A Travellerspoint blog


Better Hot than Never

sunny 95 °F

I knew it was going to be hot. Really, I did. In fact, that was one of the pluses for going to Nicaragua.

We got into Managua, Nicaragua around 1:30am Saturday morning after a one hour delay
leaving Ft. Lauderdale. Thankfully, we planned ahead and asked for a driver to pick us up for the 50 minute drive to Granada. We talked with the hotel rep on the way in about our plans and what we wanted to see in the three days we'd be in Granada. We figured we'd take the first part of Sunday to get our bearings and check out some sites in the city. From there, we'd finalize the rest of our time here.

I was repeatedly awakened to the sound of what seemed to be firecrackers off and on from just before dawn until we finally rolled out of bed around 8:30. It turns out, that since it's Palm Sunday, the churches hold processions through town and set off a noisemaker as they turn a corner. Mystery solved.

Granada is a very walkable city. We got a map and started out to see what we could. There are several churches we wanted to see. The first is the Convento San Francisco. Formerly a convent which now houses a museum. As we approached, we noticed that Mass was still in session. It was an interesting background as we walked around the grounds looking at the ancient pottery and stone sculptures from Zapatera Island dating back as far as 800AD.

Statue from Zapatera Island

The next couple of churches on the list were shut up tight by the time we got there. Apparently, even on Palm Sunday, churches close at noon. We still managed to get some lovely photos of the exteriors. However, one item we missed out on is climbing the bell tower of the Iglesia de La Merced church. It's supposed to have the best views of the city and surrounding area. Oh well, maybe another day. The last stop for our morning was Mi Museo, a privately owned museum of ceramics dating back to 2000 BC.

Iglesia De La Merced

Iglesia de Xalteva

Pottery in Mi Museo

The temps are climbing steadily now. It's well over 90 and the hottest part of the day is yet to come. We decided to take a break and go back to the hotel to cool off and figure out what we were doing that afternoon. We decided on a boat tour around a group of little islands off the coast of Granada in Lake Nicaragua. It was nice to ride along with a breeze checking out the many small privately owned islands. On one was a former Spanish fort and another was inhabited by spider monkeys. The homes on some of these islands are quite stunning. I think I know where I want to live after I retire. HA!

Las Isletas

View of Volcan Mombacho from Castillo San Pedro

Spider Monkey

Tomorrow, we're off to Volcan Masaya for hiking and zip-lining in the canopy. For now, I think I'll sit here on the patio and enjoy a cool drink and a cool breeze.

My retirement home

Heading back to shore

Posted by Jengt 20:15 Archived in Nicaragua Tagged churches islands monkey Comments (0)

Volcanos and lakes

... and a procession to round out the day.

sunny 92 °F

It was another beautiful and warm day in Granada. I promise to come back and write something witty about our day but for now, you get pictures...

Volcan Masaya

Volcan Masaya

Me, in front of Lago de Apoyo

lagoona de Apoyo

Procession helm the Catherdral

Posted by Jengt 20:50 Archived in Nicaragua Comments (0)

"Flying" around

sunny 95 °F

I was looking forward to today, our last in Granada. We had planned on hiking on Volcan Mombacho in the morning and then zip lining after.

Our driver showed up at 7:45 to take us to the Volcan Mombacho starting point. From there, we piled in a large transport truck with seats for 25 or so people. We climbed up the side of the mountain on roads which are steeper than a lot of roller coaster hills I've been on. It was warm at the bottom but chilly at the top. As we all disembarked from the truck, most folks, me included, donned our jackets for our hikes.

Extinct crater on Volcan Mombacho

At the top Mike and I were given a guide for our 2 1/2 kilometer hike around the top of the mountain. At around 1,200 meters the top of the mountain is a cloud forest. There were ferns, vermiliads and other interesting plants along the path. Our guide pointed out the fumaroles (steam vents for the volcano) and the extinct craters we were hiking around. There were excellent views of Granada and the surrounding countryside - including Lake Nicaragua. By the time we finished, my legs were a little sore but not horribly so.

View of Lake Nicaragua from Volcan Mombacho

Part of our hike


After our ride back down the mountain, our driver dropped us off for our canopy tour on a coffee plantation at the foot of the mountain. I have previously zip lined but Mike hadn't. I was interested to see what he thought of it.

I had a blast! It was just Mike and I which made it easier for the guides to show us a few tricks. When I zip lined in Costa Rica I was part of a large group. The guides were busy making sure everyone got on the lines so they didn't have time for anything extra. Here, our guide even took our cameras and took photos for us! I'll definitely look back on those photos and smile, nearly as much as I did while flying 'Super Girl'!

Flying upside down on the zip line

When we got back to the hotel, we decided to try to hit up a couple of sites we couldn't see earlier in the week. We were hoping to climb the bell tour of one of the churches that was closed on Sunday. The doors were open this time but the caretaker was nowhere to be seen to allow us to climb the stairs. We're now 0 for 2 on this site.

After stopping by a tour company to get some answers on our next destination, we headed back to the hotel to cool off and rest for a little bit. We were drawing to the end of our time in Granada. We ended the evening with dinner and a couple of beers on the Main Street where restaurants have tables set out and there is music playing everywhere.

All in all, a good day. Now for bed before heading off to our next stop and some Volcano Boarding!

Posted by Jengt 21:56 Archived in Nicaragua Comments (1)

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.

Part of the foundry building in Leon Viejo

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.

Strange tree that has fruit growing directly off the tree li

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.

The Cathedral

Iglesia de La Merced

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!

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.

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.)

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.

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.

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!

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.

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.

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)

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