Mark Twain in Nicaragua

Perhaps the most famous of American writers, Samuel Langhorne Clemens navigated the Transit Route over 150 years ago! Better know as Mark Twain, the author was in Nicaragua for a few days and wrote about his passage through the country in his book Travels with Mr. Brown. The story of Mark Twain in Nicaragua is not told often enough. It goes back to a time when it was safer to travel from San Francisco to New York through Nicaragua than across the continental United States!

As everyone knows, Mark Twain was fascinated with rivers. His most famous book, the adventures of Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn takes place on the riverbanks of the Mississippi River. Mark Twain was a traveler by nature, and he was one of the first adventure travelers to write about his experiences while traveling to far away places. Clemens himself was a river pilot, who navigated up and down the Mississippi River. In time, he retired and took to writing and holding conferences about his travels through the World. Together with John Lloyd Stevens and Frederick Catherwood, Mark Twain is one of the original adventure travelers of the world!

diving in Nicaragua
The Clear waters at San Juan del Sur offer some of the best diving conditions in the Pacific Coast of Nicaragua

Samuel Clemens took up a job offer in the East Coast. Thus, he as forced to travel from San Francisco to New York. Mark Twain had already taken the long, dangerous overland route across the Wild West. So he decided upon hiring passage with the Transit Company out of San Francisco, via Nicaragua and on to New York City.  The trip included sailing south of San Francisco to the Port of San Juan del Sur in Nicaragua. There a short 20-mile stagecoach trip took him across the Rivas Isthmus to Lake Nicaragua. His travels would take him across the lake to the River Port of San Carlos. This is where the lake empties out to the Caribbean via the San Juan River.


Lake Nicaragua
View of Ometepe Island from the ferry to San Jorge

Imagine the expression on Mark Twains face when he saw the massive volcanoes of the Ometepe Island!  Never had he seen such a sight while navigating the Mississippi River! The 120-mile ride down the San Juan River mesmerized him. Thick jungle canopy on both sides were hostile to human communities. Howler monkeys would howl signs of warning to the steamships sailing up and down the river. A short stop was made at the community of El Castillo. This was a technical stop to unload passengers and cargo to lighten the ship. A tough maneuver around a set of river rapids was easier and safer with a light ship. I can imagine the empathy that Samuel Clemens felt with the ships pilot as he maneuvered his ship through these tricky waters in front of El Castillo!


Things to do in el Castillo
Fishing is Outstanding at the Rio San Juan in the area around el Castillo and Boca de Sabalos.

Eventually, he arrived at the bustling port city of Greytown on the Caribbean Coast. Here the river steamboat would turn around and get ready for another trip up the river with the passengers who had just arrived from New York. For Clemens, it was time to take a last glimpse at the tropical jungles of Central America before sailing north on his steamship bound to the northeast. Mark Twain wrote about this experience. If you want to know more about Mark Twain in Nicaragua, read his book titled, Travels with Mr. Brown.