Greetings from Isla Pequeña del Maíz AKA Little Corn Island. Funny – last month I was questioning how long-term travelling is a bit unreal for me – and just a month later I’m in this super “unreal” real place. The close-knit community of about a thousand people on this little paradise-like island is as real as it can get and yet it comes across as unreal for many of us, the non island, non Caribbean people.
The kids play volleyball on the beach, then they jump into the crystal clear blue ocean just to switch to baseball right after 🙂 Pretty much everyone says hi to you here, in their super-cool creole, Jamaican-like English accent they inherited from the days when Corn Islands along with the eastern part of Nicaragua, were a British Colony (1655 – 1860).
Basically it’s as picturesque and friendly as it can get in ‘ere. People here are very friendly, rather beautiful and young-looking, plus they do appear very happy as they laugh a lot. Ya man 🙂 It’s full of light, positive energy and happy kids in a contrast to the darkness of the hills near Capurganá, where I was a month ago.
So what I’ve been up to?
From Capurganá/Puerto Obaldia border crossing I headed to Panama City, where I was joined by a cherished friend for the following two weeks. As for the vibes, I personally found Panama City rather sterile and extremely overpriced place but it’s restored Casco Viajo (old town) was pretty. Otherwise, the city is an extreme mix of money and poverty but that doesn’t make Panama city very special in this part of the world.
Then there’s the Pan American highway that goes from Alaska down to Chile, my original inspiration for this trip. In Panama it shows up a lot as a main and the only major road because it is rather narrow country where you can travel from Pacific to Atlantic in few hours. Around the highway it all appears rather flashy but the further away from the highway, the more harsh living conditions of the country begun to appear.
After visiting few places in both Pacific as well as Atlantic coasts (the first being very dry and hot, while the latter green and humid at this time of the year), we then rushed through the expensive Costa Rica to Nicaragua’s little town of San Juan del Sur. It’s a small party town and it operates like the all do as I find them all rather similar to each-other, wherever they are located.
It was interesting to observe that when one travels with a companion, the predatory party economy is not right in one’s face. As a solo male traveller in his 40s, it gets annoying because you are being challenged by drug dealers, various street touts and prostitutes all the time – whether you are into it or not – it’s just there.
In other words, whether you like it or not – as a man travelling solo you are just a potential customer. Normally I avoid these places because it’s not my cup of tea but as I said – in two it’s OK. And the sunsets in the bay are stunning, not to mention the fact that the local rum meets it’s reputation of being among some of the best in the world 😉
After San Juan I then carried on solo and the feeling of being reduced to a walking valet returned to me quickly. I totally understand that people just trying to survive and I do support some of them if I can because they have to work hard for every penny, especially in the economically-challenged countries.
But I can’t help everyone and I also want some peace. For this reason I find it disturbing but at the same time it can get annoying and very impersonal. I’ve started to feel it strongly in Cusco but thinking about it, it’s been with me through-out the whole trip, except few places in Argentina, Colombia and this island.
At the end of the day it’s the nature of tourist industry. And to be honest, if I were in Rome or Barcelona – it would be there as well with all the tricks and twists it comes with.
My point is that it’s not about the fact that it’s pretty much everywhere if you are a “gringo” in this part of the world – it’s the lack of genuine interest in me as a person that gets “louder” over the time. And it’s also lack of small acts of generosity. I could count those on the fingers of my hands – but when they happen – lord it feels good.
For example today I was given a couple of mangos by a local when he was passing by me. In Granada, an old man gave me cigars and refused any payment whatsoever when I was unsuccessfully searching for rolling tobacco, which can turn to a bit of a challenge over here.
In Buenos Aires I was given pretty much a free extra night in Airbnb place, plus like in Colombia, in Argentina there were some people genuinely interested in what do I like, why have I picked their country to visit or how is life in my country and so on. So faith in humanity does get restored from time to time 🙂 It’s the small things. It’s all about the small things 😉
Anyway – back to the journey. The next place I went to was just under two hours away from San Juan, which is actually very refreshing amount of time spent on buses for me right now. Unfortunately, the Ometepe Island has been too hot for me to anything, except from renting an off road motorcycle and ride around the island, burning my knees and arms as a consequence 😀
This small pretty lake island is dominated by two volcanoes, both with apparently pretty but challenging treks. At the temperatures around 40C, I’ve skipped it. Shame on me. But the ride was fun 😉
My next destination was a very picturesque and colourful Granada. A beautiful old town with some really crazy history, like many places in Latin America. It involves the a civil war; the pirate invasions; a coup orchestrated and executed by a slave-trade wannabe lad, William Walker from Nashville. I’ll get to it in further detail in a separate text but for now I’ll give you a taste how stunning the town is.
I have been rather successful in staying under the radar eversince visiting Machu Picchu, when I’ve reached my limits in embracing mass tourism. My original hunger of being an explorer faded a while ago and lately I took a different approach.
Mostly it was just chilling, observing the local culture and generally trying to be as little touristy as possible. It’s not very possible though. Soon, I’m gonna head back to Pacific coast to the town of León, from where it will only be Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala, potentially Belize and southern Mexico left from my original itinerary (:0
It the summer, I’ll be most likely back in Europe looking for a J O B – it’s bizarre because when I write that word down – it looks like a brand or rolling papers to me right now (:0
While I’ll be rich in memories, I’ll be rather skint when it comes to monies (:0 And eager to do some work…
As for this site, I’ll tighten up the lose ends, documenting the places where I was an active tourist. I will also wrap up my thoughts and observations about this trip in general and then I might get on documenting places I’ve visited in South East Asia, if you keep on reading. By the way, last month there was more than 360 of you – thank you for being interested.
In Europe, I’ll have more options to address the design, possible platform switch and some general PR stuff. I’ll try to play the lottery and if I win, I’ll invest into this site more and pay some writers to help 😉 Btw, if you have any suggestions (about the site or about what numbers to bet on) – lemme know pls.
Anyway – I hope everyone’s OK, wherever you are 😉
Love, Peace and Understanding ;j