Ann Hinshaw tackles Central America, New York style! From making cigars, going head to head with a volcano and adopting a local stray pup! Its an adventure of the extraordinary kind.
1. You are based in New York, why would you pick Nicaragua?
I have always wanted to travel to Central and South America, and when my dear friend was in town from LA over the 4th of July, we were outside sipping margaritas and talking about taking a trip somewhere unexpected. I’d heard about Costa Rica time and again, but it seemed to have already been exploited by Americans and tourism. We wanted something more authentic. I’d read a few things about Nicaragua and seen beautiful photos in a travel story. The story’s point was that people still perceived Nicaragua to be dangerous because of guerrilla warfare, but that’s far from the truth. We decided to just do it.
2. How long is the flight from NYC to Nicaragua?
It was such an easy trip. Unfortunately there are no direct flights from New York’s JFK airport to Managua, so I had to take a 2 ½ hour flight to Miami, and then it was only a 2 hour flight to Managua. So easy! (FirstStep.me says cool stuff!)
3. Going from North America to Central America, is quite interesting how did you prepare for the change of infrastructure?
The biggest concern for me were mosquitoes, the water and blazing sun. I heard that the pharmacies down there are many, but they are not always stocked with things a traveller from other parts of the world might need, such as insect repellent. I brought plenty of that, along with more SPF 50 sunblock to cover a small town. I also made a doctor’s appointment beforehand to get preventative shots such as Tatanus, Hepatitis, Malaria and Typhoid. I was being overly cautious, I know, but I think it was a good thing, you never know. I also made sure to drink bottled water and even brought my own bottle with a charcoal filter to use when brushing my teeth at the hotels. Again, just to be safe.
4. How was your trip for?
I was there for about 10 days.
5. Adventures, what did you do and what was the craziest part of your trip?
The whole trip was an adventure!The craziest part was doing a zip line canopy tour on the Mabamcho volcano. We went to a sustainable coffee plantation where the trip began, and zipped over rows of beans and trees. At one point we could see the Pacific ocean. We also took a trip to the active Masaya volcano, which was so hot, it was steaming and we could hear the lava gurgling. We got way too close to the edge, now that I’ve looked at all the pictures, but it sure was fun. We did several local things too, such as rolling our own cigars in Granada (photo attached), took a boat ride around Lago Nicaragua (photo attached from lunch at one of the little islands on the lake with a restaurant) and a sail boat ride along the Pacific coast in San Juan Del Sur. (FirstStep.me takes notes, avoid close encounters with volcanoes!)
6. How were the locals and did you come a across a lot of foreigners?
The locals were probably the best part of the trip. That was one thing that was a true eye opener, being an American living in the largest city, seeing such abject poverty was shocking. Yet with so little, the took such pride in what they had, and they were so gracious. I never once felt unsafe or threatened.The locals kept the smallest of towns or the largest parks spotless. With all the resources we have in the U.S., I felt like New York was just a trash dump when I got back. Even though Nicaragua is considered a 3rd world country, they didn’t treat their common spaces like a giant refuse dump! They were even a little protective and wanted tourists to feel welcome and safe.
In Granada and the towns surrounding it, we saw very few foreigners. In town there was a few expats from the U.S. and Europe, but in the restaurants, stores, museums and streets, it was mostly locals, which I like. Once we got to the Pacific coast, in the town of San Juan Del Sur, we did run into quite a few Americans. However my friends and I gravitated to the local spots anyway.
7. What are the best parts of Nicaragua?
The food (literally avocados and mangoes were falling off of trees, everything is so fresh), the rich, diverse history and the people. Oh, and the exchange rate! I really gained a better understanding of the Latin culture, and I must say I like it! It’s a slower pace down there, and they value family and quality time. In New York everyone is all a part of the rat race, and in a hurry. Life is slower in Nicaragua, and it’s a place that allows you to recharge and rest. The colonial architecture is stunning in Granada, and the quaint beach side of San Juan Del Sur is so relaxing.
The only downside for me was the searing heat and humidity. We weren’t there during rainy season, but it did drizzle a few times. On the flip side, the minute the sun goes down, the temperature feels really nice...and lets be honest, there’s nothing an ice cold beer or rum with ice can’t help!
The best part I’d say, was the “live” souvenir I brought back to the States.The most troubling part as I said before was poverty, and that came with a big stray dog problem . Being a huge animal lover, I saved scraps for just about every dog that came up to me. On the first night we were at an outdoor cafe on Parque Central in Granada, drinking beers, when our food came and I looked down to see this little shepherd mix at my feet. She was so sweet and calm, she just wanted to eat. I could tell she’d had a litter of puppies, so I gave her food from my plate. The next night I saved scraps and found her again in the park. I’d even bought dog food from a grocery store and hauled little baggies with me everywhere. I fed lots of dogs, but this was a very special dog. On the last night I took a picture of her, and then we went west to the Pacific. Upon my return I sent pictures to one of the expats I made friends with who volunteered at the town’s animal clinic. As luck would have it, she had seen the dog before, but not in a while. The very next day, the pup showed up in the doorway! They took her to the clinic and I decided to adopt her. She stayed for about a month getting up to date on shots and getting healthy enough to fly. I named her Toña…after the local Nicaraguan beer I was drinking when she showed up. She arrived in September and is already a little New Yorker! (FirstStep.me team has a smile!)
8. Would you go back and what is your next travel destination of choice?
Yes, I would definitely go back. I feel like I saw only a small part. I’d like to travel further north to Lyon, and east to the Caribbean side. There is still a lot of the world for me to see though, and I really want to go further south to Argentina. I’d love to visit Buenos Aires, Patagonia and the wine region. I’d also like to get back to Europe. Spain, Italy and Greece are on my list.