So Cabbage and I continued our little trip, from Granada to Managua airport (I got the time wrong and we ended up arriving at the airport a safe 5 hours early…luckily we managed to get on the earlier flight – I’ll pretend I had everything to do with it but really the lady at the counter took pity on us) and off to the Corn Islands. Random fact #1: there’s no corn on Corn Islands.
If I thought I’d seen the smallest plane when I left Roatan, I was clearly mistaking. We were 12 passengers and the flight was surprisingly calm. Within 1h30 we could see Great Corn and its turquoise blue waters. Also, although it wasn’t the season, it’s the land of lobsters!! Random fact #2: back in the days, lobsters were cheaper than clean water there.
After much toing and froing, we’d decided to skip Big Corn and spend the week on Little Corn, so we set for the “panga” taking us from Great to Little in about 40mins. A “panga”, you must know, is no more than a little boat and when I saw it I understood why we were told that they sometimes have to cancel them when the conditions aren’t good. We made a nice encounter while waiting for the 4pm panga; William, a local with no teeth who loves Rock’n’Roll and who looked at Cabbage’s guitar with loving eyes and kindly played a few tunes for us. Also, William was wearing an Obama shirt! Random fact #3: they speak English creole more than Spanish here.
Little corn has a special vibe. No cars…well, actually barely any roads! We walked about 20mins to get to our hotel, Las Palmeras (the address is “500 Meters West of Wharf”) and quickly after, we’d dropped our stuff and were eating seafood with our feet in the sand. We were also told to “make sure all your phones and appliances are charged at night!” because they cut electricity from 6am to 1pm every day. No electricity also means no fridge… Random fact #4: they can cut off the water for 2 weeks with almost no notice – they did that a day before we left! People aren’t phased by it though, it is what it is and they work around it.
The main reason we went to the Corn Islands was to dive, so we set off to one of the two diving shops on the island, Dive Little Corn. Surely there would be my chance to see Eagle rays as I didn’t get to see any in Roatan! NOT. But despite our quite disastrous first dive (including Cabbage running low on air and us two having to go back up on our own – something to remember for our first dive together!), I saw a reef shark, a few nurse sharks and dolphins twice! Once from the boat and the second time on my last dive, while diving. They’re just amazing animals, so much bigger when you’re just a few meters from them! So that automatically puts Little Corn in the top diving sites I think – although I’m conscious I’m only done 2 so far! Random fact #5: you can hear dolphins from quite far under water!
Another highlight was that Cabbage had another moment of fame! Indeed, one of the bars (Café Desideri) asks musicians to make themselves known and play if they want. The couple who manages the hotel introduced us to the owner – who happens to be Canadian/Vietnamese! – and the date was set. He even had an opening act: Mr James. Mr James is a local, he set foot on the island when he was a young boy and is now 85 years old and is known and loved by pretty much everybody on the island. Random fact #6: Mr James was introduced as “grand-father or great-grand-father to most people here on the island”…cheeky or what Mr James!?!
Cabbage played a beautiful set with a couple of new songs and he raised $140 for NicaVets to come on the island. Little Corn has big problems with stray dogs so the work they do is actually essential. Random fact #7: people on the island believe that there are pirates’ treasures still hidden but that they are guarded and that if you find one and take it, your soul will be damned and made prisoner to guard the treasure until the next person tries to steal it. They actually have stories of people who found things and died shortly after taking it… I’d better leave the gold then…!
The other good thing about Little Corn is that, unlike some other paradise islands, the locals live among the tourists and other cheles (that’s how foreigners, usually white, are called in Nica). And that’s likely to stay that way, because most of them don’t want to sell to foreigners, despite copious amount of money being offered (they have the best spots by the sea). On the North side of the island, known for providing the Robinson Crusoe experience and the best beaches, there are quite a few hostels and hotels, but you can also stumble across an old fisherman’s hut. Cabbage and I thought that it was important that efforts towards keeping the local included are made as Little Corn won’t be the same when it becomes a big resort spot (like West Bay in Roatan). That said, and despite the fact that we were told the island was safe and we didn’t have any issue, we felt there was an odd vibe there with the locals at times. Although they seem to accept our presence, I’m not convinced they’re that happy to share their mangoes with us. Random fact #7: there are 11 types of mangoes on Little Corn and when you walk around you can easily pick them off the floor!
Two big issues on the islands, in my opinion, would be lack of serious education (level at school is shocking – and that goes hand in hand with unemployment that is high on the island) and lack of awareness for the environment (and that goes with pollution and trash). I was told that a lot of them grow up with little option but becoming fisherman (at best) or wheelbarrow pusher (is that even a job!?!). The lucky (and wealthier) few get the opportunity to open a restaurant.
However all is not doom & gloom, don’t forget we’re still on a paradise island and people there are super nice and seem very happy and most are very proud to be from Little Corn. Not just from Corn Islands. Not even from Nicaragua. But ‘born & bread’ in Little Corn. That reminds me a little bit of me with New Caledonia!
I want to give special thanks to (and I know they might no read this):
- the lovely Canadian couple (Raneem, Justin & their cute dog Shorty) who manages Las Palmeras – they were just the best!
- Mai-Lynn, the owner of Cafe Desideri – not only she organised the best gig for cabbage but she was also a life saver with her homemade chicken soup when he was K.O. with fever in bed. She also makes the best Vietnamese pressed iced-coffee (sadly I don’t have photos of the life-saving-chicken-soup…)
- Macarena from Dive Little Corn – for loving Flamingo Tongues as much as I do and also for pushing me to take Petit Buddha diving with us so I could get a shot of him underwater (although I’m still waiting to be sent the photo 😦 )
We ended the trip with 1 night & 1,5 days on Great Corn and we wished we could have spent a little more time. People we met were friendly, beaches we saw were gorgeous. If you get to go, make sure you dive Blowing Rock – we missed the opportunity and I’m still a bit gutted about it…it was my last chance of the trip to spot Eagle rays!
Corn Islands sure were sweet…
Last night before the re-start of my solo adventure was spent in Managua in the other great Airbnb find of the trip: Casa Inti. I’ll talk about it in my next post! Also next up: Leon, or the definition of “Muy Nicalientissimo”.