Better jot down my thoughts before I forget too much:
Flew down to Managua on Oct 25th on AA. Had arranged with Rodolfo at Oro Travel to have a driver pick me
up and take me for the 45 minute ride to Granada. Our flight was slightly delayed and I delayed even furtherby taking forever to recognize my suitcase, but Mario was waiting patiently. The airport itself is very small, pretty modern and immigration was quick - have $5 on hand for some kind of entry tax.
The drive to Granada is pretty short but the last 20 minutes or so outside the historical center of Granada are pretty bad - huge pot holes are everywhere making swerving part of the ride. Old US yellow school buses are everywhere,
they are used here until they die I guess. Check in at Casa San Francisco was quick and taken to my room, #4, by the very helpful Carlos. Nice room with a/c, shower, tv and a sweet little balcony. Oro Travel is coveniently located literally next door, so Julio were soon on our way for a 3 hour or so tour of the city, starting off of course with the horse carriage ride. This ended at the fort and we walked the rest of the way, here and there stopping at a couple churches, the plaza & park, a couple hotels just to check them out (the lobby at Patio el Malinche is lovely) and just basically chatting and wandering. Dinner was at the hotel - excellent, ended up about $15. It was Aleiman's (spelling?) first
day working at the restaurant and he was sweet and eager to please and practice his english.
Early breakfast, which is great & included, with the parrots and toucans. The gallo pinto is different than in CR, they
use red beans not black, and less seasonings - no cilantro. Off at 8am with a big group of Dutch tourists to Mombacho. The Mercedes-Benz truck they use to transport you up the steep 30 minute or so climb is a work of art. A quick talk at the visitor center then you are free to walk the path that takes about an hour or so, I opted out of the Puma trail which is much more taxing. The walk is a treat with howler monkeys in the distance, wispy clouds floating by you and a noticable lack of bugs, which is always an added bonus. The trails are well maintained and except for a brief stretch at the end, very easy. You can see Granada & the Isletas from a mirador, unfortunately the clouds though thin and moving were mostly in our way. You can grab a soda or water in the visitors center and if you are so moved, experience
the organic outhouse. About halfway down you stop at a place to get a sample of Cafe Las Flores coffee. Note, if you like the candles they have, buy them there - I thought the $6 for a small candle was pretty steep but they were much higher everywhere else I saw them, though the coffee ran about the same - $6 per bag. Afternoon I was picked up by the other Julio from Oro and we went on a 90 minute boat tour of the isletas, 'captained' by a kid who couldn't of been much older than 14. The weather was beautiful and it was interesting seeing monkey island, though you can tell unfortunately they must
be used to being given handouts. I was a little surprised to see so many power lines, but I guess if you can spend a million on an island anthing is possible. The people who own Flor de Cana own a lovely little island with some nice houses on it, but most of the larger homes I felt were pretty ugly. There was one which looked Chinese, another that looked transported from Aspen - it just looked like a lot of people with money who wanted their island home to look exactly like something
in the US. Overall it's a nice tour that I feel is fine for the 90 minutes, I don't think I would've cared for the 3 hour one. Walked
around to the central plaza area to use an internet cafe, very cheap although there was a huge gathering right outside celebrating
some chicken fast food place - replete with huge chicken costumes, balloons and just about anything else that they could throw
in. I did get several looks, sometimes people would nudge someone next to them. No idea if this was I'm a fairly tall female on
my own or what, they weren't hostile but I did feel as if I had a third eye or something. Had a visitor which was great - Philip, the biologist from Bosque del Cabo lives in Granada with his family and we went out to the central Plaza for coffee & chat. There
always seems to be something going on in Granada and tonight was no exception - we had a huge fireworks display. Unlike in the
US where the displays are far away from spectators, this one seemed to be coming from a couple blocks away - and probably was, it
was so close and bright it was almost hard to look at. Dinner was across the street at La Hacienda, great fast service with Mexican
style food - I was tickled pink when my bill came to only $5.25 for a drink, an appetizer and an entree.
Another early breakfast, had a chat with one of the owners, Terry. Very interesting lady who has traveled more countries than
I can imagine. Gave me some nice tips and told me about the various birds & turtles that make CSF their home. Off at 8:30 to San Juan del Oriente, Catarina & Masaya with both of the Julio's this time. Visited a pottery makers house where they make everything on site, they show you the whole process. Bought a lovely vase for a mere $7, she was a little short on change for my USD and though I said it didn't matter she insisted on giving me another small vase in exchange. Off to a plant farm in Catarina (nice but could've passed on this) and the Apoyo Lagoon with great views, then on to the Masaya market. Great place to get tons
of souvenirs but after a while all the stuff is the same and it's definitely geared stictly for tourists. Did buy some beatiful wooden boxes for 90 cordobas, about $5. We also went by several shops not at the market looking for a mosquito net for me to take to Morgan's Rock. Finally found one for a mere $10 though the saleslady was a little distressed I did not want to take the ring with me. Lunch was at a place overlooking the lagoon then we were off to Masaya volcano. It's incredible that there is wildlife here at all, the whole place had a dry barren look to it - from the fumes constantly coming from the crater. I didn't find them too noxious and it was incredible to look down into that awful crater where they used to sacrifice virgins. Leaving Masaya we were stuck behind a schoolbus of kids on a fieldtrip.
One of them must've seen me smoking outside the visitor center as he mimed smoking and then shot the bird. He couldn't have been more than 5. It made me feel a little odd, mainly as I've no idea what brought it on, other than I'm quite obviously a 'gringo'. Had dinner at El Zaguan which was good though I was pretty put off by the rather hostile server I had. Another server filled in here and there and he was very nice so I don't know exactly what this guy had against me but it was a little off putting. Walked back the 3-4 blocks to CSF, the only time I'd really been away alone at night
and was fine, though someone did call out 'hola' to me from a doorway and then something else, which maybe it was good I don't have
the best spanish skills as I've no idea what he said but it got a chuckle from his friend.
Morgan's Rock was to pick me up at 10am, so I had another early breakfast then wandered around town for some last pictures. Let me tell you now, if you want Che Guevera memorabilia, Nicaragua is your place - postcards, mugs, tshirts, anything and everything, I've never seen so much
Che stuff anywhere - can only wonder what he would make of all these people raking it in using his likeness. After pics I also went in search of a farmacia, I inanely had a temp crown put in right before leaving the US and it was starting to hurt in a way no Advil could touch. Terry at CSF had told me they can presecribe just about anything there. Found one right by the hotel and gave up any attempt at trying spanish for this one....I pointed to my tooth and said 'Ow!' and she quite easily got the point. Bought 10 of something for $10 and they sure did help, she
made sure I understood to only take them 8 hours apart and to eat first. Sometimes you just have to rely on the kindnes of others and someone else knowing what they're doing. Morgan's Rock coming soon........
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Better jot down my thoughts before I forget too much: