by Pam Bing (UK) & Seoirse McKinney (Ireland)

The trip from Managua ? 

To get to Bluefields you first have to get a bus down to Rama, and then a boat from Rama to Bluefields. Buses to Bluefields go from the Coatlantico bus station in Managua. Invariably this will be a different bus station from the one you arrive at! The journey takes about 6 and a half hours, the road is OK except towards the end but it looked as if this was in the process of being improved. Buses go at various times during the day - last day-bus goes at 2pm. We took a night bus, which cost 80 cordobas and left at 10.30pm. There are various problems associated with this. From a safety point of view, its not great to be hanging around bus stations after dark in Managua. I had a watch stolen off my wrist when our taxi driver took us to the wrong bus station, the Coatlantico station was better lit and appeared safer than that shithole. The other problem with the night bus was the seats, which although more comfortable than ordinary buses, didn't recline. Then, there's the time you arrive at Rama - 4am, not pretty. 

We didn't stay in Rama, but there are hotels available. 

There are two different types of boats that go on the river down to Bluefields, lanchas and the slow boat. The lanchas go every day starting at 6am take 2 hours and cost about 100 cordobas. Unfortunately they go too fast to really appreciate the scenery, which is quite pleasant - random locals living on the side of the river etc....The main boat takes about 4.5 hours and costs only 50 Cordobas - much more like it!!!! It leaves Rama at 12.00, Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday. We took this boat on the way back and a lancha on the way to Bluefields. 

From Bluefieds to the Corn Islands ? 

There is not a whole lot to do in Bluefields itself and all the backpackers we met there were using it solely as a stopping off point on the way to the Corn Islands. Unfortunately this is not as simple as we were led to believe. The main boat to the Islands is called the Corn Islands 2 and we spoke to the captain. It runs twice a week, on Wednesdays and Saturdays. We forgot what time it leaves, but the important thing is that you have to be at the dock a day before to sign up for it - at 6.00am!!!! This is not even guaranteed to get you there as the captain informed us that it does not always take passengers - if there is too much cargo etc..... So there is NO GUARANTEE!!!! You must be prepared to wait - even up to a week to get this boat.

The only other way of getting to the islands appears to be by plane - there were 6 of us in total trying to get to the islands, all asking locals for advice, all talking to boat people (about 90% of the population seem to work on them), and we all failed miserably. Not even generous charter offers to local boat folk were successful. Two Danish girls got removed from a boat in Bluff (the main port over the bay) by the police, along with several locals. No passengers were supposed to be on it. Nice one! The plane costs 900 Cordobas return, and half that one way. It goes every day in the afternoon, and tickets can be bought near the dock or any travel agent in town. We considered flying one way, but then the same boat problems may have caused us to fly back as well - too much money!!!!

What about Bluefields ?

There is not a great deal to do in Bluefields while you wait - although it is a very unique and interesting place. There is a random mix people and cultures and quite a lot of English speakers. Also, we noted an unusually high amount of crazies, nutters and mad folks wandering the streets - maybe this has something to do with the freely available and probably very cheap Crack Cocaine on offer!!!! Be very wary of attempting to buy Marijuana, as more than likely you'll get ripped off, and maybe even find yourself in deeper trouble with the local hoods - Quite unsavory, but easily avoidable and not "in your face", as in Honduras' s north coast.

We stayed at Hotel Marda Maus which was 80 Cordobas for a double with no bathroom, and reasonable value - with a nice balcony with comfy sofa. We spoke to a Yank who stayed in the market for 30 Cordobas for a triple - we didn't see it though. 

Food is also a little more expensive here, although there is a good buffet, and some local comedors doing their thing with gallo pinto and chicken. Even the seafood was expensive, apparently more expensive than in Leon!!! 

Apparently it's a good town for nightlife, although we missed the annual festival by 2 days, and there was nothing going on. The discos only open at weekends.

The trip back to Managua Getting back to Rama - the slow boat leaves at 5.00am - the same days as it comes. Same cost - no worries. Buses will wait at Rama for the boat and will take off quite quickly - enough time for some lunch. You will arrive in Managua early enough to get the hell out of there - we made it to Granada the same day.