Quiet back street behind the couple’s guest house. Chris Hartridge photos

Hartridges send love and travel stories from Central America

This is the first installment of the Hartridges’ latest travel adventure to Central America

Feliz Ano Nuevo!

Happy New Year from Granada Nicaragua!

We’d like to thank Annie Gallant and the Quesnel Cariboo Observer for the chance to share our travel adventures with you. In the past, we have sent Annie stories from the road as we travelled around North America and Mexico on our bicycles. This time, we’ve left the bicycles at home and we’re on foot, backpacking around Nicaragua in Central America.

We chose Nicaragua because of our past history with this beautiful country. Fifteen years ago, we worked off the east coast on a tiny island called Little Corn Island.

We discovered the opportunity by chance after a good friend in Quesnel suggested we visit the resort as tourists. After inquiring, we were hired by the owners, a couple from Florida.

Over 10 years they had developed an “Eco Resort” that was a mecca for adventure travellers and… fly fishermen! Yes, it was a popular spot for catching bonefish – a hard fighting species that attracted sport fishermen from around the world.

In fact, some of you may know Steve Jennings who ran the fly shop in Little Fort east of 100 Mile House. Steve was a fishing guide on the island.

The time on Little Corn literally changed our lives and is one reason we’ve returned.

Fast forward 15 years and we find ourselves back here, but with a difference. No work, all play.

When we worked here, we weren’t able to tour around the country, so this is our chance to do that. There are so many wonderful places to go and sights to see, things to do… not to mention savoring the amazing food.

We’re starting off in Granada just south of the capital city Managua.

Initially, we’re staying at a very nice AirBnb run by a wonderful young man named Diego. In a residential neighbourhood southwest of downtown, he lives in a cozy house with his mom and his auntie.

Our apartment is in the back of the property on the second floor. Very secure, very quiet (except for on New Year’s Eve) and only a five-minute walk to shops or restaurants. Perfecto!

Granada has a long and varied history, so if you’re into really old architecture, the churches alone will keep you busy in this town. Some of the iglesias (churches) were built in the early 1500s and have endured the ravages of time.

Indeed, Granada has a waterway link to the Caribbean Sea via Lake Nicaragua and the San Juan River. Pirates would sail up the river, across the lake and over to Granada where they would pillage and leave the city in ruins.

And then there was the infamous William Walker.

William Walker (May 8, 1824-Sept. 12, 1860) was an American physician, lawyer, journalist and mercenary who organized several private military expeditions into Latin America, with the intention of establishing English-speaking colonies under his personal control, an enterprise then known as “filibustering.”

Walker usurped the presidency of the Republic of Nicaragua in 1856 and ruled until 1857, when he was defeated by a coalition of Central American armies. He was executed by the government of Honduras in 1860.

Walker took up residence in Granada and set himself up as President of Nicaragua, after conducting a fraudulent election.

He was inaugurated on July 12, 1856, and soon launched an Americanization program, reinstating slavery, declaring English an official language and reorganizing currency and fiscal policy to encourage immigration from the United States.

Realizing that his position was becoming precarious, he sought support from the southerners in the U.S. by recasting his campaign as a fight to spread the institution of black slavery, which was the basis of the Southern agrarian economy. (Sourced from Wikipedia). Not a nice man….

In spite of spending lots of time in Latin America over the years, we have a minimal grasp of the language. We have finally enrolled in a three-week Spanish immersion program.

We’ll stay with a family in Granada, attend escuela (school) in the morning and practice our Spanish as we explore all the nooks and crannies of the city. We’re really looking forward to it!

When we leave Granada at the end of January, we’ll take our time trekking around the country – from south to north and west to east.

Keep an eye out for upcoming stories from spots like Laguna de Apoyo, San Juan del Sur, Leon, Matagalpa and other fascinating places in this incredible little country. Hasta Luego!

Chris and Heather Hartridge are residents of Quesnel and veteran travellers who have recently embarked on a journey through various Central American countries.

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