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Peregrinations Mexico and Central America on Motorcycle: Open road, open heart, open mind.

Weeks 19 & 20: Little Corn Island part 1

NICARAGUA | Thursday, 28 July 2011 | Views [2939] | Comments [7]

Sigh. Can you hear the waves gently crashing on the shore? And the breeze in the palms?

Sigh. Can you hear the waves gently crashing on the shore? And the breeze in the palms?

As I was saying, I had a boat to catch.

Getting to Little Corn Island (LCI from here on out) can either be very simple and a bit pricey, or very complicated and quite cheap. Either you fly from Managua to Big Corn Island, or you go overland and overwater for miles upon miles, until you’re at your wits end. I chose the latter.

It began with a drive from Granada to El Rama, 300 miles east near the Caribbean coast. The drive was easy, and a bit boring, except for the beginning where I got pretty darn lost for awhile. Like many Central American countries, the signage is pretty good until you arrive at a four-way intersection and there are no signs to speak of. Then there are situations like this one:

Even though all the signs directed me down this road, the real road is three blocks to the north, where a reasonable bridge spans the river. They just hadn’t gotten around to moving the signs yet.

Along the way out to El Rama, I noticed for the umpteenth time something that has puzzled and amused me since the very beginning of this trip. Cities, towns, intersections, river crossings, and detours all may go unsigned, but you can bet your last dollar that every single bridge will be named, and it will have signs identifying it…in both directions, no less! This goes for every kind of bridge, including the most common one, which is nothing more than a glorified culvert. Like so:

I don’t get it. And I still can’t tell if I love it or hate it.

After I arrived in El Rama, I secured the bike at a local hotel (covered parking, US$15 for a month) and caught the lancha to Bluefields on the coast. The lancha fits about 20 people, and takes two hours to travel the long, broad muddy river down to the coast. The water is the color of tamarind pulp. Banana plantations and coconut palms line the shores.

Bluefields is truly the armpit of Nicaragua. I hate Bluefields. It’s one of those town where you can't walk one short block without feeling like prey the entire time. Even the locals take taxis to get around at night. It’s that skeezy. Fortunately, I only had to spend one night there, and my room had AC and a TV. I stayed in.

The next morning I caught the ferry from Bluefields out to Big Corn Island. This is a very cheap option, and takes about five hours. And, after suffering through it, I can honestly say that out of all the places I’ve traveled, and all the hellish ways I’ve gotten around, this one ferry ride takes the prize of Worst Trip of My Life. Hands down. What makes it so awful, you ask?

Well, for starters, it’s “organized” like only something in a third world country can be. First, everyone waits in line nearly an hour for a ticket. Then everyone gets on the boat. About half an hour later, when everyone is settled down and has a spot, everyone gets back off the boat. And then they get back on. Why? Because no one collected tickets the first time around. But here’s the kicker: they do it like that every single time. It’s how things are done. And even though tickets were sold, which implies there’s a capacity, the boat it packed to the gills so that everyone inside has seats, half the people outside have a bench to sit on, and the rest are left standing—for a five-hour trip on rough seas.

After I’d gotten back on board, I found myself squashed up against a railing with a few other gringos, while people without a place to stand filed through the narrow aisle in front of us. Suddenly, a Nicaraguan man stumbled and fell against me, and lodged himself there. No one was pushing on him from the other side. Why was he shoved up against me like that, then? Oh, because his hand was in my pocket. I looked down and watched him fish around in my pocket, grab a fistful of cash, and start to move away. And then I snapped. Not only was he a thief, he was a really bad one. I was absolutely livid. I grabbed his wrist, he dropped the money, and I proceeded to yell at him like I’ve never yelled at anyone in my life. I can’t even remember the crude and insulting things that came out of my mouth, but I’m pretty sure I ended it with, “You’re a filthy, rotten, scumbag thief, and if you don’t get the f&%¿ out of here right now, I will punch you in the f&%$ing face and throw you overboard!” Best of all, the people here speak English, so everyone in hearing distance knew what was going on. He left the boat in a hurry as everyone glared at him.

It took me awhile to stop shaking. I was that pissed off. I have zero tolerance for theft, and this was the first time I’d caught someone robbing me since I was pickpocketed in Africa five years ago. I think it was all the unspent rage from that incident coming out. When I stopped foaming at the mouth, everyone around me congratulated me and told me I’d handled the situation really well. Did I? Well, at least I had all my money.

All that happened before the boat even left the dock. And it only got worse. For the next six hours, we plowed through extremely rough seas. Even the locals were wide-eyed and hanging their heads over the side. The waves were so huge, my ears were popping between the peaks and troughs. It was raining cats and dogs, there was no protection, and waves kept rolling over the bow and drenching everyone with gallons upon gallons of warm saltwater, which then chilled in the stormy breeze. For a few hours in the middle I thought I was going to join the masses and get seasick. I just didn’t feel well at all. But my stomach stayed solid, and a few hours into the trip I felt okay. Well, not okay: I was soaking wet, crammed onto a wedge of bench, and convulsing from full-body shivers. It was utterly miserable. When we finally landed at Big Corn Island, I was wondering why I had to pay for that journey. It seemed like someone ought to have paid me.

And the trip wasn’t even over. I waited around the dock for an hour while the roster for another lancha was filled. While waiting around there, I thwarted a young boy who tried to steal another traveler’s bag off the dock. I was so sick and tired of people trying to take other peoples’ stuff, I about snapped that little kid’s head off. But the bag was saved.

The lancha ride to LCI was short and sweet compared to the previous adventure. Things finally began to look up when I arrived at the dock and was greeted by my friend Matthew, whom I’d met on the Mirador hike back in Guatemala. He’s on the island doing his dive master certification, or at least he would be if he stopped cutting his hands open on sharp objects. If you haven't met Matthew yet, here he is:

Ever since then, life has been awesome. That night, I found a room, showered the grime of travel off me, drank lemon grass tea, and went out to dinner with Matthew, where I began to meet more people on this island. And let me tell you, they’re all amazing. I have been having so much fun here, I can’t even begin to describe it all. There are bonfires and slacklining every Wednesday and Saturday. Friday nights are Pub Quiz night. Every Sunday, the whole island shuts down so the locals and gringos can play the national sport of Nicaragua: baseball. And Sunday night is Dysfunctional Family Dinner night. I spend most of my days either on the beach or SCUBA diving, and every evening I hang out with all my awesome new friends.

Speaking of diving, I know I mentioned this on Facebook, but for the rest of you: I have dived with both bottlenose dolphins and great hammerhead sharks since I’ve been here. It’s wild diving, and so beautiful, and so full of marine life I can’t even being to take it all in when I get down there. I’ve already gone on eleven dives, and I’m nowhere near being done.

So, the big news I suppose is that I’m not leaving LCI for awhile. I have made the decision to stay for at least another month, after having been here two weeks already. This means I will not be home in Spetember as I recently believed. It’s a pretty huge decision for me. What I’ve realized over the past few months, while spending time trapped in my helmet on long stretches of road, is that I have two serious addictions in my life: momentum and hoarding.

Momentum: Once I get going, I find it really hard to stop. I don’t even like to stop to take pictures when I’m on the bike unless I’m really blown away by something, or if I’m in a weird mood. I think the reason I always have momentum is because I always have a goal in mind: I’m going to go to Africa and travel aimlessly for three months, but I must fly out of Nairobi on this date; I’m going to go to South America and travel wherever I want for five months, but I must fly out of Quito on this date; I’m going to drive to Panama and back. Very directional, despite how much it feels like wandering. I’ve always believed that it’s about the journey, not the destination, but the destination has always been there.

But this trip is different. Once I realized I didn’t need to be back in the US at any certain time, I’ve felt a bit directionless. It took four months of knowing that, plus two weeks here on the beach to come to grips with the fact that that’s okay. I don’t even know if I’m going to go north or south when I’m done with LCI, or even when I’ll be done with LCI for that matter! And it’s totally, absolutely, 100% okay. I can’t tell you how nice it feels to say that and actually mean it.

Hoarding: The other addiction I have is monetary. You may laugh at this, but for the past three years I worked very hard and saved a lot of money, half of which I put into retirement, and half of which I put into a travel fund…but I’ve been trying not to use the travel fund. What kind of sense does that make? None whatsoever. It’s just another bad habit that needs breaking. And I think, if I play my cards right here on LCI, I will be breaking that habit in a big way. I plan on spending however much money I want to in order to have a good time and make the most of my stay here. I may ever get my dive master certification. Hells yeah.

So that’s where things stand for me right now. I realize this blog was way too long, but I had to make up for the fact that I’m probably not going to write again for awhile. After all, my life will be pretty static for the next month or more. But I’ll be available online for Facebook or email, so please stay in touch! You all know how I’m doing, but how the heck are you? Either email me, or leave a comment, or say hi on FB. I’d love to hear from you.

Until next time,




LCI could translate to Listening Clearly to Intuition! Simply love following your blog.

  Louise Smith Jul 29, 2011 12:11 AM


Thank you, glad you're enjoying it! Pictures are embedded now, so the stories should make a bit more sense! Sarah

  alpiner84 Jul 29, 2011 6:35 AM


Love ya girl and don't have an email for you? So nice to hear from you and always thinking of you :) Have a blast!!

  bobbie Jul 29, 2011 1:36 PM


Wow. Really, I'm speechless. Absolutely brilliant. ROck on Sarah,


  Eric D Jul 29, 2011 11:09 PM


Awesome! I have had so much fun reading these updates and reflecting on the events, pictures, and your personal struggles as I am going through some of the same thoughts and deliberations. Will be sad to see no updates for a while, but I bet the next one will be a doozy!

Good luck with everything!

(PabloDiablo on the xt225 forums)

  Paolo Di Carlo Jul 30, 2011 1:12 AM


Again, you have brought tears to my eyes. I am so happy for you, it looks like you are in paradise!


  Kelly Aug 6, 2011 3:47 AM


Hi Sarah!

I know that this post is a little out of date, but I stumbled upon it in my research of Little Corn Island. A friend and I are planning to travel there in late February/early March, and if possible I would love to get in contact with you to discuss it! We are also planning to stay at Three Brothers, and were wondering about getting in contact with Randy and Lucila. My email is rachellcoon@gmail.com and I hope to hear from you!!



  Rachel Coon Oct 13, 2013 4:51 AM

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