Two people exploring the world, seeking adventure & unique experiences.
Disaster and frustration on the way to Somoto
We started the day taking an express interlocal shuttle from Leon to Esteli (70cords ea / $2.80 – 2 hours). From here we caught the regular chicken bus to Somoto (28cords ea / $1.12 – 2 hours) as it was pulling out of the station. Toby had an uncomfortable trip on the interlocal as his legs had been squashed against him; he chose to put his day pack in the overhead section for some extra leg space. Typically this wouldn’t be too much of a problem as valuables would be in our pockets. This turned into a perfect storm where Toby had taken his wallet out to pay for the bus. Toby had also used his phone to call our accommodation in Somoto to tell them we were on the bus. Someone had been watching this and then watched Toby put both items into his day pack. Somehow along that bus trip, they had unzipped the pack and taken both the wallet and phone and then closed it again. We therefore didn’t find out until we arrived in Somoto. We think it happened when someone dropped chips/nachos on him. Luckily we had emergency money in a money belt so we used this for the trip. Our host Henry was also amazingly helpful in helping Toby find wifi at a hotel to skype the bank to cancel the bank card and then to Police station to report the theft.
We look back at this now as a serious lesson in being careful. We lost about US$300 in cash and once again had to wait for a new bank card to be posted to us. It feels bad to not trust people, but it is a bit of fight for survival at times. We will be making more use of padlocks on our bags to make them harder to access.
Our amazing hosts at Somoto Canyon
As mentioned earlier, our host was Henry Soriano (phone 8610-7642) and his very large family. Their house, comedor and accommodation is all together located at one of the entrances to the Canyon about 12km outside of the town of Somoto. They have dorms for $7 and private rooms (unsure of price).
When we met Henry for the first time we were surprised as he was taller than Toby i.e. more than 6ft 2 which is very rare in Central America. So the first thing we asked him was where did you buy your shoes? Toby has had an ongoing saga with finding his shoe size anywhere in Central America. Henry showed us around his “home/casa” located right next to the canyon. Henry and his family are very friendly and welcoming making you feel like you’re in a local homestay.
Visiting the Canyon
Somoto Canyon is described as Nicaragua’s Grand Canyon. The canyon is believed to have formed 5 to 13 million years ago; however the most interesting fact is it wasn’t discovered until 2004 for tourism, making it a relatively new untouched attraction.
Our first afternoon was spent on a hike to two viewpoints to see the canyon, which was around a 1.5 hour round trip hike from Henry’s place. The viewpoints were spectacular and the views were great with the sun setting and displaying orange colours in the sky and canyon. We were joined by another couple from the United States who we shared some stories with to pass the time as we hiked up and down yet more hills.
The next day we woke up early to eat a tasty breakfast of fruit, yoghurt and granola. At the end of the hike we admitted we probably needed to eat even more than we did as it’s a high energy day. We had chosen the “Full Canyon” tour which is meant to take 4-6 hours to complete ($30ea). There is also an option for the half canyon of 3-4 hours ($25). Henry was extremely helpful in organising some used shoes we could wear for the tour so we didn’t wreck or get wet the shoes that we had.
There would be 4 of us plus a guide on the tour, with the two American’s we’d met the day before coming along. We’d been told to only bring a bottle of water and a camera. We met our guide who was one of Henry’s many brothers at 8am and departed in a taxi to the main entrance a few kilometres further down the road.
The tour is really whatever you want it to be in terms of danger, excitement, jumping, diving and anything in between. Most people have been asking us whether anyone could do it and how dangerous it was. In general you almost don’t ever have to jump from a big height at any point of the tour. People with a keen sense of danger will love some of the much bigger jumps that do exist.
The start of the tour is a short walk through an access road to pay our access fee. There is a big difference between wet and dry season that you should be aware of. We were there on the 1st of March and it had been dry season for the best part of 3 months by this time. This meant the water level was low, temperature quite warm and not much flow. Our guide told us that during wet season there are regular days where the depth and danger is too high and tours can be cancelled. When we looked at the canyon walls for signs of high water lines, it is very easy to see why.
Our hike started along rocks that you could swim through if the water was higher. Our guide then offered to carry our water and camera’s so they wouldn’t get lost or damaged. The first part was easy by sliding into the water and getting wet before a short swim. We continued along the canyon getting in and out of the water and experiencing the tranquility and beauty of the high canyon walls.
It wasn’t long before we got to our first jump. This was one of the smallest jumps of the day and Rodora was happy to participate. Rodora was amazed at how cool the water was since it was deep and didn’t see much sunlight due to the high canyon walls. Toby took a slightly higher jump from the same location.
After our first jump we swam to rock ledge on the other side and continued our way down the canyon. Wow what a view we were totally surrounded by the beautiful canyon.
The rest of the tour continued with a range of jumps, climbing and swimming. The biggest jump of the day even Toby was initially hesitant with. You could jump at virtually any height you felt comfortable at. The main ones were 5 metres, 10 metres and then one at around 20 metres. Toby took the 10 metre jump (seen in the photo below). We think our guide probably has a bit of a laugh at how tentative we are with doing these jumps. At this same point our guide would climb 2 different times to the highest point at somewhere around 20 metres and show no fear.
At one point we came across some other locals who had brought some horses and a donkey to the river side for some refreshment. The donkey must have been quite young and loved the attention we all gave it. The moment we started walking down the trail the donkey immediately followed us probably in a hope that we had some food to give it. It took a few minutes before our guide with a smile on his face sent it back in the direction of its owner.
The tour then comes out the other side of the canyon at which point you get into a very small and unstable boat to be rowed to a walking trail that you can take out of the canyon.
We had initially decided to skip going to Somoto Canyon and going directly to Leon earlier in our trip. I highly recommend taking a Chicken bus through Honduras to come through Somoto and probably also through Matagalpa before heading into Leon and then the regular trail southward to Granada and beyond. It really is quite unique, beautiful and a whole lot of fun.
Plenty more to explore. Keep following the blog and our Flickr account for updates. http://www.flickr.com/photos/toraadventure/