The shade of palm trees brought the temperature to a perfect feeling while turquoise waves washed over pure white sands. My girlfriend, Kathya, and I laid in perfect peace on Long Bay beach, Great Corn Island.
Semana Santa, Holy Week in English, is the one time during the school year that we can really get away from the stresses of Peace Corps service and explore Nicaragua. This would be the perfect time, I thought, to visit the Corn Islands.
In the USA, I
had never heard of this place, nor have any of my friends and family who
I asked when I decided to spend the vacation there. After a bit more
research, I was convinced that there could be no purer island getaway.
According to Lonely Planet travel guides, Great and Little Corn Islands
are in the running for the most authentic Caribbean island experience.
You won’t see any sort of mega-developments here and the tallest hotels
stand at a very modest two stories. But the hotels that are there have
some of the most friendly owners and staff I’ve ever met. I
accidentally overpaid at the Hotel G&G. The next morning the owner,
a large, bubbly Creole lady, Geraldine, found me.
“I woke up this morning and I said to myself, you know, I think he paid the wrong price on that room!” Geraldine said.
I was surprised
completely. She had charged me the price of a room with air
conditioning, which really isn’t necessary there by the way. For the
four nights we stayed there, the difference was 40 dollars. That much
could go a long way in Nicaragua.
“You know,” I told her. “Most places that I’ve been to would have probably not said anything unless I brought it up.”
She gave me a
stern yet comforting smile that had the look of “Silly Rabbit, Trix are
for kids. “That would be wrong.” She said with a laugh as if I hadn't
thought of it myself. Within the next few minutes we were all squared up.
Kathya and I
then set out to explore the beaches. We walked all the way around the
south end of the island in about two to three hours pausing often to
swim, sit and take lots of pictures.
We were almost
alone for the entire walk. We would occasionally walk past a group of
tall Creole men pushing their fishing boat into the crystalline waters
to catch a day’s pay. Their wives would sometimes be on the shore,
under palms watching over kids playing soccer on the sands.
When the kids saw my large camera hung around my neck, they would stop what they were doing and come running, some almost naked, like I was giving away free ice cream.
“Una foto! Una foto! Tomeme una foto!” they would scream as they
bolted down the sands before striking poses for the camera. They didn’t even want the pictures that they were yelling for. They really just wanted to pose and look cool and see themselves in the playback of my camera screen. After showing them the pictures, they would laugh and smile before dashing off down the sands.
One of the moms on the sidelines told us that the kids adore the tourists because they have traveled so far to come see their homes. “They want to make you feel welcome,” she said.
In the evenings, Kathya and I would dine on seafood soups and lobster along the fishing wharfs as the sun fell from the sky, bathing the island in pink and purple light. After it got dark, we would head over to bambule just north of Long Bay for Toñas and music.
The locals taste in music really was the final reflection of their characters. Everything could be heard in that bar from bachata to Bob Marley to Hank Williams. Going from classic island reggae to good old country was a something I was not prepared for, but after a while I could start to see the links. The songs were all about chilling out, having a drink and being with that one you love. Each song perfectly reflected that Corn Island culture.
“The people here don’t want anything,” said Kathya slightly amazed. “They have everything they really need.”
It certainly seemed true to me as I took another sip. They really do have all that matters in life here: the sun, a beer and a boat to drink them in.