Nicaragua 3: Little Corn Island

As the first team to arrive at the León pit stop at 2am, Simon and Ang were the first to depart seven and a half hours later at 9.30.  After a quick breakfast, they raced to the bus stop and were soon in a collectivo van, bound for the capital of Nicaragua, Managua.  They were to make their way to Little Corn Island via the quickest means possible.  Team Belgium who had received their own separate clue, left the pit stop 15 minutes later on the next collectivo.

Within 15 minutes of leaving León their van was directed to pull off the road by the Policia.  There they waited as a fleet of Nicaraguan government vehicles drove past.  Ang and Simon estimated that there were 200 Festivas and 50 Ladas.  All were without number plates, but all had big fleet numbers on their windscreens and appeared to be travelling in perfect numerical order and in alternate red then silver colours.

One of many fleet cars on the left Tail end of the convoy

Once all of the cars had finally driven past the police escort allowed traffic to move on again, however the team’s minivan resumed its journey directly behind the convoy.  The rolling traffic jam meant that the estimated time to drive to Managua would double.  This potentially meant team Australia would miss their flight to Little Corn Island.  The driver of the van soon became tired of the constant braking and accelerating of the excitable drivers ahead and decided to take an alternative route.  The delay caused by the convoy allowed Team Belgium to catch up and both minivans turned off the main road to Managua.

The alternative route they took was mostly dirt roads in very poor condition. This meant the average speed of 50km/h they were able to achieve on the chaotic main road fell to the 20km/h.  After an hour of bumping their way along the road, Ang communicated the team’s concerns to the driver when it became apparent the team would be late into Managua for their 2pm flight.  Rapid phone calls were made in Spanish to Managua and onward transport in a taxi was organised.

Arriving at the Managua bus terminal at 12:50pm, the team was met at the door of the van by the pre-organised taxi driver.  Seconds later they were in the cab heading away from the bus station for the airport.  Their taxi driver raced his under powered Honda through the gritty streets of Managua.  It was clear the team was not going to arrive at the airport in time.  Finally they arrived at the small domestic airport 20 minutes before scheduled flight departure.  Frantically the team grabbed their bags and paid the cab driver.

They ran into the terminal and found check in had only just started and that they had plenty of time.  Really relived, the team relaxed and completed check in formalities, which included removing all the heavy items from their check in luggage to meet weight restrictions.  With their arms full of dirty washing, shoes and toiletries, they crossed through security and there the team celebrated with the purchase of beer (for Ang) and yoghurt (for Simon) in the lounge.  Approximately 45 minutes later, well after the scheduled departure, their aircraft left Managua via Bluefields to Big Corn Island.

The uneventful flight was soon over and the team shared a taxi with Team America 2, two brothers called Tommy and Ben.  The short drive around the airport to the docks was completed and the Australian and American teams boarded a Panga to Little Corn Island.

Dead cake on the tarmac Rollers at work? Nice

A Panga is a reinforced speedboat with passenger capacity of 25 persons and a top speed of 65km/h. The crossing between Big and Little Corn Islands is typically rough and this crossing was no exception.  The captain throttled up and they commenced the thrill ride across the strait.  On the crest of each wave, the engines would be throttled down as the boat became airborne.  This was accompanied by vocal girly nervous screams by some of the other backpacker passengers.

Half way between Big and Little Corn Islands

Simon and Ang, who had unwisely sat at the very back, laughed at the craziness of this ride and unsuccessfully tried to stay dry.  After 25 minutes of constant bashing and near constant screams, the captain stopped the boat and in rapid and colourful Creole, basically told the passengers it wasn’t even that rough.  Screams were slightly less vocal for the rest of the passage and team Australia continued the journey eyes shut due the harsh saltiness of the Caribbean Sea which was burning their eyes with every wave.

On dusk, the panga pulled into the Little Corn dock, a freighter parked next to the dock itself.  The team alighted from the boat across the freighter and then walked across the island to the main accommodation area on the east of the island.  Checking a few of the cabañas, they eventually settled at the Casa Iguana.

Arriving there, they were given accommodation and were given challenges for this leg of the race.  These included to circumnavigate the island, locate prime fishing spots around the island, find missing shoes, climb to the highest point on the island, sample the food and drink of Little Corn, and to play “Ring Swing”.

Typical Little Corn street Inspiring fine print at the entry to Casa Iguana
Alien fruit Private beach near Iguana
Panorama of the main eastern beach on the island (from Iguana)

The circumnavigation challenge was completed over two consecutive days and involved a considerable amount of bush bashing in the rain and thick mud whilst wearing in appropriate footwear.  At one point Ang tragically had a plugger blowout, which Simon addressed by picking up a spare out of the flotsam on the beach.  On their journey around the island, the team was also able to locate a fishing spot that Shaun, and the sole member of Team American 1, was able to exploit to catch two large trigger fish.  This inadvertently seemed to spark a cold war fishing competition between Team Americas 1 & 2 which hilariously continued for the remainder of the week.

PVC pipe hammock Lighthouse contraption
Another beachside outhouse Exclusive Survivor
Art Boat storage
The only corn growing on the whole island Guard monkey
Garbage on the beach (sadly from the wider Caribbean) Clean beach
Looking south from Little Corn Shaun’s trigger fish haul

The sample the fare of Little Corn Island challenge was completed over the six days at the island and involved eating and drinking at Tranquillo, Rosie’s, Mango Pizza and Casa Iguana.  Several mornings involved the team scouring the Casa Iguana grounds for missing footwear, stolen by a resident loco pero suffering from kleptomania.  The climb to the highest point on the island was completed in one morning with the team ascending an old lighthouse tower.  Finally, accompanied by much drinking, the team played ring swing with Teams America 1 and 2.

Tranquillo Bar
Art, Little Corn style Ang sits on some more art
Random drop gecko during dinner Western side of the island
Ang climbing the lighthouse tower Simon climbs the tower
Ang demonstrates ring swing technique A successfully hooked ring
Sunrise from the casita

With all challenges completed, the team was met by Iguana Doug (one of two human Dougs on the island) and checked into the pit stop for this leg of the race, Casa Iguana’s casita 11 by the sea.

Casita 11, Casa Iguana, the pit stop for this leg of the race

In a post leg interview, Simon said “I really liked the island.  It was more laid back than Caye Caulker. Hilariously, the dogs were very territorial and would use backpackers to gang up with, to cross into other dog’s territories.  There were distinct personalities on the island, perhaps not to the same degree as Caye Caulker, but certainly as entertaining – there were three Dougs!  I found it odd that there was only one maize plant growing on the whole of Little Corn Island”.  Ang said when interviewed that ”it was a wonderful place to relax and explore the many secluded beaches but I am surprised at how many Norwegians visit the island. I struggle with my new learned Spanish and keep mixing Norwegian and English which is a laugh but terribly frustrating”.

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