Horizons Travelblogue

Sailing vessel Horizons, a Tayana 37 cutter, has been cruising the West Coast of Mexico and Central America for the past 9 years. This is the ongoing story.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Photos of Marina Puesta del Sol

Beach House Palapa Pool

This is the view of the pool and the mouth of the estuary from under the palapa. All boats enter the estuary by following the channel which is well marked by buoys all the way to the marina. There is a good current during the ebb and flood tides, and care must be taken to avoid being swept ouot of the channel at the bends in the estuary.

Beach House Palapa

About a 10 to 15 minute walk from the marina (unless ferried there in the marina mini bus) takes you to the beach on the outside of the peninsula formed by the estuary. The Beach House Palapa has its own pool, bar and kitchen and is a beautiful spot to enjoy good company and the sunset.

Nicaragua Sunset

This was taken from the Beach House Palapa.

The Marina

This marina was one of the nicest facilities I had stayed at since the start of my travels. It certainly matched the nicest yacht club I stayed in when I was in San Diego, but with the addition of its magnificent estuary and beach setting. Another dock is under construction off the photo to the left.

Marina Pool

This view is looking in the opposite direction to the previous photo. The facility includes a hotel, which can be seen overlooking the pool and view of the estuary.


The rainy season usually brings a number of squalls, with strong winds and heavy rains for periods of an hour or a little more. However, we seemed to experience far fewer squalls in north western Nicaragua than was the case during the two summers I was in El Salvador. This photo shows a squall approaching the coast and heading directly for the vicinity of the marina. The big cabin cruiser and the sailing boat on the left belong to the marina owner, Roberto.

Roberto & Nathape

Roberto (centre) is a principal owner and the visionary behind the development of the marina at Puesta del Sol. He is here with Swiss cruisers Nathalie and Hanspeter, of the sailing vessel Nathape, who were just about to leave the marina after a stay of several months.

Maria Laura & Gene

This photo shows Roberto’s wife, Maria Laura, with Gene, who has worked closely with Roberto on the development of the marina. Gene was the organizing and guiding hand behind the construction of the marina.


Warm and friendly Dorian was virtually an ever present staff member in the office which was mostly used by the cruisers. He made sure that we didn’t miss the mini bus on the shopping trips to Chinandega. He was also always ready to help the cruisers to sort out their various little needs and queries.


Never without a warm and happy smile on his face, Marlon was always full of energy and enthusiasm. In addition to his work at the marina, he was also taking school courses in Managua. He has a real thirst for knowledge and is ambitious to do well in his career. It was Marlon who introduced me to my present Blog site. Both Marlon (marlonreyes.blogspot.com) and Dorian (dorianesp.blogspot.com) have their own Blogs. In fact, Dorian has a second Blog (mygente.blogspot.com). Two really nice young guys.

Domestic Water System

A short walk down the dirt road from the marina gates is a small tienda, where one can pick up a few emergency provisions, such as beer, bread, eggs, beer, chicken filets, fresh (?) vegetables, beer and soft drinks. The operators live on the premises. This photo shows their domestic water system, with well, hand pump and pipe.

Campesino Child

This girl is one of the children of the family which runs the little tienda.

Photos Around El Viejo, Nicaragua

(Click on any photo to see a larger version.)

El Viejo is a small and quite old town very close to Chinandega. We sometimes passed through the town on our way to or from Chinandega, if our driver Luis had any business to conduct there on behalf of the marina.

This street passed between the basilica and the Central Parque and on through a small market area.

Many of the side streets were either not paved or only partly so.

A couple of local pedestrians.

Time to go home after school.

Laundry day in Nicaragua seems to be seven days a week. Whenever we were out and about or going to or from Chinandega, we would always see the lady of the house at the homes we passed, or one of her daughters, with her hands in the huge outdoor concrete sink and scrub board set up, hand washing the family’s clothing. This back yard was in El Viejo. We also saw the same scene repeated many times over in the rural areas.

The essential domestic equipment can be seen in this campesino home. The well can be seen in the centre of the photo, with its hand pump. Often, the outhouse was on the property, not too far from the well. Behind the well in the photo is a woman at an outdoor laundry sink – a common sight.

This photo of a field of sugar cane was taken on our drive back to the marina. It shows, as in the name of the rum, the flor de caña, the flower of the sugar cane, in bloom.

There is no such thing in Central America as an overloaded bus. If there’s no room inside, you just hang onto the outside.

We frequently encountered cattle drives on the dirt road to and from the marina. Horses and pigs also wandered about randomly.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Photos of Chinandega, Nicaragua

My most enduring memories of Nicaragua will be of the wonderful people. I found them to be almost invariably warm, friendly and good natured, and with an openness and spontaneity which belies the tragic recent history and the present poverty of the country. There is much natural beauty in the countryside of Nicaragua, as well as historic sites in abundance. But I really preferred seeing the ordinary, down to earth, unpretentious, grass roots towns, villages and rural areas which gave a true flavour of how the regular Nicaraguan people lived. Chinandega is just such a town. No tourist attractions and no tourists. We cruisers from the marina were usually the only gringos to be seen, although we came across the occasional small group of missionaries.

The high water mark for me was the youth of the country - the children and young people born mostly after the revolution. The common theme was fun, joyfulness, optimism, openness, curiosity and playfulness. They were always very friendly and almost always very quick to break into huge smiles. I don’t recall ever encountering aggression or a negative demeanor in any of the kids I saw or interacted with. They were just a delight.

This is the main bus terminal area for local buses close to the centre of Chinandega. Noisy, active, alive, with lots of vendors and sidewalk stalls, as is usual near bus terminals. The couple on the horse and cart look like they have just bought the bed at Mercado Bisne, where there are several vendors.

One of the main streets in the centre of Chinandega, in the vicinity of the central market.

There are always lots of these “push” taxis available close to markets. They are cheap and carry almost anything.

Not much high speed traffic passes through the streets around the central market.

Count the teeth on these market boys.

This is across the street from the main bus terminal for local buses.

This corner on the main street is were two or three photographers usually hang out with their historic equipment.

Horses and carts like this can be seen in great numbers throughout Chinandega. Many of the horses don’t look too well fed.

Chinandegans get a lot of mileage out of pedal power.

There are two main locations where street money changers hang out. One is on the main street, close to a concentration of several banks. The other is at this location, near the other market, Bisne, on the edge of the town.

This delivery cart stands outside its associated hardware store awaiting its next delivery. On some parked (and mis-parked) delivery carts, I’ve seen the equivalent of locking a vehicle - the driver of the cart ties together the forelegs of the horse so that it doesn’t wander off. However, these horses all seem so incredibly docile that they never seem to wander from the spot where they are parked.

The kids I frequently encountered wherever I went in Nicaragua were invariably friendly and good natured, and occasionally a little shy. These boys were lively and definitely not shy.

Bikes are very popular modes of transportation in Nicaragua, and often can be seen carrying an entire family – dad riding, one child on the crossbar, mother on the carrier behind the seat holding another small child. One one occasion, I saw a guy riding down the road with a wriggling, squeeling piglet tied across the carrier behind his seat. People carry just about anything on their bikes. There is one area near the Bisne market where there are numerous stores and stalls with bike parts and equipment. This is one of the often busy, but very simple, bike repair shops.

This vendor operated a small street refreshment stand near Mercado Bisne.

Papier Maché decorations were made in this workshop.

The finished product.

When school gets out, the streets of Chinandega are swarming with school uniforms.

On one of my trips into Chinandega, I went in with Gene, who was instrumental in the construction of Marina Puesta del Sol. On this occasion, we had lunch with Anna, the wife of marina employee Dorian, and her friend Maria, who worked for a local radio station.

My spectacles had got broken when I was rescuing from potential destruction a sail which had come loose on the boat of the owner of Marina Puesta del Sol during a gale. Roberto was very appreciative and ultimately paid for my replacement glasses, but I took the broken pieces of my original glasses to this guy for an interim and temporary repair as there was going to be about a 6 week wait for my new glasses. He soldered the frame back together again for just over $2 US, but it lasted for only about three weeks and I had to get the repair done again in San José when I was travelling in Costa Rica.

I saw street corner monuments like this one in several towns I visited in Nicaragua. This one commemorates three local “heroes y martires” who died fighting against the forces of the dictator Samoza during the revolution.

In the early months of my stay at Marina Puesta del Sol, there would be a shopping run from the marina to Chinandega every Tuesday and Friday in the marina’s air conditioned mini-bus. Later in the year, particularly during September and later, the rainy season had done so much damage to the dirt road which accesses the marina that it was no longer possible to use the mini-van. I therefore made several trips into town in the marina’s flatbed truck. Our excellent driver was almost always Luis, and a more helpful guy you could not find anywhere. Luis knew all the locations where cruisers could find what they were looking for, and he would ferry us around on all our errands – hardware, electrical, paint and accessories, etc, not to mention the markets and grocery stores.

This was my last shopping trip to Chinandega in November. On that day, Luis and another employee had a lot of stuff to pick up for the marina in preparation for an upcoming fishing tournament to be held from the marina/hotel in early December. You can see beds and mattresses on the truck, along with other stuff. As is common here, the employee rode back to the marina in the back of the truck with the cargo.

Our shopping trips usually took us to the Super Selectos supermarket. Roberto worked in the appliances section of the store and, as he spoke English, I would often stop and chat. He also helped me in checking out DVD movies I bought on occasion by testing them on a player to ensure that they worked properly. This photo was taken on my final visit to the store.

The various churches around Chinandega seem to be colour coded, possibly to make directions easier to understand. There’s a blue church, a beige church and an orange church (seen in photos near the central market). This one is the yellow church and is the first one you pass as you arrive in the centre of town from the north west.

This friendly group of schoolgirls (everyone in Chinandega seems to be friendly) was assembled in front of the yellow church and seemed keen on having their photo taken.

Mercado Bisne is on the edge of Chinandega, close to the inter city bus terminal. It’s also close to the “On The Run” convenience store (like a 7-11 store, at a gas station) where we usually obtained cash from the ATM. This is the market where the cruisers usually did their shopping for fresh fruits and vegetables.

Half a block away from the Super Selectos supermarket we usually used was a street with several hardware stores (ferreterias). Like love and marriage, cruisers and hardware stores go together like a horse and carriage. These horses and carts are delivery vehicles for the ferreterias.

For only a little more than $1 US, an excellent haircut could be obtained from this barber shop on the main street, immediately across the street from Super Selectos supermarket – very convenient.

The first part of the journey from the marina to Chinandega was over a rough dirt road. The second leg was on a road with so many potholes that driving on it was like doing a slalom course, with the vehicle having to use the whole width of the road trying to drive around all the potholes. Often you would see urchins, boys and girls of about 6 or 7 years old, standing by the side of the road with their arms raised saying “Un Peso”. They were shoveling dirt from the sides of the road to fill the potholes, and then asking drivers for money. On this trip, a great chunk was taken out of one of the tires (tyres, for Brits). Luis can be seen putting on the spare wheel.

This may be the one horsepower equivalent of the family station wagon.

I don’t know if this guy at Mercado Bisne was involved in transporting any of the cabbages piled up behind him, but he seems pretty happy.

We passed this multiple trailer train carrying freshly cut sugar cane on one of our trips to Chinandega. A major producer of rum, Flor de Caña, in located close to Chinandega, and there are many sugar cane fields in the region. It’s possible that this truck train belongs to the Flor de Caña factory. Incidentally, they produce a first class rum, mostly of the dark rum variety.

Shortly before arriving at Chinandega from the marina, we always drove past about three or four roadside gravel making operations. They are kind of reminiscent of the old American chain gangs. Several workers are wielding hammers and breaking large rocks down into smaller rocks, and smaller rocks into even smaller rocks, and so on until they make piles of stones small enough to constitute gravel. I think that they are told when they take on this job that it will be good training for becoming a drummer in a rock band.

I love walking around the markets in Central America. They are so full of life and vitality. There is a real humanity there, with families eking out a very modest living on their stalls day in and day out, morning to late afternoon. Everyone helps, including the youngest children. This beautiful little girl was sweeping out her family’s stall in Mercado Bisne – another adorable little angel I could very easily have adopted. I struggled to decide which photo to include here and solved the problem by including them both.

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