Trip Coach: October 16, 2007
Joshua Berman, freelance writer, trip leader, and co-author of Moon Handbooks Nicaragua, answered your questions on Nicaragua.
Joshua Berman: Buen Dia' Everyone! I'm Joshua Berman, co-author of Moon Nicaragua and Moon Living Abroad In Nicaragua, the two most comprehensive guidebooks to Central America's largest, least visited, and most fascinating nation.
I'll start with a tip-of-the-hat to my co-author in crime, Randall Wood, who lives in West Africa with his Nicaraguan wife and will not be joining us today. Randy and I first started exploring Nicaragua as Peace Corps Volunteers in 1998 and have continued to work, travel, write, and enjoy "The Land of Lakes and Volcanoes" as much as we can. You can always reach us at GoToNicaragua.com where we field readers' questions daily--just in case you forget to ask something today.
I am a freelance writer, editor, and trip leader, who specializes in volunteering abroad. For more on me, please visit joshuaberman.net
Bueno, we've got many excellent questions, so let's begin.
Wilmington, N.C.: Our family is traveling for 5 weeks in Dec/Jan. How do we get listing of cultural events/performances etc. E.G. Dimension Costena, Ruben Dario Theater? How do we find fine artists in their element? Alan
Joshua Berman: Since you have a decent chunk of time, Alan, I'd say just get down there, settle in, and read the newspapers for local listings. Sounds like you may be spending a few nights in Managua--do so over the weekend and you are guaranteed live performances. Do not miss Casa de Los Mejía Godoy and one of the many fine salsa bars around town.
New York, N.Y.: I'm from the sandy shore of New York's Atlantic coast. What's the best way to get over to the Atlantic side of Nicaragua once I touch down in Managua? What can one find out there to do?
Joshua Berman: Don't leave the airport--just hop a local puddle jumper for the 45-minute flight to Bluefields or Big Corn Island. You'll find clear waters, snorkeling, Hank Williams and Bob Marley on the radio, and lots of fish to eat.
Sparta, Tenn.: My husband and I are considering going to Nicaragua sometime in the late winter. Is it feasible to rent a car and travel independently? We would like to tour the whole country for about two weeks.
Joshua Berman: Yes, you can rent a car, but only if you're comfortable driving in more chaotic conditions than you're probably used to. You'll also want some conversational Spanish skills for when the policia pull you over for some invented "mala maniobra," which means "bad driving." I recommend the bus system, or if you have the cash, hiring a car and driver recommended by your hotel so you can enjoy the scenery instead of having to deal with dodging cattle, dogs, drunkards, and horse carts in the roads.
Santa Rosa, Calif.: Is there anything you would recommend bringing to endure the scheduled power outages? For example, kerosene lanterns? The places I will be traveling will not have generators.
Joshua Berman: I wouldn't want to travel with any fossil fuels sloshing around my pack, so I'd take a long-lasting LED headlamp, and maybe a battery-powered small lantern. Bring a surge protector for your laptop, spare batteries, and when you get there, stock up on candles.
Oaxaca, Mexico: How would you describe the conservation ethic and ecotourism opportunities in Nicaragua? What are some of the best and worst examples?
Joshua Berman: Great question, amigo. Nicaragua is still one of the poorest countries in the hemisphere and pressure on remaining forests and natural resources is high, especially as rural populations continue to push into unsettled areas with slash and burn agriculture. Deforestation is a massive problem, especially when complicated by bark beetle plagues and fire. Proper solid waste disposal is another big issue and you can do your part by producing less trash when you're there (please go easy on the disposable water bottles! Refill a bottle you bring from home instead!).
Of course, tourism is the double-edged machete that can either help the situation or complicate it. Fortunately, there are many examples of excellent low-impact, community-friendly tourism opportunities throughout the country, where participants can learn about local wildlife and plants while interacting with and supporting local communities.
Some of my favorite examples are in the north--Tisey and Miraflor Reservers in Estelí, Finca Esperanza Verde and the CECOCAFEN community coffee tours in Matagalpa, to name a couple. There are also excellent community based ecotourism models in León and Chinandega areas, like Padre Ramos and Isla Juan Venado. Also check out Hacienda Merida on Isla de Ometepe.