No theme parks in sight
I love finding new and interesting places to travel to with our children. However, most travel guides that talk about trips with children seem to limit the scope of their interest to theme parks, playgrounds and swimming pools. While, like most kids, our children love a great pool, they are also open to other experiences. Surely the whole point of travelling is to experience something new, not just a warmer weather re creation of something we can get back home?
So our most recent big trip, backpacking around Nicaragua for three weeks, was heaven on earth. From the aforementioned volcano of my earlier post, to kayaking down jungle rivers, stroking sloths hanging outside our bedroom, flying in a twelve seater plane over the crater of yet another volcano, visiting an amazing museum with huge and creepy characters from Nicaraguan folklore, our children were fascinated, excited and stimulated at every turn. Oh, and the pools were pretty amazing to, from volcanic lagoons surrounded by forest and accompanied by the booming of howler monkeys, to an idyllic natural pool in the middle of the forest.
And for us, this was made even better by the fact that everything, with a bit of lateral thinking and a desire to help from everyone we came across, was completely accessible.
We did take manual wheelchairs with us for both of the children which did make things easier. We are fortunate in that both of them are still quite light and therefore relatively portable. That applies to both the chairs and the kids! People were brilliant and nothing seemed to pose a problem so long as we didn’t mind making an entrance!
The first such example of this was after a couple of days in the capital Managua, after our flight from the UK. Incidentally, I had been somewhat apprehensive about such a long flight with little people, but as always they came up trumps, and got through the flight with no complaining. Perhaps helped by the number of films watched on the way over, five by one and four by the other. Screen time limits did go out the window a little!
After two nights at the fantastic Managua Backpackers Hostel, www.managuahostel.com, we decided to visit the beautiful colonial city of Granada. We were assured that the bus station was a short walk away and so, with rucksacks on backs, we set off for the next stage of our adventure. And our first realisation that Nicaraguan distances and time did not always equate to our ideas of each!
We got to the bus station with moments to spare before the bus was due to leave. No matter. With our limited Spanish we managed to find the bus we needed and approached it to find it almost full. In London, bus drivers often try to turn us away, saying they can only take one wheelchair user at a time. Here the driver and some random passengers merely formed a bucket chain on to the bus as we dismantled the chairs and passed them piece by piece, to where they were piled somewhat precariously on to a couple of seats at the back of an already crowded bus. The locals grinned at us as we carried the children on and made room for my husband so that he could hold on to everything for the journey. And we were off!
It was great fun. The buses in Nicaragua are old school American school buses, known locally as chicken buses. This suited my son, an avid chicken lover, down to the ground! The ticket collector squeezed his way round the packed bus, pulling out wads of cordobas as he charged us for our six seats (four for us two for the wheelchairs). The grand total of 150 cordobas (less than £4). Despite our limited knowledge of Spanish, we shared biscuits with our fellow passengers and exchanged many smiles and head nods as they grinned at the children, making the whole journey a very sociable affair.
Just over an hour later we arrived in Granada, where the whole process of passing down the wheelchairs and reassembling on the side of the road was repeated again. We lifted the children off the bus to more smiles and goodbyes from our fellow passengers. We’d made it. Where now?
This can-do, nothing is too much trouble attitude was in evidence throughout our whole trip. And even more refreshing, it was always accompanied by happy faces, a healthy disregard for over the top health and safety and an intriguing ability to shrink things to fit an already overcrowded space. With such a positive attitude from the people around us and a tolerance by the children, as they were lifted on and off various vehicles, everything became achievable and our adventures continued.