Trip Report: Morgan’s Rock – Nicaragua

Recently, Amie (my wife) and I took a short trip to Morgan’s Rock in Nicaragua. Morgan’s Rock is an Ecolodge in Southwestern Nicaragua. We were looking for something different, and we found it! Here is a chronicle of our journey.

Thursday February 18, 2010

We left Columbus to head to Managua. Our flight left Columbus at 12:24 PM and we had a 3+ hour layover in Atlanta. There was a 2:30 or so flight that would have given us a shorter layover, but the fare was around $300 more per person due to limited fare class availability. We arrived at Port Columbus around 11:15 AM and parked on a snowy bank. We have been bamboozled with snow recently.

We left Columbus promptly and arrived in Atlanta. We ate a lunch/dinner at Chili’s in concourse A. I ate the jalapeno bacon burger and Amie had the Cobb salad. It was a nice meal and we enjoyed talking to each other to start to settle down for our trip. We spent the rest of our layover in the Delta Sky Club (Formerly Crown Room) in concourse A, the Centerpoint unit. There we relaxed while reading and I found myself running over the Internet stations there checking my email before we left. As the time for our departure arrived, we headed out of concourse A and down to concourse E for International departures. I thought I had checked the gate information display system (GIDS) and read that the flight was E5. When we got to E5 and that 767 was going to Dublin, Ireland. I checked the nearest GIDS and realized that our flight was actually departing from T5. I didn’t want to be the first person to miss their connection after a 3 and a half hour layover, so we did the hustle! We were one of the last people on the flight but nonetheless made it.

Our flight left Atlanta with a 50 mile per hour tail wind. This was incredible as the 737 was running at about 540 miles per hour, quite a bit above the cruising speed for that aircraft type at normal fuel burn. This let us arrive about 20 mintues early into Managua. The flight was good, I watched the movie “Whip It” which I enjoyed. I am a little disappointed in Delta’s buy on board food program. It was much better before. Now they are literally an uncoordinated collection of items that lack substance. What ever happened to the “Two bean or not two bean” salad or the bacon, apple and cheddar croissant?

We arrived into Managua around 8:20 PM. We promptly passed through immigration and customs as I recalibrated my less than ideal yet functional Spanish language skills. The driver, Hector, from Morgan’s Rock was waiting for us in uniform and with signed information for our arrival. We hopped into the Range Rover for the adventure to Morgan’s Rock. The Morgan’s Rock Hacienda and ecolodge is located near San Juan Del Sur, Nicaragua. Click here for a Google Map link to the property.

We ventured South of Managua on roads of mixed size, including parts on the famous Pan-American Highway. We then ventured onto the local roads towards Morgan’s Rock and then it started to get interesting. Nicaragua is a rugged terrain. The history of volcanic activity, tectonic plate proximity and limited development in some areas made the last leg of the arrival very interesting.

On the series of roads leading to Morgan’s Rock, there is a large water project underway. This hard work project is installing a series of underground pipes to provide municipal water from Lake Nicaragua to the areas North of San Juan Del Sur, including the Morgan’s Rock area. This made the already rough road become a very rugged ride. Now I know why the vehicles to the hotel were trucks and rovers. Here is a view from the back seat of the road:

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The last 8 Km of the voyage or so was on this rugged road and we finally made it to the lodge around 11:45 PM or so. There, the lodge staff awaited our arrival out front. Three or four of the staffers were there to process our arrival promptly. They understood it was late, and made our arrival smooth and comforting. There, Lewis from reception went into the vehicle and drove with us to our cabin, number 13.

When we arrived into the room, we were awestruck by the tranquil setting of the room and soothing sounds of the ocean. The arrival staff had also provided us a courtesy of having two sandwiches from the kitchen in a cooler with bottled water and soda in case we needed something to eat due to our late arrival. Here are some of the pics of the room and outdoor parts of the cabin:

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imageimage  image After we got into the cabin and changed our clothes, we quickly crashed to a nice night of sleep with the ocean’s waves. There is no air conditioning in the units. I was initially concerned about this, but it ended up being a non-issue. There is a constant breeze which comes in from the sea. The cabins have no windows, only screens. So the air flow is constant. Plus there are some high-movement ceiling fans installed as well. We slept well that night. So well, we missed breakfast the next morning.

Friday February 19, 2010

Friday started out with a relaxing morning of reading and sleeping in. We had a few nourishments in the cooler from last night, as well as the aforementioned junk food for sale on the plane. I had some M&Ms left over that we made a breakfast out of with the sandwiches from the night before. I also had brought some Diet Coke and Diet Mountain Dew with me from home, you know – just in case they didn’t have any here.

We ventured down to the lodge, which was an incredible feat just to do that. The cabins are remote and on rugged terrain. Cabin #13 was 560 footsteps to the lodge. Most of those steps were on steep steps up or down the mountain. My right knee is bad, so I favor that knee which may have added a few steps. But, make no mistake it is a real hike to get there. One highlight of the trek is crossing the suspension bridge. The pics below are what is traversed between the lodge and the cabins:

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We spent Friday getting our bearings on the property as well as enjoying both a great lunch and dinner at the restaurant. We also arranged an all-day tour for Saturday, the Granada and Volcanoes tour (more about that in a bit). We walked around the property a bit, including down to the very tranquil beach. Friday was a very relaxing start to our short vacation. Here is a view from the lobby bar area out to the beach and ocean (yeah it is that nice):

imageFor dinner, I had the shellfish of the day appetizer and vegetarian quesadillas. Amie had a salad and lamb stew over rice. Here are pictures of the food for dinner and subsequent meals (which were all really good):

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imageimageFYI – The chocolate mousse above was literally one of the best desserts we have ever had. 

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After dinner, we sat around for a bit and relaxed. Somewhat dreading the return hike back to the cabin, but we finally made the trek. I found myself taking 3 or 4 showers a day, partly because I sweat a lot and also due to the substantial walk to get to the cabin.

Saturday February 20, 2010

We started early as we had to be ready to go for the tour at 8:00 A.M. Unfortunately, we started a little too early! I used my cell phone as an alarm clock, but it did not receive any service in Nicaragua – much less at the resort. It was still using Eastern US time, which was 1 hour ahead. So, in setting my alarm clock for 6:30 A.M. – I actually got us up at 5:30 A.M. Needless to say, that wasn’t the most tactful of tasks. The cabin had no TV or alarm clock. Wake-up service is available via knock on the door, but I thought I would be fine with my phone.

We ate a nice breakfast at the lodge and headed out with our tour guide, Eduardo. Hector again was our driver for the day as well. The cozy tour was just Amie and I with Eduardo and Hector. Logistically, this worked out well as Hector stayed with the car so we could leave shopping items there as well as have Eduardo with us on all stops so we would not get lost or if we had a question that my Spanish couldn’t get accomplished. It always seems that my Spanish is good enough for shopping and eating, however.

Our first stop was the city of San Juan del Oriente. There we visited a shop and crafting area for pottery. The clay pottery in Nicaragua is hand made in many of the family run stores and is beautiful as well as an incredible bargain. We saw a clay wheel spun as well as did some shopping for some pottery items. This store and pottery studio is also the family’s home. I won’t mislead the facts, Nicaragua is a poor country compared to the United States standard of living. But, the people we visited were nice, welcoming and had a very high quality pottery product. Here is a pot being made while we visited:

 

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We then went across the way to the city of Catarina. There, we did some more shopping in the open market as well as view a large crater lake:

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We then went to the city of Masaya, where we visited the large Market at Masaya. There were a few peddlers and child solicitors for money, maybe a gypsy or two but I’ve seen more alarming events in Europe and other places abroad. We strolled through the maze of shops, not purchasing anything this time. We started to see the inventory start to repeat, which is a sign that you’ve seen all that is for sale. Here is a beautiful shot of Amie while we are traversing the market:

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We left the market at Masaya and made an unscheduled stop at a local convenience store. I decided to bring home some of the famous Nicaraguan rum, Flor de Caña. This is much cheaper than purchasing it at the airport – even though there is no tax there. I’ll take a much lesser price with tax over a higher price with no tax at the airport.

We then went to the Masaya volcano national park. This Nicaraguan park was really a treat. We drove to the edge of the active volcano and saw mother nature showing that she is still in charge:

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You cannot see to the bottom due to the sulfuric acid (it’s not smoke) that is released from the active volcano. At night, there is the distinct orange glow of lava that softly illuminates the cloud coming from the volcano. How cool is that!

We then had a picnic lunch there at the park from goods from the hotel and enjoyed talking with Eduardo about family, country and Nicaragua. After lunch, we headed to the historic city of Granada. There we went into the main cathedral of the city and went to the top of the tower for a good view of the city. We also went to the main square to browse some shopping and listen to a live concert going on there. I purchased some coffee that is a locally grown, and smelled really good. Here are a few pics from our visit to the city of Granada:

 

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We then went onto Lake Nicaragua, which is one of the largest lakes in the world. I believe it is either the 19th or 20th largest lake. We rode on a boat through the “isletas” or islands in the lakes. This was as serene boat ride through the region, which is Nicaragua’s inland playground for the rich. Islands are still for sale there, I think I saw one for sale for $285,000 US! Here are a few shots of the boat tour through the isletas:

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Yes, those are cows walking through the lake on the mangrove shores. Keeping cool in the heat while munching on the grasses and such.

After the boat ride, we headed back to Morgan’s Rock. It was a long day and a well-guided tour by Eduardo and Hector. I appreciated the one-on-one time they provided, that’s now the only way to do tours for sure.

We cleaned up with shower and headed down for dinner that night. I had fettuccine pesto and Amie had a grilled chicken, both of which were tasty as always. After dinner, we went back up to the room and went to sleep early. The long tour day (nearly 10 hours) had worn us out.

Sunday February 21, 2010

Sunday’s main objective was to relax again. After breakfast, we did take a self-guided tour of the Morgan’s Rock property. The “Las Palmas” trail is a 2 – 2.5 hour walking tour through the property. Part of the trail took us through roads on the property that led to other areas (like the shrimp farm and lamb herding area) and other parts of the trail took us into some pretty thick vegetation. We actually got lost, somewhat. The trail goes from the lodge into part of the woods. They are smart in sending us into the woods to a section that is ‘bound’ by roads, so no matter what, we’ll eventually hit a road. We ended up in the right place, but were convinced we were not on a trail for a good part of the walk. I guess that added to the adventure.

During the trail walk, we didn’t see any exotic wildlife. We were probably moving too fast to observe anything. We did see the lamb herd and say hello to the two gentlemen tending to the animals. Most of the food at the resort is raised and produced on the working farm, this includes meats, fruits and vegetables.

After we cleared the trail and had lunch, we ended up spending a long part of the afternoon sitting on the beach. For most of the time, we had the entire beach to ourselves. There are a number of ‘huts’ on the beach that provide two hammocks and a number of seating options to relax on the beach. There we read, napped and simply relaxed on our last full day of the vacation.

When we were done with the beach, we headed up to the bar to enjoy one of the most beautiful daily spectacles at the resort, the sunset. The sun sets over the hills beyond the water for a nice setting that is peaceful and well served with the hotel’s fried plantains and pico salsa. Add a Toña beer for a well-rounded experience! Here is the view before sunset on the last day of our trip:

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We then did the check-out process early as our flight was at 8:40 AM from Managua. The kitchen staff offered to pack us a cooler with fruit and beverages for the early departure from the hotel because we would miss the breakfast service. I thought that was very nice of the staff, but declined as we had already been given a cooler with Diet Coke and I planned on grabbing something at the airport.

Sunday February 21, 2010

Our driver showed up at 3:30, however I thought it was to be 4:00 AM! I guess my Spanish is “functional” not “great.”  We got ready quickly and soon were on the road to the airport. I think there was more traffic that we had to deal with at this hour than we did upon our arrival. At around 5:00 A.M. a number of signs of life started to show up on various parts of the journey to Managua.

We arrived at the airport around 6:40 A.M. We proceeded to the Delta counter to check-in and had a less than optimal experience due to reasons unknown to me. The first passengers seemed to take forever to process their check-in, but after a bit the queues started flowing well and we were all done about an hour before our flight. We spent some time looking for a last minute gift in the airport, though we didn’t find anything at the shops there. We did grab breakfast at Subway in the airport, however! Yes, I had a BMT for breakfast! Subway is one of my favorite places and Amie thought it looked safe and predictable. She had a turkey and cheese sandwich. It was generally indistinguishable from the American Subway experience except that the jalapeno peppers were “for real” on that sandwich.

We then went into the departure terminal and awaited our departure. There were a few more stores that didn’t really tickle our fancy for an additional purchase, but we looked nonetheless. My strategy of purchasing the Flor de Caña in a traditional retail outlet was a wise decision! We then boarded Delta 370 back to Atlanta and were a little late leaving and therefore late arriving.

In Atlanta, we hustled through customs and immigration to go to our connecting flight to Columbus. It was running a tad late as well. We literally didn’t have a chance to take a break, simply go directly to the gate! We did stop and grab a sandwich from Popeye’s in Atlanta concourse B to take with us on the flight, however. Once the flight to Columbus was airborne we started to realize that vacation was over and the real-world is back on our agenda.

Trip Summary and Nicaragua

We had a great time in Nicaragua. It has wonderful natural resources and our resort was an outstanding host. But Nicaragua is a poor country in Central America. I think the country has incredible potential. The natural resources are awesome and the people are very accommodating. Morgan’s Rock is an expensive destination. But, I think it was worth the price and I’d recommend it to a friend.

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8 responses to this post.

  1. […] You find the original post here rickvanover.wordpres … | rickvanover […]

    Reply

  2. Rick, thanks for the travelogue, I’d like to visit sometime.

    Reply

  3. @marcfarley Yes, it was a really awesome place.

    Reply

  4. Posted by Dan Webb on February 25, 2010 at 7:38 pm

    Rick – Very interesting trip.

    Reply

  5. @Dan Webb. Thanks, Dan. Hope all is well in the Beehive state. I miss the good explanations you would give me on three phase power step down and such.

    Reply

  6. Posted by Connie Cravens on February 25, 2010 at 9:24 pm

    Thanks for the tour! Glad you enjoyed and had the chance to relax. Now I know you are a good writer because it was something I could understand. You know how I am with all the tech talk:)

    Reply

  7. Posted by Cheryl Hunt-Black on June 28, 2010 at 1:01 pm

    Your tour description was very informative and interesting. I go regularly to Nicaragua, usually staying in Granada, and I agree with your comments about the Nicas and their country. I too think the country has lots of potential for growth in the tourist industry. And contrary to what many foreigners think, it is the second safest country in central america. Costa Rica where I live is first. The poverty is very hard for some people to see but over the years I’ve seen Granada bloom. I’m glad you felt like you could recommend the country to your friends since our tourist dollars helps them. I don’t know what Morgan’s Rock charges but I’ve heard it is VERY EXPENSIVE for what you get. It is owned I believe by a British woman who rarely visits but has it managed. Strangely my daughter just called from N.Y. and suggested we might all meet up there. I told her what I had heard but thought I would ask you if you didn’t feel that to be true. I thought there might be some doubt when you said, “But, I think it was worth the price…”
    We stay at Miss Margrits in Granada…I think it is the best kept secret in Nicaragua. (It isn’t an ecological reserve of course, but if you return, I highly recommend it.)
    Cheryl

    Reply

  8. Cheryl: Sorry for being a little late on the reply. Yes, Morgan’s Rock is expensive. I believe the owner is a French lady, however; not British.

    But, our strategy is to have one vacation that is short and sweet, thus expensive.

    Reply

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