If I'm being honest, there are few things I avoid quite like Monday morning emails. Weekends are usually my busiest and most productive work times, leaving me ready to disconnect and chill out by the start of the new week. Unfortunately, the rest of the world hasn't gotten the chill Monday memo yet and it tends to be the day when the most emails come rushing in. That being said, a few weeks ago an exception to my anti-email Monday stance occurred when I reluctantly opened my inbox to discover an invitation to explore Nicaragua as part of a Canadian press trip with Flor de Cana rum. Even before I had finished skimming the email I was on board, finally ready for an escape from winter and eager to experience a new country first hand. Although this extra trip made a busy month even busier and meant that I fell behind on real life things (hello taxes I'm looking at you), I'm so happy I went. Arriving in Nicaragua I fell in love instantly, so it shouldn't be any surprised that my camera was glued to my face the entire time or that you're about to be bombarded by a ton of photos and even more words. 


After a long day of travel from Halifax to Nicaragua, followed by a late night of rum and introductions, I surprised myself by waking up on day one for a little sunrise yoga flow under some inviting palms in Managua. As beautiful as Nicaragua was and as much as there was to see, I probably could have spent the entire time happily taking detail photos of tropical plants along with portraits of people surrounded by them but thankfully we had a full itinerary to distract me from my most basic Instagram tendencies. At the early hour of 7:30am our bus pulled away from Managua and we were onto a day of learning about (and tasting) the carefully crafted and environmentally friendly line of Flor de Cana rums, all made and aged in Nicaragua by a family run business operating for the past hundred plus years. Once we had learned all there was to learn about Flor de Cana we hiked to the summit of the nearby Cerro Negro volcano which nourishes the plantation land of the rum. Hiking up the 730 meter active volcano was breathtaking, as much in part to the vast views as the steep incline, but getting down was another story. Tradition at the Cerro negro volcano is to surf down from the summit but what we're really talking about is tobogganing down a volcano so steep that you cannot see the bottom at a speed of, in my case, 68km/hour. Thankfully for my fear of heights and resulting anxiety, there was a glass of rum waiting for me at the end of the descent and some classic jams including the backstreet boys to soothingly end the day.


Instead of sunrise yoga, day two started with a lot (a lot a lot a lot) of coffee paired with queso frito and while we're on the topic, can I just say getting to eat fried cheese on the regular for breakfast was possibly one of the highlights of my whole experience? From breakfast, it was a quick trip to the Masaya Lava Lake. Although no lava was visible due to winds and smoke, the surrounding landscape was dark and dramatic, making it easy to understand why this location only 10km outside of Nicaragua's capitol city was once believed to be a gate to hell. Going from the sparse cliff sides of Masaya made our next stop, the Pellas' private island, that much more luxurious and inviting. On a tiny island in a lake that seemed as expansive as an ocean, the afternoon slipped away too quickly with local food, mojitos, kayaking, swimming and good company, including a band of tropical birds. After a full day of sun and rum it would have been easy to fall asleep instantly on arrival to Granada, our home for the night, but as always exploration called and under the glow of sunset a few free moments opened up to explore the picturesque town, reminiscent of how I've imagined all my favourite Gabriel Garcia Marquez novels to be, before a long night of food, cocktails and thankfully undocumented karaoke. 


Guilty of always looking at life through a lens of nostalgia, by day three, the last full day, I was already feeling sentimental about saying goodbye to Nicaragua but a tour of a local fair trade coffee plantation complete with my first coffee cupping experience and first wild sloth sighting was enough to have me forgetting those last-day-of-travel blues. Our last stop for the trip was Mukul, a renowned resort on Nicaragua's emerald coast. After getting the lay of the villa which would be home for the night, the obvious course of action was to set up camp on the sandy beach and take full advantage of swimming in above zero degree weather. Spending the night at Mukul under strange constellations listening to the crashing waves of the Pacific ocean was one of those waking dream moments and as such the perfect end to a perfect week.


In such a short amount I fell so in love and only a week and a half later looking back on these photos from home I am already feeling predictably nostalgic for the warm weather, beautiful beaches, endless food, good company and the thrill of new adventure. It is  worth noting that as our trip came to an end a period of civil unrest began in Nicaragua, which continues even as I write this. As travelers and especially photographers it is easy to see only what we want to see of the places we visit and while my own experience in Nicaragua was idyllic it is important to acknowledge that reality is never so simple. My thoughts are with the country of Nicaragua and its people and I hope I'll be able to visit it again some day to see it recovered from this turmoil and as beautiful as ever.

Alexa Cude