We didn’t want to go to crime-and-drug-ridden Big Corn Island but we had no choice. It was the only way to get to gorgeous Little Corn Island on the virtually unknown Caribbean side of Nicaragua.
First we had to fly from Managua to Big Corn Island, then take a small boat to Little Corn.
We had contemplated a long river boat trip down the rivers across Nicaragua to the Caribbean side, but it was across vast uninhabited parts of Nicaragua, and it looked like a rough week-long voyage.
Taking the local bus from Rivas back to Managua for the flight was inexpensive ($5), and what a surprise to see it was a Canadian yellow school bus – an old Bluebird.
T, the gentleman that he is, gave up his seat repeatedly to pregnant women and elderly women, and ended up standing for the entire two hour journey, while glaring at the young men who seemed impervious to the idea of offering a seat to a woman.
Like a typical Latin-American “chicken bus”, it was full of locals. Country music blared at high volume and it stopped at every waving passenger for pick-ups along the highway.
At the airport we found our little plane to Big Corn Island…
Drug-sniffing dogs were at work at the airport…
Some type of army activities on the tarmac…
We could see right into the cockpit of the little plane and we had to chuckle at the “newspaper sun visor”…
The small plane flew low enough for us to see much of the isolated terrain in the Centre and East parts of Nicaragua…
It soon became more and more thick with lush tropical vegetation… but no sign of anyone living there…
Finally… we arrive at the Caribbean Sea…
The two hour flight was around $150 return each, with a quick stop in Bluefields.
Then further out over the Caribbean Sea… but the pilot couldn’t seem to find Big Corn Island!
Both the pilot and the co-pilot seemed to be intently looking for the right island…
Is it that one? Or that one? No, not that one…
Ahhh…. there it is!
Swooping around the island to line up for the landing…
The taxi driver on Big Corn Island was friendly but warned us not to go out after dusk. Big Corn Island is the main drug trafficking port in Nicaragua with a massive presence of weapons, and a high crime rate. Yes, drugs and weapons – a dangerous mix.
We only stayed one night at a small hotel near the dock on Big Corn, convenient to where we would catch the boat to Little Corn Island the next morning. Knowing what we know now, we would have taken the first boat to Little Corn right after we arrived on Big Corn.
We wandered around the area a bit before dark, but it was ghetto-like, and we felt uncomfortable, so decided to walk back to our hotel along the beach.
Before long, a black man strode up beside us and warned us that this was a dangerous area and that we should not be there. He offered to “escort us back to the hotel for only $10”. We gave him the $10, but as we walked along, he tried to get more money. We didn’t respond, but kept up the conversation until we were near the hotel.
There was a restaurant right across from our hotel, next to the docks – the only restaurant in sight. So off we went to have an evening dinner on Valentine’s Day.
While we were sitting in the restaurant, three threatening-looking men leaned against the dock railing just outside the restaurant watching us, talking, serious, discussing. We were the only guests having dinner. T said he could smell trouble.
We ate fairly quickly, trying to enjoy our meals. While I went to the bathroom, Thomas got up to pay. We felt uneasy. This whole place had a morbidly scary ambiance.
After working many years in Crime and Corrections, I recognized criminal types, and I knew that walking confidently, with purpose, was the best defense.
I marched out of the bathroom, and just managed to catch the three menacing thugs standing in front of Thomas, preventing him from paying the bill or leaving! The restaurant staff had mysteriously disappeared.
Striding up as though nothing whatever was wrong, I started talking directly to Thomas about the bill, and incredibly the three goons melted back, letting us pass to the window to pay.
We couldn’t have walked faster across what seemed like an extremely long 50 yards back to the hotel, carefully not looking back, then locking the door behind us. Whew. Scary.
Shoulda bought life insurance, or at least practiced up on my karate.
And not exactly the most romantic Valentine’s Day!
Sleeping with one eye open, we could not wait for morning to leave Big Corn Island and hop on the boat to Little Corn Island.