Total distance travelled: 38,081.5 kilometres (23,653.11 miles)
Our trip to the Islas de Maiz (Corn Islands) certainly presented us with a couple of 1sts.
With a decision made to fly which would be more time efficient and eliminate the threat of a hairy boat ride (although it would be more costly), we found ourselves a little surprised upon check-in at Managua airport when we received the request to place not only our carry-on luggage, but also ourselves on the scales!
Sure it was novel, but it did cause a few moments of minor panic as we’d fully loaded our day packs in an attempt to get our larger travel packs under the maximum 30 pound limit!
Turns out that it was to prove no problem, although we were soon to learn why it was that they were seeking such accurate measurements for each passengers weight.
You see, we were about to fly out in this…
In truth, he flight was surprisingly calm and not beset by turbulence as we may have expected, so it was only after a little more than an hour that saw us bounce down onto the tarmac that is Great Corn Island’s airport.
The sky overhead was now a dark grey and the wind was on the up, so we quickly sorted a taxi to the main dock, firm in our resolution to try and get the last Panga (boat) to Little Corn Island that same afternoon.
At the dock, amidst suggestions from the locals that we needed to go and purchase plastic bags in which to cover our packs for the trip (at $2.00 US per bag, we put our trust in our rain covers instead), we found ourselves queued for a second boat after the first Panga was in fact already full!
We nervously boarded what was a much smaller vessel, thankful that they eventually managed to locate enough life vests from a nearby fishing boat.
As we began to pull away from the dock, little did we know that it was to be the final moment in which anybody on board would be dry for the remainder of the trip!
It took fewer than 30 seconds for all and sundry to be drenched, as the moment we emerged from the relative safety of the harbour, we were under siege from high winds and even higher waves.
There was no other way than to describe this journey as an ordeal, a normal 20 minute jaunt between islands this day taking upwards of 40 minutes.
Our waterproof jackets were quickly soaked, a large part due to large waves pounding the boat meant plenty of water was not only beading off them, but also soaking us from the inside (yes, straight in through our hoods), & very early in the piece our eyes were stinging from the salt.
A testament to his skills, our captain saw us through, only 2 of the incredible waves we traversed, almost getting the better of us.
One, quite early in the crossing left all on board (at least all of the passengers) sure that we would capsize, the other, as we sat in a deep trough, loomed above us like a wall, before unceremoniously dumping itself upon us.
Still, we found ourselves afloat, and it was with a hand white knuckled and numb from clenching the boat so tightly, that Sarah and I eventually found ourselves closer to the relative safety of the shores of Little Corn, saturated true, but now with just memories of this tumultuous crossing, & little more than sore arses (bottoms) from the constant pounding of the boat on the waves.
With shaky legs, saturated bodies and damp packs, we were fortunate enough to be met at the dock by a local, who just happened to be heading past 3 Hermanos (3 Brothers), the place we’d had an eye on staying at.
We met Randy (the owner), found ourselves a room and settled ourselves into the island vibe.
Kicking things off was our first dinner on the island, a delicious feed at a real Gringo place, Tranquilo.
Gringo it may have well and truly been, but as we tucked into a shared plate of pulled pork and a secondary plate of pork dumplings, we really couldn’t have cared less!
We wound up our night back at our room, which by this time looked like a laundry as we attempted to dry as best we could, all that was now sodden from our boat ride.
But for a morning stroll, sadly our first full day on the island was also largely one of inclement weather, so few highlights were to be had.
We did take the opportunity to sound out the islands two dive operations which gave us some fuel for thought for when the weather did finally improve.
The undisputed highlight of our day came after the sun had set.
Patronising a local eatery in the heart of the island, we found ourselves indulging in one of the most delicious meals in some time. Garlic Shrimp and Garlic Chicken (Sarah went nautical whilst I had the fowl) which were both delicious, and to top it off a most delicious sweet indulgence.
This came in the form of French Toast, but not just any kind of French Toast. This particular model of decadent goodness, was covered in shredded coconut and then smothered with sweet, sticky maple syrup.
Adding to the experience, was the random encounter with Melissa (a girl we’d met way back in Caye Caulker and hadn’t seen since Guatemala) and her boyfriend Max.
Throw in a leisurely stroll through woods thick with Fireflies, and all of a sudden this rain swept Caribbean island had made a much better impression on us.
After a few drinks with Mel and Max back at Tranquilo, we likely should have woken feeling a bit worse than we did… but who are we to look a gift horse in the mouth.
Especially when this horse is a lovely blue morning like this!
The order of the morning was an early morning reconnoiter of much of the eastern side of the island.
Here, under heart warming (and clothes drying) sunshine, we really began to get a great feel for this little island.
With the waters so calm, and the weather so kind, we decided to advance our diving and do one tank today and another tomorrow (you can read about our diving experiences in the next post).
Late afternoon again found us sipping beers on the waterfront where I (sadly nobody else spied it) had the delight of watching a Stingray leap out of the water right in front of us.
Unfortunately, that second day of diving never happened, as I awoke (oddly after feeling completely fine the preceding day) completely congested.
Not really prepared to put my ears at risk by trying to descend in such a condition (nor force any other divers to wait whilst I battled as such), we canceled our second tank, instead taking it pretty easy.
This doesn’t mean we wasted the day.
With Sarah keen on a snorkel, we made our way northwards to where the conditions and sites are supposedly best.
A short side excursion was made part way, the islands lighthouse our goal for some panoramic views of the island.
Sadly the conditions for snorkeling didn’t match our expectations, with the waters choppy and visibility horrible.
Still, there were some stunning palm fringed beaches, so it wasn’t a complete waste.
Little Corn Island still had one final treat in store for us.
Meat pie baked empanadas!
Okay, so they were neither true meat pies (as an Australian would know them), nor a traditional empanada (as they were baked, not fried).
But tasty pastry with a spicy, savoury mince. They were the closest thing we’d had to a pie from home in a long, long while!
Our return Panga to Great Corn was in marked contrast to our outward voyage, on glass like seas.
The return flight to Managua, equally as hassle free.
We didn’t learn this until our last days on Little Corn, but two weeks earlier, a Panga had in fact capsized with two people drowned.
It seems we were lucky.
Don’t travel with fear, but at least be aware of the possibilities…
* We stayed at 3 Brothers on Little Corn Island for $15.00 a night (we chose this place run by Randy as it had a kitchen so we could self cater).
* Our flights from Managua to Great Corn Island were $82.00 US per person each way (three flights daily).
* The death defying Panga ride from Great Corn to Little Corn Island cost us $150.00 Cordoba per person one-way. Pack a raincoat and cover for your packs/bags.
* From about 5am until 1pm, the electricity is turned off for most of the island (this was something of a surprise, so keep this in mind if your lodgings have a fridge, as it still doesn’t guarantee the items will keep)!