Exiting Nicaragua

Today was all about luggage and transports !

We went for a last walk in Léon with our friend Markus, had a fresh fruit juice and enjoyed the heat and the dust <3

Then, we took care of our bags. Since we are cheap bastards, we only bought one checked luggage. Tonight, we are flying low-cost, everything is a paying option, and the price of a luggage is about the same as the flight (so not much, but still). So, we played the luggage.zip game, using hammock-ropes, straps and hooks, to put together our two backpacks, shove all the heaviest stuff in another bag and measure it all !

I guess we did it right, because we have 17,6 kg of checked luggage and were allowed 18, not counting the protection plastic, helping the agents see that this is only ONE bag. We also had to check that the sum of length + width + height is less than 157 cm, because with retard units imperial system, nothing is ever a round number !

In Léon, we took a taxi-bike to the terminal (a guy pedaling on the back of a cart, the whole being covered for shade) and it was really nice and helped see the city in a different light. Then, a van took us to the terminal in Managua in 2 hours with the double-bag on our laps, and then, a regular taxi with a boot took us to the airport. We have been there a few hours, will be there a few more, but we have wi-fi, movies and cookies, and even fried chicken next hall !

We should take off around 2:30 in the morning (9:30 in France) and land in Florida in the morning, for a day of exploration (maybe) before another night plane takes us to New Orleans !

For those who want to follow the flights (because we know there are some) : tonight and tomorrow. Until then, X !

Léon – Day 4 : chill out and beers

Today we did absolutely nothing!

Well, we are in a luxury hotel, so we make the most of it! Ok, it’s not the Hilton, but compared to what we’re used to, it’s really luxurious. The windows actually close completely (so the room is isolated from the noise of the city), there is a swimming pool, air conditioning (that we can set at a more normal temperature than the Nicaraguan setting of freezing cold) and thick curtains (so everyone doesn’t see you naked in your room for once…).

So we woke up late, ate the very good included breakfast, and went back to our room to chill out. Well, we do need the rest as we’ll be spending a lot of time traveling through different airports in the next two days.

In the afternoon, hunger motivated us to get out in the heat, and we went for greasy fried chicken (because we’re gonna eat sooo healthy during the christmas dinners back home…). Then we went for a stroll to enjoy the sun a bit more before getting back to the northern winter. And we also negotiated for a new addition to our future home : a hammock!

We were thinking about getting back to the hotel and then going to the movies, but we decided to grab a beer instead. So, two young Nicaraguan guys in the next table invited us to join them so we talked with them (in spanish) about a lot of things, it was fun (and in the end we had more than the one beer…)

Selfie with our Nicaraguan friends

So afterwards it was too late for the first screening, and we went back to the hotel. On the way, we passed what looked like a tiny Christmas market.

Where’s the hot wine ?

The second screening for the movie we wanted to watch is now, but we’re way too lazy to drag our ass there (it’s already a miracle I mustered the courage to write the blog…). So no more adventures for today. And as we’ll be traveling in the next few days, you probably won’t see any new post before Tuesday. But we swear to tell you all about how we’ll have fit the hammock in our only checked luggage as soon as we’ll be settled in New Orleans !

Leon – Day 3 : churches, rotundas…

Today, we finally visited Léon !

We started by leaving our hostel and migrating to our last accommodations in Central America. To celebrate, we booked something a bit more fancy than we’re used to, and it was a good idea since the last one had a shitty internet and tried to rip us off in the end. So now we have a pool, a lightning-fast internet and we’re close to the center !

The center, let’s talk about it. We finally visited Léon’s streets, which usually end up on a square and/or a religious building !

And like most cities we’ve been to, the central church (the cathedral here) offers, for a reasonable fee, an access to a nice viewpoint ! Here, we got all the way up to the roof, a white painted cement surface (don’t ask, we don’t know) and we had to take our shoes out as not to damage it ! It was weird but nice.

This way, we had plenty of views on the surroundings, with volcanoes everywhere and the parks, squares, streets and gardens of Léon !

The city’s atmosphere is nice enough, but it is always really loud around here ! There’s always a shop with loud music, honks, drums playing somewhere, a bike whirring or the bells of one of the numerous churches ringing. All this didn’t prevent us to stop here and there to observe the city or drink a lemonade…


After the walk, we encountered again a german traveler that we had met in Salinas Grandes, so we went for a few beers and a bite with him, after that, it was late !

See you tomorrow, X

Leon – Day 2 : last swim in the pacific

Today, we left the beach.

Ok, we did get to swim in the pacific one last time (and do the burning sand dance to get there), as we stayed there all morning. Waves were big, so our surfer friends were out (but we were like 5 people there, so pretty cool). And Alice did a new watercolor painting!

Last view of the Pacific

At 12:30 we went to the bus stop, as we were told this was the right time to catch it. After waiting 30 minutes, a local guy came by and told us the real schedule was 1pm. So, the bus came at 1:30pm, and we rode back to Léon.

The bus stop was quite calm…

In Léon we went to our hostel, then went out again to do some laundry, and then came back to work on the blog (we didn’t have Wi-fi at the beach). By the time we did all that, it was already night, so we got to the central park were there was some celebration (people with drums and huge figures carried by other people), but we don’t know about what. We took some tacos to go and ate in front of the cathedral, but we were a bit tired (and a bunch of teenagers were playing with loud fire crackers, which gets old after a while), so we went back to get a well-deserved sleep.

Léon by night

So, once again not much info about Léon, but we promise to take some good pictures for you guys tomorrow!

P.S.: don’t forget to scroll down to yesterday’s article, which we posted at the same time as this one, so you won’t miss the AWESOME VIDEO OF BABY TURTLES.

Salinas Grandes – Day 1 : baby turtles !

This morning, we put some stuff in a bag and left the other one at the hostel, and we went for a 2-day adventure at the beach!

It is probably our last stop at the sea, and definitely the last one on the Pacific!

So, we went through Léon’s streets and took a bus that left us at a fork on the panamerican highway.


From there, we were hoping to find another bus, but the girls waiting for it told us that it would be at least an hour, so we decided to walk a bit. That’s when we started to break our record for crazy transportation! First, an old man selling vegetables to houses along the road took us for a while. He was nice, and his horse-drawn cart was shaky, so it was fun. Then he let us on the side because he as changing roads, and a nice couple in a pick-up truck picked us up immediately for the end of the trip on the platform.


This way, we arrived way sooner than we anticipated in our deserted perfect beach spot. We went for a swim in the waves and lazed around, waiting for the main attraction at the end of the afternoon… It was really hard.


wp_20171129_006_rAs the shadows got longer (around 4 PM) we went to the Day Resort at the end of the beach, that belonged to the nice people in the pick-up truck. We had a beer and then continued breaking our record by getting in the trailer of the quad, meant for 3-4 people or 6 surfboards (but not both simultaneously).

Like this, we got to the turtles Vivero to watch and help around 500 freshly hatched babies. Aren’t they cute as pies?


Here, the 4 species of marine turtles come to lay eggs (each with their own rhythm and season) and since these eggs are a luxury commodity, the nests are often looted, and the eggs sold to the black market. The trick is to buy the eggs to the poachers at the same price to help them hatch instead of making omelets! So, Scott here (and other cool people in other places) finds donations and subventions, and teaches poachers to handle eggs correctly as to not damage the embryos (they have to be transported in the 3 hours after being laid, or they die in transport).


Once at the Vivero, they are re-buried but in bags, with the beach sand after being washed to avoid bacteria, insect eggs, crabs, etc. and after 45 to 55 days, they hatch and climb to the top of the bag! They are then put on the beach, imprint it so they know where to come back when they are about to make babies of their own, and shoo! go swim!

These days, the Vivero has around 29 000 eggs (if I remember correctly) and they have a 90% rate of hatching, against 60% in normal nests, and it’s high season for hatchlings! Once released, 1% of them will reach adulthood (life under the ocean is not that easy). Of course, the difficulty of this system is that, for now, with a few tourists everyday on the beach, the business plan is not stable, especially if you have to match the black-market price for eggs (which is not too appreciated by omelet-lovers…). So it’s only donations that allow the Vivero to function…


Léon – Day 1 : cigares and bus

Today we visited a cigar factory.

Don’t get too excited, these are the defects

This morning we were still in Esteli, where we visited a small cigar factory. We were only three doing the visit, us and a German woman, and the guide only spoke Spanish (which wasn’t expected), so the we were asked to translate for her. At first, we tried to translate from Spanish to German, but it was way to hard, so we did it from Spanish to English 😉 .

Aside from this linguistic training, the visit was very interesting. We started with a small course about the different types of tobacco leaves, and their usage in cigar making. So, a cigar is made from 3 parts:

  • The heart of the cigar, the most important, giving it all its aroma. The tobacco used for this part is mostly cultivated here in Nicaragua, so as to keep an eye on the quality of the product. It’s the part that needs the most quantity of tobacco.
  • The shell, wrapped around the heart so as to maintain it in a relative cylindric form. Most of the tobacco used for this part is imported from Ecuador or Mexico (where it’s cheaper to grow it).
  • The skin, giving the cigar its perfectly cylindrical external look. For this part (as also a bit for the shell), more elastic leaves are used, so that they can take a cylindrical form without cracking.
The stickers show who is the buyer, and which worker made which set

The cigar factory buys all types of leaves and then assembles different mixes for the heart (the most important), using different quantity of different leaves so as to change the aromas. The buyers (big cigar producers) then come and try a few of them, and specify the details such as type of shell or skin that should be used. Once the cigar is selected, the factory has to produce exactly the same all along the production.

To do so, the cigars are controlled at every step, and any defect is rejected. Of course, the defect cigars are not thrown away, they are crushed and mixed again as a heart. But of course, as they are heart, shell and skin, it’s a low-quality heart, which is used to make cigars that are sold cheap in the tourist shops to the uninitiated, who is persuaded he’s making a good deal (even though no connoisseur would buy such cigars!).

Sorting of the leaves

For the production steps, it starts with harvesting and drying the leaves under controlled hygrometry and temperature. When we hear the guys here talking about tobacco fermentation, it really seems to us the whole field is at least as complicated as wine making! Once the leaves sorted in different categories (depending on color, intensity, aroma…), they are brought into the main processing room.

In this room they work (impressively fast) in pairs: the man rolls the leaves for the heart into half a leave of shell, and gives it a cylindrical shape. To keep it in place, these beginning of cigars are placed into molds and pressed. Once they hold their form, the woman carefully wraps it into half a leave of the skin, giving it its final form. The cigar holds together thanks to an « organic glue » (they didn’t say more).

Half a cigar mold (the other half comes on top)

In the end, it was a very interesting tour, but the working conditions do seem harsh. The rooms are small and without ventilation (or windows) and the air is saturated by the tobacco smell. Very few workers actually wear a mask, and we really wonder what the life expectancy for them is.

So, apart from this and taking a bus to Leon at 3pm (well, we tried to get into the 1pm minivan but it was full!) we didn’t do much else. We arrived at night in the busy bus station from Leon, where we (again) had to make our way through the hordes of taxis (motorized or not) and find our hostel. So even if the title says Leon because we’re sleeping there, we actually can’t tell you much about the city for now (well, there is a really good ceviche place… yes, we spared no expense 😉 ).

P.S : small bonus, a photo from the no smoking sign in a cigar factory (with a guy lighting a cigar right next to it!

Esteli – Day 3 : sculptures and landscapes

wp_20171127_12_00_36_pro_rToday, we went in a Provence-like forest ! It was in the Tisey reserve, where the woods are dry, the ground is covered in pine-needles and the rocks outcrop (there were also volcanoes but who cares ? 😉 )

To get there, we had to get up a 5:30, we were thrilled. We caught a cab for 4km down to the bus station, and we left on time, eating bananas and cookies, because at 6 AM, every bus is leaving, but no breakfast whatsoever is available.

wp_20171127_07_45_03_pro_rWe started with the visit of the Finca El Jalacata, where Alberto Gutierrez, his 3 brothers and his sister live. They are old, this is their family home, and Alberto is a sculptor. He’s been attacking the cliff for 40 years only with a chisel and a hammer (always the same ones) and he’s marking his obsessions in the rock : big animals, apostles, nicas historical figures and a few others. The result is impressing and he loves talking about it, even if he’s sometimes hard to follow, with his preferred topics always coming back (the recently sown cypresses and the beautiful forest, among the carved elephants and jaguars).

Since we arrived early, we were offered some coffee and a biscuit in the family kitchen where kittens were playing below the wood fire stove. Don Alberto’s sister, who was catering us, talked about the weather and at some point asked us to pay for the coffee, and took us to the mini-shop of “local” craftwork. We were a bit disappointed. When we signed the visitors log, though, we understood : around 30 tourists come every day down the rocky paths and through the forest to walk the paths of the carved cliff, since several years, for a grand total of around 80 000 people… And the only bus is at 6:30 ! Most people probably come with a 4-wheeler because we were the only tourists in the bus… It’s good that the views were nice !


We continued to the La Garnacha hamlet, famous for its cheese factory. There are also other crafts and nice walks with far far away views (well, cheese is cool, but one of us doesn’t like it and the other is from a famous cheese-making region, so we are not easily impressed !). So we visited and stopped for a bite to eat. Since some asked, here is a picture of a basic and cheap meal that we probably eat 10 times a week !

wp_20171127_10_51_33_rich_rA plate with rice, beans and chicken. Some salad, tortilla (which here is more a patty than an omelet). Two seasonal fruit juice, here orange. It doesn’t look too big, but it’s hearty, so often, we share it ! (and today, there was a bit of cheese !)

The village is starting to open up to tourism, by offering visits of the cheese factory and bettering the walking trails, which are indeed in a very good state, with benches and bridges, but are still very small ! They try to install a community tourism, which consists of inviting the tourists into the day-to-day life of inhabitants and financially contribute as much as possible to the participating inhabitants.


We went on the two main trails (for a total of around one hour, nap under the acacia trees included), and went by the Cerro Apaguajil viewpoint, where you can see, we heard, all the way to El Salvador. We are not learned enough in the local geography to confirm, but we can believe it, and it was pretty anyway !


Once back, we headed to the very rocky road where we were supposed to find the bus, but we were so early that we decided to hitchhike. We were taken (for free) by a private driver (like Uber) going back to Esteli. We had not been in a comfortable car for so long (by that I mean decent shock-absorbers, radio and seat-belts) that we were almost happy that he was driving like a madman !

Once back to our room, we realized that we were going back to France in 16 days, and it was quite a shock. We still cooked some pasta in the hostel’s kitchen and went to bed, not without a last landscape because we love them !


See you tomorrow, X

Esteli – Day 2 : street art and organization

Today we had planned to get to a remote village with nice hiking trails and cheese making skills

This is not a cheese producing village!

But there is only one bus per day to get there, and it’s at 6:30am, and we’re pretty far away from the bus terminal. But you don’t really have a choice, we asked around to see if hitch-hiking was possible, but were told there is not enough traffic because it’s really remote.

So went the alarm went off at 5:30am, we weren’t really up for it. Actually, we weren’t ready to do it at all, so we went back to sleep. We’ll go there tomorrow 😉 . So today we mainly visited Esteli and organized the rest of the trip.

For the organization part, it’s weird for us to (almost) know where we’ll be every night until the end of the trip. But as we fly from Managua in a week, we can’t really make the usual unplanned detours (ok, we might make a small detour, but you’ll see later!).

One of Esteli’s main street

For the visiting the city part, there’s not much to see here (besides a recently painted cathedral). It’s a lot like Matagalpa : a big town surrounded by farms and national parcs. This town does seem more lively and loud than Matagalpa, with more stores and advertising billboards.

What we liked the most here are the mural paintings you can find in several places. Some of them were done by the local schools. And it’s really cool to see so many colored drawings where it could just have been gray walls. Here are a bunch of photos of them.

The super big panorama that makes your computer lag!

Tonight we went to the movies, to see Justice League. We were glad to be in a theater again, but the movie wasn’t really that great (ok, the fact that you could hear the next room’s movie didn’t help 😉 ).

That’s all for today, tomorrow we’ll try to get up earlier !