Moose Lake Star Gazette - Serving Carlton and Pine Counties Since 1895

By Wick Fisher
Moose Lake Star-Gazette 

Christmas in Nicaraguan paradise?

Wick's World


April 27, 2017

When Dennis Martinez threw the pitch that hit Kirby Puckett in the face, neither knew that was the last pitch Puckett would see as a Major League Baseball player. Although the Nicaraguan pitcher was not responsible for ending Puckett’s career, he felt a responsibility to meet Puckett in the off-season to offer his apology. After Martinez retired and returned to his homeland of Nicaragua, that same responsibility he showed to his fellow ballplayer blossomed into accountability for his fellow neighbors and citizens. He had the luxury to play in professional sports, which filled his bank account to nearly the size of his country’s GNP. Nicknamed “EL Presidente,” Martinez is the manager for the Nicaraguan national baseball team. But much more importantly, he runs The Dennis Martinez Foundation that helps poor children around the world.

I asked our tour guide why his native country never promoted tourism to Americans.

He replied, “We are a socialist country, so the United States ignores. We are like the Cuba of Central America.”

As with Cuba, in my humble opinion, this has been a loss for both countries. Nicaragua has much to offer, including a small village of islands that rivals any Shangri-La ever imagined. It is located near the shores of Lake Nicaragua, usually each island with only one house. It’s not that the islanders are anti-social. The size of the island is only large enough for one dwelling. The islands may be small, but in a majority of them resides one huge, ostentatious, luxurious home fit for a king or queen or sometimes even both.

We had the privilege of having a Nicaraguan guide who gave us access to a boat tour of this island community. Although a few of the dwellings on the smaller islands could be called modest, the residents in this location still were living in a Central American-style Garden of Eden. In addition to gawking at the many luxury mansions, our guide would slow the boat down and give us a second tour — that of the wildlife.

“If you look real close, you can see a howler monkey in that tree,” he would say.

As a group we would reply something like this, “Where is it? Do you see it? How far up in the tree is it?”

The guide would try his best to show us until one of us tourists would say, “I see it!” This would be followed by a lot of finger pointing and, “Oh, there it is. Look right there by that tree. No, it’s not that one, the one next to it.”

Eventually this went on until everyone in the boat had seen or claimed to see the monkey or snake or macaw or pit viper or anaconda he would expertly locate. This made for a long, slow boat ride. The benefit of the slowness was the fact we got to see many villas and gardens up close.

We finally returned to the dock and picked up some food and beverages for the long trip back to “the frontier” that divided the country from Costa Rica.

On the return trip, the cogs in my brain were turning the wheels related to our extended family Christmas vacations. Would it be possible to somehow stage our family gathering in Costa Rica? Better yet, could it happen on one of these Nicaraguan islands of paradise?

As soon as we were loaded in the van and on our way south, I asked the guide, “Do most people live on those islands year-round?”

“No, it’s just the opposite. The majority of them are empty most of the year,” he replied.

I’m pretty sure he anticipated my next question as I asked, “Do they possibly rent them out?”

He quickly answered, “Oh sure, you can rent them by the day or week or even some of them by the year.”

I was already silently working out the math. For our family of 12, we were used to paying between $2,500-$5,000 to rent a vacation home for a week. We would divide the costs, so $350-$700 a day seemed reasonable to enjoy the holidays together in luxurious surroundings.

He was ready for my next query, almost before I had time to ask, “How much do the nice places go for?”

I needed clarification when he replied, “Oh, maybe $400 or $500.”

“Per day,” I said. “That’s American prices!”

“No, no, that’s for a week,” he responded.

“You mean I could come down here with a 30-day visa and rent one of these beautiful homes for $2,000 a month?” I replied.

“Oh, for a month, maybe they charge you $1,500; for a year even less.”

The big wheels kept on turning. I only have to persuade 11 more people.


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