A Travellerspoint blog

April 2015

A day for History

sunny 98 °F

Today started with our final breakfast at Las Islitas Hotel in Granada. Each morning, we have been treated to a great breakfast of eggs, fruit, potatoes or other side and bread. Today, we shared a huge plat of various fruits, pineapple, orange slices, melon and bananas. Sooo good! We settled up with the owners and said farewell. If you're ever in Granada, Nicaragua, it's a great little hotel with extremely friendly staff!

Our driver showed up right on time and it was on the road again for our transfer to Leon. We had decided on a side trip on the way to Leon Viejo (old Leon). Leon Viejo was the Colonial Capitol of Nicaragua during the Conquest. It was abandoned in 1610 after an earthquake and rebuilt on the current location. Archaeologists had nearly as difficult time finding the original site as our driver had finding the UNESCO site today. The turn-off from the main road is non-existent but once you get on the side road it's on, there are signs every 50 feet. Go figure.

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Part of the foundry building in Leon Viejo

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Our Lady of Mercy Church

We paid our entrance and were given a guide. Jose gave us some background on the indigenous people and then we set out to see the grounds. It was quite interesting seeing the buildings and hearing how they had been excavated and then re-buried when a hurricane threatened the site. Jose enjoyed showing us not just the buildings but also the local trees. I have to say, there are a couple of odd ones. After a couple of hours in the (very) hot sun, we loaded back up in the car for the remainder of the trip.

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Strange tree that has fruit growing directly off the tree li

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White snow tree. It works a lot like a cottonwood tree where all of the seeds float off and coat the ground in a carpet of white.

Leon has much more of a big city feel than Granada. I don't know if it really is bigger though. We got settled in our new room and headed out to check the city. Our hotel is centrally located just 100 yards from the Cathedral and central plaza. Part of the interest of Leon for me is the fact that they REALLY celebrate Holy Week with processions and other festivities. We were told by one of the owners of our Granada hotel that Leon is a much more devout town than others in Nicaragua.

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The Cathedral

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Iglesia de La Merced

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Iglesia de La Recoleccion

We checked out a few of the churches starting, of course, with the Cathedral. Supposedly, this cathedral was approved to be built in Lima, Peru but the plans were switched by the architect at the last minute and Leon got it instead. Lucky Leon! It's a beauty!

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Altar in the Cathedral

After a couple of hours out and about in the sun, it was time for a cool shower (not by choice) and then to see if we could catch another procession, this one leaving from the Cathedral. As we reached the central plaza, the crowd was growing. Seems we're not the only ones interested in partaking in this Easter tradition. It was a beautiful "float" with even the Cardinal in attendance.

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Beautiful Holy Week float

If today was set aside for history, tomorrow it's back to adventure. Our reservations are made to climb Cero Negro and 'sand boarding'! Mike is amazed I want anything to do with this since I am an admitted klutz. Maybe so, but I refuse to grow up and sand boarding sounds like too much fun to pass up! Stay tuned...if Mike has to post my next entry, you'll know I may have bitten off more than I can chew. I'm thinking not.

Posted by Jengt 21:52 Archived in Nicaragua Comments (0)

Surfing the Mountain

Still refusing to grow up!

sunny 97 °F

I'm old enough to know better. Well, maybe not.

Once we had decided on Nicaragua, I started to read up on what to do and see. The first thing that stood out to me was 'Volcano surfing' on Cero Negro in Nicaragua. I'm a klutz. I admit it up front. But I could not imagine passing up this experience. Mike was amazed that an admitted klutz would want to do this. Hey, I still want to hang glide and sky dive. (I have mentioned that I refuse to grow up.)

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Cero Negro from the bottom

Today was the day. We had reserved our spot on the Cero Negra tour with Tierra Tours while in Granada. We would hike up one side of the volcano and slide down the other. Cero Negra is still an active volcano. The last explosion was in 1999. In fact, on the hike up to the summit you can see the sulfur vents that the scientists are watching for the next possible explosion.

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one of the craters about halfway up.

Our 1 hour hike up the 1,700 meter volcano was strenuous at times but no worse than we had experienced previously this week. (I kept thinking it was a really good thing I got back in shape recently.). The major difference is that there is NO shade. Along the trail up the side of the mountain there were spots where the footing was very loose pumice and I lost my footing more than once. The higher we went, the windier it got. In fact, I was nearly knocked over a couple of times. No guts, no glory.

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The largest crater. "Hot spots" are the areas where the white is.

Finally at the top we donned our jumpsuits and goggles and got a brief primer on how to volcano surf. Even though it's called volcano surfing, it's more sledding than anything. You sit on a toboggan type board with a rope to "help control your speed". (Not really.) I have to admit, I had a minor 'freak out' moment as we pulled up to the base of the mountain and I saw the incline we'd be coming down. It's a 40 degree slope at the top which transitions to a 45 degree incline at about half way. However, there was no backing down. I'm here and this is my idea. I have to follow through. We got in line and got ready to go. Mike got in front of me and suddenly I was next. I wasn't sure what to expect. It. Was. A. Rush!

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one of the other members of the tour at the end of her ride.

I'm sure it took longer for me to go down than I thought. It seemed over in an instant but I am sooo glad I did it. We stood at the bottom of the mountain waiting for the rest of the group to slide down. Some were better than others. While we waited, several people from another tour group crashed. They were trying to go as fast as they could and lost control. When the finally got to the bottom they were smiling, so I guess they enjoyed it anyways.

The long drive back to town was quiet as a lot of folks started nodding off from exhaustion. Climbing in the sun and heat will take it out of you!

Back in town, we took cool showers and scraped off an inch of dust. I probably had as much dust and stone in my hair as there was in my shoes! Afterwards, I did feel a little sorry for the hotel maid as I looked at the mess we left in the shower.

The next thing on the itinerary was to try to get a roof tour of the Cathedral. We found a staff member of the church who said its closed until next week due to the Holy Week festivities. Of course. So, we sat on a shady bench in the park trying to decide what to do with the rest of the day. There was one museum in town that sounded interesting and we hoped it would be open. The Museum of Legends and Traditions. This museum is housed in a former prison and tells the story of the former prisoners, the Sandanista revolution and also some of the folklore of the region. Strange combination.

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Representations of costumes worn during one of the Nicaraguan festivals.

Our guide took us around and explained life in the prison and then explained some of the local folklore using papier-mâché models. Some of the traditions were odd, to say the least. Even so, it was very interesting to learn about them.

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Mosaic depicting one of the folklores.

The rest of the evening was spent relaxing over cool drinks as we found breezy spots to sit and watch the Leonese people passing by.

Friday is our last day here in Nicaragua. We have a very late flight so we plan in checking out the sawdust carpets one of the neighborhoods create for the Good Friday procession. I hear they are works of art.

Posted by Jengt 13:42 Archived in Nicaragua Comments (0)

Out in a Blaze of Color

Leon's lasting impression.

sunny 99 °F

Our last day in Nicaragua was going to be a long day. Our flight wasn't scheduled to leave until 1am Saturday so we had to come up with something to do all day and still check out of our hotel by 1pm. While researching what to do on our trip, I had read up on the Leon neighborhood of Sutiaba where they create colorful sawdust 'carpets' on the streets for Good Friday. This was the one non-extreme sport thing I really wanted to see while we were here. We decided to sleep in a little and then check out Sutiaba to see how the process begins. We grabbed a taxi for less than $2 to take us there since we weren't exactly sure where it was. Plus, it was just too hot to walk very far.

The carpets start out as a base of primarily dark sawdust which is put in a frame and then wet and tamped down to keep it together. Once the base is set, they sketch out an outline and then fill in with dyed sawdust to create the image. We saw groups of friends and even several generations of families all working together to create their carpets. After 45 minutes or so, Mike & I decided to head back to the hotel and come back later in the day when the carpets would be complete.

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A family getting their base ready.

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Sketching the design.

With the help of our hotel clerk we found another nearby hotel let us use their pool for a nominal fee. What a great way to cool off on the hottest day we were here. (The forecast was calling for a high of 100!) After a soothing dip in the pool, a scrumptious lunch and some relaxing by the pool we packed up and headed back to Sutiaba to check out the progress.

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The same carpet as above completed.

Another cheap taxi ride there. This time, however, there was a considerable crowd when we got to the drop-off point. The city had turned out for a celebration. The transformation from what we had seen earlier was amazing! These families had taken a plan, brown pile of sawdust and created amazing works of art. Some were very simple and others were extremely detailed and shaded.

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A family working together on their carpet.

Most were still in the finishing stages of completion. The artists were using simple tools - primarily their own hands. You could tell who the primary 'artist' was as they would tell his or her helpers what color to put in a certain spot as they worked in another corner of the carpet. As we walked along I was more and more amazed at the details and subtle shading they were able to create with sawdust!

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Working on the details.

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Fine shading with a 3D touch.

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A sea of color.

At a certain point, we looked at our watches and realized we'd been walking around for nearly 2 hours. It felt like we had just gotten there! The crowds were continuing to grow and it was getting hard to walk. I felt wonderful and sad at the same time. So happy to have seen the passion each of these folks had put into their carpets and sad that the beauty was fleeting. Mike reminded me that even though the carpets themselves wouldn't last, our memories and photos definitely will.

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Artistry.

We had seen what we wanted so we decided to head back to the hotel to grab our bags and clean up for the long trip home. Just as we got to the main square we came across another procession leaving the cathedral.

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The coffin of Christ.

Our trip to Nicaragua started off slow. We both felt a little 'meh' at the start but things picked up as the week progressed. Leon's sites and people had made a lasting impression.

Posted by Jengt 16:33 Archived in Nicaragua Comments (0)

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