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Published: October 5th 2017
One of our favourite restaurantsLEAVING COSTA RICA
Frequented by locals it had to be good
After our disastrous journey getting to Ostional we were pleased to have an uneventful journey back to San Jose and it took under 5 hours. Rolf the hotel owner of Luna Azul recommended Louis, a local driver to take us to the airport and he arrived promptly on time. As it was at least a 10 hour round trip for him he bought his wife Jessica to join him so we spent a pleasant five hours with them in their car. He stopped so Paul could get some money in Santa Cruz to pay him as we had run out of cash, not having a bank anywhere near us for the last couple of weeks. The roads were so much better leaving the area via the northern route and although there had been ‘buckets’ of rain we were able to cross all the rivers without any hitch and reached tarmac really quickly. Louis said that the river near his house which we passed had been really high but it went down quickly once the rain stopped. We said goodbye and they headed back home on their long return journey we hope they made it before
Nicaragua rural homesteads
We saw similar homes in Costa Rica but you could tell it was a much poorer country than its neighbour.
dark. We were staying overnight at the Holiday Inn Express and would recommend this to anyone as it was really comfortable and handy for the airport with a free shuttle service. Our visit to Costa Rica was coming to an end and we were moving on to Nicaragua. NICARAGUA Nicaragua
is the largest country in Central America but by far the poorest. The Spanish Empire conquered the region in the 16th century, hence most of the six million population speak Spanish, although some indigenous people on the eastern coast still speak their own language. Since it gained independence in 1821 it is still striving to overcome the after effects of dictatorship, civil war as well as hugely destructive earthquakes. Until quite recently it was the least visited country in the region but the biological diversity, lush warm tropical climate and active volcanoes has put it more on the tourist route, particularly with the cost of living being so much cheaper than its neighbours. As we were so near the country in Costa Rica we decided that we would take a quick look at this neighbouring country on this visit as we had
never visited it before so a first for us.
We were flying to Managua
the capital city and it was only a short flight of just over one hour with Copa Airways who were extremely efficient and we had a comfortable flight. It took us a while to pass through customs as most of those in front of us were new to the country and they were going through the process of taking photographs etc. We were not sure what the customs guy was asking us in Spanish but realised in the end he was asking us whether we were together (married) - not sure why as we had completed the immigration form as ‘family members’ as required! However by the time we got through our cases were neatly stacked on one side and within minutes we were outside meeting our driver called Hector. We drove through the outskirts of Managua which appeared quite a run down place, but lots of cities are near airports and we did not have to go through the centre. We were going to spend five days in the city of Granada which was about an hours journey from the airport and
before long we were out in the countryside and were surprised at the quality of the roads - compared with Costa Rica they were much better, we thought it would be the other way around.
It was so much less frantic than San Jose which was always gridlocked and we did not pass much traffic, mainly buses and trucks. What was different here was that as well as the motor vehicles there were dozens of handcarts being driven by horses, some even had wooden wheels but most had old car tyres bumping along the road. A number of horses were tethered alongside the roadside, keeping the grass and hedge rows short it was a little bit like stepping back in time. Their leads were just long enough to keep them from wandering into the road but they did not seemed concerned about the traffic speeding by them and carried on eating the grass - we even saw one horse actually tethered on a roundabout with traffic rotating all around it … … GRANADA
The old colonial city of Granada
on the shores of Lake Nicaragua
and overshadowed by Mombacho Volcano has a population of about 125,000. It’s home to multiple Spanish colonial landmarks that have somehow survived so much troubled past, wars, conflict and repeated pirate invasions as well as so many non man-made disasters. It has a rich colonial heritage seen in its architecture and structure and we were really looking forward to a different aspect to our travels in Central America which so far had been based mainly on the flora and fauna of the region rather than its history, people and culture.
We were staying at the Patio del Malinche
a small bed and breakfast just off the main plaza and we had a friendly greeting by Abbott, the young guy on reception. It was great to walk in from the humid heat and hectic street life into the calm interior of the hotel, we were just not used to so many people around us. Many of the buildings were typically Mediterranean designed with an inner courtyard, open arches and, shady alcoves to allow the breeze to drift through. There was a small garden with flowing water, flower borders and several tall Palm Trees poking their heads up into
the open sky. Our room was pleasant although we already missed our balcony at Luna Azul but there were lots of cool shady places to sit around the garden and there was a small pool in an adjoining courtyard area - again open to the skies.
From our bedroom window we could see Mombacho Volcano
above the tiled roof tops and the town itself. Dominating the Granada skyline its been many years since it was active but it most certainly is as it is still rumbles and sends up a periodic puff of smoke, we only saw cloud puffs though . … Its last eruption occurred in 1570 and now its quiet and home to a cloud forest and a dwarf forest, containing flora and fauna endemic purely to this Volcano.
As our flight was early we had plenty of time to explore the city on our first day. We quickly unpacked and headed out on to the streets. Renowned for its Spanish colonial architecture
its streets are lined with buildings distinguished from each other by their colourful shades of bright colours. To look at them though you had to keep stopping,
View over the rooftops to Mombacho Volcano
Apparently the eyesore mast was erected a year ago and now ruins what was once a great view from the bedroom window.
as the pavements were another story, littered with obstacles from broken concrete to huge pot holes and uncovered manholes as well, although every now and then you would be walking over brilliantly shining patterned tiles. Another obstacle you had to watch out for was where a street house had an internal garage they would have to manoeuvre the vehicle up little metal ramps from the road, across the pavement and then another small ramp into the garage. As you walked along you could peer inside the open doorways and from what looked like a scruffy house from the outside you would see a clean, calm oasis inside, many elderly men and women sitting in rocking chairs with young children asleep on their laps, families chilling in the heat of the day. Others were hotels and restaurants and you could see relaxing cane chairs, gardens and swimming pools just inside the hustle and bustle of the streets.
We carefully walked along a couple of blocks to the city’s main Central Plaza
which is dominated by the colourful, neo-classical facade of the Cathedral of Granada
and several other grand buildings with locals sitting in any shade the buildings provided.
There were a few tourists milling around, most of them we noted were a lot younger than us, the majority of the people though were locals as well as a number of noticeable ex-pats. We were approached by vendors trying to sell us all sorts of stuff we did not want or need including, tours, jewellery, hats, shirts, food, pottery, hammocks (they seemed to be really popular) there was even a hammock factory on one of the side streets and of course horse and carriage rides around the city - rows and rows of these 4 people carriages were lined up along one side of the square plaza each one attached to two horses. SO MANY CHURCHES
Granada is viewed as the oldest city in the Americas being registered in the official records of the Crown of Aragon, and the Kingdom of Castile in Spain. Founded in 1524 its a city that in seven years time will be 500 years old and has the architecture to prove it - I can see big celebrations looming, they really like to hold festivals here.
Hundreds of Churches all around the world
have been targeted for destruction by invading forces or those opposed to other’s beliefs and Nicaragua with its turbulent past has had its fair share, having been invaded by the British, Dutch, French and of course Pirates leaving in its wake many different churches and religious structures in different states of repair - all the ones we visited had been blighted at some point in history some many times … …
One of the reasons a fort was established in Granada was to fend off an American ‘invader’ by the name of William Walke
r and his group of mercenaries. Walker arrived in Nicaragua to spread the use of slaves across Central America. It was one of the few times Central Americans banded together to drive out an invading force. Walker was defeated about 40 miles south of Granada but his time in the country caused significant damage to many of the churches. We visited just a few of the main ones during our visit as most were within walking distance of our hotel - short ‘hot walks’ though with not a lot of shade on the sidewalks. CATHEDRAL OF GRANADA
Painting the Cathedral of Granada
Artist busy at work on a high crane painting this mural of the 'parting of the waters' on the cathedral ceiling.
This landmark building is visible from almost anywhere in Granada and dominates the central plaza and is always occupied by locals sitting on the stone steps putting the world to rights. Originally dating to 1583 this colourful building stood proudly above everything else around it much more colourful on the outside than the interior though when we stepped inside. Although inside they were making major changes and we watched an artist on a tall blue hoist painting a picture of the ‘parting of the waters’ on a huge roof panel high up in the church canopy - several other ceiling murals had already been completed but he had many more to do - a lifetimes work by the looks of it. This grand building was destroyed by the pirate William Walker in 1856 and rebuilt over a period of 15 years in 1915. In addition to three naves and four chapels, it also has a series of underground tunnels joined to other churches in the city. These were used by the priests as a type of secret escape hatch during those dangerous times of numerous pirate attacks and no doubt they moved the church's treasures though these tunnels as
Iglesia de la Merced
We climbed up to the Bell Tower and had a view over the whole of Granada and out beyond the lake.
well. IGLESIA DE LA MERCED
Noted by many as the city's most beautiful, it was the first one we noticed on our arrival and were delighted that we were staying nearby. It was originally built in 1534 and was sacked and burned by English pirate, Henry Morgan in 1670. It was rebuilt between 1781 and 1783 but was damaged again during further conflicts and repaired yet again in 1862.
A few days into our visit we paid a small fee to climb the spiral staircase up into the roof of the church to reach the bells - we had started hot and sticky and by the time we got to the top we were drenched it was just so hot and humid. I struggled a little with the height but sat on the last step and calmed down and them was able to walk around a little and marvel at the amazing views out over the red tile roof tops with swaying palms sticking out from the hundreds of central courtyard gardens - it was worth all that effort to get here you could see Lake Nicaragua from one
View from Iglesia de la Merced
looking over the Cathedral of Granada
side and the mighty Mombacho Volcano from the other.
All around the edge of the tower was a white metal railing which gave you a little sense of security …. The massive metal bells hung just above our heads with their ropes dangling across the floor and threaded through to the floors below. We had to watch we did not trip over them and start the bells ringing - we had seen signs on the way up ‘not to ring the bells’
… … It really was a wonderful church inside with colourful icons and quiet corners but even better was the view from the bell tower
even though one had to negotiate the narrow spiral staircase to get there. IGLESIA GUADELOUPE
I really liked the atmosphere of the Guadeloupe Church which stands erect above Calle de Calzada Street at the end of the city that then leads directly down to the lake. This colonial style church was built in 1626 and originally used as a cloister. The architecture and builders did a wonderful job, it is beautiful and still is even though there has been significant damage to
the structure having been used as a fortress by William Walker in 1856, when the American was being driven out of the country after invading and placing himself as President. I thought that it really radiated the history of this unique city. You could close your eyes and step back in time and see it in all its glory as it once was in those days gone by. Inside there were a few worshippers in one corner with a priest and the singing was amazing so we sat and listened but it was drowned out by the children though in the school next door but that in itself brought life inside the church walls. IGLESIA DE XALTEVA
This church’s name, Xalteva was take from the indigenous settlers who lived in the area when the Spanish arrived and is not named after a Roman Catholic saint. It was one of the first churches built by the Spaniards upon their arrival in Central America. It was used as a military fortress before it was destroyed in the civil war of 1856, was rebuilt, but again collapsed by an earthquake and was again rebuilt in
stages until its final completion in 1921 so not a lot of the original church left. It was freshly painted in a similar orange colour to the Cathedral just down the street and stood proudly looking down on its neighbours. We did not go in as it was closed on our visit which was a shame but maybe another time. CONVENTO Y MUSEO SAN FRANCISCO
Original constructed in 1585 it is the oldest church in the whole of Central America. The San Francisco church and attached convent have undergone many reincarnations. Originally built from wood and straw shortly after the founding of Granada, it burned down in 1685 and was rebuilt only to later also suffer at the hands of William Walker. The Convent now serves as a museum housing some of Granada’s most valuable antiquities, salvaged from the hands of pirates and a history of destruction.
It was supposed to open at 8am and we arrived at 9am and it was closed so we sat on the step and waited and waited. A man appeared from the huge wooden doors behind us and put up 10 fingers, so
we assumed it opened at 10am but he beckoned us to follow him into the dark interior. With many hand signals he indicated that we follow him and he led us around the interior of the church but it was quite dark. He pointed out the Alter before leading us along a side aisle where beneath our feet was a large open well which contained a stone coffin and a skeleton a few feet below the church floor and we think he said it was 500 years old. Apparently ancient catacombs are located underneath the convent and church, priests and other citizens of Granada have been laid to rest here from 1546 and it is estimated the remains of approximately 75,000 people are located within the walls of the catacombs. We thanked him for showing us around and wandered back out into the bright sunshine and he closed the doors behind us so we assumed it probably was not going to open that day! LA CAPILLA MARIA AUXILIADORA
We had spotted this church on our carriage tour and set out to try and find it again. A relatively new church it was
built in 1922 and is in an unusual style from those we had already seen in Central America. Obviously being built so much later to those above it did not have to go through the damage and destruction that they had. With a very eye catching blue and white painted facade it reminding us of the cool shades of Wedgwood Pottery, although it has been painted in various different shades over the years. It doesn’t dominate the city’s skyline like some of the others as it is tucked into a narrow space between several low-rise buildings and it was standing tall above them as though it needed the height to fit into the small space it was given. Luckily for us the doors were open after we had hiked up the hot streets to find it. Nearly adjoined to a College building next door it was strange to see several local lads playing football through the open doorways as we sat inside in the wooden pews and rested enjoying the spectacular inside decor. The interior was much more decorative than others we had seen, with gothic style arches and instead of the usual white the walls had been painted in
La Capilla Maria Auxiliadora
The interior was really different lovely coloured painted walls in pale green and blue.
lovely pastel colours of blues and greens - very restful to the eyes. Sharply pointed arches overhead converged in the ceiling over the nave, and the floor features an ornate geometric pattern of tiles leading to a colourful altar. Wonderful colourful paintings depicting the stations of the cross adorned the walls - quite stunning.
We really enjoyed spending time seeing all the different churches in the city which made a change from hiking around the rainforests of Costa Rica but I really missed the green open spaces …… SO MANY VOLCANOS
At our hotel we met John, originally from UK but now a Prison Officer in USA he said he had visited Masaya Volcano
the night before and it was well worth a visit so we booked it for the next evening instead of hiking to nearby Mombacho Volcano
which we had planned. MASAYA VOLCANO NATIONAL PARK
(Parque Nacional Volcan Masaya)
The only volcanoes in the world to boast lakes of incandescent magma
are Hawaii's Kilauea, Nyiragongo in the Democratic Republic of Congo and Masaya Volcano
in Nicaragua. The latter being
the only one where you can drive right up to it, park and within minutes peer down into its boiling caldron. Located about half way between Granada and Managua it is also the country’s first National Park. You can visit either in the day time for hiking or at night to view the molten lava lake when it can be better seen better in the dark skies. Its cheaper to go in the day but we had never seen an active volcano before and thought it would be much more exciting to see it in the dark so chose the night tour and we were so glad we did.
We were picked up at our hotel by a local transport company who then travelled around picking up several other tourists, most from hostels and of course most were backpacking students - we were the oldest by far. Strange but we were expecting more tourist in the city to be of our generation but the majority were of the younger set…..
In the days before the arrival of Columbus, the Masaya Volcano was worshiped by the indigenous people that lived in the area
and they believed a subterranean witch they called Chalchihuehe
lived inside. They viewed any activity of the volcano as signs of displeasure from their Gods. They would then head up the volcano with sacrifices, which often included young maidens and small children, to try and please the gods.
Later in the 16th century the Spaniards called it the ‘La Boca del Infierno’
or the Mouth of Hell. Similarly afraid, although without sacrifices the Spaniards placed a wooden cross near the top of the crater to rid the volcano of the Devil and his demons who were thought to inhabit it.
Only two lava flows
have erupted in recorded history, the first in 1670 and the other in 1772. However Masaya continually emits large amounts of sulphur dioxide from the active Santiago crater and there have been a number of explosive events in the last 50 years. In 1999 a hot spot appeared on satellite imagery with a possible explosion and in 2001 the crater exploded and formed a new vent in the bottom. Two year later in 2003 and eruption cloud was reported and in 2008 the mountain erupted, spewing
leaning over a low wall you could just about get the bubbling lava in the photo .. .. .. ..
ash and steam damaging cars parked in the carpark but luckily no casualties.
We drove towards the volcano and could see the smoking gas cloud rising as the sun set behind the volcano giving the clouds a golden halo. After doing a u-turn on the road we joined a small queue of traffic waiting for the Masaya Volcano National Park
gates to open at 6am. Street vendors were walking around the parked vehicles selling drinks and snacks and we stretched our legs on the side of the road for a while, but the traffic was moving really quickly and soon we were through the gates and following a steady stream of traffic up toward the volcano, it was now pitch dark. The road was good and it did not take long before we were parked in a small car park and our guide said that we could walk over to the wall that looked out onto the crater just behind her.
Just a few yards later we were indeed peering down into the bright red chasm changing colour from yellow to orange to red. With a little bit of vertigo
A hopeless selfie ..
.. but managed to see us and the hot spot as well!
kicking in I was still able to stand by the low wall and look across and down inside the perfectly shaped canyon walls. Viewing this amazing moving lava lake with its incandescent colours was just ‘wow’ … … We were expecting it to be noisy and smelly, after all it was emitting sulphurous fumes but we could not smell anything. The rising smoke was a little hazy and you could hear a slight rumble, apart from that it was very quiet and peaceful even with the couple of dozen people all peering into the gaping hole. Most were trying to take Selfies on their mobiles - which was extremely hard to do …. everyone was transfixed with the spectacle in front of them. We were so glad we made this visit and not the hike around the other volcano it is something we will remember for a very long time, viewing bubbling lava is a very rare sight indeed and we can always go hiking another time.
We read that last year a volcanologist and his guide survived falling into this very volcano when their rope broke, but luckily they were rescued by brave local
firemen, uninjured apart from dehydration because of the high temperatures inside the crater - - really lucky men. Bizarrely though a colony of Parrots
actually do not mind the heat as they live inside the crater with apparently no problems from the volcano’s contaminants and a colony of Bats
inhabit one of the lava tunnels nearby
We had just heard on the news of Mount Agung volcano eruption fears in Bali as another volcano in the ring of fire region exploded spewing plumes of ash and we were glad that we were not there where they have evacuated everyone within a 7 miles radius of the summit. The risk here with Masaya Volcano is that if the lava keeps rising higher inside the volcano each time it appears, a new eruption could occur within the next 150 years on the scale of the one in 1772 when it reached as far as 20 miles, where today stands Nicaragua's International Airport … … CARRIAGE RIDE AROUND THE CITY
As mentioned above there were numerous horse and carriages tours around the Central Plaza and one day we decided that we would
have a ride instead of walking as it was just so hot. We met ‘Angelo’ who was number 29 of about 30 carriages and as he had very good English we decided to ride with him. There was no order here, you were approached by the young men driving them and they could be in the front, middle or back of the queue, but would just pull out for you.
Angelo explained that a standard ride lasts for either 30 or 60 minutes and takes you around the city, sometimes it takes longer but he said he would only charge us $15 not the usual $20 - he must tell that story to all his customers but we just smiled and agreed (we had already been told that $15 was a good price. We climbed in and it was very comfortable and quite cool with the canopy overhead and we were glad we had chosen him as he was a nice lad to chat to. He said he was still a student but drove the carriages during the weekdays and then went to College on Saturday and Sunday and that he was studying history. He was born
in Masaya but now lived in Granada which he loved.
During the ride we passed by many old colonial houses and other important buildings and Angelo would tell us who had lived there in the past, several were owned by some very rich Spanish families others by previous Nicaraguan Presidents. The horse drawn carriages compete with buses, trucks, cars and cyclists over the limited space on the roads as well as many locals on their horse and carts, which became an adventure in itself when we hit the busy intersections - most roads were in the grid format so there was plenty of crossroads … … I must say though that sitting in the back of the carriage was for sure a more relaxed way to enjoy the city and so less tiring than hiking in the heat. You could also appreciate the building from the slightly higher elevated seat and soak in the atmosphere of this small city whilst not having to look where you were going.
We paused at an old Railway Station
near a green park, apparently the name of the park used to change regularly but now they just call
it ‘Poets Park’,
probably because Granada has been the host city for the International Poetry Festival since 2005. It is the largest poetry event in Nicaragua and Central America and every year a large number of prestigious poets from all over the world are invited to the city to recite poems and participate in this cultural event.
The main Railway Station
building was quite grand and colourful and next to it was one of the original Engines long out of use and dormant on the rail. The first railway line in Nicaragua opened in 1882, connecting major cities, however all trains were suspended in 2001 ending years of steady decline as in other countries around the world. The station buildings are still used though by local schools and colleges but gone are the days you could catch a train to Leon or San Jose from here. Its a shame that so many rail lines have been removed from so many countries, particularly in the UK as they could have been an alternative form of transport in the days we live in with so many congested roads. In the UK they have utilised many old rail routes and
have turned them into hiking or cycling trails - in Winchester we have a new extension of what is called the Watercress Line
along disused rail lines and its a great hike. The route passes the old Station that was Worthy Down Halt
which was built in 1918 as a single platform halt to serve the Royal Flying Corps (which became the RAF) depot nearby and this later became the home of The Royal Army Pay Corp
and the reason that Paul and I now live in the area.
We continued our carriage ride to the outskirts of the city and stopped to view the stone surrounding walls of Fortaleza de Armas
, an old fort
which was established to fend off William Walker mentioned many times above ... ... It was closed but we were able to peer inside the entrance gate to the ‘peaceful’ gardens now inside but had once seen much conflict.
A little further on and we stopped to admire what we could see of the San Juan de Dios Hospital.
Built in 1898 it was abandoned just 100 years later and is now just a massive ruin.
Cementerio De Granada
Poignant tombs of those who died fighting in terrible Civil War.
Angelo showed us a photograph of what it once looked like and it was once as pristine as a colonial palace,
you would never had thought it was a hospital for the sick. Angelo said it was going to be re-built, not as a hospital but as a government building - I expect the expense of that would be huge and as it had already been derelict for nearly 20 years this will probably never happen.
A little while later we approached the white stone walls enclosing the Cementerio De Granada
and were surprised when Angelo drove the horses right inside the main gates. Purported to be Central America’s oldest known cemetery it was used mostly between 1876 and 1922. With its magnificent marble tombs and gleaming white mausoleums it was very similar to the Cementerio de la Recoleta
in Buenos Aires we had visited earlier in the year on our South American journey with Bob & Elaine (Bob you will probably not like it here).
Angelo pointed out the tombs of six Nicaraguan presidents
and many more generals, poets and wealthy families. Rich dead individuals wanting to show off
their wealth even in the afterlife, these huge tombs and statues were commissioned at great expense to show their family status. However not just the rich are entombed here as near the entrance we noticed the poignant tombs of those who died fighting during the terrible Civil War - many were just very young boys. LAKE NICARAGUA
We continued our carriage ride passing a couple of Cigar Factories
and shops selling them, which like in Cuba is big business in Nicaragua - we were often approached by someone trying to sell us cigars to take home. It was getting hotter now as the sun was still beating down but all of a sudden our gentle carriage ride gathered pace as the horses galloped away downhill toward the lake (think they realised the tour was coming to an end) and it was nice to breathe in some more fresh air.
It was huge a huge expanse of water as far as the eyes could see but of course Lake Nicaragua
is the largest lake in Central America and the 20th largest in the world. Strangely, even though the
Granada Street Life
The local ladies would scrub the pavements outside their homes.
lake is located geographically closest to the Pacific Ocean, it drains into the Caribbean Sea via the San Juan River. It contains over 400 islands with 300 of them within 5 miles of the city of Granada, although they say there are just 365 islands - a calendar year of islands. Angelo said that we should wander down to the lake edge which we did but we were not too impressed with the scene - lots of rubbish and stagnant water near where we were standing but a long pier stretched out over a clearer area and someone was actually bathing in the distance. We could not see any islands from our viewpoint even though so many are so close to the city. Not all the islands are inhabited although some are privately owned and contain pretty impressive vacation homes whilst others are too small for habitation.
Angelo said that ‘his brother’ would take us on an island tour on his boat but we thanked him but declined. Having read about teethe tours beforehand we decided not to waste our money visiting what appeared to be a ‘tourist money trap’. We were just not happy
to spend money on visiting Monkey Island (the highlight apparently) which was frequently visited and tourist would ‘feed the monkeys’ with bananas, which are not really their staple diet…… Also monkeys are not native to the western side of Nicaragua so what are they doing there. The 'story' is that a local resident released their former pet monkey on an island many years ago and it is said that the population has since grown (strange but I think it would have had to have been two released monkeys ... ...). Anyway tourist now come to feed these ‘released monkeys’ and now they in turn rely on this ‘easy food’ to exist rather than forage for their own food although not sure whether there was enough food for them on the island itself. Some people might like the trip but it was not for us, each to their own we say who are we to judge.
We were glad that we did the carriage ride even though we had been concerned about the condition of the horses. Angelo did appear to love the animals, he said they were called Mercedes & Benz -
and laughed and said '
horse power' but again probably a little bit gullible on our part. I read somewhere that the horse and carriages rides in Granada had been a family business since 1868 when carriages were first introduced here and in Masaya but not sure if that is still the case. Many countries offer similar excursion and we had undertaken them in Egypt many years ago around the Temples and more recently we had seen similar rides offered in Kilkenny in Ireland where they are called Jaunting Car Tours. Angelo seemed to enjoy his job though and he said he was lucky to have one, we had indeed passed extremely long queues of people near the main plaza all holding bundles of paper. Angelo said they were all applying for work permits and trying to find a job.
We said goodbye to Angelo back at the Central Plaza, our ride proved more than useful as whenever we were approached to have a carriage ride during the rest of our stay, we would just say 'oh we have just been out with Angelo', and they would all smile and say Angelo Angelo ... ... and move on .... A GREAT VISIT TO GRANADA
We enjoyed the vitality on the streets of Granada, particularly along the Calle La Calzada
and the side streets that feed into this main thoroughfare that stretches nearly all the way down to Lake Nicaragua. This was where most of the restaurants and bars were and at the weekends it came alive was tourists and locals milling around and enjoying themselves, so different to the quietness during the weekdays. One day as we approached the main plaza we watched a performing High School dance group parade along the streets accompanied by some young talented musicians - locals were following along behind together with a large fire engine. We were sitting in the Central Plaza one day when Paul was approached by a 15 year old girl from Masaya who wanted to practice her English and had come to the main square to chat to English tourist to improve her English language skills. We chatted about a variety of subjects whilst her mother and younger sister watched on the side looking very proud of her. She said she wanted to learn English because she heard someone speaking it and wanted to
Local School Girl
Paul filling out her English report
understand what they were saying, well she was doing really well indeed. At the end she asked us to complete a form which she was going to take back to her school for assessment..
We found some great places to eat but there was not a lot of local foods to sample, Nicaragua not being noted for its fine dining
- but plenty of rice and beans similar to CR. Abbott on reception said that he would not recommend any local places to eat as most of the foods they ate was more to fill them up than to tempt their palates! During the weekend we noted that the street vendors were more out in force together with several more beggars but not the huge numbers you see in other cities and it all made up the 'charm' of the area and we did not see any violence. One very old lady would walk up and down with 'her husband' in a wheelchair and ask for money and one day we saw a commotion on the street several police were assisting the couple and the wheelchair into the back of a horse and carriage whilst
Exchange of Photos
She asked to take our photo so that she could take it back to show her school.
a queue of vehicles waiting patiently behind them - not sure whether the police were helping them or arresting them!
At our hotel we met Jenny from the UK, actually from Norwich where Paul was born and she had come on a cycling tour of Central America, on our last day she was joined by 11 others and we left them chatting about their planned ride - more them than us, far to hilling and hot to cycle. We also met John mentioned above and a local family, otherwise the hotel was not full and we always had the refreshing pool to ourselves. The breakfasts were OK but not on a par with Rolf’s at Luna Azul but maybe that was just as well as we were putting on weight too fast….
On our last evening we strolled up through the town which was 'alive' with people - it was the weekend of course. A religious festival was taking place in the Central Plaza with singing and dancing and locals had come from all the villages around to join in the festivities. City specific festivals happen throughout the year with great amounts of local
pride and traditional revelry. Of course, every city has its own Patron Saint, and that saint is celebrated annually in an event as lavish as the locals can afford. Most of these festivals involve, singing, bands and parades, as well as food and drink and celebrations into the night - this one looked like it was going to be a very long one. An alter had been erected on a high bandstand and this was adorned with baskets and baskets of fresh flowers. They put up these bandstands so quickly here and the next morning it is all cleared away but another one maybe going up in another corner of the plaza nearby at the same time - more singing and dancing to come. TIME TO MOVE ON
The next morning we said goodbye to Abbott who had been a great guy and Hector their local driver arrived to take us back to the Airport. On the way we passed Masaya Volcano again and we could see the smoke still rising out of its summit clouding the blue sky - lets hope it stays dormant for a very long time to come.
Local Lebanese Restaurant
We ate a delicious Lebanese dish with an Italian pizza in Nicaragua!
We cannot believe its October already, time is flying by but we are looking forward to enjoying several more weeks on our Central American adventure and are now heading off to Panama
- see you there
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