Some have likened the Caribbean coast of Nicaragua to the wild west, and in a lot of ways, that isn’t far from the truth. This is one of the least-visited locales in Central America and offers an intrepid traveler a plethora of adventures that most people will never even think about, much less do. Put on your fedora and grab you whip because that is the closest you will ever get to real adventures like these.
1. Panga ride from Corn Island to San Andreas, Colombia, and back
This used to be a common route when San Andreas was in a tug of war bid between Colombia and Nicaragua. Colombia won. A few people in Corn Island have family there, but it has become more and more difficult to come and go since the Sandanistas took power and the war on drugs has gotten militarized.
Why you are too wimpy to do it: This 4 – 5 hour route is probably the biggest corridor for cocaine smuggling between Colombia and Nicaragua. Going from Corn Island to San Andrés might be doable, but returning means having to look for a drug boat to hitchhike on. And people who do it run the risk of getting picked up by the American or (much less preferable) the Nicaraguan Navy.
So unless running the risk of getting robbed and thrown overboard by drug smugglers on the high sea, swamping the panga in bad weather or getting arrested by the Navy for smuggling cocaine sounds like your idea of a fun vacation, I suggest you fly.
2. Diving the Man-o-War Cays
There are a plethora of islands that dot the Nicaraguan coast, the most remote being the Man-0-War Cays. When I say remote, I mean to say that most Nicaraguans have never heard of them. From Managua, you would have to take an 8-hour bus ride to El Rama, catch a 2-hour panga ride to Bluefields, find another panga going north to Sandy Bay Sirpe which is the frontier of the RAAS, then head out due east to the horizon across the open ocean for another hour or so. If you don’t blink, you just might find the little cluster of islands poking their pouty white beaches up just high enough to grow palm trees. And underneath the waves, untouched coral formations.
Why you are too wimpy to do it: There is great diving in Nicaragua, mostly centered around the Corn Islands. Let me rephrase that…completely centered around the Corn Islands. The Pearl Cays in front of Pearl Lagoon and Moskito Cays out past Puerto Cabezas have been explored under the water but still remain well-kept secrets. To my knowledge, nobody has ever been diving in the Man-o-War Cays and it remains what could be an undiscovered paradise below the sea. Why? Difficult to reach for one. Secondly, the other “well-kept secrets” are easier to get to. Oh, and one of the islands is said to be the back of a beast that swam down from the northern Miskito Cays searching for the indian princess he fell in love with. He lies in wait for her to return.
If you have the gear, the money to get out there, the local contacts to make it happen and you don’t mind to risk turning into monster food, by all means go for it. Let me know how you get on. Otherwise, stick to diving Corn Island.
3. Exploring the hidden ruins of Rio Indio
Hundreds of years ago, the ‘old people’ lived among the trees, rivers and rocks. Now all that is left are superstitions of the scattered Rama tribes and a few strange carvings that have been found. And a giant wall buried deep in the jungle.
I have seen only one photo of it. It was a blurry image of a wall built from black rock stacked 30′ high that split the jungle like a knife. They say there is an entrance in the wall that is inaccessible to outsiders. Only Rama can enter. Not far from there is a small waterfall and underneath that is an alter of sorts made from black stone carved to look like sea turtle backs.
Why you are too wimpy to do it: Supposedly only a few elders from the small Rama tribe living in the Rio Indio know how to get there. And it ain’t easy. This is a jungle trek of Indiana Jones proportions. Just getting to the jump-off point of Rama village of Makengue means paddling deep into the Indio-Maiz reserve. Then you have to find a guide to carry you through the suffocating jungle battling mosquitoes, ants, snakes, poison frogs, botflies and of course, jaguars. Plan on spending the night in the jungle because this isn’t a day trip.
Bring your machete, hammock and insect repellent. Or better yet, check back to the RightSide Guide in January. I plan on making a trek out there in December. Merry Christmas to me!