Christmas was just around the corner and whilst we killed some time in Managua before our flight we visited the local shopping centre to stock up on some good stuff for Christmas. Very quickly we both realised that this year Christmas would be a bittersweet affair. Last Christmas we were barely one month into our journey, the excitement of over a year on the road ahead meant we enjoyed the novelty of holidays on the beach. Whilst shopping for sweets and drink we both felt a little homesick, not just for our absent family and friends but also for the other things that make a Christmas – drinks with friends, mince pies and Christmas puddings , even office parties. Luckily we were no longer alone and would be spending it with our new friends. We had lots of local rum, cigars and silly hats in the bag.
Getting to Little Corn Island is a bit of a mission. It’s possible to get a boat to Big Corn Island on a local boat but it’s a long journey, the seas are BIG and sea sickness is a given. We splurged a little and booked a flight from Managua to Big Corn Island where we would have to take a short water taxi to Little Corn.
The airline was not the most professional service I’ve experienced, the boarding cards were big lumps of blue plastic that had been altered over time by passengers. After being unable to start one of the engines on the plane we were taken off and herded back into the waiting lounge whilst engineers prodded and poked around until they got it started. A slightly less enthusiastic group were ushered onto the plane by the grinning pilot, reassuring everybody not to worry and have a nice day. The boat to Little Corn Island was not at all bad. The internet is full of horror stories of huge waves and swells, lost luggage and tears but we didn’t suffer any of it.
Little Corn Island is a tiny island, only three square kilometres; there are no roads, just a few paths along the west coast. Transport is bike or cart and the atmosphere is laid back. Most locals can be found horizontal in hammocks all day. It’s Christmas so we splurged again, booking into probably the only real hotel on the island. We have a balcony, air conditioning and a bathroom with electricity from 2pm – 5am, luxury. No hot water still though, that would be asking too much.
We had a few days before the others arrived and they flew by. We were instantly infected by the local condition – acute laziness. Our days went like this –bed to beach to bar to beach to bar to bed. We loved this place, at first it appeared a little cliquey, all the bars and dive shops (about four of them) had groupies and we felt like outsiders. But after a few days, we got to know everybody and were treated like family. As usual we got to know the local dog population well and gained some canine company on our balcony in the evenings. Leah made friends with the hotel monkey, Rosa. She didn’t like me so much but I wasn’t too fussed, she smelt quite bad.
Once our friends arrived the days quickly became a routine. Swimming on the beach, drinks on our balcony followed by happy hour at Tranquilo bar and restaurant. Tranquilo’s sells the best burgers I’ve tasted anywhere in the world as well as an impressive British fish and chips.
Christmas day started with Leah and me opening our stockings we had bought for each other, stupid toys and sweets – a tradition Leah was not going to give up even if we were on the other side of the planet. We spent the day on the beach, started a sand castle competition (which we thought we should have won) played some pool , followed by cigars and drinks on our balcony, finishing the day with a Christmas dinner of lobster and steak. All very different but all very nice.
Little Corn Island is the first place we have visited on our trip where we really thought we could settle down for a while. I’m not thinking forever but easily for 6-12 months. We really will miss this place, especially the dogs!
There is a darker side to Little Corn which cannot be ignored. The island is a major refuelling station for cocaine smugglers coming up from Colombia heading to the US. When boats are intercepted by local police the smugglers will dump their cargo overboard. Kilogram blocks of cocaine regularly wash up on the beaches here, the locals call it ‘White Lobster’. They have the option of selling it back to the Colombians or keeping it for themselves. On the mainland there is even, in the midst of wooden shacks and mud streets, a spanking new concrete internet centre funded by the Colombians, built to enable locals to contact them if they wish to sell back lost ‘produce’. Luckily all this nonsense went unnoticed by us, locals accepted us with open doors and warm smiles. We will not be thanking them, however, for the local delicacy ‘run down stew’. A giddy brew of crab, lobster, conch and root vegetables. I thought it was hideous.
We thought this would be a final farewell to our friends but it turns out that the Swiss couple have made identical plans for New Year in Guatemala. So we sadly say goodbye for now to Josh from Alaska and Paola from Italy, thanks guys we had a great month.
Next, it’s a quick stop in Honduras before heading into Guatemala. Only 7 weeks left!