Nicaragua, Eco Logical? – An Aside, 16 February 2016

Before continuing the tale of our travels, a brief aside on eco lodges and our experiences.

We’ve now stayed in two this holiday, Jicaro and Morgan’s Rock. We’ve stayed in a few over the years, though none recently until this holiday.

We’ve always been a bit cynical and sceptical about eco-tourism. After all; there’s nothing very eco-friendly about tourism and something a bit cheesy about hectoring notices in hotels imploring the traveller to help save the planet by accepting fewer bedding and towel changes. as much as anything else, such requests seem to us to do more for hotel’s profits than for the planet.

Indeed, our previous experience of eco lodges; often with a do-goody vibe and everyone eat around the table together like scouts, had for years put us off the idea of staying anywhere boasting that term.

The term “barefoot luxury” is a  similar turn off for us; too often an excuse for ludicrously high prices and ludicrously little to show for the money – more like barefaced larceny. But I digress.

The two Nicaraguan eco lodges we tried, Jicaro and Morgan’s Rock, were both way ahead of our eco lodge experiences of the past. Both have been designed to have a minimally invasive impact on their natural environments and maximum positive impact on local communities, all of which we applaud. In particular, Jicaro struck the right notes for us in almost every respect.

The Morgan’s Rock blurb was a little more old-school eco-preachy. Are you really setting standards of pre-emminence in eco-tourism by feeding all the hotel’s food waste to the animals on your massive hacienda? I seem to recall staying on a farm when I was a nipper (before ecology had even been invented) and learning that such behaviour is simply what all sensible farmers do.

Morgan’s Rock does get one huge tick in the box from me for its superb-sounding extensive programme of slow-growth hardwood forest farming and stewardship. This is very hard to achieve both sustainably and commercially, yet the owners seem to be finding a way, which is laudable and I hope replicable elsewhere.

Both properties fall down in my view on their approach to drinking water. The idea is to avoid lots of plastic bottles – good idea. The Jicaro approach was to invest in a treatment works for the local water and to assure visitors it is safe to drink. It probably was “safe” in a clinical sense, but it tasted funny and my tummy was not quite right during our stay there. I drink a lot of water and it reminded me of the way my tummy used to be in the old “water purification tablets” days of my travelling youth.

The Morgan’s Rock blurb suggseted that their drinking water approach was the same as that at Jicaro, but when I asked about it soon after arrival (I really didn’t fancy another icky three days) was assured that the water in the room was actually Fuente Pura mineral water poured into large serving flagons from giant bottles. I’m not sure how much better that approach is than smaller bottles, especially as, presumably, large quantities of that water are wasted when the flagons are emptied. Either that or unsealed mineral water is sitting around in flagons for an unhealthy period of time before being topped up and drunk.

I realise that all of these hygiene, comfort, convenience and ecology issues make it difficult to get the balance right, but I’m not sure about either approach we encountered this time.

But the big thumbs down award for ecological correctness gone mad goes to Morgan’s Rock, for the following sign placed beside the toilet:

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In case you cannot read it, the sign asks the user of the tolet to place their used toilet paper in the bin rather than in the toilet, as the water is treated for reuse. We find it hard to imagine a much more unhygenic suggestion. Perhaps “share intravenous drug needles to reduce depletion of earth metals and thus help save the planet?”

Daisy and I went into civil disobedience mode immediately at the toilet paper suggestion and did what we considered to be the right thing. (No we did not smear anything on the walls. We simply flushed our used toliet paper.)

When I raised the delicate toilet paper matter on departure, the front desk manager nodded sagely, assured me that a bit of paper down the toilet would not mess up their treatment works and confessed that many of the staff don’t like those signs as so many guests remark about them adversely. You don’t say?

 

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