Heather buys knotted rag rugs - recycling at its finest!

Local couple’s final adventures in Nicaragua

Chris and Heather Hartridge document their 3.5 months abroad

Hello Observer readers! In our last story we were just about to head to Little Corn Island off the east coast of Nicaragua. We worked there 15 years ago in a resort called Casa Iguana and spent four wonderful months on this little Caribbean jewel. It allowed us to discover what it’s like to live on a remote tropical island.

Now, that may be a dream for some but there are realities one has to contend with. Take, for example, the natural world where one is faced with boa constrictors, iguanas, bugs of all shapes and sizes and mosquitoes that carry malaria or dengue fever. Like the backwoods of B.C., it’s just a matter of preparing ahead of time and being informed about the hazards. And why would someone want to contend with all those dangerous creepy crawlies? Because it is a uniquely beautiful place on earth with a very different environment that should be experienced at least once in a lifetime.

This time, our stay on the little island has been fabulous. We were determined to track down the friends we made and to recall first-hand some of our wonderful memories.

In our first few days, we fulfilled that goal. In fact, we were doubly surprised by people recognizing us on the pathways criss-crossing the island. Oh, I should clarify that a bit. You see, there are no roads here. No cars, no motorcycles. Nothing motorized. It’s one of the things that attracts people to the place. And, if you’re into walking, especially on a tropical trail in a jungle, this place is for you.

One of the friends we’ve reconnected with is a wonderful lady named Maribel. At Casa Iguana, Maribel worked with us in the kitchen as we prepared the evening meals in the lodge. We remembered her as a warm, loving person and when we were reunited, the memories came rushing back. For quite a few years ,Maribel has run her own restaurant called “Mango’s Pizza” and she also has a small store next door. It was heartwarming to see her and to meet members of her family — some that weren’t around 15 years ago!

We also got to hang out with our old friend Dave who used to live in Quesnel, among other places. Dave is a resident of the island now and has made his mark on the place. When we originally returned from Little Corn, we told Dave about the island. After visiting, he decided he’d buy some property and build a home. Always known as a “free thinker,” Dave designed and built a ferro-cement house, guaranteed to withstand a hurricane! The locals call it the “Egg House.”

And the Casa Iguana resort? The people we worked for eventually sold it to a rich gal from Chicago and it’s now a casualty from years of suspected mismanagement. She’s the subject of many theories as to how a lodge in a tropical destination experiencing record numbers of tourists every year, could end up as it has. Derelict.

When we toured the site, we couldn’t believe our eyes. What was once an icon is now totally falling apart. We found the little house we lived in – a sad sight. But, in the end, we chose to remember it as it was and the life-changing heyday we had. It was truly one of those experiences that made a major imprint on our lives.

Our time in Nicaragua has also allowed us to reflect on how lucky we are to live in Canada and the opportunity it holds. Most days, we tried to make sense of the fact that Nicaragua is the poorest country in Central America yet most people appear to be happy. How can that be? We feel it’s because they’ve learned to live with far less than other folks could ever imagine, and in general, they’re happy with what they have.

With that said, of course not everyone is really content. We came to know a young man named Jon. As a waiter, he works at the super high-end resort on Little Corn. The hotel reportedly charges between $260 – $500 CDN per night for a room. Jon makes $8 a day. On the island, he has minimal opportunity compared to young folks in other countries and he knows it. Our advice was to continue to develop his skills, keep practising his English, and set his sights on a location where the outlook is better. Good luck Jon!

Looking back, our three-and-a-half-month adventure in Nicaragua has been an extremely rewarding journey. We’ve seen some incredible places and met hundreds of the friendliest people imaginable. From historic colonial cities to deserted tropical beaches; from alligator-infested mangrove swamps to chilly mountain slopes covered by coffee plantations; from an active volcanic island to wind-swept surfing beaches with huge rolling waves, Nicaragua has something for everyone willing to push the envelope of adventure.

If you’d like to learn more about our exploits, please visit https://quesnelbikers.com.

Chris and Heather Hartridge are residents of Quesnel who have embarked on a journey in Central America.

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