This week on “Where Is…?” I am excited to speak to Joe From Bow – not only is he a fellow Brit from East London…he is spending five months travelling through Central America – my ultimate dream tip (which I am yet to do). The photos on his blog fill me with so much envy – so make sure you go and check them out!
Where in Central America are you at the moment?
I am currently in Esteli, North Nicaragua. I have been in Nicaragua for about a month, starting in the South and slowly working my way North. In Nicaragua I’ve visited Island de Ometepe, Granada, Laguna De Apoyo, Leon and now Esteli. It is part of a bigger 5 month solo backpacking trip through Central America which started in October in Cartagena North Colombia and is due to finish in Cuba in March.
What is the weather like at this time of year? Is it how you expected it to be?
It’s generally dry and hot. It’s the dry season, but there was some really heavy rain a few days ago. The mountain areas in the North of Nicaragua are a bit cooler then central areas like Leon which can get unbearable in the middle of the day.
I’m hoping to plan a trip to Central America in the not too distant future. Any tips on where is good to stay?
I have been staying in hostels. My favourite either has to be Hacienda Merida on Isla de Ometepe because its really relaxed, the owner is really friendly and they also run a local school on the same site using plastic bottles filled with plastic waste as the bricks and building materials. Or La Tortuga in Leon, a really chilled out hostel with turtles walking around, a pool table and a great place to meet people.
What activities have you been getting up to? What has been your highlight?
Have done plenty of hiking, Nicaragua is full of volcanoes and lakes, some of the volcanoes are still active. I have also hiked up to some waterfalls, visited local markets and nature parks. I am currently also hanging out with some artists who are repainting a mural in Esteli. But my highlight is Volcano Boarding in Leon. Its basically what it sounds like, hike up an active volcano, then sit on a board and slide down.
Sounds awesome…and equally terrifying!! Can you recommend any things to do or places to avoid?
Volcano Boarding in Leon is a must do! I recommend going with Queztaltrekkers as they are the only company who let you do it twice. Also the top of Leon Cathedral is worth the $3 fee. I would suggest avoiding Moyogalpa on Isla de Ometepe. It’s not a great place and there is nothing to do there unless you are going to be hiking Volcan Concepción.
Do you have any other travel tips or advice for first-time travellers to Central America?
Learn to love the chicken buses. They wont leave until they are full, by full I mean 3/4 people on each seat with babies on random people’s laps and standing room only. But somehow there is always room for more people. And they can get uncomfortable, but they can be entertaining and great opportunity to talk with locals. Also eat at local comedores, can get a good meal for 50/60 Cordobas ($2/3).
They sound like the dala dala buses I experienced in Tanzania! Where are you off to next?
I’m on this trip until March, so after Nicaragua I keep heading north. El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala, Belize, Mexico, Cuba.
After this trip I don’t know, it depends what happens when I go home, how quickly I get a job etc etc…
It sounds like you have quite the adventure lined up! What three must-have items are in your backpack right now and why?
1) Camera – I like taking photos and often go out with camera at home. Having one when travelling means I can take photos of the odd cultural thing or the stunning landscapes and scenery
2) Diary – When on a long trip it’s good to write things down that have happened as you forget and things/time merges into one. You don’t have to write loads and loads, just a bit each day to look back on at a later date.
3) Pack of cards – these are a must have. They are a great way of getting to know people and bringing people together in hostels. I always travel with a pack!
Like the tip about the diary – it’s one of my must-haves (memory like a goldfish!)
And finally, what has been your favourite destination so far?
Before this trip I hadn’t done loads of travelling and hadn’t been out of Europe, but I visited Romania earlier this year for a week and travelled north from Bucharest to Cluj. It’s a great country with great people, plenty of hiking, culture and cheap food and drink. Really recommend it to people.
You can follow more of Joe’s journey across Central America on his blog Joe From Bow.