As we left the beaches and volcanoes of Southern Nicaragua our next stop was to visit the two colonial towns of Granada and Leon. After the colonial history burst we planned to visit the highlands of Nicaragua, to a town called Esteli, and thus complete our set of the travelling hotpot of altitudes, climates and adventure.
Although a very much subconscious decision at the time, in hindsight it was evident that we were searching. Searching for what, we weren’t sure; some energy, some drive to carry on, a rise out of a travelling slump that we found ourselves in, some passion and excitement at the wonderful cultures and views that we were experiencing.
We had left Costa Rica a mere 8 days ago before entering the cobbled streets of Granada, but something in us had changed. We were tired. Tired both mentally and physically. The gregarious imposing churches were no longer exciting, intriguing or gregariously imposing. The lakes, volcanoes, hills, town squares, museums, local food, beers, cultures and people were either becoming common place or annoying. We didn’t have the enthusiasm or drive that we started out with, the enthusiasm or drive that bought us to these far off magical lands, the enthusiasm or drive to get excited about the next city or town. We wanted to give these amazing places more of our time and passion, but were finding it increasingly hard to find that energy as easily as waking up and being enthused about the day ahead.
We were in the travelling blues! I’d been in them before, seen them before in other people, experienced them first hand; this weird phenomenon that around the three to four month mark of a long trip backpackers loose the focus and wonder what they are doing. Some of the time people come out of them; sometimes they don’t and leave early, other times people carry on in vain attempts to find the lost passion that they had when they first jumped off the initial plane into the adventure that awaited them.
We knew we had to do something and spent a few nights over a few beers talking about what we personally wanted over the next 2-3 months. Our plans changed almost hourly, some purely through hypothetical conversations, some more defined and purposeful like trying to buy bus tickets to Panama, and others through research with twenty different flight prices and times open on the laptop. What did we want?
We came to two conclusions. Firstly that we needed a change; be that in culture, lifestyle, or continent, and secondly that we needed an end date. We realised mentally we needed a stop point, not a vague open-ended season that we might be home, but a flight booked home, or at least to some next stage in our journey.
We battled these inner demons for a wile before coming to the conclusion that travelling through Central America was coming to an end for us. With my mum and uncle arriving into Mexico for a holiday we used that as a date to meet up with them, and then devised extraordinary plans afterwards of myself flying to New Zealand then onto Vancouver to see my sister and friends respectively, with Han flying to Tel Aviv to visit a friend who had moved there previously and she hadn’t seen for a while, before both meeting back up in the UK near the end of February.
Suddenly our journey to far away lands sprang back to life. We had an end point, a focus, a drive, a goal to work towards; the grass started to grew greener on our side of the fence, the sun was not a hot sweat inducing annoyance, but a warmth giving ball of energy, and we were once again motivated, intoxicated with excitement of what was to come and what had come to pass.
We made future plans of visiting Esteli after Leon and Granada, then spending 5 days on the coast of El Salvador taking surf lessons, before finally flying to Cancun for a 9-day rest with the family finally closing the door on Central America.
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Leon awarded us with an amazing, eye-opening museum guided tour by one of the FSLN freedom fighters from the 1980’s during the Nicaraguan Revolution. “That’s me in the photo” he exclaimed as the reality of what he was saying dorned on us, the closeness we were to living history, the passion he was giving was not false but a living, breathing experience.
We walked on hole ridden collapse-fearing tin roofs, soaked up the 16th century history of the Granada and Leon and the stories, myths, figures and legends that that era produced as the two cities went to war, and paced the cobbled roads eating street food in the grand squares.
Esteli was this cowboy, leather boot wearing, cigar smoking mismatch of old and new that we both loved and enjoyed exploring, surrounded by remote hills and diverse nature. We jumped off cliffs, slid down waterfalls, boated through canyons and climbed up remote viewpoints. We bought hammocks, leather cowboy boots and an engagement ring. We got lost on runs, thought about learning more Spanish and thought better of it.
We stayed with a family on a local farm for a night just outside Esteli in the Miraflor area, chatting to our host about his role in the revolution and how life had changed for him over the past 5-10 years as electricity found its way into the hills. How he grew up and what he wanted from his children and the opportunities they had compared to what he had. We learnt about the farming and agricultural life that these amazing people have up in the hills outside of Esteli.
We moved onto El Salvador and crashed out on waves in the morning before munching through beach town grub in the evening. We found a craft beer pub and drank our way through the menu that was a refreshing change to the fizzy chemical induced generic lagers that we had been imbibing up-to that point. We learn to surf (or surf better in Han’s case) and met some amazing travellers and locals alike.
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It was one of the best two weeks of our trip. We had exorcised the travelling ghost, found our way out of the travellers slump and once again were embracing this amazing adventure that we were living.
I also proposed.
Han and I had been through a lot together in such a short amount of time. We had been apart as I travelled for four months at the beginning of our relationship, we had moved to Canada, lived together in Moseley and Solihull in the UK, then again in Vancouver for two years, and then decided to be in each others pockets even more for a further 4-5 months travelling. We knew it was right.
Originally when we set out from Vancouver many of our friends kept asking me if I was going to pop the question, and I always answered with evasive responses, wondering myself if the time and emotions were right. But as we travelled more I knew more and more with each passing month that I wanted to ask the question before we headed back to the UK. With our trip suddenly coming to a close, time was running out on our adventure and on the available opportunities.
With rings of any quality decidedly sparse over the next week as I tried to find a suitable donut shaped object of desire, I eventually plumped for a pendant and necklace of questionable quality, allowing Han and I to choose a ring together at a later date in a city where rings over $30 were not a rare exotic find. One evening in Esteli we headed out on a run to an overlook of the city and I popped the pendant into a pocket. I was nervous and excited and wondering how I was going to ask the question, but fate had other ideas. We got completely lost and found ourselves in the more slum-ish areas of the city, and backtracked home, an opportunity gone.
Two days later we were in the remote hills of Miraflor, and I manoeuvred our time to walk together up to the sunset views of the surrounding area. We were alone for a couple of hours slowly watching the sunset, the sun slowly descending beyond the far off hills, turning the lush greens to warming yellows, to hot reds, before I finally asked the question, acting before hand ‘weird and strangely quiet’. She of course said ‘Yes’ in tears of joy (after I prompted her I still needed and answer!?) and we walked back to our farm with a new relationship status in tow. Not having the Spanish or inclination to share the news with our hosts, we ate a dinner of eggs, rice and beans, found ourselves in bed reading by 6:45 and went to sleep by 8. Rock and roll people, Rock. And. Roll!
Our four to five month travelling tour had been an adjective strewn magical, mesmerising, amazing assortment of adventures, experiences, views, vistas, flora, fauna, food, people, animals, nature, cultures, history, and so much more. As I sit here, flying over Australia and the ocean below on my way to New Zealand to see my sister, I want to reflect and write about all the adventures we had in one big concise paragraph; but to do so would only be injustice to the adventures and experiences I fail to mention. We did so much, saw so much, went through highs and lows, collected our banes and crushes, found hidden locations of amazing beauty, followed and purposefully ran off the backpacker trail, lived with, in, around, and through some amazing people and cultures, and came back richer in a host of ways.
People say that life is a book and if you don’t travel you only get to read a page, and although I like the mantra and metaphor it creates, it feels to me elitist and closed. I would say life is more than a book. It’s an encyclopaedia of emotions and experiences, and as long as you enjoy and live your life the way you want to, striping away the bombardment of influences that pepper peoples views and stereotypes that shape what you think you should be doing, you’ll create your own unique collection of books that I know I’d want to read.
Travelling to me is something that I want in my books, its been an important part of my time here on earth so far, part of my life mantra, part of what I wanted and still want to do, and takes up more than its fair share of the pages. Hopefully you’ve enjoyed reading this small part of my book and carry on enjoying creating your own.
Central America, over and out.