A Travellerspoint blog

September 2014

Colonial Architecture and Island Rainbows

Granada and Isla de Ometepe round out our time in Nicaragua

View Breaking Away 2014 on BettinaNYC's travel map.



We spent a day seeing Granada's architecture and learning more about Nicaragua's revolutionary history. Friends we met while studying at La Mariposa, Ruth and Erico, took us on a lovely tour of the city and the nearby Isletas. Granada is probably one of the most beautiful colonial towns in Nicaragua. There is a long standing rivalry between Leon and Granda on which locale is best so I won't offend anyone by choosing a favorite. Though the number of tourists seemed more obvious in Granada, I felt more of a cultural vibe in Leon.

A prison in Granada during the Samoza regime, Fuertza la Polvora.


View from a hammock after an amazing hike near Volcan Maderas on Isla de Omepete.

Next, we were off to Ometepe, located in Latin America's largest fresh water lake (it resembles an ocean). The island has numerous farms and we stayed for the first part of our week-long trip at a hostel that is also a permaculture farm owned by two Italians from Tuscany. Thanks to them we had some of the best food in Nicaragua. Also, and I am happy to report that the Island had several well-maintained composting toilets and that they are not stinky. In fact, I preferred them more than latrines.

We spent a good part of a day on a hike and it was a wonderful adventure even if we did not make it to the top of Volcan Maderas. After paying a property owner a few Cordobas to pass by her house to get on the trail, we set off to see a diverse array of trees, hear all kinds of birds and get some well needed exercise. Toward the end of the hike we stumbled on what seemed like a scene from "Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom": vultures eating a monkey. You can see the poor thing on the bottom center of the photo below.


Ometepe was an ideal send off for our Nicaraguan chapter. We met wonderful people (thanks to Paulette from La Mariposa we were introduced to a couple from the US who are setting up a veterinary practice and let us hang our hammocks on their porch overlooking the lake surrounded by countless butterflies), enjoyed sleeping in our hammocks, taking hikes and eating tasty food.


Adios Ometepe! I hope to see you again.

Posted by BettinaNYC 18:40 Archived in Nicaragua Tagged granada de isla ometepe Comments (0)

Wonky thoughts: Dueling Canals

China, Russia, Nicaragua want to go mano a mano with the US and Panama

View Breaking Away 2014 on BettinaNYC's travel map.

Today's People's Climate Change march in New York City seems like the perfect time for a wonky post about how challenging building a canal can be to environmental justice.

During my last days at La Mariposa in Nicaragua, officials announced the route of a proposed canal that would rival the Panama Canal. There is hardly anyone I spoke to during my time in Nicaragua that thinks the canal will be the economic engine it is promised to be.


One of the more interesting conversations I had while at language school, (and I had many!) was with another student from the UK getting a degree in environmental engineering. The priority of the proposed canal, we discussed, has less to do with creating jobs for Nicaraguans, but more about various countries coming together to challenge the stature of the United States in world affairs. Financial backing for the canal is coming mainly from Chinese and Russian business interests. There's nothing like watching a shift in global politics happen right before your eyes, we said.

From my perspective, two things stand out about the proposal as reasons why the canal would do little to lift Nicaraguans out of poverty. First, as I understand it, there are no job guarantees for Nicaraguans until 50 years after the canal is built. And in Colon, Panama where I stayed for a week (just north of the city and home to one of the world's largest free trade zones) near the canal, I saw banners demanding fairness for local jobs and land issues. Not surprisingly, there were riots there a couple of years ago when the Panamanian government wanted to sell state-owned property to private companies that currently rent in the zone. I am unsure how residents feel about a new canal currently being built in the area to handle larger ships.

Second, any development that would cut through the vast, beautiful mountains of Nicaragua and in particular Lago Nicaragua certainly destroying Isla de Ometepe's lush environment and agriculture, should be a non-starter. With a delayed, now flood prone rainy season, poor Nicaraguans are disproportionately feeling the effects of climate change (see this article "Hunger threatens Central America" Hambre acheca Centroamerica http://www.laprensa.com.ni/2014/09/13/activos/211886?movil). This in addition to a huge jump in bean prices earlier this year, means more pain for a country with a serious food security problem. (Sorry for the long link, but articles that help explain the bean crisis are here: http://www.centralamericadata.com/en/search?q1=content_en_le:%22red+beans%22&q2=mattersInCountry_es_le:%22Nicaragua%22) A complex mix of climate change and politics are causing the problem.

And then there's the impact a canal could have on the ocean.

If the trash-filled waters around Panama City are any indication of how the ocean will be treated with new ship traffic, I can't imagine what it will mean for the ocean, a source of food and earth's well-being to be frank. Sure, people litter everywhere but in my opinion when the powers-that-be create a commercial engine without regard for the environment, businesses and citizens won't care either.

Photos can't convey the odor.

The Panamanians celebrated the 100 anniversary of the Panama Canal while I was there. Granted, it's hard not to marvel at the engineering and history associated with the project. But I hope folks in Nicaragua are doing research on when "benefits" for its impoverished communities may materialize since more than 100 years seems the standard.

Posted by BettinaNYC 18:42 Archived in Nicaragua Tagged panama canal nicaragua thoughts wonky Comments (0)

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