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Published: June 17th 2008
Being a paid volunteer does away with the necessity of obtaining a work visa. This is in operation for English teachers around the world where having the correct work permit often involves unfathomable bureaucracy and a lot of money. One advantage of this slightly fishy scam/entirely legal opportunity, is visa runs. Basically, every ninety days I am given some time off and a bit of extra cash, to leave the country for seventy-two hours. I managed to time this particular visa run with Semana Santa, or Easter week. The school and indeed most of Costa Rica, shuts down for eight days. This is looked upon most favourably by the very devout. That being the devout Catholics and the devout travellers.
Being against flying unless absolutely necessary, visa run options are Panama or Nicaragua. I can't remember why, but I chose Nicaragua. Maybe because all the other teachers were going to Panama and I like to be different.
The first few days were spent on Isla de Ometepe. This island sits in Lago Nicaragua, which I am reliably informed is Central America’s biggest (and only) lake. A better claim to fame is that the lake is home to the world’s
Aurora en Frente del Nidito de Amor
Because of not booking ahead on the busiest week of the year we were left with the best room at the place. Expensive but very nice.
only freshwater sharks and rays, having been trapped here when volcanic eruptions and pesky plate tectonics lifted the lake clean out of the Pacific Ocean. What a spectacle it must have been, though very confusing if you were a fish. In fact few of the sharks and rays remain after having been caught and sold to the Far East or shot from US supplied military helicopters by ex-president and legendary nutter, Anastasio Somoza Garcia.
The island is formed from two perfectly conical volcanoes that rose from the lake then reached out their lavarous hands and joined together. If you are struggling to picture this, well, from the side Ometepe resembles a pointy bra of the type sported by Madonna in the early nineties.
The island is beautiful and reminded me very much of Africa. Dusty dirt roads full of pigs, cows and goats, small shabby houses and a penchant for four legged rather than four wheeled transport. The beaming smiles and incessant friendliness also lent themselves to this comparison. We walked a bit, swam a bit, saw some ancient petroglyphs and had a jolly nice time in a very romantic setting.
Granada was next, “one of Central
This time without the fluffy hat.
America’s finest colonial cities”. I was surprised to find this statement perfectly true. It was especially welcome after spending the previous three months in architecturally arid Costa Rica. The city can be compared to the real Granada, in Andalucia. Even here in Nicaragua, many of the large houses are built in the Moorish style. There is little to see from the street, but through the huge wooden doors opens up ornamental courtyards with fountains, palms and intricately carved colonnades. Considering the city has been ransacked numerous times over the years by pirates or philibusters, I like what they have done with the place.
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