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CASKE 2000 Expedition Journals

Nicaragua Introduction

Central America has recently gained fame for its numerous jungles and national parks. A quick look at the map reveals that the largest tract of rainforest covers most of the Atlantic coast of Nicaragua and the southern part of Honduras. This area, known as the Mosquito Coast, was the subject of a fiction book by Paul Theroux and later a movie featuring Harrison Ford. The name itself evokes adventure and a few backpackers have started to venture into the forest on the Honduran side, leaving the small crowded national parks of Costa Rica for the masses. However, the danger and current political situation in Nicaragua, in addition to its difficult access have deterred most travelers and preserved the largest rainforest on the continent. Nicaragua remains the last frontier and is still avoided by most. My expedition partner Luke and I, planned to paddle the full Moskitia (Spanish for the Mosquito Coast) as part of our itinerary for the Central American Sea Kayak and Jungle Expedition 2000. We had successfully paddled our sea kayaks from Mexico to La Moskitia of Honduras and were determined to continue the navigation of the Atlantic coast and traverse all of Nicaragua to reach the Costa Rican national park of Tortuguero. The fear of new potential danger was offset by our interest in paddling non-chartered water and unspoiled wilderness, and our desire to meet the famous turtle hunters living on this coast. In the port of Puerto Cabezas we decided to leave our fears aside and continue down the coast of Nicaragua.

We had already experienced storms at sea, malaria, tropical rain and heat, the notorious bugs of Honduras, and had had scary shark encounters. We camped in remote places notorious for bandits and drug dealers where we managed to make friends with some and avoid others, always making the best of most situations. How much worse could Nicaragua really be? We knew it would be the most dangerous section of the CASKE 2000 expedition. Among the new dangers was the fact that a ten-year civil war following 35-years of dictatorship had recently ended leaving large amounts of military hardware in the hands of very poor people for whom life has come to have little meaning. We knew that with our kayaks we would be easy targets so we decided to paddle long distances and camp as rarely as possible. What we didn’t know was that both the people and the elements would join forces to make us pay our dues to navigate through Nicaragua. The expedition that had been a nice adventure turned into a nightmare, and our documentation of local lifestyle came at a high cost. That we survived Nicaragua at all may be only because we pushed ourselves to the limit, paddling long days and skipping many camps to find safe harbor.

To get a feel for what was going on in our minds and what precautions we took, read Luke's two initial accounts of crossing the border into Nicaragua.

by Jean-Philippe Soule (view profile)

Back to Nicaragua Index

Pto. Lempira to Nicaragua Border "Out of Honduras" (5/02)

Link to Luke's Journal

Benk to Nicaraguan Border "Point of No Return" (5/04)

Link to Luke's Journal

Border to Sandy Bay "Sacrificing Comfort for Stealth" (5/05)

Link to Luke's Journal

Sandy Bay "Where do you get your water?" (5/06)

Link to Luke's Journal

Puerto Cabezas, Nicaragua “Little Hotel of Horrors”

Link to Luke's Journal

 Pto. Cabezas, Nicaragua  “Oddities at Arrival, Celebs Upon Departure” (5/10)

Link to Luke's Journal

Prinzapolka  “And Jesus said, ‘one of you will betray me’” (5/12)

Link to Luke's Journal

Bluefields  “Malaria Delirium” (5/17)

Link to Luke's Journal

Onward to Costa Rica Border “’Round the Long Route to Safety, Almost” (5/23)

Link to Luke's Journal

1 km = 0.62 statute miles 
1 statute mile = 1.61 kilometers

1 Nautical Mile = 1.85 km
1km = 0.54 Nautical Miles

1 Nautical Mile = 1.15 miles (statute)
1 mile (statute) = 0.87 N. Miles

From Nicaragua:

View our selection of Photos from Nicaragua

View our page featuring Nicaragua Travel Information


View our Outdoor Cooking section     View our section on Survival or sharks

View our Travel Story Selection and Culture Stories

CASKE 2000 Expedition Journals by Jean-Philippe Soule and Luke Shullenberger