Estelí, Nicaragua – America, not Africa

Nicaragua – a country that sounds as if we would have to search for it in Africa instead of America. But it is right in the middle of the isthmus, it is Central America’s largest and poorest country – even Latin America’s second poorest after Haiti. It shall be the safest country for travel on the continental bridge although vigilance wouldn’t harm.

But the day starts with difficulties, the entry is delayed. First we have to detect that our electronic map for Nicaragua doesn’t function. We are so used to this indispensible combination of classic map navigation, intuition, asking locals, and auto GPS that we don’t want to go without the latter. has Garmin-compatible GPS maps for many countries to download including installation instructions (for Nicaragua for instance US$ 49.95 – not distinctively reasonable). Navigating is a bit more complicated than with the software provided by Garmin, but it works.

Next the gas station in El Paraiso refuses all my credit cards. (Fuel is most inexpensive in Mexico, and then it’s slowly getting more expensive to the south via Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras and Nicaragua; fuel up in front of each border.) Right before the border I don’t have enough cash left what I usually do. The cashier has a bright moment and splits the amount in two sums, that works. Immediately in front of the border crossing Los Manos (around 500 m / yards) there would have been a tax-privileged gas station that offers fuel for a better price.

But we don’t get that far. The access road to the border is obstructed with waiting trucks on the right and left side, the only lane in the centre is blocked by a bus broken down, which can’t be towed for any reason. More than an hour passes before the parking vehicles are shunt back and forth so that there is a gap to pass the obstacle. From then on it goes fast. The aduana puts a stamp into the passport to verify the vehicle export, the migración provides the emigration stamp, and there are no costs. A young overbearing border helper wants 20 $ for his service for immigration, but sometime even he gets the meaning of the simple word, just consisting of the two letters N and O. Before leaving Honduran territory there is an animal check, but we neither transport pets nor breeding cattle. The exchange rate offered for Lempira to Cordoba is fair (100 Nicaraguan Córdoba / NIO are around 4.20 US$).

The Nicaraguan entry starts with vehicle disinfection (68 NIO). Nicaragua requests for the granted 30 days of stay a local insurance (12 US $). The insurance agents are official, and the paperwork can be done easily with them. The customs officer fills the forms, but she is happy to be helped. Another officer only peaks from outside into our opened cabin door to confirm the detail “RV”, but again we get off without vehicle search. This process is complimentary, unlike the immigration card for the passport at the migración. 12 US $ per person mature. It is important to get a receipt for all payments. Finally the border police check all papers and might ask for some copies (they forget to collect ours); title and vehicle registration document are necessary. There was nothing to complaint about friendliness and helpfulness of the Central American borders so far, it was even fast.

After 40 km we reach the Pan Americana, single thoroughfare in Nicaragua. First city is Estelí. At the UCA Miraflor office (ask around in town) we check for a place for the night in the Miraflor nature reserve (no entrance fee) where there is ecologic farming besides hiking and horse riding. They confirm we can take the road, but 4WD is necessary in rainy season. There are some pretty deep brooks to cross. Finca Lindos Ojos was recommended to us, it has some space for parking., camping 5 US$ per night, N 13°14’30.2’’ W 86°15’21.7’’.

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