Paradise Lost (and found)

Have you ever wanted to swim in an enormous freshwater caldera formed from a massive volcanic eruption? Well I can’t say I had thought about it too frequently before coming to Nicaragua, but after hearing about Laguna de Apoyo it wasn’t something we were going to miss.

 

After a hop, skip and an eternity waiting in a bus station, we had left Leon and had only one more bus to catch. The first bus was to Managua and the second to Masaya where we asked one of the crazy conductors to let us off at the road to the Laguna.

 

After being pointed the way we need to go we set off. Being poor students, we hate spending money but do enjoy walking so the best option for us was just to walk to the hostel. The walk was two thirds uphill and the rest downhill and exclusively in that order. No one else was walking along the road and we only saw locals on their farms. A few times the tourist shuttle buses came past us with people looking at us with a disbelief that I thought was reserved for viewing impossibilities such perpetual motion or someone on Geordie Shore being able to name which animal goes moo and what number comes after 12.

 

Road to Laguna de apoyo Nicaragua
An uphill struggle on the path to Paradiso

 

After reaching the rim of the crater the views were incredible, we were a little bit weary and in need of a cocktail. The downhill section was fun, with lots of howler monkeys in the trees above the road and constant views of the lagoon. Beforehand I had looked up good hostels on the lagoon’s edge and had decided that Hostel Paradiso was our best bet but upon reaching the bottom anywhere would have done me. Brendan urged me to keep going to Paradiso. We arrived and to our horror the dorm room was full, they offered us a private room but $30 was over double our budget for a night so we told them we couldn’t manage that price and were ready to walk away. Instead, seeing the eager look in our eyes to start a strawberry daquiri addiction that would last the duration of the trip, they offered us the private room. This was for one night and they gave us the same price as the dorm then we could move into there for the rest of our stay.

 

Howler monkey Laguna de Apoyo Nicaragua
A picture paints a thousand words but it can’t show the gruff barks of these monkeys as you pass below them

 

The Hostel

 

After moving into our clean room, free from the deeply entrenched smell of well-travelled human beings that defines a dorm room, we went out to explore the hostel. Usually in a hostel there isn’t much to explore, not Hostel Paradiso though. At the top of the place was a massive partly covered terrace with sofas and hammocks and the most expensive private rooms, here is where I spent a good two and a half hours when I was in a bad mood due to some pretty bad sunburn. However, listening to my music as the sun went down and the fireflies came out did everything to cheer me up. Outside some of the private rooms there was a café/breakfast area looking over the lagoon. Below this were the main dorm rooms, which weren’t particularly nice, more functional than accommodating. Other than this there was a ping pong table, a TV surrounded by hammocks and sofas, a pool table, a stone pizza oven, a boules area, and a beach. The boules and pool table were of course the sites of a staunch battles to become king of Paradiso. I wear my crown proudly.

On the beach, there was a sizeable bar, with plenty of seating. There were also kayaks to hire, and out on the lagoon was a floating pontoon which was perfect to swim out to anytime of the day or night. One morning I was awake before everyone else (which never happens), I got up and had a swim out to the pontoon and just lay their alone in the early morning sun, it was quiet and very serene.

Laguna de Apoyo Nicaragua
A morning swim?

 

People

 

We’ve had ‘Man vs Food’, we’ve had ‘Man vs Wild’, but we’ve never had ‘Man vs Tree’. That is until now. An English man by the name of Jack was spotted by the bar, downing double rum and cokes like they were shots. This was made even more impressive due to the fact that he wasn’t able to control his face enough to say his own name. We were already astounded but then things turned dark. Jack turned around, eyes wide with rum fuelled fury, he spotted this shady looking tree in the corner and decided it had wronged him. Jack took no prisoners and after watching enough of a man try and hit a tree while struggling to stand up in the first place, we decided we’d try and take him back to his room. Now, Jack at the beginning was very cooperative and friendly, however once we got him closer to where we thought his room was, he got a bit more hostile thinking we were being rude to him and in the confusion, fell through a bush and down a hill, at this point we realised there wasn’t much to be done and left him. The next night we did realise that he was a nice guy, who drinks way too much (nearly drowning in the lagoon this night) and who doesn’t have any previous altercations with trees.

 

Returning to Brendan, from the aforementioned sunburn rest on the hammock, I found him amongst many people, our favourites were undeniably Ash and Dave (Hutch and Duds). This couple were up there with our favourite people we had met, they were from New Zealand and at this point, thanks to our awful name forgetting affliction we had no idea what to call them. We met them in 3 different places through our travels, here at the Lagoon, and twice in Panama. It was only in Panama, under the influence of the brilliant social lubricant that is alcohol, that we found out what we should call them. Turns out we were calling one the nickname for the other. They were very fun, very friendly and a great couple. He was super chilled, while she was crazy and loud. We loved them.

 

Intense Eric. A man who could talk for Canada. A man who drove Justin Trudeou around once. A man who showed us the same photos of his girlfriend countless times. Hours passed with this late 20s drunk Canadian and we hardly got a word in edgeways but he was undeniably friendly and interesting, just a little bit repetitive and a little bit overbearing. A very intense few hours of my life.

 

Finally, and arguably most importantly, some Irish guys who we instantly forgot the names of but gave us the holy grail of travel essentials, the access to offline maps. The app is called maps.me, it is more detailed than google maps, it has practically every accommodation on there, bakeries, ATMs. You name it, it’s there. Also, the footpaths, from obvious to very obscure, were all on there making exploring much less arduous and you knew much more confidently where to go.

 

Final thoughts

 

Laguna de Apoyo was one of the most picturesque places we went to during our travels in Central America. We didn’t want to leave the beautiful views, the multitude of activities or the fun people. Yet, our wallets were feeling the strain of the regular trips to the beach bar and buying food at the hostel (which normally we would avoid like the plague) but there were no cheap roadside restaurants here. Reluctantly we got on the tourist shuttle to Grenada for the next leg of our journey.

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