----------------------------------------------- Google Site Map ----------------------------------------------- Cindy in ...: Nicaragua: El Castillo

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Nicaragua: El Castillo

Three hours on a boat to get there, and about the same to get back. Enough time to visit a fort, walk around town a bit, and have lunch. Sounds like a bad day trip, doesn't it? Wrong. Of course, it would have been nicer to stay overnight, but the day trip to the tiny town of El Castillo was great. Especially since I remembered not to dip my fingers in the water and tempt the river sharks.

El Castillo is located on the south side of the San Juan river, in the little band of land that is in Nicaragua. Further down, the river becomes the border, but it is still all in Nicaragua. Costa Rica starts on the bank.

Going down the river, we zigzagged back and forth, dropping off and picking up passengers and cargo at unexpected spots. People got off in the middle of a field, or the boat pulled up to a small clearing in what appeared to be jungle to take on a few passengers. We even called at a fancy resort.

At one point we stopped at field with nothing but a red flag flying on a five foot pole. Men from the boat leaped ashore, picked up a bundle of long bamboo poles, lashed them to the roof, and we motored off again. A little later, a boat pulled alongside and a couple of passengers transfered to our boat. A connection? Had they missed us at one of our frequent stops and hired a sort of taxi to catch up? I'll never know.

The passengers watched the river, pointing things out to each other. My seatmate slept most of the trip, but when he was awake he would gesture for me to look up at a soaring bird, or to the other side of the boat, where a caiman was swimming.

The town of El Castillo was founded around a Spanish fort (El Castillo), set at a bend in the river. It was captured by the British at one point, by a force that included Admiral Nelson, although he was only a lieutenant then.

I walked up to the fort, a bit worried because it was 11:45, it closed for lunch from 12:00 to 1:30, and the return boat was leaving at 2:00. The woman at the gate took me to her office and collected my $2, took a picture of me, and told me to take as long as I wanted. A half hour later, her office was locked and I found her sitting on the steps leading out of the fortf, waiting for me, as long as it was going to take. We walked down the hill together, agreeing that El Castillo was 'muy tranquillo' and 'muy bonita'.

After finding a restaurant overlooking the water that was open, and scaring up a waitress, the only thing left was to explore El Castillo's main, and nearly only, street. Most of the visitors were there to fish, or to visit a nearby national park. Then suddenly it was 1:50 and I had to pick up the pace a little to make sure I made the boat back.

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