Camping Around Nicaragua

Camping Around Nicaragua

Nicaragua is a beautiful green country in the heart of the strip of land known as Central America. Although listed as the poorest country in the western hemisphere, after Haiti, Nicaraguans show nothing but kindness to visitors, and the reputation Central America has gained as a 'dangerous' region is unfounded.

I travelled in the country for one month, and my experiences speak of a Nicaragua filled with unique cultural undertones and geological magnificence.

Most backpackers tend to stick to Costa Rica and Panama, or otherwise they seem to speed across to Guatemala. Take my advice and STOP in Nicaragua! Give this awesome country a shot, you won’t regret it.

Hitchhiking in Central America

As with many of my experiences, I must promote the usefulness of hitchhiking as an alternative to bus travel. Nicaragua is a small country; however, hitchhiking there works far better than in neighbouring countries. Nicaraguans were eager to meet me once I was out there with my thumb. I waited no longer than 20 minutes at any one spot. If you’re a gal, travel with a partner. Let your thumb be your vehicle.

Bluefields and the Atlantic Coast

The longest distance I had to hitch was to get to the Atlantic side of the country. The highway stretches all the way to a town called El Rama, where it abruptly stops. You could take a bumpy ride on the dirt track that makes it to the coast, but I recommend the river boats. 50 córdobas will get you to the big Atlantic town of Bluefields. The sleeping arrangements on the boat are crazy; there are hammocks strung up on the deck, but so tightly packed that it looks like a human cobweb once everyone has climbed in to sleep. I slept on the roof of the tug with two French backpackers I met. That’s one great thing: lax regulations!

Language in Nicaragua – Creole

Out in Bluefields, 8 hours later, I had to get used to the local variant of English creole that the people spoke. Most residents were black Caribbeans descended from African slaves, a stark contrast to the rest of the Nicaraguan population.

Staying Safe in Bluefields

The city isn’t very big, but can be dangerous, so I opted not to camp out. If you take a boat to Pearl Lagoon, you can easily walk out of the village and pitch tent in the surrounds; but I recommend instead, simply walking up to a random house and asking if you can camp on their property. I ended up camping in front of one family’s home, who also fed me for a small price.

Camping at the Lookout of Laguna de Apoyo

Nicaragua

Back on the main Pan American highway, on the western side of the country, I was ready for another experience. After the nice folks at the Red Cross compound in the popular tourist-destination city of Granada let me camp on their property, I threw my thumb out once more to head to the renowned Apoyo Lagoon.

The lookout at Catarina offers an incredible view over the volcanic crater where the warm water is kept. In the distance I could see the Lago de Nicaragua, and could just barely make out the unnatural buildings of Granada. I'd hooked up with a fellow French backpacker, and she and I made our way to the lookout.

It usually costs some money to get in, but when we said we just wanted to camp, the guard was ecstatic and showed us to a sort of gazebo where we could pitch our tents. We stayed three nights! One morning we hiked down the bajadero to the waters of the lagoon, and also camped there. The water is really warm, which makes for excellent swimming.

Getting to, and Camping on Ometepe

With my new French friend, we hitchhiked further south, eventually coming to a town where boats take you out to the double stratovolcano island of Ometepe. The ferry is a rough ride, and if you go in the off-season the docks and beaches on the island are flooded! That was our experience, but it didn’t damper our fun in the least.

Adventure on Ometepe

We met more backpackers on the island who were staying in the hostels available, but we wanted to camp. You can hitchhike easy enough on the island, just be aware that many of the roads turn to dirt. We hitched under the shadows of the two massive volcanoes that make up the island to the far side, where, in the thick bush of the jungle, we pitched our tents. My rule is that it is important that no one sees you, but the island is pretty safe anyway. The rains arrived just as we finished the tents, then we went swimming among the submerged forest of the shore, an incredible scene.

The second day, we retraced our hitch and stopped on the little strip of land that connects the two islands. There, on elevated steps of sand just below the dirt road, we made camp once more. There was a private residence nearby, where we negotiated meals. The best experiences come from staying in places where few others have, and always inquiring at private homes about food.

Nicaragua, for what reason I do not know, offered me a very agreeable experience camping around and meeting locals. With a thumb and a tent, you’re sure to have a great time too.

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