Turtles in the Escalante River. A little over a century ago, former British explorers entered the African jungle seeking to discover new places to take to the "modern" Europe. Nowadays, those of us who continue dreaming about these adventures and live in corners like old Europe are content to search the internet for isolated sites, with little tourism and that hardly appear in the main travel guides.
Escalante-Chacocente River Wildlife Refuge, a somewhat long and complex name to pronounce for the English speakers is one of those places, a place that without knowing where we were going we decided once in Nicaragua to leave the canons, as we usually do the truth, to deviate on a dirt road, full of potholes and several rivers to cross without really knowing if what we are going to see we would enjoy.
Needless to say, we were wearing a 4 × 4, a brand new Suzuki, since touring a country like this, or wearing one, or you're doomed to see almost nothing in this spectacular place.
The Lonely Planet, one of the reference guides barely dedicates a few lines, but that does not mean that visiting a place like this does not mark your entire trip.
We leave Masaya volcano along Rivas, taking the Pan-American until we reach a shady bridge, narrow for the locals, called Ochomongo, at kilometer 77, where we turn right on a road of those you think, is this a road ?. We were wrong for sure !! After taking several boats and sorting stones effectively, we were on the road to Shipyard, that although there is no sign, a good man told us, calm down, you are on the right track.
On the way to El Astillero
For 38 kilometers we hit boats and cross two rivers, a track that in the rainy season seems to be impractical, but thankfully it was August, the Spanish month of vacations, occasionally marries well with the weather of some tropical country
On the way to El Astillero we picked up a local, well, a Cuban who teaches baseball at some school in the area, which also went to El Astillero. The first thing he told us was, eye, here is drug trafficking and sometimes the army is patrolling the beaches ... That nice, already getting scared just for getting in the car for free ... Besides, it helped us to learn about how the landscape of the area is changing due to the purchase of land by American billionaires, from In fact, we pass by Grayskull Castle, an imposing mansion on the highest part of one of the hills that is within walking distance of the beach.
After leaving the character in question, we look for a hotel, how naive, if there is only one hotel! Hotel Las Hamacas, with the monopoly at the moment, unless you want to pay hundreds of dollars in a complex a few kilometers away inside.
Hotel The hammocks
Once there we asked the hotel owner, who by the way, except for two hermit surfers, was completely empty, about the possibility of seeing turtles. We received a little positive response from you, turtles this season? The man should not be very well, I thought, since at the time when we prepared the trip an article on the internet indicated the opposite. With the refusal, we took a walk along the huge beach of El Astillero thinking that the 38km traveled would be in vain.
Several hours later, after meditating with a suffocating heat in the room we took all the headlights and headlights to see if we could see something at night on the beach. We walked north, towards the reserve, completely dark, seeing nothing except the moonlight on the bright waves. After a while, we arrived at the mouth of a river, a river that we did not know the depth, its width or the content, crocodiles? ... I suppose they are of those things that by the desire or the desire to see something we decided to cross it. Luckily, the river was not more than 20m wide and half a meter deep, come on, a small creek can be considered in these latitudes.
El Astillero - Escalante River
We skirt a cliff full of crabs with the waves breaking incessantly until several kilometers later, after another long beach, we saw a light in the background. How strange, on the left we have the sea, on the right jungle with all the sounds of animals, but, a light ?. If the nearest town is tens of kilometers away ... As we walked we were worried, maybe fear, since they could be from turtle egg thieves, drug dealers or a simple fisherman walking. Suddenly, the crack of a branch to our right and a military dressed man With his M16 he made us stop. What are you doing here? Where do they come from? The restlessness became a little scary, but seeing a uniform at least we knew we were talking to one of the good guys. From Shipyard We said, and of course, he was surprised. They are a little unconscious, the people are far away, accompany me, he told us.
As we walked along the beach as if it were a dream, dozens of packages crawled out slowly, turtles! Dozens of turtles. With eyes wide and almost ignoring the soldier we forgot the mess we had gotten into. The soldier took us to the command post where a kind person, a little surprised to see tourists, explained the reason for being militarized in the area, obviously because of drug trafficking, and accompanied us to see the turtle hatching, a unique experience.
Specifically, one of them dug a huge hole where he laid the eggs with incredible effort. The time we spent there flew by, but we had to go back the same way and with an increasingly enraged sea. On the way back, on the cliff we had to walk with great caution since the tide had risen. In addition, the river had to cross it again and it had doubled its depth, so the backpacks and lanterns took them to the "flight", but it had been worth it.
We arrive at the hotel, already at dawn, waiting for the good traveler's emergency ham, and prepare the route the next day, San Juan del Sur, but this is another trip and it is another story. Javier Blanquer
When to go?
Nicaragua is a tropical country with great differences depending on the region you are. The Pacific coast is dry and hot, the mountainous interior is humid and the Caribbean coast is extremely humid and hot. We were in August and the weather was incredible.
How to get?
From Rivas taking the Pan-American Highway until reaching kilometer 77, where the Ochomongo bridge is. There turn right and travel a dirt road only suitable for 4 × 4 for 38km.
What to wear
If you are going to see turtles you can not miss lanterns and as a pleasant recommendation, bring food, in the town there is nothing, except a small shop.
Where to sleep?
You can camp on the beach or sleep in the only hotel in town Hotel Las Hamacas.
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