Published: February 14th 2012February 12th 2012
The Christmas trees stay up all year round and there are many of them
Nicaragua. January 24, 2012
5 a.m. and we are on the bus once again, this time much wiser than on our first trip. When we crossed the border, the money changers were very close to the daily rate posted on the net. We gladly exchanged our excess US dollars for cordobas. The rate was about 23 cordobas per US dollar.
Our Nicaragua plan was to take a cab from Managua to Granada and then find a room there. We picked an older cab driver who knew of a nice, reasonably priced hotel and took us there. He also provided us with a bit of history during our drive to Granada. He explained to us that currently, Nicaragua was very safe, the economy was doing well and the people were generally quite content. In Granada he took us to the El Club Hotel, just a few blocks from the Centro Historico. We ended up with a large room with a king size bed at a good price. Five steps from our door, there was a very nice little pool, which we made use of. Breakfast was even included and all this for only $55 US a night. We were ecstatic!
El Club Hotel
Yep! It's really purple. We were given a large room next to the pool with a king size bed. Perfecto!
Nicaragua, largest Central American country, has a population of around 6 million with half of those living in metropolitan Managua, it's capital. Granada, with a population of about 30,000 people, is an old colonial city that lies on the shore of Lago de Nicaragua, the sixth largest lake in the world. Many thousands of years ago, a volcano erupted violently and blew the top off of it's peak. The debris landed in Lake Nicaragua and created 365 islands, most are large enough to have trees growing on them and some even big enough to have 2 or 3 homes on them. There was even a school on one of them.
Next morning, January 25th, after visiting via Skype with family members, we headed to the Centro. We booked a tour of the islands on the lake which included some bird watching. We took an ecotour which meant that we were in a little boat with an electric motor that slid silently through the water at a very leisurely pace. We were given binoculars and saw many, many beautiful birds. Our guide was able to identify all of them. What a glorious, calm and quiet way to spend an afternoon.
The Centro was only 4 blocks away. We booked a Lake Nicaragua tour of the islands and bird watching from here.
The water was perfectly clear and there was no wind or sound except for the birds. Awwwwww!
After returning back to the hotel, we went in search of a special location to celebrate Linda's birthday. Just down the street, there was a restaurant that was BBQ'ing chicken on the street. So between the sweet smell of roasting chicken on an open fire and a good looking young man enticing us to enter, we decided to give it a try. We were seated in a pretty courtyard and made to feel special. When Linda asked for lime for her beer, the young man kinda wrinkled his nose in thought, then his face lit up and he said 'Sure, we have lime'. After bringing us our beer, he promptly climbed the tree, that was in the center of the courtyard, and retrieved some lime for Linda. Another waiter made quite a presentation of wrapping Linda's bottle with a serviette in a special way. She felt very pampered. She didn't remember the last time someone had climbed a tree for her! We enjoyed a memorable evening! The surroundings and the very helpful staff made it a very special.
Next morning, 7:30AM,
San Franciso Church in the Centro
Huge beautifully colored interior and exterior in typical colonial style
off we went for a tour of Mount Mombacho and the surrounding cloud forest. The driver took us up the mountain in a 4 wheel drive on a winding brick road. When we arrived at the park office the clouds rolled in, the wind came up and the spitting rain began. The guide gave us an overview of what the 4-5 hour hike consisted of. Off we went up, down and around 4 craters. There were 3 observation platforms in the midst of clouds, massive trees covered in moss, vines and other leaching plant growth. We were dressed for the weather but the rain and cloud shrouding encouraged us to move faster inspite of the vertical up and down trail. We completed the hike in just under 3 hours and had our 26 year old guide huffing and apologizing for his lack of fitness. He apologetically told us that he didn't do this tour every day, so we answered that we didn't either. We were driven down the side of the mountain to a coffee farm where the sun and coffee perked us right up. We learned that coffee had to be dried for 5 days in the sun and
Calle La Calzada
A main walking street with many shops, restaurants and bars
that Expresso has less caffeine than light roast or blond roast.
Nicaragua gets very hot during the day. To avoid the heat we wallowed in the pool and took a nap. We later wandered to the Centro to catch supper, tried more of the local cuisine, had a beer (the 1 litre size) and enjoyed the cooler evening while people watching.
Going into the weekend, our nice room had been previously booked by a photo shoot group that was coming in. We had to change rooms. It turned out to be a step down from the last room, but still nice. We went gift hunting/shopping (this is limited as we carry a backpack and a purse) and found a lot of stuff but not much of it was practical for us. The street kids got annoying as every time you purchased an item, they begged you to leave the change or told you that they were hungry.
So, we decided to catch a cab and head out to Catarina which was about an hour away. Catarina is known for its flower stalls that overflow into the streets and its spectacular view of Laguna Apoyo. We could have
Lago De Nicaragua
Its over 365 islands were created 23 0000 years ago when Mount Mombacho erupted. The electric boat made no sound or pollution and was ideal
taken a tuk-tuk to the top of the town and the visitors'centre, however, our cab driver took us right to the park entrance. This is a national park so we paid a fee, then viewed Apoyo Lagoon while strolling the trail by foot. We could have rented a well behaved horse to ride the trail, however with a lot of these on the farm, we did not feel it was practical to pay to ride. Catarina has minimal volcanic activity but they do experience hundreds of small magnitude earthquakes. Once, while having lunch in a restaurant, the ground started swaying back and forth. It felt very weird! We later learnt that there had been a 6.2 magnitude earthquake centered in Chiapis, Southern Mexico. Our cab driver had insisted on returning for us, safety reasons he claimed. We thought he was just happy to get another fare and either way, it worked for us as there were no other cabs around.
Our last morning caught us packing, enjoying coffee and breakfast, doing some job searching and connecting with Canadian family members. We headed to the Ticabus station rolling our backpacks down the sidewalk and enjoying a little exercise before another
We moved silently over the water observing the scenery and wildlife.
long ride on the bus. A drunk man attempted to get on the bus WITH his ticket, but security held him back and the bus left without him. We had a pleasant 3 hour drive to the border where we were able to get off the bus, get our passports stamped, change our excess cordobas to colones, Costa Rican currency, and grab a leg stretch.
Summary of Nicaragua: We were very pleasantly surprised at the security and safety that Nicaragua has acheived. The country as a whole is doing well, the people seemed content, and there were very few guns visible. It was very shocking to see money changers walking around both at the border but also in Granada with huge wads of cash in their hands.
There are more photos below