A long time coming, I have been a tad lazy about our blog. Ryan departed before the sun yesterday morning. What great fun to have a friend down here to experience a snipit of our life abroad. Not only did he come bearing Cheez-its but he brought an open mind, his fabulous personality, and a willingness to embrace travel in Nicaragua via Erin and Todd style. By that I mean, hostels, chicken buses, and local food (although we managed to eat a good amount of pizza and hamburgers). Basically, a trip on the cheap.
We left you in Leon. It’s a great city with a nice rough edge. Luckily, most of the places we wanted to vist in Nica are relatively close together minus Isla Ometepe. According to our guide book, Isla Ometepe is the highest point on a fresh water island in the world. We never investigated the truth of this comment but for now, let’s roll with it. Leery to travel on Independence Day (Sunday, July 19th), we left on Monday morning. Breakfast, a trip to the farmacia (I am on a strict Zyrtec diet at the moment), a chicken bus to Managua followed by a rapid bus exchange to Granada (it was still rolling as we hoped in), a quick bite to eat, a walk to the ferry, an incredibly long and confusing baggage check process, and then we were on the ferry. Four hours in 2nd class, meaning the breezy upper deck was off limits, we made ourselves comfortable in a corner on the floor. Apparently, you have to get there super early to reserve a seat. After a lot of cards, some good political conversations, and the rest of the Cheez-its later, we arrived in Altagracia after dark. Luckily, we met a friendly tout who reserved a room at Hotel Castillo for us which included transportation from the port. We claimed our bags and were loaded like a herd of cattle into the back of a bucky with roughly 20+ other tourists and their bags. Now, let’s set the scene. We are in the back of this truck, no visual of the road ahead, only the silhuettes of the trees and bushes, and the faint sound of the water rolling up the shoreline. Jokes ensued about a western media disaster taking place if this very rickity truck full of gringos tips. Now, Todd and I have taken some dodgy transport, but as the truck tilted drastically to the right (road construction apparently) even I became a bit nervous. I can only imagine the thoughts going through Ryan’s head about this chosen form of transport. Luckily, we tipped and tilted our way to the Hotel without flipping. Where we checked in and quickly calmed our nerves with a celebration beer (or two, three…) Morning revealed a beautiful island.
We decided to beat the city, rough interpretation, and head to Finca Magdelana. The Finca is an old coffee farm at the bottom of Volcan Madeira. A ride in a chicken bus isn’t all that bad. Except on unpaved or poorly paved roads. There is something about the shocks of a school bus that don’t quiet meet the standard of a 4wheel drive vehicle. Or maybe the problem lies with my bones not being sturdy enough to handle the painful jolts on unpadded seats. I won’t point fingers. At this point, one might think we were on a masachistic travel mission, but no, simply trying to get from point a to point b. Arriving at the Finca after our bouncy ride (sounds better then bone crushing) we hiked under the hot sun, always the hot sun, never do we manage to hit the cool sun, uphill for roughly a km. I will speak for myself, I would hate to make the boys sound pathetic, so for me…I was one sweaty fool by the time we reached the lodge.
The group decided to explore some petroglyphs. Funny, three educated people couldn’t manage to stay on a trail or define the word “petroglyph”. We climbed through barb wire, up one path, then another, just wandering through the woods. Good times! We also had a hell of a time finding the promised coffee plantation. Plantation to me infers lots of plants on lots of land. Well, we may or may not have found coffee plants. Our identification skills remain questionable.
We celebrated Todd’s birthday with a bottle of Flor de Caña and a lot of cards. Not a big 28th birthday bash, but for the non-birthday enthusiast he seemed to enjoy himself.
After experiencing the ambiance of the Finca, which included tons of beautiful butterflies, we were on our way back to the shore. This time in pursuit of Granada. We decided on a different journey back which managed to save us about 2 to 3 hours and allow us to experience one of the best gallo pinto’s yet. Gotta love the run down mom and pop shops; cheap and tasty!
Granada reminded me a lot of Antigua. An old colonial town full of tourists but very aesthetically pleasing. We stayed at Kahlala for $6/pp/night. A nice little place where we were able to watch some movies, drink more Toña, and question each other about our travel experiences. It was nice to hear the more intimate details of each persons’ travels. We become so used to summerizing our experiences, you sometimes forget the details yourself until questioned. I found the whole night to be very refreshing.
Ryan wanted to check out Masaya, the old market town of Nica. The craftsmanship was amazing. Beautiful rosewood carvings, intricate pottery work, and plenty of hammocks to go around. And of course, a lot of shit. We spent the day exploring the market, comparing prices and making sure Ryan was well stocked with souvenirs. There was supposed to be a second Market, but that turned out to be the food/clothing/misc. local market. I truly enjoy exploring this type of atmosphere, except when I am randomly kicked by a small child. It provides a good glimpse into the local world. What food is available? How much is a live chicken? What the hell is that thing? You get the point.
That night involved a lot of beer and some cigar toking. Even I participated in the latter. The cigars here are of the Cuban calliber, not stinky and dry. We reminisced some more, conceded to the fact that Ryan did have to leave, and enjoyed each others’ company over one last night of drunkin’ debautchery.
Ryan has since left us and Todd and I are back in Granada. Our tent pitched in a guy’s backyard, ready to cook on a coleman, and possibly ride out a couple of weeks helping him at his restaurant and in his garden. We will see how this transpires. Nicaragua is full of wonderful people and beautiful places. I could definitly stay here for a while!