04.-08.01.2012: Taulabe Caves - Comayagua - Yuscaran - Somoto Canyon - Matagalpa - Tipitapa

Click on a photo to enlarge it.

Kirsten and Agnes went into the caves at Taulabe ($4 entrance) to see the stalactites and stalagmites whilst Helen took advantage of the sun and got lots of things out to dry - mats, ponchos, straps and shoes. Our fridge wasn't working on gas when we tried to put it back on this morning but all it took was to loosen one of the screws on the plate and Helen heard it clicking which meant that the gas was getting through again. No idea why but at least the fridge was working again.

We drove to Comayagua - a colonial town - and were rewarded with photos of a rainbow over the church. Comayagua hit the news only a few weeks later because of a prison fire - a prisoner set his mattress on fire and the guards fled with the keys. 300 prisoners died.

Shopping at Walmart in Comayagua

We stopped at a petrol station just outside town and Kirsten got on the roof to tape up around the fridge vent which is where all the rain water flooded into Winnie. The next day we needed to ask the police how to get through Tegucigalpa, the capital city because we missed the turn off for the ring road and couldn't find how to get back! So we just followed the police on their motorcycle!

We drove out to Yuscaran which is described in the Lonely Planet as a picture-postcard colonial mining town but did not live up to this description. However, we did get a personal tour of the museum and shown the huge puppets called Gigantes used for processions here.

We stopped for the night at Danlí near the Nicaraguan border at a petrol station for the night but were woken up at 5-45 am the next morning by the security guards demanding money! So we drove to a shopping mall and parked there for the morning to catch up on some sleep.

We had intended to go for a tour of the largest tobacco factory to watch cigars being rolled but when we got there they were closed for the week for a holiday. So we drove across the border into Nicaragua which took 2 hours. The Honduras side was chaos - everyone asking for money for this or that and telling us different things as to where we had to go and what we had to do.

There was also an argument about the vehicle permits for Honduras which are valid for 3 months and would therefore be valid for our return so that we wouldn't have to pay the $40 fee again. But we weren't allowed to keep them despite what it says on the permit. We also had to keep our wits about us so that we didn't get charged for other things they were demanding.

The Nicaraguan side was easy in comparison and cost us $27 for fumigation and passports. The vehicle permit was free.

The roads in Nicaragua are very good because there is hardly any traffic. The government gets petrol and diesel for free from Venezuela but everyone is charged around $5 per gallon (the money ends up in someone's pockets because it certainly doesn't reach the people). So people just can't afford to have cars.

We stayed at Somoto for two nights, parked on the street in front of the Hotel Panamericano where we organised a tour of the canyon for the following day. The tour cost $15 per person and our guide Reynell was very good and we really enjoyed the tour.

We started off at 9-30 am with a car ride where the guide had to sit in the boot! There was then a short walk of about 3 km with two river crossings. We thought we would have to wade through and so we had water shoes and neoprene socks with us as the water would be only 18 degrees. But it turned out that there were stepping stones and tree logs for us to use so we didn't get wet.

Then there was a 15 minute boat ride and another short walk to get as far into the canyon as possible without having to swim through. There is another tour approaching from the other side ($25) where there are several jumps into the water from heights of at least 12 feet and then you are constantly in and out of the water to get to the same place as we had just got to. But neither Kirsten nor Agnes could have managed the jumps so we did the oldies tour and still enjoyed it!

Somoto Canyon

Our next planned stop would have been Selva Negra which is supposed to be a wonderful resort with nature walks etc. Our first problem was the guard at the gate who wouldn't let us drive through. So Kirsten and Helmut walked to the reception except it was a very steep road up and quite a way from the gate.

In the meantime, the motor homes were blocking the gate - well of course, because we weren't allowed to drive through!! So by the time Kirsten and Helmut got back to say we could park there for $10 per night there were big queues at the gate!

But then Winnie couldn't get up the very steep hill and then Kirsten was accused of deliberately blocking the gate and the price doubled to $20 per night!!! So we drove off absolutely disgusted at the way we had been treated.

The good news was that it had started raining again up at Selva Negra and would continue to rain the whole time so we wouldn't have been able to do any walking anyway!

We decided to head further south and stayed at a petrol station where all the buses park for the night in Tipitapa.