A TRIP TO NICARAGUA
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I recalled this very same border from the time I had come here 10 years ago, in the company of a friend on a trailer rig, to view the damage Somoza's artillery, mortar rounds and even "Air Force" had done to the Customs Buildings, structure and highways. As a reprisal at Costa Rica (under Rodrigo Carazo), for having been backing the Sandinistas. That was 1980, this was 1992. Times have changed, although the place hasn't really changed too much since then or even at all if I could say.
I checked through customs and proceeded to the other side, through an archway composed of red leafy acacias - the ones with the white milky sap - a truly beautiful and unique sight. Along the shaded path, I noticed a plaque inscribed with those who had lost their lives at this very same border. I crossed the "chains" (border), which they would tow up and down - typical Central America and I was finally in Nicaragua.
There I saw a young "compa" (sandinista) guard, who checked all the passports. What struck me, was the original Customs Building was no longer standing. In its place a heap of rubble, probably destroyed by the contras. We boarded a microbus, where everyone was "micro-packed". It seems space is a precious commodity here. We crossed a "military zone" about 2kms. until we got to Sapoas. Which is no more than a tiny farming village and where the new Customs Building is located. From this point behind the fence I could catch my first glimpse of the LAKE.
The banks of the lake from here seemed marshland. I noticed an abundance of white herons or garzas and other waterfowl. Truly an impressive sight! The wind was blowing constantly from the East with gusts from 15 to 25 mph. The Lake was rippled with constant moving waves and water as far as the eyes could see, blending perfectly into the blue horizon. This didn't seem like a lake at all, but an ocean. From the horizon appeared hazy blue islands named Solentiname. Could it be "so lengthy name"? Beyond these would be San Carlos and the San Juan River.
Closer to us was Omotepe Island, composed of two blue volcanic peaks. The one to the right, a lower more irregularly formed volcanic mountain called the Madera, and to the left, a precious, more elongated, sleek, symmetric, near perfect volcanic cone called Concepcion. I could understand now why John Lloyd Stephens - The Maya Explorer back in the 1830's fell in love with the place. This was truly like Eden.
From the Customs, I beheld the scenery behind a cyclone fence beside the parking lot. From there I proceeded to the Customs Bldg. Where I had to pay $25.00 (visa) to get in. Next I exchanged 5 cordobas to the dollar, and I was in business. I went past Customs, where I just missed a traveler with a bunch of ditty bags and knapsacks on an open Jeep with California License Plates, taking off probably towards Managua and beyond. So I crossed over, where all the busses and taxis were parked.
As I walked past the parking lot I saw a gracious young lady, with black long hair, whom I had previously seen at Customs get into a Taxi, more like the red Toyota 4WD's so common in Costa Rica. So I stopped where I also noticed an elder man whom I thought was the father, or related to her, of which he was neither. But as we spoke I asked him about the prices. He told me the busses were the most economical mode of transportation. We patiently waited for one (our young lady had already parted in the Taxi), until we saw the people climbing on the roof. So we decided to take another Taxi instead. We talked to several drivers until we settled for this fellow with an old Datsun 120Y which he "hot wired" and proceeded further ahead.
My primary goal was to see and appreciate the thin isthmus of Rivas. Which is just a thin sliver of land separating the Lake and the Pacific Ocean, which is at most 7 miles wide. Take a swim at the beach then proceed to the lake, which is exactly what my host would do occasionally. In fact it is said that last century this place was crisscrossed with stage coaches, which sped people back and forth from the ferry service across the Lake and the San Juan River onto the Pacific and beyond to the West Coast of California during the gold rush.
A fragment of history, the struggle between Cornelius Vanderbilt owner of the ferry stage coach and steamship concerns and the self proclaimed Emperor of Nicaragua Tennessee born William Walker (who had also allied himself with the liberal presidents of Central America). Who had sunk one of Vanderbilt's ferries in the 1850's and of course challenged his interests, then it was Vanderbilt's request for help from then president of Costa Rica José Rafael Mora. Which after the struggle Nicaragua as a token of gratitude ceded its territory of Guanacaste to Costa Rica. A good place to go if you wish to know more about this episode in history is the Juan Santamaria & William Walker Museum in Alajuela, Costa Rica. There you will see most artifacts used in this war. Actually there is so much more to Central America's history than meets the eye.
Perhaps it may have been all this history I've read about the place, that I had to go and see for myself. My main goal was to view the Ocean, then the lake, but I was short of time. Therefore I settled for the Lake. We decided to head to Rivas, then detour to the Lake, about 2 kms. away to the ferry port of San Jorge. Along the way we glimpsed at a commemorative semi-arch along the road, which indicated the exact spot where Indian Chief Cacique Nicarao met Gil Conzalez Davila and the Spanish Conquistadors whom had arrived by this very same route (from Costa Rica). According to my host he left them puzzled, bewildered and amazed by his uncanny knowledge and great mastery of subjects. He had greeted them cordially and halted the war-like Chorotega Indians from the North who had come to challenge the newcomers.
| Foreword| Part One | Part Two | Part Three | Part Four | Part Five |