Before you dash off for an idyllic holiday on Little Corn Island (Guardian 4/12/10), you may want to consider our recent experience. One of the problems is that a stiff wind blows all the time, but a more serious one is that you have to go to Big Corn Island first . . . and afterwards, too.
Big Corn Island, some 60km off the Nicaraguan Caribbean coast, is a bad joke. The island is littered with rubbish, the people - uniquely in our extensive travels - are surly and dull in three languages — including sign language.
The guide book explains that you must expect to wait an hour or so for your food because “everything is freshly prepared”. But does it really take 25 minutes to make a cup of instant coffee? Apathy is a better explanation.
We were warned several times not to walk out at night, nor to go too far down the only good beach in daytime, because of “the rough guys.” Our surmise is that this isolated island has a drug culture that has somehow enveloped almost the entire population in a miasma of grudging hostility - not just to tourists, but to each other.
But we were delighted by the anxious Alessandro, who ran a ramshackle collection of thatched huts leaning over the surf, an Italian-flavoured Fawlty-Towers-on-the-sea. We couldn’t work out whether it was still a-building or was lapsing into desuetude until he revealed that he had rebuilt a previous establishment from the foundations remaining after it had been destroyed by the 1998 hurricane. Or was in the process of rebuilding. Maybe. Some day. He managed to saw the ends off two planks during the three days we were there.
Little Corn Island, ten kilometres away and reached by a pelvis-jarring journey in an over-powered launch that slammed into choppy seas, was more welcoming. Particularly the lovely lady who runs the best restaurant with her Cuban husband, who prepared the Cuban speciality of Ropa Vieja (Old Clothes) for our Christmas dinner. (It’s a spicy stew of shredded beef.)
Everything is brought in by that launch, and when the island started to run out of beer, we thought it was time to leave. So did a large number of other folk, so the morning launch, which seats 30 people, somehow held 40, including a local woman sitting next to us shielding her two-month old infant against the spray. Fortunately the force of the waves was now behind us, because about halfway between the islands the engine’s roar suddenly slowed to a pathetic belch. If we had been going the other way we would have broached in the waves and capsized. Our skipper, who makes this journey four times a day every day, had run out of petrol.
And so we limped on until he was able to run the boat aground at the nearest beach, a couple of miles from the harbour. And we all clambered over the side. We immediately repaired to the airstrip and confirmed the next day’s flight to Bluefields, but when we returned the next day the same lady told us there was no flight to Bluefields. Unless we waited another day. No apology, of course.
We could not bear another 24 hours on Big Corn Island and so we flew back to Managua, thus missing our planned excursion by steamer from Bluefields through the pristine jungle up the Rio Escondido.
Lesson: Islands are isolated bodies surrounded by water.
60 km off the Carribean coast of Nicaragua
Send your feedback or queries to email@example.com