Central America - Nicaragua


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Published: April 5th 2017
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It was a slow journey to Granada and I very nearly didn´t make it but good things come to those who wait! I had the typical Nicaraguan breakfast for a Sunday which is called Nacatamal made from corn and other fillings. After that the owner of the B&B gave me a tour by car of the city. In the afternoon I explored on my own and went to the Cathedral and then randomly met Laura and Georgia in the plaza. We´d all met in Santa Ana, El Salvador so it was nice to catch up over a late lunch. I wandered back to the plaza later and there was a band playing. People were dancing to cumbia and other latin music so of course I had to join in! We danced until it started raining and even then people were trying to encourage the musicians to play for another half hour. On another day I visited the museums within the San Francisco convent. There were interesting displays on Nicaraguan and Granada traditions, colonial religious statues, mayan pottery and ancient volcanic stone sculptures. They also had many examples of the painting style which was developed in Nicaragua called "primitivism" which is very colourful and figurative. One evening I went to Masaya volcano. Interestingly the other people on my bus were on a tour with the same company I used to work for as a tour leader in Italy. It was really amazing to see the glowing red lava flow at nightfall! When I arrived back at the B&B, Carlos the owner gave me some of the local rum to try. It´s called Flor de Cana and it´s very nice with just some water and ice! On my last day I went to Laguna de Apoyo which is a crater lake. It´s a good place to swim so I did that and also went out on a kayak. In the evening I went for dinner in the plaza with Yalilou who I met at the B&B. We had the local speciality called Vigoron which is made of yucca and chicharron amongst other things. We also tried mojitos in a few different places. In the morning I decided to take a tour in a carriage with horses just before leaving for Isla de Ometepe. It´s a typical thing to do in Granada and they even have a model of a carriage with horses on the roundabout as you enter the city.

After Granada I travelled to Rivas by bus, San Jorge by shared taxi and then Isla de Ometepe on a ferry named after Che Guevara! I stayed with a host family on the island in a village called La Paloma. On my first day I went to the family farm to help with the banana harvest, which involved cutting branches of bananas with a machete and then carrying them back to the truck. I didn't get to wield a machete (probably safer that way!) but I did carry bananas on my back. In the afternoon Guilman gave me a lift on his motorbike to Punta Jesus Maria. It is a beach which goes out to a point with the lake on either side and the volcano Concepcion behind. I had a swim and then saw Markus who I'd met earlier on my trip. We walked to the end to watch the sunset. I actually saw a lot of lovely sunsets during my stay on the island. The host family community centre has a great view of the sunset over the lake and appropriately it´s called "la puesta del sol". They have a lot of groups staying with host families here and there was a group of medical students from USA. Some of the girls were staying with the same family as me and they invited me to their salsa class at the centre. I tried to sneak in at the back but ended up dancing in the middle of the circle with Donald, a doctor and artist from Bluefields in Nicaragua. Bluefields sounds like an interesting place on the Caribbean side as I also met Allan from there too when I got the bus to Managua. The following day I cycled to Charco Verde. It´s a lagoon with a myserious legend about a person called Chico Largo. I first went into the butterfly house there which was a really lovely spacious place with relaxing classical music! I met Georgia there who I knew from earlier on my trip. We were also interviewed by a TV station so might end up being famous in Nicaragua! I wasn´t too bad with my interview in Spanish but when it came to translating for Georgia´s I didn´t do such a good job so hope they don´t cut it too much. After that we went on a walk to the viewpoint but got a bit lost so took a slight detour. However we found it in the end and then I lingered a little longer at the laguna for a swim whilst Georgia continued on as she was only on the island for a day. On the other side of the lagoon I spotted several Urracas (the national bird of the island) and then a monkey family. The day after I needed a rest after so much cycling in the heat and wind so I just rode to the nearest town Moyogalpa. Luckily I also ran into a street parade and followed it to join the fiesta for a while. There were lots of children dressed up and on horses as it was a children´s riding event. My following day was learning...I had a lesson in how to ride a scooter and then at 1am I taught myself how to remove a scorpion from the bathroom sink with only a plastic bag to catch it! The scooter lesson was in preparation for a day trip to Ojo de Agua (beautiful natural spring for swimming), Santa Domingo beach, Santa Cruz and Balgue village with views of both volcanoes on the island. I was a bit nervous about riding a scooter as I´d never tried it before but it was the best way to get to these places. Anyway all went well that day but unfortunately when I hired for a second time for just a few hours I came off the bike. I went over the policia acostado (sleeping policeman or speed bump as we know it!) very slowly but accelerated too quickly afterwards and lost my balance. I had a bit of a headache which may have been partly the hot sun or also the museum I visited earlier had given me a free sample of a local drink called Cojollo which in hindsight I probably should have refused! I was mostly unhurt but had to pay about $20 repairs for scratched paintwork. A costly mistake but could have been a lot worse. It happened on my last day on the island which was a bit demoralising but luckily a group were performing some traditional dances in the community centre in the evenng so that cheered me up!

I was a little sad to leave my host family in Ometepe but arrived in a lovely beach town called San Juan del Sur afterwards. On the first day the town were raising funds for a children´s charity so I saw more traditional dances. I then took a shuttle to a popular surfing spot called El Remanso. I didn´t fancy surfing so I just chilled out underneath a palm leaf umbrella and did a bit of sunbathing and swimming. The restaurant there and along the seafront in San Juan was a bit pricey as it´s a touristic place so the other days I had lunch in the local market. I walked up to the viewpoint on a hill with a Christ statue and there were lovely views of the horseshoe shaped bay from there. Later on the beach I made a horse sculpture in the sand. The waves are a bit like white horses and there were a few people riding on the beach so that was my inspiration! A group of children were intrigued and came to admire the horse. I asked them to name it for me and one of the girls named him Juan, very appropriate as her name was Juanita and we were in the town of San Juan. The tide started to come in so they all helped to build a sand wall to protect Juan and then to help rebuild him after the wall broke. We couldn´t stop the tide though so of course Juan slowly disappeared into the sea. Building in sand is one of those simple childhood pleasures that we forget about as adults so it was nice to experience that again. After Juan had disappeared completely I joined the kids jumping over the waves so we had more fun before the sun set over the Pacific.

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