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Trip Report 2 Weeks in Nicaragua: Part 1--Managua and Volcano Masaya

We have a friend that recently moved to Managua for work and she invited us to spend Christmas and New Years with her. Who could say "no" to free accommodations with a friend living in a warm climate?

Managua--Although most of our time was spent in the capital city, we didn't really do any sightseeing there. Due to many factors (e.g. earthquake of 1972, economy, politics, etc.) there isn't as much to see/do in Managua as in other capital cities. We did a quick driving tour of the "downtown" area one day and saw the ruins of the Cathedral of Santo Domingo, the Palacio Nacional de la Cultura and the Malecon. I was expecting that we could get out of the car and have a pleasant walk along the malecon, but the area seemed unsafely deserted and the lakeside was dirty with debris.
We ate most of our meals in, shopping for groceries at the modern supermarket La Colonia Hiper at the Galleria Mall. I was somewhat surprised to find so many American products (which made it easy for me to do my special Christmas cooking and baking). As we discovered, all the stores and restaurants will accept both U.S. dollars and cordobas (but your change will always be given in cordobas.)
We did eat two meals out in Managua. The first was pizza at Pan y Vino and it was excellent! There was a huge number of pizzas to choose from with all sorts of delicious toppings on a tasty, thin crust. The large was easily enough food for two people and the prices seemed to be similar to those found in a nice Italian restaurant back home. The second meal was at a relatively new steak restaurant named, as I recall, Don Parillo. The staff was extremely friendly and did a great job of serving us. The steaks were cooked perfectly and came with a tossed salad and two sides. With non-alcoholic drinks, our meals only averaged $15 per person, tax and tip included!

Volcano Masaya--We did a morning trip here one day. While Nicaragua has many national parks and nature reserves, I understand that Volcano Masaya is one of the few (if not the only one) which has any real development, i.e. visitor's center, etc. The park is only about 20 minutes from Managua on a fairly good road. After paying admission, we drove to the top of the volcano and parked, as instructed, facing the road down so that we could make a quick escape if required. (A tourist's car was crushed by a rock spewed from the volcano in 2000.) The volcano was releasing a large amount of sulphurous gas and it is recommended that you stay in this area no more than 20 minutes. Sometimes, our friend told us, the gas is so great that they have to close the park to visitors. You can climb the 177 steps to an overlook into the volcano and I recommend doing this. There are some trails in the area and we walked on one of these for more views of the volcanoes. This volcano was surrounded by rough chunks of volcanic rock, not the smooth volcanic flow I had seen around the Hawaiian volcanoes many years ago. Our friend drove the car down to the visitor's center while we walked to see more of the landscape and, hopefully, some of the wildlife. It was a nice 3-4 km walk but I know now why our friend insisted we get an early start--it was really hot by mid-morning! We took a quick tour of the exhibits in the visitor's center. They were well-presented with signage mostly in Spanish.

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