Live the adventures of Dan Walker's travels through reading his travel journal. The travel journals are listed below in descending order of date. To search the travel journals, use the keyword search at the bottom of the page.
|Wednesday, April 07, 2010 14:52:08
CORN ISLAND - Mar 27 to Apr 3, 2010:
I'd been thinking of this island off the Caribbean Coast of Nicaragua for some time, so when Alfredo Fournier suggested we spend Easter week there I readily agreed. Business has prevented much travel over the last while, but as our offices and a new condo project on the northwest coast would be closed for the week, along with most of Costa Rica, we could get away.
A smooth, almost on time one-hour flight on a 737 got us from San Jose to Managua. No leg room problems as I was upgraded both ways due to my Elite status. To enter Nicaragua cost $5.00 US. Alfredo had phoned repeatedly to Costenera, the internal airline of Nicaragua, only to find one must appear to buy tickets, so once in Managua we left the ladies to claim the luggage and headed for the Costenera Office in another building.
The new Managua airport was beautifully air conditioned, but the Costenera office was not. Alfredo joined a long line for the lone ticket agent while I went to get our wives, returning after half an hour to find Alfredo had advanced about 2 meters. Another half hour went by before we reached the ticket agent, who after laboriously searching a handwritten reservations list informed us that she was only checking in people who had paid for their tickets. No amount of arguing would change her mind, so we hired an employee to watch our gear for another half an hour while we found lunch and beer in the air-conditioned main terminal.
On our return the agent was still ticketing paid tickets, but after 15 minutes a fellow in uniform, who had appointed himself our caretaker, got us into line to be the first of those to buy tickets. Once luggage was checked, we were weighed and our boarding passes issued we were permitted to enter an air-conditioned waiting area with a bar - more cold beer! The 1½-hour flight on an SD3-60 aircraft was uneventful. The return ticket cost $164.21.
At Corn Island airport we had no baggage, however in 15 minutes a baggage plane arrived. On arrival at the Panorama Hotel we were delighted to find we had been upgraded from rooms with ceiling fans to those with air conditioning - it was hot. This is a one story, 10-room hotel. Each room has a large patio, 2 comfortable double beds with mosquito nets and private bathrooms.
Once settled in we swam from a white sand beach only a few steps from the hotel, then tied into cold beer from the small bar/restaurant before switching to the Scotch Alfredo thoughtfully brought along. The hotel bar carries only rum, beer, juice and soft drinks. We had dinner of their very basic fare, accompanied by a bottle of duty free wine I contributed. We had to push the cork into the bottle, as no corkscrew was to be found, but it still tasted great.
*Monday, March 29, 2010*
After a swim followed by an egg, rice and beans breakfast, the crew of a boat arrived to take us snorkelling at three different sites - a reef with some live coral, a place where a buccaneer era sailing ship had sunk littering the bottom with a dozen canons & the huge ship's anchor and at the wreck of a larger ship where fish were much bigger and more plentiful.
Rudolf, the taxi driver who brought us from the airport, picked us up to take us to a pleasant restaurant overlooking the sea where we enjoyed a lobster lunch. In the evening Rudolf drove us to Casa Canada, a nice looking hotel overlooking the water from a rocky perch, but with no beach. The food and service were poor - Marilynn liked her shrimp ceviche and chicken wings, but the rest of us found the food inedible.. We had a bottle of wine and a bottle of water, but it took five requests to get glasses. The owner, a Canadian from Saskatchewan, occupied an 8-seat ocean view table alone next to us, drinking beer and ignoring our problems.
At the end of the meal we needed to call Rudolf to pick us up, but were told by the staff that landline phones could not call cell phones on the island - something that proved to be a real problem. I finally went to the owner, who got his cell phone so I could call.
Tuesday, March 30, 2010
After breakfast Rudolf took us to the dock where two pangas (open boats) would take us to Little Corn Island. Loading was chaotic - we were in one boat first, then Alfredo and Elizabeth scrambled over our boat into the one along side, which by this time was full, but the crew squeezed us in by having a girl from Montreal and Elizabeth sit on the floor between seats - a very tight fit seeing as five people were already crushed onto seats designed for four. Fortunately we were underway immediately - the others would have to sit for half an hour under the scorching sun before they would leave.
The half hour crossing was at high speed, blasting through good-sized waves that had those in the front of the boat crashing down six feet or so from wave to wave. There is no transportation or motorized vehicles on Little Corn Island. The side with the dock has a paved sidewalk connecting bars, restaurants and small hotels, but off this sidewalk are only dirt trails. We hired a boat for $40 to circumnavigate the island. On the far side of the island the driver navigated through the reef to a beautiful beach where we relaxed with beer, snacks and a swim.
After completing our circumnavigation we had more beer and burgers in a small restaurant before scrambling aboard a panga to take us back, where the faithful Rudolf awaited us at the dock. He took us to various shops to pick up snacks and other needed items before returning to the hotel. Sea and sun were taking their toll - we were all pretty tired.
Wednesday, March 31, 2010
Rudolf took us to Picnic Centre Beach, a beautiful white sand beach where about 200 Italians are staying at the Arenas Hotel, supposedly island's best. We were lucky - they were all on one of the Cays where they are filming a reality show. A good-sized restaurant on the beach had individual thatched ranchos with table and chairs, so we settled in to enjoy cold beer.
The beach was perfect for swimming - soft sand and no waves, so we alternated between cooling the outside and cooling the insides. Lunch was served in our rancho with wine, so we were in pretty good spirits when we returned to the hotel for a siesta. Later we walked a short distance down the street to a place for beer and a quite good pizza.
Thursday, April 1, 2010
Marilynn and I booked a SCUBA dive today, so after she did a short refresher course we headed outside the reef in rough seas to a site known as the canyons. Here the coral was vivid in many colours and forms. There were no large fish, but quite a few brilliantly coloured small fish. The site was well named, being a series of sand bottomed canyons about 70 feet down with steep coral formations about 20-30 feet high on each side.
After a short nap on our return, we all taxied to a restaurant in a pretty location on a point, owned by an American married to an Ecuadorian. After lunch we returned to the hotel to drop off Alfredo & Elizabeth, then Marilynn and I continued with Rudolf back to Picnic Beach where a fiesta was going on. We snacked and had a couple of drinks, but it took so long to set up the band and beauty pageant that we returned to the hotel for drinks with Alfredo & Elizabeth. The bar/restaurant was closed, but the guard found Luis, the owner, who opened up and left us to help ourselves on the honour system.
We had wanted to use the Internet yesterday and today, but the electricity was off, so that was not an option. Fortunately it came back on to cool the rooms before bed. Alfredo and Elizabeth walked to the pizza restaurant for dinner, but neither \Marilynn nor I felt like anything more.
Friday, April 2, 2010
This morning's excursion was to Long Beach, a golden sand beach on the windward side of the island where good-sized waves were rolling in. A small bar/restaurant had palm frond ranchos at the edge of the sand, so we settled in for drinks and swimming. Rudolf picked us up after a light lunch and took us back to the hotel where Marilynn & I had a last swim.
After our evening drinks we walked to the pizza restaurant, taking along our last bottle of wine, which they opened and served for us. Electricity had been off for most of the day, and when we returned to hotel we dozed in oven like rooms. Fortunately it came back on about midnight.
Saturday, April 3, 2010
A 6:45 departure from the hotel had us at the airport in time to join a long, slow line to check in - again with one agent doing the work. The flight back was 25 minutes late - not a concern, as our flight from Managua to Costa Rica wouldn't leave until almost 4 PM. In Managua we walked across the street to the Holiday Inn where they have a quite good restaurant for lunch and beer before an easy flight home.
Corn Island has a lot going for it - beautiful beaches, friendly people, clear, warm ocean and reasonable prices. The meals at best were of very average quality and went downhill from there. The best food we had was the pizza down the street, and the BBQ pork at the restaurant on the point.
Hotel Panorama - Luis Rodriguez, owner - 2575-5065, Cell - 8847-8109. We paid $40/night. Luis went out of his way to ensure we had anything we wanted, including stocking the bar with items not usually carried.
Taxi Driver - Rudolf - Cell 8495-7040. Very reasonable taxi fares. A knowledgeable, native islander, he proved to be extremely reliable and looked after us well.