30th October – Day 11
To date border crossings through Central America have been relatively straightforward affairs and our bus sweepstakes have reflected this with often the longest guess being no more than 3.5 hours to exit one country and enter the next. Its a chance to stretch our legs and change money from the previous currency into the next one and speculate on how different or similar the new country might be to the last one. It’s also an opportunity, to reflect on our experiences and impressions of the country we’re leaving.
There was a hint of the trouble to come at the Las Manos entry point to Nicaragua, when Duncan, our amazing driver, suggested 24 hours in the sweep. We exited Honduras at the 40 minute mark after fingerprints and passport stamps. Nicaraguan immigration seemed initially straightforward, our passports were taken en-masse and entry visas dutifully stamped. The truck paperwork was not it seemed in order and it would be impounded until such a time as the correct documents were seen. Meantime, the truck was searched and sent off to be x-rayed whilst we pleaded with border officials to find the key to unlock the toilet which they eventually did.
After nearly 3 hours, we’re advised that we needed to empty the bus of our possessions, as it was being impounded overnight and alternative transportation had been arranged to get us to our first stop in Nicaragua, Somoto Canyon.
We stayed in a clean but basic room for the night at a homestay and ate a late delicious meal of chicken, rice and beans with hot sauce. After the dramas of the border crossing we were ready to sleep quite frankly anywhere and were asleep by 9.30pm!
31st October & 1at November – Days 12 & 13
The Somoto Canyon had not been explored systematically until a group of scientists from the the Czech republic and Nicaragua “discovered” the canyon in 2004. The canyon is believed to have formed 5 to 13 million years ago we were to spend the morning canyoning through it. Currently, the canyon only receives a very small number of tourists so this would make for a real off the beaten track adventure.
The vertical walls of the Canyon, reach up to 500 feet and extend for 5 miles! At its narrowest points, the canyon walls are only 15 feet away from each other. The chill waters of the Coco River running through the Canyon flow from southern Honduras eastward through Nicaragua and out into the Atlantic ocean.
We had a great time scrambling over rocks, jumping off ledges of varying heights and floating down a series of rapids. The guides of Somoto Canyon Tours took great care of us and we had a lot of fun together. We returned to the tour base and much to our collective delight, Betsy was waiting for us, having finally been cleared to enter Nicaragua after spending 18 hours in “No Man’s Land”.
We joined a “free” pay what you want walking tour of the town to get our bearings and learn more about the history. Our guide, Leo, was engaging and informative and talked animatedly about the role the city played in the Sandinista rebels fight against the corrupt government.
Leon has the most amazing art museum, Centro de Arte set across 5 houses each with a beautiful inner courtyard. The artworks on display afford us with and ecletic insight into the fascinating world of art – from famous western artists to lesser known local artists. There’s definitely something for everyone here.
We climbed to the roof of the main cathedral which afforded us with some great views of the town and the realisation that we were surrounded on 3 sides by volcanoes.