For 500 years the Atlantic Coast Of Nicaragua was separated from the rest of the country by the lack of a viable land route. With the completion of the El Rama road, all that is a new history.
This 290- kilometer ribbon of shiny black asphalt not only connects the two halves, it is a pleasure in itself to experience. The road winds through mountains shouded in morning fog, tree lined river valleys and stark, sharp rock formations jutting straght up from the surrounding plains. This is cattle country; cowboys on horseback drive herds from pasture to pasture, buckets of mick sit along the road in front of farmhouses awaiting pickup by the trucks, or at times horse carts, making their morning rounds.
The road begins at San Benito west of Lake Managua, goes past the Las Canoas reservoir, ascends the hills of Chontales province and then terminates at the port town o El Rama on the Rio Escondido. El Rama, a town of about 5000 people, sits at the juncture of three great rivers, the Rio Sequia and Rio Rama that feed the Rio Escondido, the big river that flows to the Caribbean Sea. Bluefields, the hub of the southern Atlantic and thus the Corn Islands Pearl Lagoon and a host of other Atlantic Coast destinations are suddenly more accessible.
The rivers are the life blood of the town and a large percentage of people work them; loggers float timber, barges haul goods, fishermen cast nets; even cattlemen bring stock to market, with the cows swimming along side tied to the side of the boat.
One of the simple (and inexpensive) pleasures of a visit to the town is to avail yourself of the travel-by-river life. A dugout canoe with a fivehorse outboard are for rent, with captain, for six dollars an hour. In two hours you can explore in part all three lined, narrow water trails.
It is a jungle out there. Bogart and Hepburn come to mind. You can see the international port and many large and small docks along the way and if you are lucky, a large container ship will pass and awamp your small boat (just kidding).
At certain times of the year, there are huge trees that blossom bright yellow, orange and violet flowers for your enjoyment as the boat cruses past the tropical landscape there are isolated houses accessible by river made only of a veriety of bamboo, stone, concrete block, and native harwood.
Another popular leisure time activity for a large part of the population is swimming, especially during holidays when people flock to the many small, shallow streams that feed the great rivers. In El Rama you learn to swim at an early age. Kids can be seen swimming around the docks often without adults supervision.
Ther are many docks for a variety of boats on the river in or near the city. There is an international port in El Rama one mile up river from dowtown area; this facility can handle sea-going cargo container ships up to 500 feet long. A 3.6 million dollar expansion project is currently underway to acommodate even larger ships. the new road makes it the only easily accessible port on the east side of the country.
There are several hotels in the Rama; some are definitely low end but there are two worth stopping in. The Oasis of the caribbean is a new, clean hotel in downtown that is expresive and has private bathes and air conditioning available.
The other is the El vivero hotel about 3 miles before you get to downtown El Rama. this hotel is on the same property with a sawmill but is quiet in the rooms. The Danish owner, Anker Sgruve,wants to start marketing the hotel as an eco-tourism destination with boat tours on the river. He offers walking tours of his tree plantation.