Monthly Archives: February 2012
When I shopped for clothing in Canada I looked for quality so that my clothes would last. In Nica my wardrobe consists mainly of t-shirts and shorts. In a t-shirt quality used to mean a nice thick, heavy weight cotton jersey. With Leon’s toasty hot weather I find myself wearing the thinnest, lightest clothing that I brought with me. I’ve been wanting to augment my hot weather clothing, but didn’t really care to buy into the local knockoff trends of Hollister, Aeropostale or Abercrombie & Fitch.
If you ever wonder where your summer clothing donations go to when they are out of season in Canada, well I can tell you. They are donated to countries like Nicaragua and then bought in lots by retailers and then sold to the locals. To kill some time one night Elisha and I went into one of these stores in Esteli. They had some of the most random clothing that you could imagine. Everything from high-end dress shirts to promotional giveaway t-shirts from fundraiser walks.
Shopping at the Nica Goodwill was super entertaining and something that I want to do again. In fact I think this is my new shopping venue. I found a super “cool” t- shirt. After doing some internet research I found out it is from a K-8 school in Oakville, Ontario, Canada. It’s a Maple Grove Griffins team shirt that must have been worn by a rather large chubby 8th grader because it fits me like a glove. It’s a little short in the sleeves which shows off the guns.
2 bank cards, 2 credit cards, 18 ATM withdrawals over two days, 90 minutes at a lawyer’s office, followed by the exchange of 350 twenty dollar bills, just 74 days after we arrived in Nicaragua we are now the proud owners of a fully loaded 2001 Hyundai Galloper 2.5L Turbo Diesel 4 X 4.
This tank should get us ANYWHERE we want to go in Nicaragua!
Yesterday we awoke to the many sounds of city life in Esteli, Nicaragua. Music blaring, children screaming, roosters crowing and cars honking are your alarm clock in Esteli, but all that didn’t matter. We were excited to be up early because we were going to Somoto Canyon.
As I later found out, Elisha and I had completely different expectations of our day. She thought we were going on a walk along a river that had a nice place for a swim and some good places for pictures. I thought we were getting strapped into life jackets and sent down a raging river canyon. Maybe we should talk more because if either of those things had come true one of us would have been very unhappy.
The guide books tell you that Somoto Canyon was relatively unexplored until a group of Czech scientists stumbled across it in 2004. They claim that it was formed 5 – 13 million years ago. With a built in margin for error like that and no way to prove them wrong, who can argue? Ever since the Czechs found this little gem it has been visited by increasingly larger groups of tourists each year.
The tour itself varies greatly depending on the time of year you visit. Due to the fast and high waters that come during rainy season the canyon is completely closed to the public for these few months of the year. In December my version of the tour may have been the reality and in May at the end of the dry season Elisha’s version may have been closer to reality. This time of year it is in between.
We did actually walk alongside part of the river, but we also walked in the water and swam down more sections than naught.
There were even a couple areas where the river narrowed enough that we actually had to climb up on the rocks and jump off into the next pool of water.
One particular section gave you the option of climbing between 4 and 40 feet to jump into the next pool. I jumped from all of the available options, except the 4 footer, that was reserved for Elisha. My ass is still pretty sore from my first jump from 40 feet. I landed a little too far back and the water felt like concrete. Unfortunately when Elisha attempted to put the camera on burst shooting she put it on timer instead and completely missed my 1st jump.
Her tune turned from,
“Don’t jump from there!” to “Go do it again, so I can take a video!”
The water was much warmer than any Canadian could envision a river to be, but after a few hours Elisha was getting cold. There were three different tour options available. We took the mid-length option (a 3.5 hour route) which was just enough to make you feel like you earned, it without totally wiping you out.
Our guide, Fausto had a waterproof case for our camera, snacks and Tona. All of which we needed during our frequent rest stops and photo ops.
The views were amazing and at one point Elisha could take pictures of Honduras. For me the water sport was enough to keep me happy. Somoto Canyon was a great tour that fulfilled both of our expectations, without actually being what we expected.
To celebrate my 37th birthday Gord and I decided to take a vacation from our vacation. We packed our bags, hopped on the micro bus and made our way to Laguna de Apoyo.
Rated #1 on Trip Advisor for Specialty Lodging in the area we opted to stay at Apoyo Lodge & Camp. As soon as we put our bags down and got settled into our room I knew we made the right choice for accommodations. Our room was spacious, airy and super clean.
Sleeping with the windows and doors open all night was the best! We had our own private balcony that overlooked the laguna.
We unpacked our things and freshened up a bit before I helped myself to a cold Tona from the fridge and took a seat in one of the hammock chairs.
Apoyo Lodge’s refreshment station works on an honor system. Basically you help yourself to whatever beverage you want and then mark it down on your tab. Whether you’re in the mood for a mojito or champagne they have it all! Non-alcoholic drinks are also available.
Although we brought some of our own food we opted to have Sasha cook lunch for us. After all, we were on vacation! The Cabbage Ginger Wraps with Peanut Sauce were slightly spicy, a bit crunchy and extremely tasty! The Almond Cranberry Feta Salad that came with our wraps offered the ever so good sweet and bitter combo. This healthy, vegetarian lunch was a welcomed change from the typical Nicaraguan food we’ve been eating for the last two months. Before we were even finished our meal we knew we wouldn’t be doing any of our own cooking for the remainder of our stay because it would be better left to the professionals.
In the morning we woke up to the sound of the howler monkeys and tropical birds and the best continental breakfast ever. All you can eat fresh fruit, whole grain toast and coffee, good coffee that is, was included in our nightly room rate. The display you see below was prepared by Shamus.
In addition to the the clean, clear refreshing waters of the laguna amenities at Apoyo Lodge include a floating dock…
…a Hookah Lounge and…
…a private rancho with kitchen for guests to use.
Apoyo Lodge also has a BBQ, a skate park, inner tubes, paddle boards, a paddle boat and a sailboat and hammocks for guests to use.
The moment we arrived at Apoyo Lodge we felt comfortable and at ease with our hosts Shamus & Sasha. Over the course of the weekend we enjoyed great conversation and shared lots of laughs. We look forward to hanging out with this fellow Canadian couple again later this month when they’ll be in our neck of the woods. In addition to Shamus & Sasha’s company we also enjoyed the time we spent with Apoyo Lodge’s furry friends Do, Kongo and Maude.
My birthday weekend at Apoyo Lodge was an all-around awesome one. We can’t wait to go back!
To view more photos of our weekend at Apoyo Lodge and Laguna de Apoyo click here.
When Elisha and I decided to move to Nicaragua we knew that we would need to be on a budget – and believe it or not it was something we had never done before.
Elisha’s budget was always based on spending any extra cash that she had, while I saved whatever extra money I felt I didn’t need. That being said we have always lived below our means and have never been extravagant people.
Although we’ve been told by a few people that a budget of $1,200 USD per month in Nicaragua is quite high this is the amount we agreed upon.
We figured it would take some time to find out which restaurants, markets, shops and grocery stores would have the best deals and accepted the fact that December and January would be “learning months”. We weren’t surprised to find out that were were over budget for the month of January.
Total expenditures for the month came in at $1,201 USD.
We learned a few things things this month and have decided to make a number of changes.
First and foremost, we are going to prepare more of our own meals and have fruit on hand for breakfast. When we reviewed our detailed spreadsheet of the month’s expenses we realized we ate out 3 meals per day, more often than not. Although the nearly 50 meals we had out were cheap ($280 USD), they weren’t necessarily healthy for the waistline or the budget.
Another change will be our drinking. Apparently we’ve been celebrating because not a day went by in January where we didn’t have a cerveza or two. Even though our total expenditure for alcohol was just shy of $160 USD, we will make a couple of changes here as well. We plan to cut back some and be smarter about where we buy our liquor. Instead of paying 100 cordobas for a 375 ml bottle of rum, we will buy the 2 litre combo pack at Pali for 189 cords. And instead of paying 18 cords at the grocery store for a 355 ml can of beer we will buy a case of 12 litres at a cost of only 36 cordobas per bottle.
We spent $205 USD on groceries. With a commitment to eat in more often we expect this amount to go up slightly for the month, but since we’ve figured out the best places to shop we aren’t expecting a huge increase.
$32 USD was the amount we paid to purchase a cell phone and talking minutes for the month. For February we have purchased a package that cost $7 USD that should last through to the end of the month. $60 USD went to Amazon and iTunes for books, music and iPAD apps. $30 USD went to transportation (bus and taxi fares). We spent $52 USD on a nice dinner out to celebrate our 5th year anniversary. We enjoyed a delicious meal with 2 appetizers, a main course of filet mignon, a nice bottle of Italian wine AND pecan pie for dessert. A great night out and worth every penny we spent!
Although our friend Glyn lives on $300 a month (and thinks we are living the life of rock stars and drinking champagne every night) we happen to think we did a fine job with our first attempt at following a budget!