When Sarah and I were planning our trip to Latin America I remember having to work hard to convince her to come to Central America at all; how different my life would be if we hadn't. Nicaragua, as it turned out, was a far North as I could push our starting point, and so on 10 July 2009 we flew from London to Managua to start our journey (http://www.offexploring.com/robandsarah/blog/nicaragua). We left a few weeks later not really knowing quite how we felt about the place, but now I feel like I have a bit more perspective.
Nicaragua is a backpacker's dream, and most travellers love it. It's cheap and very easy to get around, with most of the interesting places clustered within a 3-hour bus ride of one another, and it has a lot to offer, like surfing beaches, jungle, volcanoes, deserted Caribbean islands, highland forests and coffee plantations, and grand colonial cities. León and Granada are Nicaragua's two finest cities; the nation's bastions of two opposing political ideologies, liberalism and conservatism respectively, their centuries-old feudal relationship has fuelled a constant game of architectural one-upmanship. These days Granada takes the lion's share of the tourism, having been substantially 'restored' and in the process converted into a largely foreign-owned caricature of itself. León has emerged as the underdog in this contest but its soul has been spared, and its faded grandeur remains a delight to discover. Having missed it the first time I was in Nicaragua I had been talking about going there ever since. I expected to love the place. It didn't disappoint. I much preferred it to Granada.
I found myself making a quick pit-stop in León as I raced up from Costa Rica to Roatán in the Bay Islands of Honduras, and so I only stayed two nights. I dived in with the backpackers at the Barefoot hostel and partied both nights, heading out to explore on my own during the day. The hostel offered an infamous volcano boarding tour that basically entailed climbing up a steep volcano and hurtling back down the scree on a snowboard, or a sled (for the more faint-hearted). I saw on the leader board that the fastest people were hitting 89 kph! My God. Everyone kept coming back sporting various scratches and wounds, their ears and eyelids all coated in black sand. My name was on the list to go but unfortunately I managed to smack my toe on a slab of concrete whilst staggering around drunk in the middle of the night, and so that was the end of that. It still hurts now, over two months later. I had done something similar on sand dunes in Huacachina in Peru though (http://www.offexploring.com/robandsarah/blog/peru/huacachina/2009-10-26+00%3A33%3A14), so I didn't feel that I'd missed out on too much.
So, two hangovers and a sore toe later, I headed North to cross the border into Honduras - a new country for me; country number 44 or something.