Mark Twain - "The Nicaragua route forever!"

Samuel Clemens, better known as Mark Twain, first saw the Pacific coast of Nicaragua on 29 December 1866, after a long boat journey from San Francisco. He described the approach to the bay of San Juan del Sur thus: “…bright green hills never looked so welcome, so enchanting, so altogether lovely, as do these that lie here within a pistol-shot of us.”


Travelling on the inter-oceanic steamship line of Cornelius Vanderbilt between the Pacific and the Caribbean, Twain was writing a series of letters to a San Francisco newspaper Alta California, letters that were published in book form over 60 years later, in 1940, in a collection called Travels with Mr Brown.





He crossed Nicaragua in three days. The first was spent overland in a horse-drawn carriage from San Juan del Sur to the port of La Virgen on Lake Nicaragua. During the only land part of his journey from San Francisco to New York he was amazed at the beauty of the Nicaraguan people and their land. He and his fellow passengers gleefully exclaimed: “the Nicaragua route forever!”


It was at the end of that 3½-hour carriage ride that he first saw the great lake and Island of Ometepe. “They look so isolated from the world and its turmoil – so tranquil, so dreamy, so steeped in slumber and eternal repose.” He crossed the lake in a steamship to San Carlos and boarded another that would take him down the Río San Juan to El Castillo, where passengers had to walk past the old fort to change boats beyond the rapids there. “About noon we swept gaily around a bend in the beautiful river, and a stately old adobe castle came into view – a relic of the olden time – of the old buccaneering days of Morgan and his merry men.”





Back on the river, Twain enjoyed the beauty that today is the Indio-Maíz Biological Reserve: “All gazed in rapt silent admiration for a long time as the exquisite panorama unfolded itself. The character of the vegetation on the banks had changed from a rank jungle to dense, lofty, majestic forests. There were hills, but the thick drapery of the vines spread upwards, terrace upon terrace, and concealed them like a veil. Now and then a rollicking monkey scampered into view or a bird of splendid plumage floated through the sultry air, or the music of some invisible songster welled up out of the forest depths. The changing vistas of the river ever renewed the intoxicating picture; corners and points folding backward revealed new wonders beyond.”



This is edited copy from Footprint Handbooks. For comprehensive details (incl address, tel no, directions, opening times and prices) please refer to book or individual chapter PDF
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