Monday, December 16, 2013

A trip to the beautiful Pearl Cays

One of the Pearl Cays - Nicaragua
When tourists come to Pearl Lagoon one day trip on their agenda is a visit to the Pearl Cays. What are the Pearl Cays?  Vianica describes them this way:  ‘The group of islands called the Pearl Cays is located in the Caribbean Sea, about 35 kilometers from the town of Pearl Lagoon. The secluded islands offer a great place for a relaxing day-trip’

 Unfortunately, for us, we haven't been able to get out to them, but some friends of ours had a wonderful day trip and shared their day with us.

This is what they wrote:

We were meant to leave about 7:30 am but it was raining. Never mind, we were assured that the rain would soon pass and we would have a gorgeous day for our trip. An hour later the rain had eased and we were set to head off. It was a little rainy still and we got soaked, but hey, we were planning to get wet anyway!   It was a little choppy and we were riding against the waves, sometimes it felt like we had liftoff.

First stop was by some local fisherman who were shrimping. Our guides picked up a bucket load of shrimp they had just caught for lunch – and you can’t get fresher than that!

Fishermen at work

Fresh shrimp for lunch
After dropping us off on this tiny island with no name, our tour guides took off in the panga leaving us deserted!! The thought did briefly run through my mind that we could play ‘Survivor’ (wish I had practiced my fire starting skills) but everyone was too nice and I wouldn't know who to vote off the island.

Beach combing - Pearl Cays, Nicaragua

Anyhoo…a while later they came back after having caught us some fish for lunch. While they were preparing lunch we made good use of our time doing a little bit of, well nothing but relaxing!

Unfortunately, this time of year the visibility under water isn't that great. Never mind though, just means we will have to come back in the dry season – what a shame! Here are some of the underwater pics that turned out well…
Starfish - Pearl Cays, Nicaragua

Underwater - Pearl Cays, Nicaragua

Before lunch, we travelled to a larger island where they had the facilities to cook. Lunch was rondon, it was very… fresh. ‘Run-down’ is seafood and ‘bread-like’ vegetables cooked in a coconut broth – what can we say – not quite sure why it’s considered a delicacy!!!

Fresh fish - Pearl Cays, Nicaragua
Rondon - Pearl Cays, Nicaragua
We made up our own table centre piece from the beautiful things we had collected on the beach that day…
Being in such a beautiful place we had to make the most of photo opportunities. It’s amazing how some people fit in so well in island surroundings…

Our table centre piece - Pearl Cays, Nicaragua
Our faces say it all, so relaxed and happy. It was a fantastic day. Before heading home we went by the island where they filmed season 21 of Survivor. It looked very beautiful and lush – I reckon I could live there for 39 days.

Happy faces after a day at the Pearl Cays - Nicaragua

The ride back was a little better than the ride there because we were going in the same direction as the waves. There were a couple of times though, when we overtook a wave and the boat would slam down. Riding in the front, I could see it coming! Was a little rough but good fun. As we travelled home on the open water, the sun was setting and clouds were gathering, the sky looked awesome.

Pearl Cays, Nicaragua

Pearl Cays, Nicaragua

Pearl Cays, Nicaragua

Pearl Cays, Nicaragua
Do you want to travel to the Pearl Cays? It's easy to book your trip once you arrive in Pearl Lagoon through many of the hotels. The trip to the Pearl Cays can be expensive due to the price of gas. When we looked into the price we were told that the cost for the boat would be $200 US - the cost for the food may be additional. Check with a few places and then book with who you feel most comfortable with. Is one day not long enough? It is possible to stay on a Cay overnight - just ask your tour operator.  Please note: There is a Military Checkpoint when you leave Pearl Lagoon - bring your passport!

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Crazy Parents writes another Postcard for International Living Magazine

Another one of our articles was featured as a postcard for International Living:

A New Life of Adventure on the Caribbean Coast
By Debbie Polden
Have you found the saying, "life doesn't always turn out the way you expect" to be true? My husband and I have definitely found that to be the case. We've also realized that when life takes you down different paths it isn't necessarily a bad thing!
After years of working and living in Canada, raising a family and caring for elderly loved ones we realized that our "retirement years" were fast approaching. As we contemplated the future we found that we had an undiscovered sense of adventure. Rather than looking to a "normal" retirement in Canada, we investigated the possibility of living abroad where our money would stretch further.
With planning and preparation we moved to Nicaragua in February of 2012 where we found a cute little house in León to rent. We quickly settled into daily life in this bustling university town. In Canada we had always loved exploring small communities and here in Nicaragua, living on the Pacific Coast, we found it allowed us to easily travel and see different parts of the country.
We visited Casares, a working fishing village, and stayed in a small hotel overlooking the beach—a great vantage point to watch the local fishermen and their families at work. We loved Las Peñitas, just a 45-minute bus ride away from León, where we could spend the day at a local restaurant eating, drinking and playing in the waves. We were really enjoying our life in León and weren't looking to make any major changes.
But in early 2013 we went on another road a small community on the Caribbean coast of Nicaragua called Pearl Lagoon. Pearl Lagoon is a small, tranquil town with few roads and even fewer cars. There are no grocery stores here and no bank or ATM either. It's so remote that you have to travel an hour by panga (small boat) to get to the closest "big" town of Bluefields to access these amenities.
English is predominantly spoken in Pearl Lagoon but you will also hear Spanish, Miskito and Creole. We were surprised at how this little community captured our hearts and awakened in us a sense of adventure. By the end of our trip we were hooked and decided to move here.
We've now been living in Pearl Lagoon for over six months and the charm of living in this small community hasn't worn off. Because Pearl Lagoon is remote and far from the big cities, there can be inconveniences occasionally—electricity and water can go out without notice and for extended periods of time, for example—but we've surprised ourselves at how well we've dealt with our change in lifestyle. We've found that preparation and adaptability are the key!
Life isn't all sacrifice though. Pearl Lagoon has a couple of good restaurants where a group of four can enjoy a delicious fish dinner with beer or wine for only $35—complete with a beautiful view of the lagoon. Or, if you head to the local bakery, you can pick up a delightful rum cake for only a dollar. Fresh fruit and veggies are brought in from local farms so you know you are supporting the local communities. And, our three-bedroom, two-bathroom home is only $250 a month with our electricity and municipal water expenses at an additional $27—very affordable living indeed!
At our doorstep is a lush jungle where, with a local guide, we can take a nature walk and perhaps spot howler monkeys. Or, we can take a half-hour stroll to Awas, an indigenous Miskito community, and find a one-treed island all to ourselves where we can relax and read a book or take a refreshing dip in the lagoon.
Granted, a community like Pearl Lagoon isn't for everyone. In fact, when we were researching moving to Nicaragua we didn't think it was for us either. However, life has a way of taking you in directions you weren't expecting... We're happy our sense of adventure brought us to this laid-back, friendly community.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

English Speaking Doctor in Bluefields, Nicaragua

Pat just hasn't been feeling that great the last little while. He has visited the Clinic here in Pearl Lagoon and received treatment for parasites - a very common ailment in these parts - and some pills for his cough. Well, nothing really changed - he wasn't feeling any better and so he decided a trip to see a doctor he'd heard about in Bluefields was in order.

So, this past Monday we took an early morning panga to Bluefields. We stopped by the Clinic where Dr. Harold Bacon works only to be told that he wouldn't be in until the afternoon. No problem, we had some shopping to do and figured that even if Pat didn't see the doctor until 2:30 - 3:00 pm that we could still make the 4:00 pm panga back to Pearl Lagoon.

When we arrived at the Clinic in the afternoon we found out that the front desk clerk was mistaken and that Dr. Bacon wasn't planning to come in that afternoon. However, after contacting Dr. Bacon by phone and a short conversation with Pat the doctor said that he would come in and take a look at Pat.

After an examination Dr. Bacon determined that a number of tests were needed. An ultrasound and EKG were quickly performed. Due to the results of the ultrasound, Dr. Bacon consulted with a resident Internal Medicine Specialist and they suggested that some lab tests and an ex-ray would be necessary to better determine what Pat's problems were. In order for all of this to be done we were required to stay overnight in Bluefields - the blood work needed to be performed before Pat had eaten any breakfast.

So, bright and early on Tuesday morning we arrived at the Clinic for the Lab Technician to draw two vials of blood. We were told to get some breakfast and return for 9:00 am so that we could go to the hospital to have the ex-ray taken. When we arrived back at the Clinic, Dr. Bacon put us in a taxi, along with a guide, and off we went to the hospital. Our guide took us to the Ex-ray Department, handed in Pat's "order" and then left us to wait for his turn. Within an hour we were back at the Clinic with the ex-ray in hand for Dr. Bacon to take a look at. He told us to return in the afternoon when all the lab results would be ready and we could have another consultation with the Specialist.

Although we aren't happy with what the medical tests have indicated - we couldn't be more than happy with the excellent care and treatment by Dr. Bacon and his staff. Dr. Bacon went out of his way to ensure that we got around town safely and navigated the public hospital system without a problem. From what we can tell the equipment at the Clinic was modern and the staff operating it were very knowledgeable. The costs for the tests were very reasonable - they won't break the bank!

  • Ultrasound - 400 cordobas ($16.67 CDN)
  • Medical exam and EKG - 1,100 cordobas ($45.84 CDN) which included 2 consults with the Internal Medicine Specialist
  • Laboratory Tests - 1,830 ($76.52 CDN) 9 different lab tests were completed
  • Ex-Ray - no charge because it was completed at the public hospital

Before we left Dr. Bacon's office he gave us all exam results and the ex-ray to take with us to any doctors we may see in the future.

Are you on the Atlantic Coast of Nicaragua and need to see a doctor? You can find Dr. Bacon's clinic across from the main Claro building (near Gallo mas Gallo). The official address is: Clinica Bacon, Avenida Estrada, contiguo BANCENTRO.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Pancho is being held for ransom!

Chocoyo with no name
You may recall that in a crazy twist of events we found our lost chocoyo, Pancho, enjoying life beachfront in Awas, Nicaragua (read about it: We found Pancho).

Originally, the plan was that we would find another chocoyo and make a trade, but we weren't able to find one for sale. We mentioned to Pancho's new family that we would be willing to pay some money for him in exchange - so we found out what the going price was to buy chocoyos. Generally, a baby bird would cost about 150-200 cordobas ($8.00 US) which we felt was a fair price to pay to get Pancho back. Well, in discussion with the family that is looking after him we were told that the man that found Pancho wants $20.00 US in order to get him back!

We couldn't believe it! We told the family that we thought that was too much money to ask for and that we weren't prepared to pay that much money to get him back - we would just have to visit him at their place.

Another twist in the story came tonight - a friend of ours was able to get a chocoyo for us. This poor little guy has arrived tired and cranky. We were warned that he bites - so I guess Pancho isn't unique in that way!
We hope to make an exchange for Pancho later this week. In the meantime, we'll have to try and sweeten this little guy up!

Monday, October 14, 2013

When taking turns with the internet just won't do!

We find that using the internet is an important part of staying connected to friends and family back home - we check our email, post blogs and get up-to-date with what's going on in the world on a daily basis. If you are connected to wifi then life is good, but if you are relying on a Claro thumb drive modem connectivity can become an issue if you have more than one device to connect to the internet. After all, who wants to "take turns" using the Claro stick? Here in Pearl Lagoon there are times when the electricity is out and we really need to connect to the internet and we have found out that the Claro modem will work when the wifi is out.  What can you do so that everyone is connected and happy?

A friend of ours showed us how to set up our computer as a "Wireless ad hoc network" so that we can both get onto the internet at the same time.

 Here are step-by-step instructions on how you can set up an ad hoc using your Claro Turbonett Móvil modem:

Step 1: From your task bar right click on your internet signal strength indicator. Select "Open Network and Sharing Center"
Step 2: Choose "Set up a new connection or network"
Step 3: Click on "Setup a wireless ad hoc (computer to computer) network" and click Next
Step 4: click Next
Step 5: Name your network
Step 6: set your Security type to "No Authentication (Open)" and click Next
Step 7: click on Turn on Internet connection sharing
Step 8: Click on "close"

…..and there you go! You should have a wireless connection for all the devices that need to be connected to the internet.

Please note our operating system for our computer is: Windows 7 (not sure if this will affect the above instructions).

Did you find this useful? Please let us know and feel free to share with friends and family - don't forget to "LIKE" us on Facebook!

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Restaurant with no name in Pearl Lagoon

Restaurant beside Western Union - Pearl Lagoon, Nicaragua
Imagine - 5 hungry people returning to their favourite dining establishment only to find it locked up tight! No smells of food cooking, no laughter, no music - no nothing.... What to do?

Well, there is always our second choice for the evening - so off we go..... Only to find out that the cook is feeling sick and there won't be any more food coming out of the kitchen this evening..... (glad we hadn't put in our order yet)

Hummm, what to do - where to go? As we strolled along Front Street we came across the "new" restaurant by the Western Union store. There is no sign outside so we've always just called it the "new" one. It has been open since the baseball series in March but we have never eaten there - we had heard that it had become more like a place to have drinks and hang out than a restaurant.

Well, let me tell you, it is far more than a bar and is well worth putting on your list of "must eats" in Pearl Lagoon. Although the food is a little pricier than other restaurants in town the quality makes it well worth a visit. Also, if it's beer you want, a cold Toña will only set you back 20 cords - less than a dollar a bottle!

Three in our party ordered different fish plates (170 cords a plate) and the other two ordered the Garlic Shrimp (180 cords). All meals were delicious! Each of the fish plates came with a medley of veggies that we haven't seen anywhere else in Pearl Lagoon. The veggie medley included green beans, baby corn, mushroom caps, and broccoli! The meal also had a side of french fries.

Garlic Fish dinner at  Restaurant - Pearl Lagoon, Nicaragua

The Garlic Shrimp was also a treat with a heaping plate full of large shrimp, tostones, rice and a garnish of tomato, onion topped with a slice of jalapeño.
Garlic Shrimp at  Restaurant - Pearl Lagoon, Nicaragua
So, even though this restaurant is still nameless to us, we highly recommend it to you - you won't be disappointed!

You will find the "new" restaurant on Front Street. It is located to the right of the Western Union and will almost be in front of you as you exit the Municipal Wharf.

Monday, October 7, 2013

The Hoop Dream visits Pearl Lagoon

The Hoop Dream Bench
There are many organizations that volunteer their time and resources to help the small town of Pearl Lagoon and it's nearby communities. Recently, one such organization - The Hoop Dream - visited Pearl Lagoon for personal reasons, but quickly realized that there was an opportunity for their passion for basketball to help the young people of this community. 

From their website I learned that, "The Hoop Dream was formed in 2010 with the humble mission to bring basketball into rural East African villages. Between 2010 and 2011, The Hoop Dream built 13 provisional hoops across southern Kenya and Uganda allowing thousands of African youth the opportunity to begin to learn to play Basketball".

We asked Brian Smith, the founder of The Hoop Dream, to tell us about his past visit here in Pearl Lagoon:

"We came to Pearl Lagoon in May 2013 and were there most of the month. My grandfather was sending money to a lady to do some work so we went to check the status of that project. Since we were coming for that, we figured that we would continue The Hoop Dream's mission to globalize basketball by building a court. 
Once we arrived we met a person that took us to the primary school, Beaula Lightburn, where we found the playing surface for a court already complete. Unfortunately, time and weather had ruined the hoops on the court. We changed our focus to refurbishing the existing court.  All together, I think the project cost around $500 to build the one hoop that now stands.

Basketball Court at Beaula Lightburn Primary School - Pearl Lagoon, Nicaragua

We are currently in the process of planning another trip in 2014 to Pearl Lagoon and surrounding areas to refurbish the other courts that are in the area.  We would also like to visit more communities around the lagoon and see if building courts there would be welcomed.

The highlight of the trip in my eyes was seeing the existing basketball culture in Pearl Lagoon. Hearing the ball bounce at the main court as we came into town made me realize we had come to the right place. Another highlight was all the citizens of Pearl Lagoon, young and old, who we found wearing old NBA jerseys. We took pictures with most of them.

We are planning the next trip with the idea that we might shift the focus of The Hoop Dream from Africa to Nicaragua and the rest of the Miskito Coast. It makes for a much easier trip from the US and already has some basketball culture established.  Also, the country itself is more developed. If there is such a thing as a "2nd World Country" we think we have found it in Nicaragua."
Please feel free to check out their website: The Hoop Dream Org. You can contact Brian Smith at if you would like to help or for more information.

Court at Beaula Lightburn Primary School - Pearl Lagoon, Nicaragua

Basketball - Pearl Lagoon, Nicaragua

Basketball game - Pearl Lagoon, Nicaragua

Sunday, October 6, 2013

A morning without coffee is like a day without....

Coffee grounds
We learned long ago that, for us, coffee in the morning is a necessity! It gets the body going, the mind sharpens - I'm sure you get the picture. So, when we moved to Nicaragua we made sure that we had the means to make coffee even if the electricity goes out.  We had no idea how much we would appreciate such foresight!

There have been many mornings here in Pearl Lagoon when we have started the day without electricity. If we had to rely on a coffee pot that required electricity to brew a cup, then we would be in poor shape.  However, we have our trusty percolator, that as long as we have gas for cooking - or wood for that matter - we can have our coffee to get the morning going.

There is another challenge to getting our morning brew - at this point it is impossible to find ground coffee here in Pearl Lagoon. For some reason they prefer "instant" coffee. So, on our monthly trips to Bluefields we ensure that we pick up at least 3 packages of coffee. There isn't much choice in coffee brands in Bluefields so when we want some really "good" coffee we have to buy it when we are in Managua.

So.... if you are coming to Pearl Lagoon, and having a good cup of coffee is important to you, don't forget to bring some type of percolator and a bag or two of ground coffee!


Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Fallout from improved electrical wiring in Pearl Lagoon

Electric Bill before Improvements
In May 2013 we wrote a blog about the road and electrical improvements here in Pearl Lagoon (New Wiring and Graded Roads for Pearl Lagoon). Everyone was all excited, expecting great things - days on end without loss of electricity, but what has been the reality?

Sad to say, here in Pearl Lagoon we are still experiencing a LOT of power outages. For example, last week we had two full days when the lights were out. One would think that with this lack of electricity there would be a reduction in our energy costs - but that hasn't been the case. Our electric bill has more than doubled - we have heard similar stories from many of our neighbours. Some store owners that we have talked to are facing a dilemma.  They are trying to figure out how to keep costs down and still make a living. With their electricity costs more than doubled many feel that they are only in business to pay for their electricity consumption. Just like the stores at home they have to have two fridges for the different cold products - one for Coke and one for Pepsi. We know of at least one store owner that has had to decide to supply their customers with a more limited choice of products rather than carry the extra cost of two fridges.

It's interesting to note that our electricity bills in León were in the 300 cordoba range. We had ceiling fans in each room that were almost always on. Here in Pearl Lagoon we have one fan that is usually run mainly during the night. Other than that all of our appliances are the same.

Claims have been made to the company responsible for providing electricity, but many feel that there will be little satisfaction - I guess time will tell.

Electric Bill after Improvements

Monday, September 30, 2013

House Construction Pearl Lagoon Style

Pat removing wood supports for the base of the wall
Building the family home is a family affair here in Pearl Lagoon. There are no construction companies or architects to call on to help you design, layout and construct your house. Every family member (and any friends you can recruit) have a share in the construction.

There is nowhere local in Pearl Lagoon to purchase bricks for the walls - so you have to make them yourself! So... even before you layout the design of the house the family is usually already preparing tonnes of bricks. Once you have enough bricks prepared the property is cleared and the foundation outlines are sighted, dug and cemented with re-bar. Some homes only have cement walls halfway to the roof with the remainder wood. This is a far less expensive way of building. Other homes have bricks all the way up to the roof.  You will find very few buildings have a second floor.

You will notice in the following pictures that there is very little in the way of PPE worn on the building lot - there are no "work boots" to be seen. Surprisingly, there are very few accidents on these construction sites - there are more injuries that happen at the local bars each week.

 Since we have been here in Pearl Lagoon we have assisted with a couple of "house building" projects. With the Padilla family home we helped with the foundation and laying some of the first layer of bricks.

Preparing to mix cement

Everyone is helping out

Waiting for the cement

Digging so the foundation boards can be put in place

Taking a rest after moving all the bricks

Sticking bricks

Making sure the brick is level

Filling cracks

Filling Cracks

This is the house we are helping with this week. The Blake family has managed to bring it this far by themselves, but now the rush is one to get it finished and have the family move in by the middle of October. Only part of the house will be completed now. The porch, front entrance and third bedroom will be finished at a later date.

Since this picture was taken a few weeks ago the iron bars for the windows have been installed as well as the front and back metal doors.

Preparing the struts.

Removing the dirt in the "tool room"

Welding the struts

Pat taking a break

Putting the struts in place

Taking a rest in the "garden"
 We will post updates as these homes progress.