The northern reaches of Nicaraguan Mosquitia – the famous Mosquito Coast – is one of the most impenetrable and underdeveloped areas of the Americas. No roads connect the area with the rest of the country, and the many snaking, difficult-to-navigate rivers and lagoons, separated by thick slabs of jungle, prevent the casual traveller – or any non-local, for that matter – from visiting the area. Bordered at its northern extent by the Río Coco, Nicaragua’s frontier with Honduras, La Mosquitia is dotted by small settlements of the indigenous – mainly Miskito – peoples. The area was highly sensitive during the war years of the 1980s, when Contra bases in Honduras sent guerrilla parties over the long river border to attack Sandinista army posts and civilian communities in La Mosquitia and beyond. The Sandinistas forcibly evacuated many Miskitos from their homes, ostensibly to protect them from Contra attacks, but also to prevent them from going over to the other side.
Few travellers come to Bilwi/Puerto Cabezas, the only town of any size and importance in the area. Heading out beyond Cabezas is difficult, but with determination, a good guide, a water purification kit and a good mozzie net, you can use it as a springboard to get even further from the tourist routes and into isolated Miskito communities – Waspám, near the Honduran border, is the biggest.