Written by Randy Wilson on 30 Dec, 2002
No snow but it did rain once just before Christmas,
a rarity at this time of year I am told. I may not be
No snow but it did rain once just before Christmas,
a rarity at this time of year I am told. I may not be
near Canada but Canada is certainly near to me. I have
met more people from Canada, especially from Saskatoon,
here in Nicaragua than anywhere else on my journey--except I did meet a woman from Moose Jaw in Honduras
who knows a mutual friend in Regina, Ken Dormer. Hello
Ken from Sharon, she is riding her motorcycle to Panama
from Vancouver. Also hello from Dustin Wolfe to Mark
Von Esschen and the crew at the U. of S. Drama Department.
So it is a small world after all.
Have you ever been on a really tiny island with two
volcanoes? Never thought I would be, but I was.
Ometepe, situated in Lake
Nicaragua, was formed about 100,000 years ago when
Conception and Maderas erupted. The inhabitants also
have an indigenous explanation for the island''s formation:
Once there were two tribes living on either end of the
island. The northern tribe had a beautiful princess
who was in love with the handsome prince from the south.
The parents would not permit them to marry and they
killed themselves. When the woman died, her breasts
formed the twin volcanoes. The Prince''s death caused
great weeping and this formed the crater lake in the
Ometepe is a great place to relax and get back to
nature. I stayed at a former coffee plantation on the
southern part of the island that is now a very cozy backpacker''s
hotel. They have mountain bikes, kayaks, and great
all-you-can-eat buffets. The hosts were very friendly and helpful people.
The island can easily be circled by bike in a day, which
is what I did; the roads are very rocky and hilly so it helps if you have a mountain bike.
It felt great to be under my own power just cruising
through the countryside. I met some children
and asked one of them to take a picture of me. With
wide eyes he said no, that he did not know how. I showed
him the camera and got him to practice for awhile then--voila that
is me on my bike. He was so proud of his accomplishment and I, meanwhile, hope I have inspired a future photographer to pursue
By mid-morning I reached the Finca
Magdalena, another coffee plantation that
continues to operate as well as receive guests. It
is situated higher up the base of Volcano Madera. The
view spans the entire eastern part of the lake with
Volcano Conception to the north.
There are also petroglyphs here dating back to 800
B.C. and I go to see them with my bike. A young man says it is impossible to take the bike because
there are too many rocks. Hah, I say, I have come from Merida
and this is a fine bike with serious double suspension.
I will conquer this mere 20-minute walk on a bike. 30
minutes later, I am still walking with the bike. O.K.
he was right, I was wrong, and I still have not found
He said there was only one path through the jungle
and I have found five or six. What to do? Ah synchronicity
is a wonderful thing. When you do not know what to do,
do nothing, something will happen. So I sit down at
a sort of crossroads and relax, enjoying the cool breeze
in the shade. I begin to take notice of my surroundings,
the trees, the birds, looking for snakes, spiders,
etc. when I realize I am in the jungle--by myself.
What a great feeling. No worries, just me and the jungle.
Still have not seen any exotic jungle animals though.
That is when the monkeys
started to arrive, high above, crossing from one tree
to the next. The troupe had about 15 monkeys in all.
I tried to get a photo of them all but they were too
high up and too spread out.
I was so occupied with the monkeys that I did not
hear the man come up behind me. He was carrying a big
log and asked me what I was doing. I told him I was
looking for the petroglyphs and he said they were back
the way I had come. So off we go and sure enough there is
right by the trail. How many more things have I
missed in the jungle? Later I went searching for the
others but never found them. Oh well maybe another time
and another place.
Now I am off to Playa Santo Domingo, a beach a little further down the road. The ride is great, fast and downhill, swerving around rocks and ruts and enjoying the wind in my hair. The water is very warm and it is hard to cool off by wading in only to your knees. Oh did I mention there are sharks in the lake? Yes, freshwater bull sharks, about 2m or more in length. They are dangerous and have attacked locals in the past but nobody has seen any for awhile. Apparently they migrated upstream from the Pacific about 20,000 years ago and evolved into this fresh water species.
Someone told me there was a small, spring-fed
river near here that runs across the road, so off
I go. Sure enough, 10-minutes later, there is a small
stream in front of me running with cold water. I mean
ice-cube cold and it feels great. The stream runs through
someone''s property. I see a woman, a beautiful woman,
washing clothes upstream on the property. I ask her
if it is alright to park my bike and walk up the stream.
She says yes and that there is a small catarak 15 minutes
upstream. Wow what a great walk in the river. The trees
shade me from the mid-day heat and the cooling waters
are invigorating. I pass two more beautiful women washing
clothes. The woods are full of them.
The catarak is no more than 2m-high, emerges from a group of rocks, empties into a small
pool below, and it is cold. The pool is shallow but big
enough to stretch out in. Yah! Jungle
pool skinny-dipping. I am ready for the ride back
and do it in half the time it took to get there.
Another option I had was climbing Volcano Maderas
but I opted out after seeing Alex
and hearing his account of it. As hard as he tried to
make it sound fun I knew it was more of a grueling challenge.
The condition of the rest of the crew as they hobbled
and staggered back covered in mud, cuts, and bruises
also attested to this fact. All one girl could say was
"I want bubbles, lots of bubbles in a hot bath." Give
me a mountain bike and a rocky road and I am happy.
I left Ometepe and returned to Granada after a few
days. I had been in Granada a few days earlier but really
did not see much of the city. There are some really
nice places to stay and the Bearded
Monkey is one of them. Strangely enough I came back
and still have not seen much of the city. The Hospideja
Central is another great place with lots of incredible
art on the walls and tables and everywhere. These were
all done by guests over the years. I spent Christmas
Cocibolca. Senor Gomez has a very homey place and
puts on a fine, free supper every year for his guests
as do some other places.
So then I meet Norbert from Austria and we jam out
a kind of flamenco/jazz/celtic/reggae. A great time.
Then I meet Andrew from the States who plays classical
violin as well as great classic jazz on the guitar and
we jam. Then he says the guy across the street wants
him to play tonight and would I like to join him? Sure,
why not, and maybe Norbert can join in too. Well the
night was magical and the place was rocking. We played
everything in a jam without playing anything in a formal
structure. Wow, I have never done that before. So here I am
in Sharky''s, Christmas Eve, playing great music with
great new friends and watching the fireworks. Heck,
I even bought a few and joined in. I might stay for
New Year''s here in Grenada.
Oh and I also ran into Sylvia
and Lea again. I met them in Isla
Mujeres and keep bumping into them here and there.
Merry Christmas girls, where will we meet again?
Written by Tropic on 22 May, 2001
Not another sportfishing boat in sight and a whole world of tropical water to explore. It was an ideal situation, though very much like serious work at times. Getting to the Rio Indio was an adventure with the low water in the Rio San Juan…Read More
Not another sportfishing boat in sight and a whole world of tropical water to explore. It was an ideal situation, though very much like serious work at times. Getting to the Rio Indio was an adventure with the low water in the Rio San Juan having many sandbars and sunken logs. On our return trip, we did unfortuantely get stuck for three hours on a sandbar and had to literally dig and push our way out. We all managed to have some additional experiences added to our many hopes for of catching great fish with flyrods and visiting one of the most remote waters available to modern anglers. Not only was the weather ideal, but we lived our dreams of combining a shortfishing trip with a cultural vacation to a historic and wildlife rich area, the National Park of Indio Maiz in Nicaragua. Close
Written by Tropic on 19 May, 2001
Nearly every house on the different islands of Solentiname have some artist or artisan living there. It is best to arrange to visit them all first to see what there is and what is interesting. Some islands have more of the balsa carvings and others…Read More
Nearly every house on the different islands of Solentiname have some artist or artisan living there. It is best to arrange to visit them all first to see what there is and what is interesting. Some islands have more of the balsa carvings and others offer very beautiful primitive art paintings, treasured among many international collectors. There is a museum with a very good collection of artwork and information on the local ecological and cultural condition of the islands. The short boat trip to the various islands is also a great experience and one can reserve different pieces for later purchase once a price is agreed upon with a simple handshake. The artists are very friendly and willing to have you enter their houses and watch them work on pieces which can be done by various members of the family. Close
Written by Jimster1956 on 21 Sep, 2007
When I flew into Managua and stepped off the plane, I knew I was somewhere far and away from anything I had known as familiar. That was exactly the beauty of Nicaragua. Here you won't find a modern American city uprooted and replanted as some…Read More
When I flew into Managua and stepped off the plane, I knew I was somewhere far and away from anything I had known as familiar. That was exactly the beauty of Nicaragua. Here you won't find a modern American city uprooted and replanted as some resort with English speaking locals and a McDonald's on every corner. After clearing customs, I was whisked away by my driver that the bed-and-breakfast owners had sent for me from Granada. He spoke no English and my Spanish was limited, so I was all eyes and ears.
Arriving in Granada an hour later, I met my host and hostess Boris and Marcella, two of the warmest people I have ever had the pleasure of meeting. I was treated as a guest in their home as opposed to just another paying customer. I was travelling alone, by design and the patient assistance they gave me, explaining how to get around and where to go and how to get there was much appreciated. Granada is a colonial town, aside from the Parque Central, everything looked as though it could use a coat of paint. The charm of this town was the people. Everyone was friendly, helpful, and accommodating. I blended easily with these folks and made friends everywhere I went.
It was hard to get over the prices of everything. My lodging was at La Siesta, $12/night. It was as nice as any Holiday Inn I've ever stayed in. Breakfast was the equivalent of $2 and change. I ate full meals for dinners for about $3 and change. It is possible to live here on less than $20/day. Cervezas cost 20 Cordobas, a touch more than a buck, then there is happy hour. I chuckled that if it was any cheaper they would be paying me to drink. Coming from the very dangerous city of Baltimore, Maryland, I am well accustomed to having 360 degree radar and a ready defense posture if anyone approaches too closely. Here there was no need for that. Darkened streets late at night are as safe as daytime. People pass by you and say Hola and smile. This is a very impoverished country still recovering from war and economic tragedies yet the people are incredibly tenacious. People sell fruit and vegetables on the streets from horse drawn carts and bicycles. A woman has several handmade brooms on her head walking along with more in her arms for sale. These folks do not wallow in self pity for what they do not have. It would be paralyzing to do that. They keep moving, everyone is doing something.
Everybody seems to be involved somehow in making the day happen for them not to them. It gives the town a vibrant feeling of optimism and I have a lot of hope that they will make it. I do magic tricks for the children here. In a few minutes I had a crowd around me, they have never seen magic tricks done in real life before. There is nothing touristy here, everything is very "take it as it is" which is how I prefer to see a country. I went to Volan Masaya, an active volcano where you can walk right up to the craters edge, feeling the heat and seeing the smoke billow up at you. Down on Laguna de Masaya I had lunch on the beach under a palm thatched restaurant. The view was incredible, clear blue water, fresh air, and the volcano in the distance. I ventured to the town of Leon, the capital of the Revolucion. It was much like Granada but with the flavor of the war fresh in the minds of many folks. I was taking pictures of the monument of the Revolucion when a man approached me, in rapid and non stop Spanish told me all about the Revolucion and the fighting that happened there. He had black and white photos he showed me as he talked. He pointed out where explosions happened and pictures of friends he lost.
The following day I went back to Granada, wandered through the mercado, the marketplace where under primitive shacks made from whatever material was handy, the locals sell every imaginable product.... I will go back to Nicaragua...I will see these people progress in spite of incredible odds. The Americans are building and d
Written by Todd W. on 16 Sep, 2007
Granada. Well, it’s been pretty lousy weather since I arrived yesterday, steady rain on and off, but during the breaks (and sometimes during the downpours) I’ve been able to get out and do some wandering. I spent the first part of the day yesterday looking…Read More
Granada. Well, it’s been pretty lousy weather since I arrived yesterday, steady rain on and off, but during the breaks (and sometimes during the downpours) I’ve been able to get out and do some wandering. I spent the first part of the day yesterday looking for a new book since I finished both of mine. Went to Mavericks here in town (very friendly) and El Tercero Ojo (‘The Third Eye’) to browse their used collections, but finally decided on a book in the book exchange pile at my hotel called Whiteman by Tony D’Souza - strangely enough, a signed copy dated 06/07 from San Juan del Sur. It’s a good book and a very fast read. Combined with The Wind Up Bird Chronicles by Murakami and Absolute Friends by Le Carre, it’s been a good reading trip (though Murakami was my favorite). Because of the crappy weather, I spent much of the day, my first day, and reading over gazpacho and beer at Tercero Ojo and on my patio in my hotel. Tercero Ojo is a good place, new-agey with an interesting selection of books (most in Spanish, including about 12 volumes of Lenin) and pretty good food. It was a good place to shelter in for a few hours. My hotel, Casa San Francisco, is very nice - I have a fairly small room, I guess the smallest they have since I’m traveling solo and the other rooms look much bigger from what I’ve seen, but it’s clean and comfortable with a beautiful, small pool in the courtyard about the size of my living room. I’d actually like to have one that size... After a while the rain let up and I went for a walk exploring the city, which is quite pretty in the central area with a healthy (or, depending on your point of view, unhealthy) contingent of expats and Americans. Between rain bursts from Hurricane Felix I did visit a few of the cathedrals and generally just ambled. I stopped in at a Mexican restaurant I read about in LP (they said it was good because the chef was actually Mexican) and was getting ready to dig into chips and salsa when the power went out. Luckily they had a generator, so I was able to eat and read. The food was actually very good, delicious burrito and pico de gallo. As I left, however, I realized that the entire town was out of power (I later learned form the guys at my hotel that this was fairly common, they’ve been losing power often for about four hours at a time). I decided to stay by the Parque Central at a wine bar with lights blazing and have a few glasses of wine, just reading and thinking about all kinds of things (how we live and the Nicas live, what it would be like to teach again, etc. I actually had a hypothetical debate on “truth,” which was kind of interesting). A few glasses of good red wine and a slice of cake later, I was brave enough to walk back towards my hotel (three blocks from the parque) through the rain, hopping from lighted spot to lighted spot like a frog to lily pads. Luckily the very nice bar immediately across the street from my hotel was open, so I snuck in for a beer just to be around other people for a while. One man was in the corner watching a telenovela, a few folks were sitting outside drinking, and I took a table in the doorway, just reading and watching the owner’s son play ball. After my beer was finished, I set off for the hotel and bed. Unfortunately I couldn’t sleep well at all. I woke up at around 4am and never went back to sleep, I watched a little TV, read, and fidgeted with my glasses (which were crooked for some reason, and reminded me that I never got my prescription filled for new glasses - yech) until it was light and the rain let up a bit. I went for a run, cris-crossing the city and dodging the bikes and motos and cars, then came back to the hotel and just sat in the pool for a little bit (which felt as good as it looks - it really is a nice pool). After a shower I went back to Kathy’s for breakfast, which was delicious. The morning slowly grew hotter until it was blazing hot and sunny. I spent the day just wandering, looking for new books (finished Souza, on to Blindness by Saramago), reading and watching people in the parque, and having a great lunch at a place called Garden Cafe (tuna salad and a smoothie). I also got some cigars for a friend, almost got him some ‘Revolucion’ cigars with a picture of Che on them, which was almost worth it for the delicious irony, but ended up getting some from Esteli instead. I also got a small pot for my sister and my daughter. There really is very little to buy in the way of photography and artwork here, though they are known for their pottery - most of the stores are just basic pulperias with essentials, they are still really catching up to the tourism thing. Started getting tired at that point and I was dripping with sweat from the heat, so I ambled back to the hotel, took a dip in the pool, and lay down for a nap. The last night it rained almost all night, and the power went out again as I sat down to dinner (all the generators buzzed on again), but dinner was absolutely delicious, seasoned flank steak in one of the nicest places in town. The guys sitting next to me must have been in government; they had ribbons around their necks and looked official... Went to the same wine bar and had cheesecake and wine, then the same bar across the street from my hotel and had a beer while I read and heard a song that made me ache for home and my family.Impressions of Granada - it is pretty around the center, and the parque central is gorgeous with prettily decorated horse carts lined up for tours along the edges. The outlying areas, like many other cities in this part of the world, are a little rougher around the edges but have nice spots too. I have to say that there’s not a lot to do in town, though there are lots of excursions available (volcano hikes, kayaking the isletas, etc.). A day and a half is plenty of time to spend in town alone, for sure, which I’m sure you could stretch with outlying trips. Have to say though that I really prefer the beautiful colors of Antigua, though the people here tend to be much more pleasant and it is certainly less touristy. Close
Written by Todd W. on 05 Sep, 2007
The trip to Ometepe from Managua is exhausting. Train, plane, taxi, bus, taxi, boat, taxi. It took about 5 hours from when I hit the ground in Managua to get to my place on the island. Managua itself for a major city looks bombed out,…Read More
The trip to Ometepe from Managua is exhausting. Train, plane, taxi, bus, taxi, boat, taxi. It took about 5 hours from when I hit the ground in Managua to get to my place on the island. Managua itself for a major city looks bombed out, since they never rebuilt from the earthquake they had in the '70s (the aid was snatched up by the US-backed dictator, the people revolted, the war began, and the rest is history). The bus was hot and crowded and very, very sweaty, especially since I had to hold my backpack on my lap for 2.5 hours. Luckily I sat next to a native and we talked for a long time in Spanglish, very nice guy and good on the travel advice. When I got to Rivas I took another very short cab ride to the ferry, which was a slow but beautiful trip to the island. First impressions - amazing, but if anything poorer than the mainland. The nicer homes are concrete block without doors, many without indoor plumbing, yet the people are very friendly and almost shy. Hotel Finca Playa Venecia, my place on Isla del Ometepe, is a working farm called a finca and right on the water. There were a few Brits and four US medical mission students from Nevada staying there when I was there. The views are beautiful, particularly the sunsets. In the mornings the locals washed their clothes in the water near my cabana, and you could hear the howler monkeys hooting in the forest down the beach. My room was fine, not stunning but plenty serviceable, and I share it with a gecko I've named Gordon. We slept together, showered together, and whatnot. We're pals. The first night I thought he might jump in my pocket, because we had an incredible rainstorm that lasted for hours. The first day I was there I went on a short walkabout on the finca around 6am, looking at the cattle and horses and pigs and buildings. Then breakfast, then spent a long time in the Charco Verde park - a thick rainforest, absolutely beautiful, and during the hours I was there I saw literally no one. About a thousand lizards and butterflies and a curious little monkey who was checking me out as I sat on one of the deserted beaches, but no people. I could have danced the tarantella in the nude and no one would have been the wiser. But I didn't. After that I had a tremendous headache, probably from all of the jostling the day before, so I took a long nap then spent the rest of the day in a hammock by the water watching the sunset and the fishermen and reading before having a few beers at dinner and going to bed to yet another rainstorm. The atmosphere is certainly conducive to reading - I've read two books and started a third since I've been here. The next day I walked a little bit and talked to one of the medical missionaries for a few minutes at breakfast. Then I walked down to Hotel Charco Verde just down the beach, rented a bike, and took off down the main southern road to Altagracias, the main town on the island. It was a LONG ride and very sweaty, but I have to say I'm glad I took a bike and not the bus because it was such an amazing experience and one that I won´t forget. I rode by lots of farmland and around the volcano, past some very, very poor towns with little kids who would wave and shout as I rode past (likely saying ¨look at the stupid gringo riding his bike up a hill in 90 degree weather¨). Quick note on the volcanoes - They are absolutely stunning, really beautiful, and obviously visible from everywhere on the island. The largest is absolutely huge, like Pikes Peak, and verdant with strips of grey from recent flows. After I left Altagracias - not much more than some beaten up concrete buildings - I saddled up the bike and rode up and over to Playa Santo Domingo. The road was dirt with a little paving on the hills, and my already sore butt took a pounding, but it was an interesting little place with a nice hotel and a few other things to see. I got into the Villa Paraiso restaurant just as a storm blew over, so the timing was good Close
Written by coloradowanderer on 02 Sep, 2006
The Moon Handbook lists volunteer organizations all over Nicaragua. My heart ached reading about a seriously underfunded orphanage, Hogar Madre de Albertini, in Granada. The book said the girls don't have much to do and mostly watch TV after school. Before my trip, I bought…Read More
The Moon Handbook lists volunteer organizations all over Nicaragua. My heart ached reading about a seriously underfunded orphanage, Hogar Madre de Albertini, in Granada. The book said the girls don't have much to do and mostly watch TV after school. Before my trip, I bought a few fun things and art supplies for the girls. Using the address from the guidebook, I asked for directions at my hostel. The front-desk workers marked the location on a map and off I went. Little did I know that the address was incorrect. I was out of the main area, and not many others were walking along. A young girl walked by and I asked her about the orphanage. She did not know where it was, but sensing gifts, she grabbed my hand. While we wandered back to the park, I asked her about her family and favorite school subjects. Giving up on finding the orphanage, we sat on a park bench and I pulled out two yo-yo's. Before we could rip the plastic, kids came out of nowhere and surrounded the bench with palms out. I had a few more and gave them out to the nearest boys. They quickly set the string and then helped the girls get their yo-yo's started. A nearby vendor came over asking for something for the baby. I explained I had nothing for him and that her other sons had yo-yo's. She proceeded to berate the 9-year-old that she has plenty and her mother sells enough. I should have said more, but with a stern face, I only said, "It's alright." She went back to her stall and the tension quickly faded.Still, more kids with their hands out, so I pulled out the deck of UNO cards. Again, the older children helped the younger ones and explained the rules over and over. We had several rousing hands, with everyone winning.The girl and I left for a walking tour of the city. Just a few blocks from the park and my hostel and all of a sudden we were right in front of the orphanage. We entered through the open heavy, old wooden door into a cluttered room with religious and donated items, gift baskets of bubble bath and such for sale. The woman behind the counter thought I was bringing the girl in off the street. She quizzed her about her family and where she lived. Once she believed the girl really has a home, I asked what things the girls need. With a serious, desperate look on her face, she said one word "Comida." Food.Later that day, I went grocery shopping for the 18 girls. Pasta, tuna, mayo, bread, juice, and cookies added up quickly. A bagger walked with me to the orphanage. On the way he was polite, but asking typical male questions. When he saw the ancient Madre in full garb, his face turned angelic and his voice soft. "Hola, buenas tardes, Madre." The girls, down the courtyard watching TV on a picnic table, were all wearing matching yellow dresses. When we walked in, they all jumped up, but upon seeing the bags, eyes widened and they all sat back down. We carried the food into the kitchen and I discreetly tipped the guy about $1 in Cordobas and he was off. The Madre spoke rapid Spanish, but I understood most of what she said on the tour. One large room had about 12 bunk beds and a few playpens with sleeping, sweating toddlers. All the beds were paid with simple bedding and a stuffed animal. Laundry was drying on lines along the simple outdoor courtyard and a woman sat at an ancient sewing machine repairing the yellow dresses. The Madre and I sat on bench talking, and I asked her what else the girls needed. She said fun and educational things. After I left, fighting back tears, I searched the city for toys. I really couldn't find anything.
Later that night, chatting at the hostel, I told everyone about my experience. Some people seems interested, especially two girls from Norway. Weeks later, I received an email and pictures of their visit. They were told the girls needed white school socks, so they brought those and PIZZA! The pictures are incredible, huge smiles and the Madre enjoying a slice. If you are planning a trip to Granada, please tuck something in your suitcase and make time to visit these girls. The orphanage is a few blocks past the Lacayo Supermarket on Xalteva, at the corner of Avenida Obispo Ulloa. Many volunteer opportunities exist from a time commitment of a few hours to months. Unlike pay-to-volunteer programs, La Esperanza and Si Se Puede, Yes I Can school are free and would welcome your involvement.
Written by Baudet on 07 Nov, 2004
I was awakened this morning by little kids screaming and the sound of someone hammering. I left the room to go take a shower, but was stopped because Pirates of the Carribean was on the TV. After sitting through the whole movie, I made it…Read More
I was awakened this morning by little kids screaming and the sound of someone hammering. I left the room to go take a shower, but was stopped because Pirates of the Carribean was on the TV. After sitting through the whole movie, I made it to the shower. Our boat for Omepete didn't leave until 2pm, so we hung around the Oasis Granada for a while.
When we went into town to catch a cab, it was flooded with people and rows and rows of flea market-type shops. The cab took us to the gate to buy tickets for the ferry. The women at the counter didn't speak any English, and she kept asking if we wanted up or down tickets. We didn't know it at the time, but "up" and "down" were first and second class. We went for the cheaper ticket and got the "down" ticket. We didn’t know until we got on the ferry that it was going to be a four-hour boat ride to the island.
After about an hour on the ferry, the volcanic island came into view. It looked as though the ride wouldn't be as long as expected. But looks can be deceiving. It was still about another three hours until we reached the dock on the island. We gathered our bags and went to the front of the boat to take in the sights along the way. A local Nica from San Carlos tried to talk to us, but he did not speak any English, and we didn't speak Spanish. So Chris got out his translation book, and we had about a two-hour conversation with him until it started to rain. From a distance, you could see the storm over the lake, and we could tell we were going to get rained on. When the rain started, the waves picked up and occasionally splashed up on deck, soaking anyone standing there.
When the ferry reached the port, the rain was pouring down. We ran under a roofed area to stay dry, waiting/deciding what to do. A local boy came and got us and loaded us and our bags in the back of a truck and headed up a muddy road into the night. To keep us from getting wet, there was a tarp in the back of the truck, and the guy spread it over us. The ride was less than ten minutes before we got to our hostel, Hotel Castillo. When we arrived, we checked in at the counter, which was also the counter for the restaurant. The restaurant served awesome food and was really cheap. Naturally, this is where we ate our dinner and breakfast the next morning. The rooms were pretty nice, but small, but the experience was worth the four-hour ferry ride.
Written by katie* on 26 Jul, 2004
This is a wealthy city and it shows. Stately, high-ceilinged houses with tile floors and courtyard gardens. Palm-studded boulevards with tiled sidewalks. A beautiful plaza fronting the cathedral. A boardwalk along the lake. It's also a city with "people who matter" and "people who don't."…Read More
This is a wealthy city and it shows. Stately, high-ceilinged houses with tile floors and courtyard gardens. Palm-studded boulevards with tiled sidewalks. A beautiful plaza fronting the cathedral. A boardwalk along the lake. It's also a city with "people who matter" and "people who don't." Of course, tourists don't. That wears after a while. I can't imagine that expats are well received either.
The real high point of our stay in Granada has been Asadero.com. It is a restaurant with a very talented cook. He served me beef with sweet plantains, ripe plantains, and a salad of some sort of cabbage, all lumped together in a plantain leaf. By the ingredients, this is fairly typical fare, but it was one of the best meals I've ever eaten. Each perfectly seasoned ingredient complemented each other in both flavor and color. Meat with ripe plantain, salad with meat, ripe plantain with sweet plantain ... every combination was a pleasant surprise. The restaurant's promotional flyers term the food "erotic." Normally, I'd take that as a typo for "exotic," but not this time.
When my husband visited Granada in 1999 its tourist pretensions, while evident, were generally unfulfilled. Now, a new wave of expat-driven development appears to be succeeding. We stayed for a while at Hospedaje Central, the same hotel he stayed at last time. Then it was run by a Nicaraguan family and - while a bit run-down and already popular with backpackers - preserved the stately style of Granada's houses. The foreigners mixed with Nicaraguans on business trips - including a labor organizer, whom he failed to communicate with in broken Spanish. Now it is a bustling hostel replete with bar, tour booking, and accumulating graffiti and murals. It has an American owner and is staffed by a mix of Nicaraguans and travelers pausing to make a buck.
Granada's lakefront boardwalk is beautiful. You could take a horse-drawn taxi - we didn't - and the Convento San Francisco is a wonderful museum featuring Pre-Columbian statues and other artifacts. We passed through Granada twice and stayed at a bed and breakfast called Another Night in Paradise the second time around. This ran us about $13 US per night but the beautiful rooms, real beds with real mattresses, and shared kitchen made it seem like a bargain.
Granada is also a good place to take Spanish lessons. I was fairly ill, so my husband used the time to improve his Spanish.
La Fortuna, the site of Volcan Arenal, was our last stop in Costa Rica, and so to avoid recrossing the mountain range that divides Costa Rica's coasts, we decided to use the Los Chiles border crossing into Nicaragua. Clearing immigration was unusually speedy and pleasant.…Read More
La Fortuna, the site of Volcan Arenal, was our last stop in Costa Rica, and so to avoid recrossing the mountain range that divides Costa Rica's coasts, we decided to use the Los Chiles border crossing into Nicaragua. Clearing immigration was unusually speedy and pleasant. Then we took an hour boat ride up the Rio Frio to San Carlos, Nicaragua. En route, we saw some beautiful cranes and a sloth.
San Carlos is a little port on Lago de Nicaragua. While dirty and sketchy - what port isn't? – its narrow, very steep cobblestone streets, wood buildings, and views of the lake serve as tepid justification for the visit. They do nothing to ameliorate the departure.
We had planned to take a boat from San Carlos to the Isla de Ometepe, but when we learned that we would be disembarking in the middle of nowhere at around 2 a.m. we settled on a bus to Managua. The bus drivers who ply that route are Nicaragua's least fortunate men. The 6-hour stretch from San Carlos to Acoyapa is on a bone-jarring gravel road tenuously linking a series of desolate ranching communities to civilization. The reluctant passengers cloak themselves in bandannas and attempt to so jam themselves between the seats that they won't be thrown from into the air. Most of the seats themselves are no longer attached to their legs and fly about as the bus bucks. And, of course, the former American school bus (virtually all Nicaraguan buses are of this provenance) has no shocks.
The paved road from Juigalpa toward Managua was actually worse. It was so ridden with potholes that we spent much of the ride skidding precariously along the shoulder trying to avoid the road, careening across the surface (and sometimes traffic) when the shoulder became too challenging. When my husband took this road to Rama in 1999, it was in much better shape. He doubts they've filled a pothole since. Only when we reached the Interamericanan Highway did things improve.