ramp had lifted off of the ramp. Not deterred, I ran and jumped all the while yelling at Benjamin to do the same. He stopped making the gap longer. I called again for him to jump and he came to his senses and jumped. For some reason, the boat attendants were less than impressed but hey, we made it so.
Upon reaching shore again we quickly went to the car and started the 2.5-hour drive to Masaya Volcano. We arrived after dark and within 45 minutes of closing. Again, I had stopped for food – Nicaraguan Franga – on the drive. Benjamin decided to be principled and stay away from street food which meant I had to eat his portions. Sheesh! Now I must also fear his potential Ï-told-you-so tomorrow if the food plays shenanigans with my stomach.
We were able to look down into the caldera and see the magma bubbling below. This was my first time seeing molten rock (either magma or lava) and it was very cool. I was pretty excited that we had made it.
From the volcano we decided to make the drive all the way back to León at night. This was considerably faster than the journey since there was far less traffic and there are no police at night (and very few during the day as well). We arrived at our hotel by 10:15 and headed for bed. Another great day with a little adventure and some cool sights to boot.
The next morning, we drove to see the Santa Ana volcano. Benjamin took some drone shots before we heading back to León. Next up was haircuts and then a walking tour of León. In addition to seeing a few sites, our tour guide shared about revolutionary history of Nicaragua along with the 21st century circumstances under Daniel Noriega’s dictatorship and repression. I appreciated his teaching on the failed 2018 student uprising. It was especially interesting to contrast it with our host, who had a belief that not all societies are cut out for democracy until they reach a certain level of education and sophistication. A level that she didn’t believe Nicaragua had reached yet. (See Nas Daily’s, Why Democracy Isn’t Working video for additional thoughts on the topic.)
By this time we had heard though tour 3:30 AM shuttle back to El Salvador through Honduras was delayed until morning, giving us another night in León and potentially some time in the morning as well. When we finally did leave, it was 11 AM.