In 2002, a friend recommended Chris and Heather Hartridge look into visiting a tiny island off the eastern coast of Nicaragua.
When they looked up the place their friend had stayed, they noticed a post asking if people would consider working there. The timing was just right for the Hartridges — who then applied, got jobs and spent four months living and working on Little Corn Island in Nicaragua.
Little Corn Island, like it’s larger neighbour Corn Island, is a beach-lover’s paradise, with palm trees and white sand beaches surrounded by turquoise ocean.
At the end of their time on the island in 2003, the Hartridges intended to spend two weeks touring the country before they headed back home to Quesnel. Unfortunately, a bad storm swept through and prevented the trip.
It wasn’t until the end of December 2017 that the couple returned to Nicaragua to meet with old friends and see what they’d missed all those years ago. Now, they’ll be giving a presentation on their recent, three-and-a-half-month trip as part of the Bouchie Lake Lawnchair Travel Series on Monday evening (April 1).
Although neither have presented in the Lawnchair Travel Series before, the pair has presented past trips in other venues around the community, and they say they love the idea of the series.
In their presentation, Chris says they plan to go over the vacation trip-by-trip. He says they want people to leave the presentation with a better understanding of the country, the politics, the climate and the people.
A main highlight for the couple was the people. Having stayed with local families who ran Airbnbs throughout the trip, the Hartridges spent a lot of time with the locals.
“Nicaraguans are wonderful people,” says Heather. “Very kind, very family oriented … Just always have a good time.”
They also spent three weeks in a language immersion program, doing a homestay with a local family in Granada.
“It was no English,” says Chris. “It was really wonderful to kind of get the brain going.”
The country is one of the poorest in Central America, and buses are the primary mode of transportation throughout much of the country. They are also how Chris and Heather got around during their three and a half months in the country. Typically, the couple uses bikes to explore when they travel abroad, but both agreed that in Nicaragua, buses enabled them to go further and see more than they would have been able to on a bike.
The Hartridges also enjoyed the art galleries, where they found local pieces ranging from the early 1400s to artwork by Andy Warhol.
The pair also took the time to visit Little Corn Island, where they once worked. The hotel they’d worked in was derelict, having been ruined by past management (who took over after the pair moved on) and later destroyed in a hurricane.
Covered in lush greenery, with amazing diving and snorkeling opportunities, many volcanoes — both active and extinct — and elaborate cathedrals, Nicaragua is a beautiful country. But it’s also rife with political turmoil.
Six days after the Hartridges left the country in April, civil unrest erupted after Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega tried to raise taxes and decrease benefits for citizens. Nearly 30 people were killed in five days of protests, and Ortega cancelled the reforms.
But the unrest continued, with citizens calling on Ortega to resign. In late September 2018, Ortega declared all political demonstrations illegal.
The Hartridges, who still have friends they keep in contact with in the country, say since last April, the tourism industry has suffered a blow and their friends have had to deal with food shortages and arrests throughout the country.
Chris and Heather will give their presentation on Monday, April 1 at Rocky’s General Store at 7 p.m. as part of the Bouchie Lake Lawnchair Travel Series. Gates open at 6:30 p.m.