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Interview: Trans-Americas Journey visit Nicaragua

Róger Solórzano Canales | Aug 13, 2012

Karen, Eric, and their truck. | Photographer: Trans-Americas Journey

A couple that is currently traveling, writing and photographing the continent shared their thoughts about Nicaragua with ViaNica.

Nicaragua’s Northern and hilly area, with its fresh weather and rural environment, was the first place the American couple Karen Carchpole and Eric Mohl enjoyed while visiting Nicaragua in late 2011. Five years ago, they quit their lives in New York City to start an independent project “Trans-Americas Journey”, with the aim to travel through the south, all the way to Tierra del Fuego, to work and experience until the last corner of the American continent.

After being and travel around Nicaragua, they are leaving Leon to travel to Costa Rica, where its journey continues, but they will come back to Nicaragua to visit to Río San Juan. ViaNica team interviewed them to learn and share their appreciation of our country.

Before start reading the interview, learn more about this couple: Karen is a journalist and writer specialized on travel and destinations. Her work has been published in newspapers and magazines such as: Travel + Leisure, Afar, Escape, Action Asia, Asian Geographic, Asian Diver, National Geographic Adventure and National Geographic Traveler. On the other side, Eric is a lawyer who left practice to pursue a passion in outdoor and travel photography. His work has been published in media like: National Geographic Adventure, Afar, Escape, Outside, JANE, Action Asia, Asian Geographic, the Minneapolis Star Tribune, The Dallas Morning News, the Toronto Sun, among others. They are married and share the passion for traveling, and now they are working together in the Trans-Americas Journey.

Here is the interview:

What did you know about Nicaragua before you came here?
We knew the basic history of Nicaragua, including the role the United States played in some of that history. And we knew the country produced great coffee, rum and cigars! We’ve since learned, first hand, that that’s true. We also knew that surfers rave about Nicaragua and that it’s said to be one of the safest countries in the region.

Wich was the first attraction you visit in this country and what did you think about it?
We crossed the border from Honduras and went to Jinotega and Esteli but we were only passing through on our way to Costa Rica (We had to drive very quickly through Nicaragua back in December 2011 because we were meeting Eric’s family in Costa Rica for the holidays). But we’ve since returned to Jinotega and Esteli and we love the cooler weather and the small town feel. We toured the VERY hip Drew Estate cigar factory in Esteli and it was great—really different (cooler, more modern) than any other cigar factory tour we’ve done.

Which place were the most photogenic for you?
Granada is very beautiful to look at and photograph. We are leaving Leon today and we believe this city has more atmosphere, architecture and beauty than it gets credit for. And the beaches north of Leon are gorgeous as well—black volcanic sand and hardly any people.

What about people, what is your impression about the Nicaraguan?
The people in Nicaragua are amazingly open, friendly, proud, generous, welcoming and warm. We have been impressed with the natural hospitality of everyone we’ve met in Nicaragua.

Central America countries have a lot in common, but for a journalist and a photographer the differences could be more evident. What distinguish Nicaragua from any other country?
We’ve found that the roads are better, the people are more open, the prices are more affordable and the food is more varied than in many of Nicaragua’s Central American neighbors. All good reasons to come here!

What about bad experiences?
Well, we wasted three weeks waiting for Nicaraguan customs officials to release some parts for our truck which were sent to us from the United States. We needed to install the parts so we could safely drive our truck but it took almost a month for customs to release the parts so we wasted a lot of time waiting. We never found out what the problem was. Very frustrating.

Nicaragua is growing fast in tourism lately, what could be done better?
One of the great things about Nicaragua is its size. The country is small enough that visitors can enjoy a lot of different locations in one trip—from cities to volcanoes to beaches. But we’ve never seen a good, detailed map of Nicaragua which shows visitors just how short the drive is between almost any destination in the country.

Caribbean Nicaragua is very different from the Pacific side, what is your feeling about this destination?
It’s a different world on the Caribbean (Pacific) coast of Nicaragua! The food is different (hooray for coconut bread) and people speak English and look very Caribbean. We spent 10 days on Big Corn Island and Little Corn Island and we felt a little bit like we were back in Belize, though the people on the Corn Islands are not Garufina like they are in Belize. Buildings on the Caribbean coast are also more brightly painted than in the rest of Nicaragua and everyone is pretty laid back. And they speak English. When you visit Nicaragua’s Caribbean coast it’s a bit like entering a whole new country but you don’t need a new visa.

When will you start publishing your advenures in Nicaragua? How people interested in this country could see your travel reports?

We will be covering our travels in Nicaragua on our Trans-Americas Journey travel blog and in our freelance work for the magazines, newspapers and websites we contribute to. Our reviews of two Nicaraguan hotels, Jicaro Island Ecolodge and Los Patios in Granada, have already been published on a luxury travel website called Our blog coverage of Nicaragua will begin in about two months after we finish our coverage of El Salvador. So keep checking in with our blog! And we’re pitching stories about Nicaragua to our editors at magazines and newspapers in the US and Canada all the time so we hope to be writing about Nicaragua for a long time to come.

Can you please describe your present life? You are doing something that a lot of people in the world want to do.
In 2006 we quit our jobs in New York City, gave up our apartment and put all of our possessions in a small storage space. Then we got into a truck and started the Trans-Americas Journey, our 200,000 mile working road trip through all 23 countries in North, Central and South America. We’ve been on the road for more than 5 years and in that time we’ve traveled through the United States, Canada, Mexico, Belize, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Costa Rica and Nicaragua. During our travels we produce a popular travel blog and we freelance for travel magazines and travel sections of newspapers published in the United States and Canada. You can see our published work here. We will continue to slowly drive south until we reach Tierra del Fuego at the tip of South America.

Translated by Quilalí Urtecho