14 hours and counting

We officially started our trip from Isla de Ometepe to El Castillo via San Carlos at about 4:30 yesterday afternoon. Our taxi driver Jorge picked us up in Moyagalpa in front of the shop we rented scooters from earlier. The drive to the port at Altagracia took about 45 minutes, most of it on paved roads but once we got on the road to the port it was gravel, rocks and potholes. We waited for about an hour before boarding the ferry that would take us to San Carlos and from there we needed to catch a riverboat up the San Juan River.

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The ferry itself was pretty nice, 2nd class (Planta Baja- lower level) tickets were just over $3 however we decided to splurge and go for the $7 tickets (Planta Alta – upper level) which was definitely the right move. The upper level had a large deck area to hang out on and to sweeten the pot there was an air conditioned room with padded benches and a tv showing movies, much better than the wooden bench seats below decks. We had planned to have drinks and play cards however drinking booze on board was forbidden so my huge bottle of rum will have to wait for El Castillo. They were selling food and sodas on board so it’s nice to know that we wouldn’t be lacking for refreshment if we needed it.

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The ferry from Puerto de Gracia to San Carlos leaves twice a week and we chose the overnight ferry to save money on a hostel and so we wouldn’t burn daylight traveling. I knew Lago de Nicaragua was huge (fun fact, only fresh water lake to have sharks in it, bull sharks. Oh, and shark in Spanish is tiburòn) but didn’t fully grasp that fact until the realization that a ten hour ferry ride was ahead of us…it took more like 12 hours from port to port. Luckily the stars were out which made for some good skyward entertainment, and even luckier, we had claimed a couple of benches with our backpacks so when it became too dark to see anything but the stars we headed inside the AC to stretch out and watch American movies dubbed into Spanish.

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I eventually crashed out for awhile but woke up at 10:30 to realize that time goes very slowly on a ferry when you’ve got a lot of it ahead of you. Luckily for me they were showing a little movie called….John Rambo. I eventually got back to sleep off and on until the sun started rising around 5 am as we neared the port at San Carlos.

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The first small boat up the river leaving at 6:30 was already full so we had a couple of hours to kill until the 8 am boat. San Carlos is a small town so we decided to take a walk around and find somewhere to eat breakfast. The local market was in full swing and we spied a pretty busy outdoor cafeteria at the local bus station and opted for food there. Both Harmony and Laura got Gallo Pinto, a tortilla and coffee for the princely sum of $1.50. Having finished breakfast with an hour to kill we walked around a bit eyeballing the stalls and stopping at the outside market to buy some fresh produce for later. Guacamole made with fresh avocado, tomato and limes is amazing, just saying.

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I’m currently writing this as we’re heading up river to the town of El Castillo, three hours up from San Carlos. We don’t think the ferry leaves until Monday so we’ve got about three days to see what this area of Nicaragua is like. All I know is that there’s a fort, giant river shrimp to eat, and there’s no ATM and none of the hotels appear to take credit cards so….hope we brought enough cash!

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