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Published: April 28th 2012
We have had a busy 10 days since our last post. It took us a few days to adjust to the heat in Granada, Nicaragua. We came here from El Salvador which was also quite warm so it wasn’t too bad, although it does seem hotter here. Many days have been in the high 90’s and it is quite humid also. For the first few days we tried to ignore the heat and keep our regular routine. We found that it is difficult to keep that schedule because many businesses are open very early in the morning and close during the heat of the afternoon. We usually get up early and head into town and return to the house in the early afternoon. Then after 4 we go back to town again. We spend a lot of time just sitting in the Central Park and observing daily life. We have enjoyed walking the streets and visiting the many churches in the town. Most of the restaurants have nice shady courtyards or tables on the street that allow you to take advantage of the shade or the cooling lake breezes.
Granada has a group of 365 small islands (isletas) just east
of town in Lake Nicaragua. We found a boat that we could take to visit several of them. The isletas are mostly privately owned by the wealthy Nicaraguan families or foreigners and many have beautiful large houses built on them. One isleta has a fort that was used to help defend the town from Pirates or other enemies. Another has a group of monkeys that were placed there by a veterinarian. The boat ride was nice and included stops at the fort and a small bar/restaurant.Along with the monkeys we saw many beautiful birds - parrots, kingfishers and many herons.
We took a road trip to the town of Leon. Leon is about 2 hours away (normally). Leon was founded by the Spanish about the same time as Granada and has always had a competition with Granada. Leon is a larger city and gives the impression of being less of a tourist town. We left for Leon early in the morning (7:30). After passing through Managua we got a little lost (the roads aren’t really marked well). We finally found a sign that said “Leon” and followed the signs. Unfortunately the perfectly paved road came to an end and
a massively terrible road started. This has happened in all the countries we have been in and usually after a little while it gets better again. No such luck this time and after a while we could only go about 3 miles an hour. We had no idea if we should turn around or keep going “just a little farther”. Anyway it ended up adding about 2 hours to the ride. Instead of getting to Leon at 10 like we planned we arrived just at noon when everything was closing until 2. We decided that we should get something to eat until things opened again. Barcelona was playing Real Madrid in soccer and it was hard to get into any restaurant that had a TV. Either Barcelona or Madrid is everyone’s favorite team here, so it really was like the Super Bowl. Everyone had their team colors on and many streets were basically shutdown with revelers spilling from the bars into the streets. The game ended at about 2, so nothing really opened back up on time.
We ended up going up in the Cathedral in the Parque Central where we had a nice view over the town. They
let us go up into the tower and walk all around the roof. The church is the largest in Central America and is truly massive. The most famous poet in Nicaragua (Ruben Dario) is buried in the church and everyone was posing in front of his tomb. It seemed like almost everything in town was named after Dario and we heard that his boyhood home was nearby so we decided to walk there and visit. It turned out to be very interesting with many first editions of all of his books as well as many old pictures of him and Leon. We located the correct road home and made it in record time.
We also finally got to the top of a volcano. We went to Masaya Volcano during the week. It was great because you could basically drive right to the top of the main crater (Santiago). Halfway up the volcano there was an excellent museum that showed all the volcanoes of the world and gave a good description of how they work. An interesting thing was a mock-up of a lava tube with live bats. They didn’t look real until you went close to them and they
flew. We hiked around the trails so we could view some of the other craters in the area. We decided to take a tour of the lava tubes with a guide. The lava tubes are full of bats. The guide told us that at one count they found 80,000 bats in the caves. It was hard to take pictures of them and quite exciting as they flew around your face. At night they have tours as the bats leave the cave to go find food at night. Apparently thousands of bats fly right past you.
We also toured the 2 cigar factories in Granada. Both tours were free and gave good demonstrations of all the parts that go into making the cigars. No tobacco is grown in the Granada area; most is grown in the northern, more mountainous part of the country. The cigars are all hand rolled and it is amazing how much work goes in to each cigar.
We also went to a butterfly reserve today that has a large enclosure with all the butterflies that are native to the area. The most beautiful ones are the Blue Morpho butterflies which are rare to see outside
of the reserve. They are incredibly hard to photograph. We spent over an hour trying to get a decent picture and really couldn’t get a good one even though we could get them to land on our hands. When they land they close their wings. While still beautiful, the blue coloring is only on the inside of their wings and when they land, the close their wings. Frustrating, but still interesting.
The owners of our apartment have promised that our pool will be full by the weekend. It will be a great relief to take a dip in the afternoon when it is really hot. We look forward to it!
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