Wednesday, 24 June 2009

Day 7 - Private Island

A sleepy tour group returned to Granada only to drop off our bags and pack new ones for our visit to the isletas. Lake Nicaragua is only a few minutes from town and has 365 small islands surrounding the peninsula that jets out from the mainland. We had a private island all to ourselves including kayaks, pool, chef, hammocks and plenty of room to soak up more sun and take naps. It was a perfect ending to an incredible trip.

Day 5/6 - San Juan del Sur

We decided to bypass local transportation to make more use of our time by taking a microbus to San Juan del Sur, a popular Pacific coast surfing destination. We spent a few hours body surfing in the bay in town, had amazing seafood for lunch and headed up to Pelican Eyes Resort for sunset pictures. Unfortunately, our request for clear skies was received but nonetheless, we were content with 2 for 1 happy hour.
Friday was just full of, well….boogie boarding. I’m not sure Luis actually ever got out of the water leading me to wonder where he went to the bathroom. By the smiles on the faces and the rashes in sensitive places, I’d say everyone had an amazning time. Maderas beach is a perfect place to learn how to surf with good waves for beginners and slightly larger waves for more advanced surfers. The walk down the beach to Majagual is beautiful, the water is warm and the little hut on the beach serves spaghetti. WFT?
Well, we once again returned to town to get refreshed, find a happy hour special, dinner and join the other sunburned tourists at the night clubs.

Day 4 - Masaya

Granada’s best tour guide, David, again picked us up for a visit to Masaya. We first made a stop at a fort that was used to defend Granada and as a prison during the Civil War. We continued on to Masaya Volcano and had a peak inside. This active volcano provides views of lava during an evening visit but we were there in the middle of the day. One can basically walk to the edge of the volcano and look right into it. Because one can get so close, there are warnings to limit your visit to 20 minutes due to the toxic smoke constantly being spewed out. After lunch in Masaya’s old market, we took a stroll through Masaya’s local market. It was a new experience, even for me, as official market workers infiltrated every last inch of personal space we had trying to take each person to a different booth to get a cut of a sale. I’ve never experienced that kind of parasitic action in the market, at least not by adults. It was quite annoying but effective as we eventually all got split up and David and I spent some time roaming the maze-like market in search of our group. There some purchases even as we ignored the market workers and people in the group started learning the process of bartering.

Day 3 - Laguna de Apoyo

Today we rested at Laguna de Apoyo, a volcanic crater just a few miles outside of town. The lagoon is a few hundred feet inside a volcanic crater and is surrounded by dense vegetation. The water was perfect and the weather was a bit overcast, allowing us to play without getting completely fried. Jilligan took the group on a 3 hour tour - actually a 1 hour rubber raft ride with a short-lived game of king of the floating water platform. Jill finally touched the shores of the Monkey Hut and with our goal completed, we returned to our local restaurant on the water’s edge to devour the breaded fish that was supposed to be fried. This was a much-needed break from our busy first two days.

Thursday, 18 June 2009

Day 2 - Mombacho

Today was a long day starting with a tour of Mombacho Volcano with a zip line at the bottom. We visited Las Flores coffee plantation and learned about the process of coffee making. This particular plantation has now received a certification for its sustainability and organic growing process. For example, they generate gas by fermenting the waste left over from processing the beans. We learned that it’s actually much more complicated than we had thought. Eventually each bean that is used for the final product is hand selected and the unwanted beans are used for instant coffee.
Although we had some rain and clouds, by the time we reached the lookout we were able to see the isletas and take some good shots. We also found the elusive red-eyed frog in a camouflaged slumber under a leaf.
We experienced a new zip line towards the bottom of Mombacho with 18 platforms and 11 cables I believe. Needless to say everyone had a blast. There were sightings of some Howler monkeys in one of the trees but mainly everyone was focused on doing tricks and making sure they slowed down before slamming into trees.
We had a late lunch in Corinto, at the top of Laguna de Apoyo’s crater with an amazing view of the volcanic lake and Lago Cocibolca in the background. Finally, we headed to Pueblos Blancos, a ceramics cultural center where 95% of the residents make a living selling pottery. We visited a well-known family that has been working in pottery for generations. We were treated to an explanation and exhibition of each step of the process by various family members and of course we took the opportunity to buy directly from the manufacturers.
After an exhausting day, we arrived to a dark and rainy Granada. However, this group was not once troubled by the lack of electricity or running water.

Sunday, 14 June 2009

Day 1 - Granada Tour

Everyone survived Cafe Nuit dancing and we finally made it to breakfast with the group. It´s hot and humid and to top it off we woke up to no running water. Nobody seems to mind though. What a dirty group I brought with me. They rock!
We ran into David, our tour guide , while eating and took a city tour this afternoon. We visited quite a few cathederals and actually were in the tower while they run the bells. I have to say it´s louder than you´d expect but what a cool experience. Most of the tour was on foot but about an hour was in horse and carriage...very romantic. We are all very close now-closer than we want to be considering nobody has showered since arriving.
Everyone opted for dinner before showering and amazingly enough, they didn´t kick us out of the restaurant but we had quite a time figuring out the bill. Our lack of mathematical skill didn´t matter though cause Shannon made origami out of money, Andy blessed us with his gangsta lingo, Jill freaked out when she saw that the fish I was eating had teeth and to top it off, a total stranger, who approached our group cause we were having such a good time, laughed at me when she read my name on my card. Thanks mom and dad. Looks like I´ll need a bit more therapy.


Arriving in Nicaragua-First night

Everyone met at the airport without a hitch. Andy and Danette made it in OK. All the airport officials were wearing breathing masks and we had to walk through a body heat sensor to make sure we weren´t running a temp. I guess swine flew is still an issue here. Thank god they didn´t hear me sneeze a minute earlier.
We made it into Granada just fine but not before our luggage soaked up some rain water on the roof of the micro bus; we are, after all, in the rainy season. After checking into our humble accomodations we headed down via la calzada for a few macuas (official drink made with flor de cana rum and guayaba) Danette caught the eye of an older gentleman who decided to recite some love poems written by Ruben Dario (Nicaragua´s most famous poet)After a few macua we were ready for Cafe Nuit, the smallest but warmest dance club in town. After dancing for a few minutes we felt like we had done an hour of Bikram. We didn´t last very long as most of us were exhausted from the trip so we headed home but not before I took everyone on an extended visit through town trying to find our hostel. Most of the streets in the area had lost electricity so it was completely impossible to see street names so we walked in circles for a while.