Two people exploring the world, seeking adventure & unique experiences.
Shuttle from Leon to Managua Airport
We woke up early on the morning of travel to finish packing and buy any remaining supplies from the local market (to reduce the cost of groceries for the time we were in the Corn Islands). Rodora only took one change of clothes so she could fill her bag with groceries. Rodora’s carry-on bag was mainly food and weighed nearly 10kg.
We decided to have a typical Nicaraguan breakfast at Comedor Lucia across the road from our hostel because we weren’t sure what the lunch options would be at the airport. Unfortunately with the language barrier, we ended up only ordering two different egg meals with no sides from the menu instead of a set meal (it was cheap though) which defeated the purpose of eating out. We then went back to our hostel to pack. With 15 minutes to spare, we fell into another language misunderstanding. We thought we could leave our bags at the hostel for 10 days. They said we could leave for the rest of the day but not for 10 days as they didn’t have space. Our only option then was to go across the road to BigFoot and rent a locker for $2 per day.
We then went next door to where our Airport shuttle would pick us up from. This is actually a laundry and internet café as well as tour agency all rolled into one. We’d chosen this shuttle like our other shuttles again for convenience. It was scheduled to leave at 10am (it left right on time) and arrive at the airport by 12.30pm (we were there just before 12pm). Our flight was scheduled to leave at 2pm, so this would be perfect. Our alternative would be chicken buses or special shuttles which would likely only take us into Malaga where we would need to pay for a taxi out to the airport. The cost for the shuttle was $12 per person and with the promise of air conditioning, we were sold. This was a fairly comfortable but still typical 15 or so seat mini-vans. Toby grabbed the front seat for this one to get maximum leg room.
When we arrived at the airport, we were a little confused at the start. We knew we needed the La Costeña airline which runs domestic flights on little planes including to the Corn Islands. The international terminal there is quite big and modern with a fairly large food court including international options such as Subway. The La Costeña terminal is a tiny thing just off to the side, not directly connected to the international terminal. It has 2 check-in counters and then you go almost immediately through security into quite a small waiting area. What was strange was they actually weighed us and our baggage together. When I saw the plane it became quite clear as to why they did this. The typical plane they had 12 passenger seats plus pilot and co-pilot. Rodora felt like she was in Nepal all over again. The problem with these planes is you can feel every bump, and Rodora doesn’t fly well even at the best of times. What made it worse was we ran into some rain towards Big Corn Island, so it got a little rough at times. Rodora didn’t let go of the seat in front of her the whole ride. The plus side though was the view was absolutely amazing until the clouds and rain blocked the view.
Later on, after sharing stories with other travellers we found out there was actually a larger plane carrying 40-50 people to the island. This makes more sense as three little planes leaving at the same time with three pilots wouldn’t be cost effective. However its luck of the draw on what you get.
Getting to the Corn Islands by boat
We took the plane but we had read of the other option to take a boat from Bluefields (on the Caribbean coast of Nicaragua) to get to the islands. We’d even discussed it with some other travellers in the weeks leading up to our arrival on the islands. In our opinion, the only reason you should consider this is if you have a large amount of time to travel and you’re trying to be extra cheap. The boat as of January 2014 is usually just the supply boat which runs maybe one or two times a week. The schedule can change without notice and delays should be expected for bad weather. The typical run takes 15 hours overnight and costs $12 per person, which included a bed to sleep on. One traveller described it as the worst 15 hours of his life and even with a free return trip paid for the plane instead. Two people we met at our hostel didn’t seem to mind it too much but they are also trying to be super budget travellers, however one of the guys said he doesn’t get seasick, but because everyone was throwing up and your inside the smell, as its filled with motion sick people and random animals is quite horrendous.
This is compared to our previously described 1.5 hour flight from Managua costing $82.11 per person one way plus some other fees such as a credit card fee or administration of $36 for our total two person return transaction. We also had to pay an airport use fee of 51 Cordoba’s each just after check-in and before security.
Big Corn Island
We arrived at Big Corn Island after an hour and a half flight. Rodora was glad to reach solid ground and get out of the tiny plane. When we got off the plane we were sniffed by a dog as drug trafficking is a problem on these islands and went to get a taxi. This is when it became apparent we were on island time. We waited about half an hour until our taxi had another 2 people to fill the taxi and we could go to our hotel (less than 15 minutes away). There are set prices for taxis on the island, 20 cords ($0.80) per person from the airport to anywhere. We chose a hotel in Brig Bay that was about a 5-10 minute walk to the Little Corn Island boat harbour. The place was called Hotel Ruppie and it was very basic but cheap at only $10 for the night. What was weird was there seemed to be a lot of locals staying there as well. We then set off for dinner and found a street vendor located a 5 minute walk towards the airport just past the bank/ATM. She was selling fried chicken with banana chips and coleslaw all put in a plastic bag for easy take away. It smelt so good we had to get some. It was absolutely delicious. Cost was only 70 cords ($2.80).
The next morning we went out for breakfast as we didn’t have a kitchen in our hotel. We went to a local Comedor on the way to the port. We paid 100 cords ($4) each for a typical breakfast including coffee. We didn’t really shop around but assumed this was the going rate as we were on an island.
At breakfast we discovered one local by the name of Charlie who clearly had his brain parked on a different planet. He had come up directly behind us as we were looking for breakfast. I hadn’t seen where he came from but as we walked in for breakfast, the owner clearly knew who he was and told him to go away as he followed us in and came to our table to stare at us. It was then that I noticed him return to a group of people on the water side of the road. He would then walk up to each set of tourists walking down the street. In my opinion, he was getting way too close for comfort on each occasion and invading people’s personal space. I heard on a couple of occasions as someone from the group offered passers-by “do you want some ganja man?” In other words this was the group to find if you needed some weed or other drugs for your island vacation. To other travellers who are walking up and down this road, just be aware of the situation or take the taxi directly to the dock.
Shortcut from the airport to the ferry
We discovered on our return to Big Corn Island that you can walk across the runway and use it as a very handy shortcut to get to Brig Bay and the Ferry to Little Corn Island. The only problem is that the taxi is likely to get you there quicker, but if you do what we did by staying on Big Corn, then you don’t really need a taxi. Have a look at the following map we created to show you where to go. When the flights come in and out, they have security people blocking access, so you might need to ask them to go past if they’re blocking access.
Plenty more to explore. Keep following the blog and our Flickr account for updates. http://www.flickr.com/photos/toraadventure/