Our boat ride to Nicaragua turned out better than planned. We thought we’d go with one of these boats:
They look pretty nice like this but I’m not so sure about loading them with two fully loaded bicycles. Also, as we watched people get onto these they had to walk through the water to get into the boat as those boats weren’t using the pier.
We organised the trip with Mario after Hassan found an email address in someone else’s blog. Mario seems to be the only person operating these boats from La Union, El Salvador, to Potosi, Nicaragua. You can reach him on WhatsApp (503) – 7282 4362 or via email (firstname.lastname@example.org), we paid 55 US $ per person after bargaining a little. Without the bikes he might have agreed to 50 $ per person. His son ferried us over in a really nice boat (it takes about 1,5 h), they loaded our bikes (and us) from the pier and even had a protective cover for the bikes. Definitely the most enjoyable boat ride on this trip.
Adios, La Union!
Adios El Salvador! #dontskipelsalvador #itsawesomethere
These are part of Honduras!
The first view of Nicaragua! First border crossed by boat, check! Imigration in Potosi was pretty easy as Mario had already sent the border guard pictures of our passports, so we were expected.
From there we cycled on dirt road for about 15 km with a little break for lunch as it was very hot. Since we reached the Pacific coast we haven’t had any rain and it’s been very hot, usually around 30-35 C which makes long lunchbreaks even more necessary.
We (and mostly our asses) were very glad when we reached the better road (where the red star is marked on the map) in the direction of Chinandega. Cows as well as horses seem to roam around here freely.
As it was still very hot in the afternoon and we had only been able to start cycling around 11 am because of the boat ride and immigration, we realised that we wouldn’t be able to reach Chinandega. Therefore we decided to turn towards the beach and spend the night near Jiquilillo. It was just another six kilometers but on the worst dirt road we have encountered so far and our bums were already in quite some pain before we got on it. Once on it there was no turning back and we made it to the beach just in time for sunset.
Fortunately we met a Dutch guy at the beach who told us it would be possible to stay at the hostel he was staying at, that it wasn’t too far and that Nate, the owner, was a really nice guy. And that’s how we got to Rancho Esperanza.
Tired, in pain and just searching for a place to pitch our tent for a night.
We certainly didn’t expect to find the small (surfer’s) paradise that we found there. So we stayed a little bit longer!
At Rancho Esperanza, there is no WiFi, so quite naturally you start talking to the other guests. 😉 We’ve gotten to know such lovely people there, it’s really been the best hostel I’ve been at. No crazy party people, but lots of like-minded travellers. Some of them mentioned that at the beach in Jiquilillo was an American guy who was buying turtle eggs from the poachers and then released the baby turtles into the ocean, every day at this time of the year around sunset, so naturally we wanted to see that.
We didn’t find the American guy, but we found Simone instead.
She’s a German lady and spend three months every year in Jiquilillo buying the turtle eggs, putting them into the sand, waiting for the babies to hatch and then releasing them into the ocean.
She works voluntarily for the German non-profit organisation Meeresschildkrötenschutzverein Nicaragua (sea turtle protection organisation Nicaragua) that collects donations in order to buy the turtle eggs and protect the Olive Ridley turtle. Check them out on Facebook, maybe even consider a donation! They’re also always looking for volunteers! In the last seven years they have released over 60 000 baby turtles, how cool is that?
You might wonder why they buy the eggs from the poachers, as this supports the poachers’ business, right? Jiquilillo is a small fishing village in a pretty poor area and poaching turtle eggs provides some kind of income for the people. As long as they have no other economic opportunities, telling them it’s wrong won’t make them stop poaching, so the more realistic approach is indeed to buy the eggs from them and hence simultaneously protect the turtles and support the locals. Additionally, poaching turtle eggs isn’t illegal in Nicaragua yet unfortunately.
We watched the turtle release one sunset and then came back at sunrise to see the nests, the freshly hatched babies and to release some more babies.
It’s just such an amazing feeling to watch them crawl into the ocean for the first time!
The rest of our time at Rancho Esperanza was spent reading in a hammock, walking at the beach or chatting with other travellers about their experiences. If you’re ever in the vicinity, I can only recommend Rancho Esperanza to you. It felt a lot more like a community centre than a hostel and it’s doing a lot for the local community by providing education and activities, such as English and computer classes or surf lessons for local kids. They are also always looking for Spanish-speaking volunteers!