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Thread: San Carlos, Rio San Juan, and Solentiname Archipelago

  1. #1
    Active TRN Member StickMan's Avatar
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    Default San Carlos, Rio San Juan, and Solentiname Archipelago

    Spent a few days being a tourist in the southest of the country last week.

    Started out with a 5+ hour mini-bus ride from Managua, up and around the east side of Lake Managua, through Tipitapa, Juigalpa, and down the east side of Lake Nicaragua to San Carlos. After a quick lunch, we walked to the waterfront to load the group into a panga for a ride down the Rio San Juan. Hard wooden seats, but a 115hp Suzuki engine to speed things along, and a canopy to provide some shade.

    Under the bridge being built by the Japanese government that was in drlemcor's post a while back. Supposedly, this bridge will be a primary connector for imports/exports between Nicaragua and Costa Rica. A quick stop in Sabalos to check in with the Navy. (Seems this is an important part of any river trip. Our guide took all our names, nationalities, passport numbers, etc. and had them on a list. Several times during our trip, we stopped to show the list to the Nicaraguan Navy personnel at key locations.)

    On to El Castillo where we toured the fortress. It was pretty impressive. We were not allowed to take pictures in the museum, but could at the fortress itself. Lots of up and down - steep steps, but the views were pretty great.

    After El Castillo, we headed to the north shore of the river in order to be able to clear the Raudal del Diablo rapids. Our guide indicated that the water is only a few meters deep most of the time here, and a lot of rocks at this location made for careful travel. Then on east (down river) to Refugio Bartolo, our stop for the night. It was about 3 hours from San Carlos to Bartolo and was dark by the time we arrived (and, of course, had to stop and check in with the Navy).

    Accommodations for the night were pretty basic, but comfortable. Each room at the "hotel" had beds with clean sheets and a mosquito net. The windows were openings covered with wooden shutters that you could either close and latch (for what reason, I don't know), or leave open to let some night air in. Unfortunately, because it had rained for the past 4 days straight with limited sunshine, their solar electrical system was not fully charged. When they shut off the generator at 2:00AM, it was you and your flashlight to get around. One thing I have to say about Hotel Bartolo is they have great food. It was prepared well, and served in courses. It was an extremely pleasant surprise since I had expected nothing more than basics. Each course served on white china.

    Next morning, it was up before breakfast for a hike through the rain forest. Not everyone in our group wanted to go, and that turned out to be a good thing. Because of the mentioned rain, they supplied us with gum boots for hiking - and they were necessary. Saw spider monkeys, and heard howlers (but never saw any), lots of plants and insect species. Also spied some tracks that appeared cat-like, but never did see any cats. Breakfast was as enjoyable as dinner the night before, again prepared and served in courses.

    After breakfast, back into the boat for a slow ride up the Bartolo river for some nature sightseeing. Many species of plants, a river croc, turtles, juvenile iguanas, and monkeys. Back at the hotel for lunch and a trip back up river. Stopped again at Sabalos for a check-in and gas, then on to El Castillo. We had to be dropped off down river from the town and walk through town since our load coming up river against the current was too much for the boat at the rapids. The boat then picked us back up on the other side at the same place we had stopped to visit the fortress the day before.

    Stopped in San Carlos to get some supplies and a second boat before heading out across Lake Nicaragua toward the island of San Fernando in the Solentiname Archipelago. That was a little bit of a bumpy ride, due in part (per our driver) because of the full moon. Arrived at Hotel Cabañas Paraiso to check in and have dinner. Accommodations were better here, likely due to being closer to "civilization" but the food was not as good. It was still good, just not as good as Bartolo. After dinner, some got back on the boat for a slow cruise around some of the islands trying to spot caiman. Unfortunately, we never did see any, and several people were falling asleep on the boat before we got back to the hotel.

    Up the next day, breakfast, and onto the boat for a trip to a wildlife reserve at the south of Lake Nicaragua. The ride across the lake was fine, and we sure got a lot of great opportunities to see birds, lizards, iguanas, plant species, etc. on the slow trip toward Guatuzos. Our guide as well as our boat driver both knew exactly what to watch for and when we heard the boat get popped into idle mode, we waited for our guide to point out what one of them had spotted. It sometimes took us quite a while to see what he was trying to point out. "See, on the branch that goes straight up, there is what looks like a vine hanging from it. On the right end of the vine is a little black and white bird about the size of large hummingbird." WTH??? Oh, yeah! There it is (after a minute and half of staring.)

    After about a 3 hour trip, we stopped in Guatuzos for a quick soda and a walk through town and out toward the Costa Rican border to check out cocao plantations, coffee fields, etc. Located a caiman floating lazily in the river here. Back on the boat and back to San Fernando for dinner and relaxation. Decided to do a little swimming at the dock to cool off.

    Next morning, back on the boat for a quick trip to an island to check out the artisans that make a lot of the artwork that is sold in the markets in Nicaragua, and a visit to another island that had been designated as a bird sanctuary. Here we saw many pato-chanchos (cormorants), black headed vultures, and what we had come to see - roseate spoonbills. Our guide had said this is the time of year that they come to the island for nesting and breeding. After about a half hour of bird watching, it was off to San Carlos for a quick lunch and back into the bus for the 5+ hour ride to Managua.

    A great trip and I would highly recommend it to anyone.
    Attached Images Attached Images
    "Find out what it is in life that you don't do well - and then don't do that thing." -The most Interesting Man in the World

  2. #2
    House SOB Little Corn Tom's Avatar
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    Default Re: San Carlos, Rio San Juan, and Solentiname Archipelago

    Nice post and great pictures!
    Life's different here ... It's a whole 'nother pace.

  3. #3
    Viejo del Foro Just Plain John Wayne's Avatar
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    Default Re: San Carlos, Rio San Juan, and Solentiname Archipelago

    Absolutely a GREAT post....

    It takes my back a bit to reading "Twain's" cronical adventure on the same trip....

    He went all the way to Greytown and then into the Atlantic, or was it the other way around that he wrote about?

    I have made the trip both way's twice...

    I would not trade the adventure for nothing...

    Not many Free Range Adventurers get to do something like that...

    Nice pictures BTW...
    To be called a "Has Been" I must surmise, is much Greater than to be called a "Nevah Been"... JW...



  4. #4

    Default Re: San Carlos, Rio San Juan, and Solentiname Archipelago

    Sounds like a great trip. Thanks for the review and pics.

  5. #5
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    Default Re: San Carlos, Rio San Juan, and Solentiname Archipelago

    What a great trip that must have been! Thanks.

  6. #6

    Default Re: San Carlos, Rio San Juan, and Solentiname Archipelago

    Great shots! thanks for posting and bringing back some great memories, I did this trip a few years back. Flew into San Carlos and took the local water taxi to El Castillo spent two days and came back. Looks like you saw a lot more with the tour.

  7. #7
    Viejo del Foro Daddy-YO's Avatar
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    Default Re: San Carlos, Rio San Juan, and Solentiname Archipelago

    Hey Stickman, thanks for the upbeat and detailed report. And yes indeed, you did get some really outstanding pics there.


    I want to do that tour, to take the family. Who organized it? Are they in Managua? Was it a complete package? What'd they charge? Was the highway to San Carlos smooth going? 5 hours ain't near as bad as it once was.


    It looks like the Japanese completed the international bridge. Anyone know when it'll open for tourist travel? Anything to avoid the clog at Penas Blancas.
    I never met a Semite I didn't like.

  8. #8

    Default Re: San Carlos, Rio San Juan, and Solentiname Archipelago

    We went to San Carlos in April, took about 4 hours at 4am. Road was perfect, nothing to slow us down. We were in a toyota helice? van.

  9. #9
    Viejo del Foro Just Plain John Wayne's Avatar
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    Default Re: San Carlos, Rio San Juan, and Solentiname Archipelago

    There is also a San Carlos in Costa Rica....

    I went there by truck one time from Puntaranas CR...

    Funny all the Tico's when ya mention San Carlos they ALWAY'S did end it with "El Culo del Mundo"

    Now tell me I didn't learn my Spanish from hanging with the right people.....
    To be called a "Has Been" I must surmise, is much Greater than to be called a "Nevah Been"... JW...



  10. #10
    Active TRN Member StickMan's Avatar
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    Default Re: San Carlos, Rio San Juan, and Solentiname Archipelago

    Quote Originally Posted by Daddy-YO View Post
    Hey Stickman, thanks for the upbeat and detailed report. And yes indeed, you did get some really outstanding pics there.


    I want to do that tour, to take the family. Who organized it? Are they in Managua? Was it a complete package? What'd they charge? Was the highway to San Carlos smooth going? 5 hours ain't near as bad as it once was.


    It looks like the Japanese completed the international bridge. Anyone know when it'll open for tourist travel? Anything to avoid the clog at Penas Blancas.
    Thanks all. I got lucky on some of the pictures. (Looks like I can't put blank lines in again to make this more readable.) Daddy-Yo ~ I can't give you an exact figure, but it was around $300 /person. The reason for the uncertainty is that the $300 included the fact that we had a group of 13 (I think our reservation was for 15), and we had to include the cost of the private bus to/from Managua, plus a couple of extra meals in Managua at the beginning and end of the trip. Other than that, everything was included, except if someone wanted an extra soda/beer somewhere. The road to San Carlos wasn't bad at all. (I did grab some zzzz's on the way.) The tour was arranged by a company out of San Carlos area called Transporte Mairena. The proprietor is Laureano Mairena Pineda, and our tour guide was his brother Eduardo. They can be reached at transportemairena106@hotmail.com or cell: (505) 86141440. As for the bridge, it looked like it wasn't quite complete. They were still doing some work on it.
    "Find out what it is in life that you don't do well - and then don't do that thing." -The most Interesting Man in the World

  11. #11
    Land Mammal thom's Avatar
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    Default Re: San Carlos, Rio San Juan, and Solentiname Archipelago

    Has anyone used the new bridge yet?
    Foreign aid might be defined as a transfer of money from poor people in rich countries
    to rich people in poor countries.

  12. #12
    Viejo del Foro bikingo's Avatar
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    Default Re: San Carlos, Rio San Juan, and Solentiname Archipelago

    Quote Originally Posted by Little Corn Tom View Post
    Nice post and great pictures!
    Ditto and the bridge looks pretty nice

  13. #13

    Default Re: San Carlos, Rio San Juan, and Solentiname Archipelago

    Thank you for the trip down memory lane, and your photos are beautiful.
    Soy el chele mono.

  14. #14
    TRN Science officer bill_bly_ca's Avatar
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    Default Re: San Carlos, Rio San Juan, and Solentiname Archipelago

    I think there was a La Prensa piece on the opening a while back but the bridge has little use as the Ticos have not built a customs plaza yet.. I'll see if I can find it..
    ==================================================
    Dude !!!.... Its a Canal !!! Can you Dig it ??

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    TRN Science officer bill_bly_ca's Avatar
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    Default Re: San Carlos, Rio San Juan, and Solentiname Archipelago

    Last August - La Prensa
    ==================================================
    Dude !!!.... Its a Canal !!! Can you Dig it ??

  16. #16
    Active TRN Member StickMan's Avatar
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    Default Re: San Carlos, Rio San Juan, and Solentiname Archipelago

    Quote Originally Posted by drlemcor View Post
    Thank you for the trip down memory lane, and your photos are beautiful.
    Thanks. Where have you been? Still wandering around Nica?
    "Find out what it is in life that you don't do well - and then don't do that thing." -The most Interesting Man in the World

  17. #17

    Default Re: San Carlos, Rio San Juan, and Solentiname Archipelago

    Quote Originally Posted by StickMan View Post
    Thanks. Where have you been? Still wandering around Nica?
    I got my ass well and truly kicked by a beautiful woman, and I've been in metaphorical traction for a year or so. I'm healthy enough now that once again I am turning my sights towards Nicaragua.
    Soy el chele mono.

  18. #18

    Default Re: San Carlos, Rio San Juan, and Solentiname Archipelago

    Ouch, sorry to hear that. Hope things work out well this go round.

  19. #19
    Viejo del Foro Daddy-YO's Avatar
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    Default Re: San Carlos, Rio San Juan, and Solentiname Archipelago

    Quote Originally Posted by drlemcor View Post
    I got my ass well and truly kicked by a beautiful woman, and I've been in metaphorical traction for a year or so. I'm healthy enough now that once again I am turning my sights towards Nicaragua.
    Ah yes, the fairer sex, the womb-bearing ones. Givers of pleasure and pain. Damn well difficult to live with, at times, but near impossible for a man to live without, once he has traipsed in the garden of delights.

    Once the traction has been removed, return to Nicaragua, the land of gorgeous women. Remember it's only a game. Every loss is a learning experience (usually more about yourself than her). And in winning you may come to a different understanding of what 'beauty' is.
    I never met a Semite I didn't like.

  20. #20
    Viejo del Foro bikingo's Avatar
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    Default Re: San Carlos, Rio San Juan, and Solentiname Archipelago

    Quote Originally Posted by Daddy-YO View Post
    Ah yes, the fairer sex, the womb-bearing ones. Givers of pleasure and pain. Damn well difficult to live with, at times, but near impossible for a man to live without, once he has traipsed in the garden of delights.

    Once the traction has been removed, return to Nicaragua, the land of gorgeous women. Remember it's only a game. Every loss is a learning experience (usually more about yourself than her). And in winning you may come to a different understanding of what 'beauty' is.
    Or you may catch a keeper.

  21. #21
    Land Mammal thom's Avatar
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    Default Re: San Carlos, Rio San Juan, and Solentiname Archipelago

    Quote Originally Posted by bikingo View Post
    Or you may catch a keeper.
    Catch and Release is safest.
    Foreign aid might be defined as a transfer of money from poor people in rich countries
    to rich people in poor countries.

  22. #22
    House SOB Little Corn Tom's Avatar
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    Default Re: San Carlos, Rio San Juan, and Solentiname Archipelago

    Quote Originally Posted by thom View Post
    Catch and Release is safest.
    LMAO!
    Life's different here ... It's a whole 'nother pace.

  23. #23
    Viejo del Foro Just Plain John Wayne's Avatar
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    Default Re: San Carlos, Rio San Juan, and Solentiname Archipelago

    Quote Originally Posted by thom View Post
    Catch and Release is safest.
    ... I think that in many cases is a wise choice...

    In Creole Caribbean slang English.... "Hit an Run"
    To be called a "Has Been" I must surmise, is much Greater than to be called a "Nevah Been"... JW...



  24. #24
    TRN Science officer bill_bly_ca's Avatar
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    Default Re: San Carlos, Rio San Juan, and Solentiname Archipelago

    The border crossing associated to the bridge is set to open tomorrow...

    Tico Times..
    ==================================================
    Dude !!!.... Its a Canal !!! Can you Dig it ??

  25. #25

    Default Re: San Carlos, Rio San Juan, and Solentiname Archipelago

    i think ill try this crossing in a few weeks when i gotta head across again.

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