A Travellerspoint blog

April 2017

2017 APRIL - EL SALVADOR - RUTA DE LAS FLORES

THE FLOWER ROUTE

sunny 25 °C

DAY 76 SATURDAY 22ND APRIL

Poached eggs (cooked by the egg queen) for breakfast. This Casa has a share kitchen which is very nice, probably the best and cleanest kitchen we have seen in our travels so far. And the shower was hot water - wow we are really getting spoiled.

Juayua is one of the mountain villages which is on the Ruta de las Flores (The Flower Route) and every weekend has a food festival. I had read about this place before leaving home and it sounded like a good place to visit.

We headed out for a better look around town. There are lots of murals painted around the town. We had a walk through the market and a look into the church.
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I had read that there would be lots of exotic/unusual food on offer, but this was not the case. They are no longer allowed to offer iguana or armadillo or snake as these are now endangered and have been illegal to sell since 2014. The most exotic food we saw was one stall selling rabbit. There was not even a fried frog to be seen, these are still allowed but obviously not a popular seller. This weekend festival is not put on for tourists as we seemed to be the only non El Salvadorians in town.

A quick walk through to have a look at the food on offer at the food festival, meant returning to the hotel for some extra money and back out to eat lunch.

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On the way back to lunch a guy had a huge snake which you could hold and take photos for US$1. How could I resist??

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Most of the food on offer has a display plate with the price so you can see what you will get. When we tried to mix and match items on different dishes this was not acceptable. You must order what is on display.

Dolly went for a soup where the sign said Pato - which to me means duck - but ended up with tripe soup and was not impressed. Lyn and I shared a seafood cocktail and then I had a steak plate and Lyn had a pork ribs plate and we shared the meats. It was all priced around US$5-6, so not too bad.

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Although it was a little cooler last night, it's pretty hot again today, which meant we needed to stop for a beer during the day.

We chilled out at the Casa before heading out again in the afternoon for a short walk up the hill to look out over the town.

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DAY 77 SUNDAY 23RD APRIL

No aircon or even a fan in our room last night, but neither were needed as the air is cooler up here in the hills.

Another breakfast of Dolly's poached eggs which were a bit of a mess due to 'a crappy pan'. lol Well it was nice to have a change every now and then.

We hung around the hostel, in the morning, doing not much and a bit of washing. Lyn loves it here cause there is a line out in the courtyard where she can hang washing out in the sun, rather than in our room or on a balcony. Funny how little things make some people happy.

Time to head out and we decided on an excursion to a neighbouring town called Salcoatitan, on the Flower Route. It was only 2km down the road, so easy for us to walk. We had passed this town on the way up on the bus on Friday but as I was standing for this leg of the journey I did not see any of it or the road to it. Leaving Juayua was easy, just took the same road out as the buses were taking, and it was all down hill. Well all down hill until we met the uphill at the halfway mark and then it was 1km of up hill. Dolly was suitably unimpressed.

Finally reaching the top of the hill it was then just a short walk into the main street of Salcoatitan. One main street and that was about it really. We walked to through town to the far end taking photos of the many mosaics along the way.

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Our short walk was rewarded with by a giant cieba tree which is supposedly 300 years old. It was a magnificent specimen and we paused briefly to admire its splendour.

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By now it was time for a beer and we found a kiosk in the market place selling Goldens for US$1.25 each. We have decided Golden is our choice of beer for El Salvador, it does not even come close to our favourite Victoria Frost, but in Vikkies absence this is the best substitute we could find. Really we are up for any cold beer on a hot day, but have managed to find preferences in each country.

Lunch was going to be back in Juayua at the food festival and there was no way in hell that Dolly (or any of us) wanted to walk the short but hilly 2 km walk back. The bus passes by every 30 minutes, or a collective ute taxi was our best option to get back. We waited roadside for about 10 minutes when Dolly flagged down a ute that was not actually a taxi, it was just a family but they stopped and were willing to give us a lift. There were a couple of local girls standing at the bus stop with us and they were happy to get in the back of the ute, so we did too. It was only a less than 10 minute ride in the car and the driver was happy to give us the lift for free. The girls were waved off by him so we just walked away too. After thanking the driver of course.

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On the way to find some food I saw that the snake man was out again today and he had an albino python today, so I just had to have a hold. This snake was much bigger and heavier than the one yesterday.

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So lunch today was a better choices than made yesterday. Lyn had rabbit, which was a little tough because it was bbq when rabbit really needs to be stewed. Well at least we think it was rabbit, oddly enough the surrounding dogs that we fed our scraps to would not eat the bones from the rabbit that Lyn gave to them. I had pork ribs with a couple of the local sausages (which look a bit like dogs balls) which are made of pork and some other gritty stuff. They were ok, but the skin they were in was very thick so good chance it was intestine of some description. Dolly also had pork ribs - but not as we know them. The food was good and our meals were like US$6-7 each. And the Goldens at the food fare were only US$1.

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The rest of the afternoon we chilled out at the casa. Cocktail hour came and we cracked open a bottle of rum. We are drinking the good stuff now, Flor de Cana which we bought from the supermarket for US$7.99 a bottle. They don't seem to have there own rum here in El Salvador, so we are not able to get rum as cheap as the other countries we have travelled.
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Since we have a good share kitchen here, we have put Lyn back in to cook dinner. At least she got to break in her new apron.
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DAY 78 MONDAY 24th APRIL

No sleep in today we are off to visit 2 more villages on the Flower Route. The poached egg queen seemed to have retired already so we just had to have toast for breakfast.

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A very slow chicken bus took us for US$0.50c each the 18km along the winding mountain road to Concepcion de Ataco, another village on the Flower Route. This village is known for lots of murals painted on the outside of houses and shops. There were lots of tourists shops here too, but still we thought the prices were very expensive and most of the bric and brac we don't need or want or even have room to carry if we did want.

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On arrival we found a coffee shop attached to a hostel where we stopped and had a 'western' style coffee. It looked great and it was ok, but the milk here is all made from powdered milk so it just does not taste the same. But we really wanted to have a coffee since we are in the middle of El Salvador's major coffee growing area.

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We spent hours walking around the little town, must have walked up and down every street photographing all the colourful murals. The central park had amazing trees in it and we found a kiosk to have a beer and a little rest.

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Lunch was at a hamburger/hot dog stand in central park. It was pretty good, and very cheap at US$2 for a burger and a soft drink. And for the half an hour we sat there we made for great amusement for the by standing locals.

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From Ataco we took the chicken bus back to the town of Apaneca. This place does not have a great deal to offer, but it has the office of the company that Lyn & I want to do a canopy tour with tomorrow. I thought the hostel we are staying at was able to organize this for us but the young guy working there advised me (via google translate) that we need to go to the office ourselves and organize it direct with them. So there we were after doing a lap of the small town and not finding the office we did find the tourist office with a lovely helpful lady who did not speak a word of English. She gave a full and extensive directions to the office of which we understood nothing except the general direction with which she has pointed her arm.

We did eventually find the office and are booked in for 11.30 tomorrow.

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Back on the main street to get another chicken bus back to Juayua we missed the stop and saw the bus turn off down a street we were not on. Helpful local ladies advised we could get it further up on the main road and we walked to the bus stop and waited just a little while until another bus came along. US$0.40c each got us back to Juayua in record time as our chicken bus driver seemed to be on a mission to see if he could get this old bus up on 2 wheels while negotiating the corners of the mountain road. We were sliding around on the vinyl seats and holding on for dear live and to prevent ourselves from falling into the isle of the bus. It was not only us, all the other passengers were grasping with all their might to stay on the seats also.

There was a bright light and a clap of thunder which indicated that rain was not far away. Maybe the driver wanted to finish his shift before the rain started. It was just starting to slip with rain as we got off the bus and started walking towards our casa. A stop at the supermarket for dinner supplies delayed us enough for the rain to be coming down somewhat harder when we left the shop. It was only a couple of blocks to our casa and I ended up getting more wet from the water falling off the end of un guttered roofs than I did from the rain falling down. About 2 minutes after we were undercover it really started to come down so luckily we had missed the worst of it.

5pm and it was rum o'clock again. Lyn cooked us pork chops and vegies for dinner.
It is a lot cooler here tonight even though the rain only lasted less than an hour.

Posted by Cindy Bruin 21:15 Archived in El Salvador Comments (1)

2017 APRIL - EL SALVADOR

MORE TIME ON THE BEACH JUST A DIFFERENT LOCATION

sunny 30 °C

DAY 72 TUESDAY 18TH APRIL

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Today we left El Cuco and move further north up the coast of El Salvador to another beach location El Tunco. No mean feat arriving here in one piece either.

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Byron had advised us to be at the gate by 8am as that was the time the bus we needed to catch would pass the resort. True to his word the bus came barrelling down the dirt road and stopped in front of us at 8.05am. The conductor was hanging out of the door yelling San Miguel, San Miguel. As luck would have it that is where we needed to go. The fare for this chicken bus was US$4.15 for us and our bags.

Most of the road way to San Miguel was dirt so we had a choice of having the windows closed and cooking in the heat, yes it was already very hot even at this early hour, or open the windows and cop a gob full of dust from the bus stopping and starting along the dirt road. It was a catch 22. Just on a hour later we arrived in San Miguel and were dropped outside the next bus station we need to carry on our trip. Look for bus 305 the conductor told me.

We had about a 30 minute wait until our bus arrived. Lyn and Dolly pushed their way on board to secure seats as there was a big line up to get on this bus to the capital. I assisted with getting our luggage stored below in the hull of the bus. This bus ride to San Salvador too just over 2 hours and cost US$9 for the 3 of us and luggage. This chicken bus left at 10.20am. We drove through the capital and I was thankful that we were not stopping. The El Salvador capital is supposed to be one of the most dangerous cities in Central America.

Again arriving at another bus terminal, with our limited Spanish and their limited English a group of taxi drivers advised us we needed to transfer to another bus station. We did recall Byron saying something about this so we had little choice but to believe them. I asked the taxi driver how much (it's essential to establish an fare amount before agreeing to a taxi ride), he asked for US$15. We laughed and Lyn held up her hand saying cinco (five) and at first he said no until I started to approach another driver and then he agreed. Silly really, these blokes should realize they have us over a barrel and can ask anything, but he seemed happy with the offer of US$5, which means he was still charging us more than he would a local.

The taxi ride was about 20 minutes through city traffic so we were more than happy with the price we paid. Just as we reached the mini bus station a bus was about to depart and the security guard with a large gun ushered us hurriedly towards it. So no waiting here, the fare was US$1.50 each but we had to pay the same for our bags which were put on a seat, no luggage hull. So last leg which departed at 1.45pm cost a total of US$9.

Just a short ride, about 40 minutes and the driver advised us to get of when we had reached El Tunco Beach. So, we departed El Cuco at approximately 8am, 2 chicken buses, 1 taxi and 1 minibus later at approximately 2.30pm (7 1/2 hours) we arrived in El Tunco for a total cost of US$27.15 - I love travelling. These days although tiring, are ground roots travel, we sit with the locals, hopefully pay the same fares and enjoy the passing scenery.

So now we are by the side of the highway, across the road we see a list of El Tunco hotel signs pointing down the side street, but of course ours is not listed. A lovely lady crosses the road and in English asks us if we need help. Yes of course we do, thank you. I tell her the name of the hotel, which she does not know, but she grabs Dollys suitcase and starts wheeling it down the road. It will be this way she says to us. Little option but to follow her, we do and at the first hotel she stops and asks directions. Our hotel is about 500 metres down the road and she escorts us, still wheeling Dolly's suitcase and deposits us at the reception with a passing goodbye and enjoy El Tunco. We are almost always sceptical about the people who stop to help, but on this occasion like many others, this lovely lady just wanted to help. Unfortunately, it's the one or two helpers who try to rip us off that make us so suspicious of people offering help. It's a sad fact, but we have to keep our wits about us with everyone until they are proved to be trustworthy.

So our hotel, Eco Del Mar, is the most expensive place we have paid for so far @ US$73.85 per night and on entering the room it shows. This place is nice and a little treat for us. Air con, TV (no English channels :-( ) and there is a little pool. Kitchenette with mini toaster oven and a sitting area, very posh for us.

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El Tunco beach is a bit of a let down, good surfer location but its a bit rocky and rough for us to venture into the water. Lots of the surrounding shops and restaurants are closed today, maybe recovering from the Easter weekend. We find a place to get some food and have an ok burger, although Dolly's fish and chips are shite.

It's hot and the air con room is very welcoming. Although all we can find on the TV is a flash back music channel which suits us ok too.

DAY 73 WEDNESDAY 19TH APRIL

Another hot sunny day in El Salvador. Sometimes I need to pinch myself to realize we are on the other side of the world in El Salvador, can you believe it.

We had a walk around town and beach and a swim in the hotel pool today.

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A few beers and lunch out looking at the ocean view. It's nice and quiet here, not too many people around although a few more shops etc are open today.

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We returned to the beach for the sunset, which disappointingly was not over the water, but still enough to draw a bit of a crowd to enjoy the light.

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DAY 74 THURSDAY 20TH APRIL

Seriously, if we relax anymore we shall become comatose!

The hotel staff knocked on our door this morning to advise that breakfast was included in our room tariff. News to us, but bring it on.
So typical El Salvadorian breakfast is the same as everywhere else in Central America, scrambled eggs with capsicum, beans, cheese and tortillas. No not yet sick of this breaky, over pancakes but can still eat this with glee.

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We sat around today polishing off a bottle of rum, as you do! Did actually make it out to have some dinner and a few beers, like we needed them!

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DAY 75 FRIDAY 21ST APRIL

Time for us to move on again. All this bludging around at the seaside is making us very lazy, so today we are heading to the hills again. Another 100 odd kilometres which took us all day to transverse.

After investigation on the internet and asking the hotel staff here, we sort of worked out that the bus we needed to catch left La Libertad (which is just 10 minutes up the road) at either 1pm, 1.30pm or 2pm. So to be on the safe side we made sure we were waiting up on the main road early enough for the first departure time. There are only 2 buses per day from La Libertad to Sonsonate, the first one at 6am - which we would not even attempt to catch - and then one in the afternoon. So we had to be on the afternoon bus.

This gave us enough time to have a sleep in, a leisurely breakfast at the hotel, a bit of a walk around and then a swim in the hotel pool before dragging our bags up to the main road. We were up there in plenty of time by 12.30pm.

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After only about 15 minutes wait a chicken bus stopped and although it was not the number I had written down, when I showed the conductor our destination he nodded yes and helped load our bags. We had no idea if there was another bus or not. It turns out this guy obviously could not read as he motioned for us to get off the bus just 15 minutes up the beach thinking we wanted Playa Sunzal not Sonsonate! Most definitely my pronunciation was incorrect, but I think his reading skills were lacking also. Anyway we got a short bus ride for US$1 for the 3 of us and a more shady place to wait on the side of the road for the correct bus.

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Next bus we got on will be #287. So we waited, and waited, and waited. Lots of chicken buses passing us but none the one we wanted. Timing wise I think the bus left La Libertad at 1.30pm as the bus we wanted slowed down to pick us up at 2pm. Us and some others also now waiting at the same bit of road we were. Only problem was, the bus the stopped was already full. And by full I mean passengers were already standing on the front and back exit steps. How the hell were we going to get on. The other passengers waiting with us, of course scrambled aboard as they had no luggage to contend with. So we just went to the front door and waited until the people inside squashed up even more and finally made room for us. Dolly was on first with her bag and she made it to the top of the front steps, I was not so lucky and spent the first 30 minutes of the journey on the second step trying to hold on desperately to my bag and trying desperately not to fall our of the door as the bus driver drove without braking around the winding coastal road. Lyn and her bag were taken to the back door of the bus and all I could see as we departed the stop was her hat so I was relieved she did make it on. But truthfully, I think these bus guys live by the motto - no one gets left behind.

Slowly but surely the bus emptied, and our positions became a little safer and more comfortable. The last hour of this 2 hour ride had us all comfortable seated. This 2 hour exciting bus ride cost us US$1.50 each. That was just phase one.

We arrived in Sonsonate bus station just after 4pm and I suggested we go and have some food before we attempted the next leg. I knew the buses to our next and final destination departed every 30 minutes. We found a beautifully air conditioned Pollo Campero (chicken junk food chain) and had some chicken to eat. It was lovely to sit in the cool air and recover from that last bus ride.

At about 5pm we returned to the bus station and found the line up for our next bus to Juayua. We waited about 30 minutes before our bus pulled into its stand. God knows why everyone bothered to line up cause soon enough it was just a free for all with the bus conductor urging everyone to scramble aboard. We moved slowly up the line and it soon became obvious that all the seats in the bus were taken and some people were starting to line up for the next bus. The conductors spied us with our luggage and made a signal to head to the back of the bus so we could load our bags. We managed to get on the now very full bus that was standing room only. Dolly managed to wangle a seat, and old lady stood up for me to sit but I refused. Lyn and I stood the whole way, but it was only about 30 minutes after the initial 30 minutes getting out of the city traffic. This bus ride cost us US$0.50c each.

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Todays travel of just over 100 km, cost us a total of US$7.00 for the 3 of us, and a few grey hairs. We left our hotel in El Tunco at 12pm and arrived at Casa Mazeta at about 6pm.

From the bus stop we had to walk about 8 blocks through town to Casa Mazeta, where we have a triple room with private bathroom for US$30 per night. I have booked us here for 4 nights.

Dropped of the bags then back out to find a beer, which of course we did. Golden US$1.25. It is a little cooler out here at night, being in the hills and all.

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We also found a supermarket from where we purchased supplies for a sandwich dinner, since we'd had the chicken meal so late. And we found a bottle of pina/coco juice, which went very nice with the last bottle of rum that I was still carrying.

Posted by Cindy Bruin 21:52 Archived in El Salvador Tagged beach bus el chicken juayúa tunco Comments (1)

2017 APRIL - NICARAGUA TO EL SALVADOR

LAST DAY IN LEON THEN AN OVERNIGHT SHUTTLE TO A NEW COUNTRY #4

sunny 30 °C

DAY 66 WEDNESDAY 12TH APRIL

Our last day in Nicaragua was sunny and hot like all the previous days in this country have been. We checked out of the hostel at 11am, and then just hung out around the pool until it was time to go out for some lunch. We are allowed to stay at the hostel until 3pm, but we decided to move to the Blue Hat hostel after lunch and a last swim in the pool. The Blue Hat hostel is associated with the shuttle company we are travelling with tonight and they allow use of the hostel for passengers at no charge. Very generous considering the shuttle does not depart until 8pm.

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This will be our first overnight travel and we are not particularly looking forward to it, just there was no choice but to take the over night shuttle into El Salvador which delivers us to our next beach destination, El Cuco. Our only other option would have been a series of chicken buses which may have ended up slightly less expensive than the US$30 each but would have been a two day travel needing an overnight somewhere anyway. So will just have to suck it up, arrival time at 4am is not ideal either as check in is not until 2pm. Guarantee we will get sunbeds by the pool tomorrow.

Dolly & Lyn took our luggage in a taxi from Lazybones to Blue Hat. I walked as we are down to our last cordobas and only have enough for 2 passengers in taxi not 3. lol so I walked in the heat, it was only 20 minutes.

Blue Hat is nice, but they did not have triple rooms or a pool that is why we did not stay here. But it's nice that we can hang out here now. There is a Pali supermarket around the corner so after dropping the luggage and waiting for me to arrive, we walked around there for supplies. Lyn is cooking dinner for us before we go as we have access to the kitchen here.

We also purchased a couple of bottles of rum to take to our next destination and a six pack of cold beers to drink now. I did say it was hot.

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After our beverages, we walked back to the centre in search of a bank to get some more cash. ATM dispense US$ as well as cordobas and since El Salvador uses US$ we needed to stock up on some more money. I managed to get a chunk out yesterday, but bloody Citibank would not release another chunk to me today. Dolly managed to get some too so we should be set for our next 5 day stop which is away from ATM's.

On the way back to Blue Hat we stopped by ViaVia for one last icy Victoria Frost but they did not have any cold so not only did they miss out on the sale of a few bottles, but we missed out on a cold drink. Back at the hostel there were a couple of coldies waiting for us. I returned to the nearby supermarket for some more while Lyn cooked dinner.

So now we wait, fingers crossed the shuttle is not full and we are not shoved in like sardines for the next 8 hours.

See you in El Salvador!

DAY 67 THURSDAY 13TH APRIL

That was not a trip from hell, but it was its little brother!

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We crossed the Nicaragua/Honduras border somewhere around 11pm, I think. Our courier collected everyone’s passport along with US$8 each ($2 to depart Nicaragua, $3 to enter Honduras and his fee of $3). We were allowed out of the van to stretch our legs at the Nicaraguan exit border and the courier took our passports altogether to be stamped. Same procedure at the Honduras entry border, however we were told not to get out of the van as it was very dangerous and the doors were locked. The driver got out to go relieve himself behind a tree, but checked that our door was locked before he moved away from the van. That was a little spooky.

We are just passing through Honduras into El Salvador and the road was absolutely horrendous. If anyone had any thoughts about trying to have a sleep whilst sitting upright in a van these thoughts were smashed to smithereens as we weaved all over both sides of the road trying to avoid the massively potholed carriageway. It’s not the distance that takes the time to travel this route it is the condition of the road. Our driver tried to navigate a smooth path, unfortunately he was unsuccessfully as this was an impossible task, bonused with the added stress of animals (cows, horses and dogs) randomly standing, walking or crossing the road.

At the El Salvador border we again had to exit the van and this time we were given back our passports and had to line up to be stamped in. It was the middle of the night and there was just us here so it did not take long. My officer asked me a question in Spanish and just rolled her eyes when I said I did not speak Spanish. Must not have been too important as she just handed back my passport and motioned for me to move on.

We arrived in El Cuco at exactly 4am as advised with a total of about 3 minutes’ sleep each. The village was of course still asleep. The van stop was at Casa Canela where they dropped off 2 passengers who luckily were booked in to stay there. After a lot of door bashing and whistling someone was finally aroused enough to let them in. This was our stop too, but knowing we needed to go on further we were dropped at the taxi drivers house, who was also aroused after a bit of yelling and door bashing. He very kindly put 3 plastic seats out on the footpath for us to sit on until he was ready to take us to our accommodation. He advised our resort La Tortuga Verde (The Green Turtle) did not open until 6am so there was no point going just yet. So, we sat and waited, it was still pitch black.

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Next door to the taxi drivers home was the local village mill and this was a hive of activity at this time of the morning. Ladies walking in with tubs of unknown balanced on their heads and walking out with these tubs full of tortilla mixture. I had a bit of a nosy and could see dry ingredients and water being fed into a giant mincer type machine and out the bottom came the doughy tortilla mix. Probably these women are up every day at this hour to collect this to make the day’s tortilla, it was still dark.

Around 5am a bashed-up car pulled up and the taxi driver came out of the house so we realized this was our ride. We loaded up the heap and climbed in. It was not far, about 5km up a dirt road to our resort, which was still closed. Luckily there was a night security guard to reluctantly let us in after we paid the taxi fare of US$5. It was just

Unfortunately, the night guard could not find our reservation on his list, but reluctantly let us in after I showed him my print out of the reservation. All this was worked out without the assistance of a common language. There were a few day beds in the reception area which we were just about to crash on when he returned and showed us to some beds in a dorm room. We crashed! Lyn woke up at about 9am and we thought we should get up and see if we can get into our own room otherwise we may be charged for the dorm beds.

Of course, check-in was not until 3pm and the room was no chance of being ready before then because the occupants had a late 2pm check in. Great.

We had little choice but to hang around the cabana area which we were soon evited from as they were all pre-booked by day trippers. We ordered breakfast and ate it, found hammocks and vegged out for the rest of the day. The resort filled up around us with literally hundreds of locals all come to have a good time at the beach. There was music, food (that was purchased from the resort – no outside food or drink allowed to be brought in) and everyone having a good time. We were still shattered and by the time the afternoon came I had a migraine coming on.

At 2pm I asked about our room and it was still being occupied. At 3pm I asked about our room and was told it would be ready in 10 minutes. At 3.30pm I asked about our room and was told it was being cleaned as we spoke. At 3.32pm I lost it and spat the dummy – migraine had kicked in by now. Requested they come find us when the room was ready. At 3.40pm Byron (an American staff member) found me and showed me to a room with one double bed. Keep calm, keep calm. My head was throbbing, I was ready to throw up and the room we had been waiting for was the wrong room anyway. He left and Lyn gave me some good headache pills which started to do the trick almost immediately. Byron advised he would be back with the correct room key.

We waited a good 15 minutes and when we looked around the corner we saw Byron was talking to a couple of familiar faces. Well familiar to me anyway, recognition for Lyn did not kick in straight away when we spotted Toni & Shawn Lemon. Toni and I had conspired back in Australia to meet up here where both our travels crossed as a birthday surprise for Lyn. Well it was definitely a surprise as Toni was hugging her hello before the light bulb finally come on and Lyn realized this was people we knew in the last place we expected to see them.

Finally we were shown to our room and then spent the rest of the afternoon/evening catching up with the Lemons.

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Cocktails and sunset on the beach.

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DAY 68 FRIDAY 14TH APRIL

===GOOD FRIDAY===

We spent the day with the Lemons and some of the other pax from the Intrepid Tour they are on. Us and this tour are following a similar path but going in opposite directions, us north and them south. It only took a little bit of planning for Toni & I to find a common location where our paths would cross. It was just lucky that it coincided within a day of Lyn's birthday, so birthday celebrations are a day early as the they move on tomorrow.

It was a fun day!

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It was interesting to observe the contrast between us travellers and tourists doing a tour. We are visiting many of the same places - following the common gringo trail through Central America - but we will have totally different experiences. Our travel is much slower to start with, using public transport that we have to wait for and organize our time around and I have the wonderful task of having to find us a bed to sleep in every night. Although I must admit with the internet this is now a lot easier than it used to be, we now always have a booking to go directly to, I don't have to scout for a room on arrival at our destination. Thank goodness because after 4 hours in a chicken bus the last thing I want to do is walk around trying to find us a room. But sometimes I think it would be nice to be collected at the door front door of one hotel and delivered to the front door of the next one, but I guess that is what you pay for. I'm not knocking tours, if you have limited time and enough money they are a great option as you will be taken to all the sights and shown to a bed every night. An organized tour would never be my first choice but if there is one on offer that delivers what I am after for a price I am will to pay then I will definitely book a tour. EG trip through Burma at end of my last travels in 2015.
These guys on the tour here, have and will do many more activities than we will do, but our budget for a longer trip makes us have to pick and choose extra paid activities. Must admit our much slower pace and multi night stops suit me much better, as does not having to get up for a 5am transfer.

DAY 69 SATURDAY 15TH APRIL

===EASTER SATURDAY===

HAPPY BIRTHDAY LYN!

The resort is pumping today. We met the "Tom" the owner of La Tortuga Verde this morning, he was sitting in reception when we come to try and get internet. He said to us they? will not give him good internet at this location. I said to him you need to throw some money at the right people (which he can well afford as the place was packed already and he was charging the day trippers an entrance fee), with this he walked away in haste and we never saw him again. Hid in his office no doubt counting all the money we was raking in for this Easter holiday weekend.

Anyway there was nowhere for us to sit as all the cabanas had been pre booked or were taken up by customers who arrived before we went next door for breakfast. There was easily a couple of hundred people at the resort and spilling out to the beach where they had a huge stage set up and what looked like a football tournament happening. Tents selling drinks and snacks were set up on the beach as well. We thought it best to have a walk down the beach and leave it to them.

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It was hot and after walking for about 30 minutes it was time for a beer and we stopped at a little local shack on the beach, which we thought would be cheap. As it turns out they were no cheaper for beers than our resort prices, although I think more they were taking advantage of the gringos more than anything. But the view was good and we sat and enjoyed the cool beer.

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After our drinks we walked a little further up the beach and stopped for a swim in the ocean to cool our outsides. We took turns at going in the water as there seemed to be a lot of people about and we did not want to leave our belongings unguarded on the beach.

By the time we had walked to the far end of the beach, the town beach, we could hardly believe our eyes. If we thought is was crowded back at the resort, well this had nothing on the amount of people in and out of the water at the town beach. Never in all my life of visiting numerous beaches all over the world have I ever seen so many people. There were food and drink tents set up along the beach which were all packed full of literally 100's of people and there was another couple of hundred in the water. Us 3 walking up the middle of this lot we stood out like dogs balls, especially since we were in swimmers and the locals, men, women & children alike, all swim in the ocean fully clothed. We don't quite understand it, but not one person besides us was in a swimming costume.

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We stopped for another beer and managed to get gringo ripped off again so decided to start making our way back the 2.5 km back to the resort.
Another stop halfway back for a swim.
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Back at our resort the entertainment was still well underway with singing and dancing on the huge stage.

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Dolly was exhausted after the days big walk and tried to get a lift in a wheelbarrow back to our room.

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We hid out in our air con room until it was time to go next door for some dinner. By the time we returned from dinner the crowds had all gone home and it was quiet.

DAY 70 SUNDAY 16TH APRIL

===EASTER SUNDAY===

Today we had another day of doing absolutely nothing!

The crowds were still here, so most of the day we hung out in our air-con room reading books. It was a very lazy day, didn’t even make it to the ocean for a swim.

Hunger forced us out of our room at around 4pm and we walked the short distance to the house a few doors up to have some food. The lady there (who speaks absolutely no English, so we order via sign and sound language) is so happy to see us and the food is tasty and cheap. Lyn and I had a whole fish each and Dolly had chicken, all served with rice, tomato and a slice of avocado. The three meals plus 3 beers and a couple of cokes (that were mixed with our bring your own rum) came to a total of US$21.

During the meal we sat watching the TV which the lady had set up for us and given us reign of the remote. Not much in the way of English channels, we watched the last 20 minutes of Jaws 2 in Spanish. We all knew the story and the shark was not doing much talking anyway– entertaining enough. Next up came Robocop 2. Awesome! Not that Robocop was an awesome movie but it was in English! We had finished dinner, Dolly had scabbed a biscuit from one of the owner’s young sons and next thing we knew she came out with coffee for us all and a biscuit each, to have while we finished watching the movie. Lovely lady. As we were waiting to pay the bill, she was whispering to a teenage girl then walked up to us and said in English, ‘thank you for coming!’ Beautiful, it’s times like this that not speaking the language is missed the most, as it would be so nice to be able to chat with this woman.

It was dark by now and the walk back to our room revealed most of the day trippers had left and the place was in silence again. I wonder if Easter Monday is going to be a big day as well?

At around 9pm we heard fireworks and from our front door could see them being let off up the beach. We had a pretty good view and they went for about 15 minutes, so a decent amount of money wasted. I’m guessing they were up near where all the locals had been on the beach.

DAY 71 MONDAY 17TH APRIL

===EASTER MONDAY===

Today we were up and out at an almost reasonable time to go for breakfast, only to discover our backyard restaurant was closed. The big wooden doors to the property were closed and there was no sign of anyone. Bugger! Let’s hope she is open for dinner.

We had heard there was another place further up the street on the left so we decided to have a little walk and see if we could find it. Find it we did, but was also not functioning. Luckily there were a couple of small stores where we could buy some supplies to take back to our room where we have limited cooking facilities and make breakfast. We purchased 6 eggs, 8 small dinner rolls, 1 litre of coke (for the rum later) and 3 cookies (for the coffee & tea later) & 2 small tomatoes, which came to a grand total of US$2.50.

The Egg Poaching Queen (aka Dolly) cooked us up some lovely poached eggs which we ate with the little rolls.

There are hardly any cars in the carpark today and the one across the road was empty so I say today is not a party day and it may be a little less crazy here today. We need to find someone who can speak English and has the information for us to get a bus to our next destination, because tonight is our last night here at La Tortuga Verde.

Today we are doing a cull! Culling all excess clothing. Clothes we have not worn or clothes we are sick of wearing or clothes we are sick of carrying. Shame we did not think of this yesterday when the crowds were here as we could have set up a clothing stall and made a bit of beer money. I guess the house maid is going to get a bonus and hopefully they will all go to a good home and not just get tossed in a bin.

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For our first swim we headed to the beach at about 12.30pm. It was deserted, gone were the Easter crowds. The tide was out and it was a fair old hike to even get to the water. The water temp was warm as usual and there was quite a strong pull out. We stayed in long enough to cool off then headed for a spare cabana where I took up residence in a hammock while Lyn and Dolly chose a sunbed each in out in the sunshine. It was not long before they needed another cooling and we entered the water again. Before we knew it the rum was calling and it was time to head back to our room to water our insides.

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Lyn went to the shop to get a couple of potatoes that we were able to cook up for lunch with some canned sardines. By this time we were well into the rum.
I spent the afternoon catching up on some finance work while the others read books. By this time we were well into the rum. Yes repeat.

Come 5pm and there was a suggestion for another swim, which we all agreed was a good idea. By this time we were well into the rum.
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After our swim and a chat with just about anyone and everyone on the beach we discovered we had missed the 4.30 – 6.30 happy hour, as it was 6.40pm. We managed to talk our way into getting 2 for 1 pina coladas (not that we needed any more rum) and everyone was happy.

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Byron bribed us into giving him a tumbler of our rum in exchange for bus information, surely this information should be given for free? By this time we were well into the rum. And we asked him to write us a note to our restaurant lady saying we had some clothes that we no longer needed that she may want.

We enjoyed the happy hour cocktails, there only seemed to be the volunteer staff at the bar besides us. On the way out to dinner we stopped at the reception to asked for our bill to be tallied up to be collected later.

Stopped off at the room to get the 2 bags of excess clothes and walked a couple of doors up to our backyard restaurant. We gave the note and the 2 bags to our lady and she was over the moon. I’m so glad we thought to give the stuff to her instead of just leaving for the cleaning staff. She kept thanking us and even modelled a few items. What a gem.

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I think she have us a discount on our meals tonight as only charged us US$10 for 3 chicken dinners. It was hugs goodbye after I said we were leaving tomorrow.

I collected our bill from reception, seems to be all in order. We need to be out on the road tomorrow by 8am to catch the bus out.

Posted by Cindy Bruin 20:48 Archived in El Salvador Tagged nicaragua el trails leon shuttle gekko cuco Comments (1)

2017 APRIL - NICARAGUA, ON TO LEON

OUR LAST DAYS IN NICARAGUA

sunny 32 °C

DAY 63 SUNDAY 9TH APRIL

Scrambled eggs, with toasted bread roll this morning, was something a bit different. Eggs and the view were nice. It's Palm Sunday today, so being in a Catholic country that is a big deal. We could hear the fireworks going off all during breakfast and we could see crowds and movement down at the Cathedral. Not motivated enough by the religious significance to go have a look, we just enjoyed the view from our balcony while eating breakfast.

Finished packing our bags we deposited them down by reception and checked out of our room. We are catching the 3pm bus to Leon so have time to kill until then. We are going to try to visit the lookout again today, after our failed attempt yesterday arriving after the gates had closed at 5pm.
The first taxi I flagged down and that we climbed into wanted to charge 200 Cordoba's = A$ 8.86 each way, this was not acceptable and we exited his vehicle in a hurry.

Next taxi was happy to take us for 100 Cordoba's = A$4.43 each way (same price as we paid yesterday) and I managed to con him into waiting for us at the top for 10 minutes before he drove us back down. View from the lookout was pretty awesome. You could see the whole valley with the town of Matagalpa sitting in its base, with housing crawling up the slops of the surrounding mountains. This area is supposed to be a major coffee area but we still did not see any coffee plantations from this vantage point either.

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Our ride took us back into the centre of town and was happy when he received the 200 Cordoba's = A$8.86 for his trouble. Still with lots of time to kill we went in search of the coffee museum which was supposed to be ok if you got a couple of hours to kill, which we did. Managed to find it but the gate was closed and there was a lady there who told us the museum was closed today. Why have staff there just to tell punters that the place is closed? Very odd. So we had a bit of a wander around the shops, sat in the square watching the proceedings. The overflowing cathedral was holding mass until 12.30 when suddenly all the ice cream vendors went into a frenzy trying to attract the exiting church patrols.

We had lunch of a enchilada and a cold drink at one of the food shacks in the square. Dolly as usually was not impressed with the food, she does not like tortillas in any way shape or form, so this was not a very appetizing lunch for her. Not to waste the food, she gave hers to a beggar that was hovering nearby the food shacks.

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Back at the hotel to collect our luggage I think they were trying to tell us that they wanted to charge us a fee for having left our luggage. So this is a good time to confirm that we don't understand any Spanish. She could not get herself understood so just ended up giving up and watched us as we left the hotel with our luggage.

On the street it was impossible to flag an empty taxi, the cleaning lady suggested we walk down the street and as luck would have it an empty taxi pulled up. To the bus station sur (south) please! Ten minutes later we were there with just 1.5 hours to wait for the bus to Leon. Yes we were way early but I wanted to be waiting here at the station rather than somewhere else and not get on the bus.

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Our chicken bus departed on time at 3pm and it was not nearly full so we all had seats. It was a pretty good ride as they played all English speaking music (which is unusual) and it was not too hot in the bus. The fare was C$75 = A$A$3.32 each and we did not get stung anything for the luggage. The bus pulled into Leon bus terminal about 5.30pm and we found a taxi to take us to the hostel I had pre booked.

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Lazybones Hostel - triple room US$28, shared bathroom & no breakfast, no kitchen, but has a pool. Turns out our room is ok but the toilet and shower is down then up 29 steps, so a little far for the ones that need to go in the middle of the night. So not a good choice, but I did not know this and lots of places were already booked out in Leon so just going to have to live with it.

Bags in room, we headed out straight away to find a cold beer, of which we did in a sleazy bar, but the beer was cold and cheap so all good. Feeling a little more refreshed we had a walk around, stopping for a easy pizza/hot dog dinner before another beer in the main square next to the cathedral. It was dark by now but lots of people out and about for a Sunday night. There is a bit of a breeze tonight so not so bad as we have been told it is hotter here than in Granada.

Bit more of a walk around on our way back to hostel. Dolly and I opted for a dip in the pool in lieu of a shower - to cool and clean off.
Will explore more tomorrow.

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DAY 64 MONDAY 10TH APRIL

After a relaxing morning at the hostel, no breakfast included here, so just coffee. We still had bread and the tomatoes that I had purchased on the bus yesterday, so that was breakfast. A quick dip in the pool to cool off before we went out to explore a bit of Leon.

It was quite warm, with a little bit of a breeze so not has hot as Granada had been when we were there. We found a supermarket to return to later for supplies and randomly walked the streets.

Yesterday we had seen a rooftop bar that we decided would be nice for a drink and a lookout so we headed in that direction. It was about 2pm and we were the only patrons enjoying a bucket of Victoria Frost buy 6 pay for 5! We also had some overpriced chicken wings to nibble on. This was a nice bar but the French owner was doing a big no no while we were there. We saw him pouring cheap rum into the expensive rum bottles that he had on the shelves of his bar. What a scabby bastard, people are paying the price for the top shelf rum and actually getting the cheaper one. Not that there is anything wrong with the cheaper one, that is what we have been buying and drinking, but when you are in a bar and paying for the good stuff you should be getting it. Sorry Mr Frog, but you have been caught out and I am putting you on trip advisor!

Anyway, sufficiently hydrated we took leave to walk around town and spy the many churches dotted around the streets of Leon. We also had a quick stop at the markets where Dolly bought some new bras and we purchased a couple of bandanas.

Went to the office to get some info about our shuttle to El Salvador in a few days but staff had already gone home as it was after 5pm. So that seemed like a good cue for us to have an afternoon bevvie. 4 x 1 litre Viccies later C$50 = A$2.22 each, we were done and trying to stagger back to our hostel. Somehow managed a stop at the supermarket to buy supplies for a sandwich back at the hostel.

Another dip before dinner then relax before bed after our big day out on the town.

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DAY 65 TUESDAY 11TH APRIL

Another hot day in downtown Leon. No breakfast supplied at this hostel so we just had a banana that we'd purchased yesterday from the supermarket. They do have free coffee and hot water for tea until 1pm so at least our caffeine fix is satisfied first up.

As usual we lazed around all morning, using the pool to cool us down before heading out mid afternoon to find some more food. We peeped into a café on the way to central park and Dolly and Lyn spied mash potato so we were going to eat at that establishment even if they served it with dog shit. Which luckily for all of us they did not. Dolly & I had ours with a chicken drumstick served with vegies in a gravy and Lyn opted for shredded chicken and vegies. Have not seen these pair so happy in days! The 3 meals cost us a total of C$145 = A$6.50.

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After lunch we walked back to the Gekko Trails office where we booked the shuttle to El Salvador as they sent me an email this morning saying we could spend tomorrow at their hostel after we check out of our accommodation. We wanted to check the address of the hostel so we knew where to take our luggage in the morning. The hostel we are at have signs up saying that guests cannot hang around at the hostel waiting for their shuttle (all shuttles leave either at 8pm or 2pm) claiming they are not a bus terminal. Not very friendly, but fair enough I guess. So loaded with the information of where to go tomorrow we crossed the road to return to the Via Via bar we drank at yesterday, only to be advised they were out of Victoria Frost 1 litre bottles. Well this was enough to lose our patronage and we stood up and left the establishment in disgust.

Walked back to the central square and sat at the café on the square in front of the cathedral. Beers are a little more expensive here C$29 = A$1.30 each, but it's got good people watching traffic so we stayed for 2.

Had a walk around inside the cathedral which is supposed to be the largest in Central America.

Leon Cathedral (Catedral de la Asuncion) is the largest cathedral in Central America. The cathedral is located in the centre of the city of Leon across the street from the city's main plaza. The cathedral opened in 1747, however construction originally began decades years earlier. The cathedral was named to the United Nations Education, Scientific, and Cultural Organization's (UNESCO) World Heritage list in 2011. Tunnels under the cathedral once linked it to other churches throughout the city, however the city now utilizes them for the local sewage system.

Cathedral of Leon The cathedral is most known as the burial place of Ruben Dario. His tomb is located in the centre of Leon Cathedral beneath a white stone statue of a weeping lion. Many of Nicaragua's wealthy and elite are buried beneath the cathedral including Alfonso Cortes, Jose de la Cruz Mena, Miguel Larreynaga, and Salomon de la Selva , however they are not accessible by the public. There is also a courtyard in the middle of the cathedral called Patio de los Principes that has a fountain and flowers.

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Returned to the hostel before dark for a cooling off swim. It's hotter here today than yesterday even with the small breeze moving the trees. We have been very grateful for the pool here the last few days.
Dinner was sandwiches washed down with a bottle of coconut rum.

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Posted by Cindy Bruin 10:50 Archived in Nicaragua Tagged bus chicken leon matagalpa Comments (0)

2017 APRIL - NICARAGUA,LAGUNA APOYO, THEN HEAD FOR THE HILLS

CAN'T GET TOO MUCH OF A GOOD THING, TRYING TO ESCAPE THE HEAT

DAY 58 TUESDAY 4TH & DAY 59 WEDNESDAY 5TH APRIL

We have returned to the lake for another 2 days, just because we can. It's so hot in Granada, even with the hostel pool.

The breezes here at the lake are lovely and the water is warm and refreshing. And we can sleep late, lazy around and do nothing all day and not feel guilty - ha as if we would.

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DAY 60 THURSDAY 6TH APRIL

We caught the early shuttle bus back to Granada. Man its hot today, there was a hazy over the lake and it seems to be over the town as well. I'm sure its a heat haze. Arriving back at Oasis Hostel our room was not yet ready so we just hung around in the common area. The hostel seems very busy with lots coming and going.

This will be our 10th night in Oasis with our own coming and going and we have really enjoyed this hostel.

So the main reason we came back early from the lake is because Lyn & I wanted to go zip lining. We have been meaning to go each return to Granada but only now have found the time to squeeze it in. It's really cheap to do here, only US$35, discounted to US$30 so after settling into our room and farting around it was afternoon by the time we headed out.

We paid at the tour office next to our cocktail bar and just had enough time for a quick cold beer before our transfer ride arrived. Dolly has opted (chickened) out and is going for a pedicure instead of zipping. Far enough - its her holiday too. (cluck, cluck, cluck).

On the way out our driver stopped at a petrol station for some fuel and the temp gauge there showed 39 degrees. Yep it felt it too, and not a breath of movement in the air. It's the hottest time of the year here now and they are not kidding.

We drove about 20 minutes out of town to Miravalle Canopy Tour. As we were the only ones there it was like a private tour, which was nice. Soon enough we were being strapped into harnesses, given helmets and gloves and on our way. A short drive up the hill to the first platform (this was a nice not having to scale the hill before the start - (take note Keeraya!).

So we had 3 guys with us, a big guy (big and solid) who acted as the anchor man. Before a couple of zips I was told just run into the big guy if you can't stop. Poor bugger, sure if I'd have done that I would have knocked him off his feet. Big guy did not speak much English, but when we heard we were Australian was all excited as he is a big fan of Men at Work. The 2nd guy took my camera and he was the one who took the photos and video - this also was very cool idea. Saved me trying to get any photos while concentrating on traveling along the line. The 3rd guy was the one who loaded us on to the lines, gave instructions and made a few jokes along the way. He told us how to say 'Fucking Awesome' in Spanish but I forget what it is already!

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We did about 8 zip lines and 3 swinging bridges, with the last line being a bounced one. You may have seen the videos on my FB page. (too hard to load videos in this blog). We had a great time, it was lots of fun. Although, no where near as high as the zip lines we have done in Thailand and Loas it was still a lot of fun and at the price a real bargain! Unfortunately, both Lyn & I did not bring any money with us as we would have like to tip the guys - it's a rare occasion that we do tip and this was one time we felt bad about not being able to.

The driver dropped us back near the tour office as we had arranged to meet Dolly there and decided to have a cold beer to try and cool off a little.

This was our last day in Granada and it was a nice way to finish our visit.

Back to the hostel for an early dinner and then we headed back out after dark for our final farewell cocktails at the Grill House. Also we purchased hammocks from a street vendor which we have been shooing away every time he has approached us. God knows how we are going to carry them in our already bursting at the seams luggage.

The town is packed today, there seems to be some kind of school/uni concerts on. There are teams of teens with matching t shirts from different schools from local and neighbouring countries here.

DAY 61 FRIDAY 7TH APRIL

Enjoying our last pancake breakfast at Oasis, remembering our time here. We were checked out and out the door just before 10am - a good early start for us. A short walk for a couple of blocks took us to the shuttle station for minibuses to Managua. As luck would have it there was just a minibus about to depart and we were quickly loaded into it. So we were on the road at 10am.

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Granada to Managua is only about 45km along the main highway and although we were on the 'express' shuttle the trip still took 1.5hrs of dropping and collecting passengers along the way. I think that express just means it does not leave the main road as there was nothing express about it. The fare was C$25 = A$1.11 and we had to pay the same for our bags each C$25. This is the first time we have been charged for bags and were a bit taken aback as it doubled the price of the journey. But hey 45km for A$2.22, think we can afford that.

So around 11.30am we arrived at the shuttle station, which of course was not where we could catch the bus for our next destination. The conductor on the minibus had prattled on to me in Spanish about a taxi and I guess this is what he meant. We would need to get a taxi to the bus station. An official taxi driver (with ID and all) who spoke good English approached us and offered a taxi for US$15 to take us and bags to the bus station. Unfortunately, being tourists we have SUCKER written all over us, and the fact they know we have little choice but to take a taxi. He said the bus station was across town and it would take 30 minutes to get there so US$15 was a good price. Again SUCKER. So I managed to bargain him down to US$10 and we loaded up his little vehicle and took off into the traffic.

Approximately 30 minutes later, just before midday, we arrived at a bus station, so it turns out he was being legit, I felt a little guilty for thinking he was trying to rip us off and ended up giving him US$12 for the fare.

We were pointed in the right direction to purchase tickets at a ticket window and I got us tickets for the bus at 12.30pm. Enough time for a drink at one of the cafes at the station. It's still stinking hot and all this movement is very hot and sticky and tiring, and we are not even half way to our destination yet.

No beer unfortunately, so we have a cold coke while we sit and wait for the bus departure time. 12.20 and we realize we could be on the next bus for a few hours so really should have bought something to eat. No time now for a sit down meal so we negotiate with the staff and end up with some takeaway chicken which we take onto the bus and proceed to eat, much to the amusement of fellow bus passengers. I noted we are the only tourists on this bus which confirms we are heading off the tourist trail, which is nice for a change. The bus pulls out of the station on time at 12.30 and I am glad we were early enough to purchase a ticket with a seat as there are now people crowding the bus aisle sitting on little plastic stools and some are having to stand too. Some of these people stood the whole way and they paid the same fare as us.

Heavy traffic out of the capital and broken down vehicles made our progress very slow and it took 45 minutes to travel the 1st 7 kms. In the heat, with no air con, little windows open with no breeze and bus full to overflowing. But yes I still like chicken bus travel, its about the only real mixing with the locals that we do, just a shame we don't speak their language as these ladies can chat for hours. And its cheap, this 130km cost us C$74 = A$3.28.

Finally the traffic broke and we started moving a little faster which offered a little of air flow through the bus. The landscape is grim. Very dry and brown, not much in the way of crops. We passed quite a lot of ranches where we saw cattle being corralled or roaming around in dirt patch fields. Looked like they were being fed as there was not much growing out of the ground and quite a few hay stacks were in with them.

We are heading into the hills to escape the heat a little, but from what I can see and feel its just as hot here. These old chicken buses are kept in pretty good nic as we powered up the hills with ease, passing traffic and we were way overloaded. These are old USA children's school buses so they have a much harder live down here in Central America.

Getting closer to town we passed lots of coffee drying yards. This is the biggest coffee growing area in the country and although I did not see any plants growing alongside the road, I saw lots of processing plants with huge slabs of concrete where they obviously dry the coffee berries.

So, 3.30pm we arrived in Matagalpa! They guys who unloaded our bags from the rooftop of the bus held them ransom until we paid them C$100 = A$4.43. Thieving bastards, we saw this money went straight into their pockets, but what were we to do?

So we travelled about 175km, it took 5.5 hours and cost us 25+25+97+74+34 = C$255 = A$11.30 each plus lunch.

No idea where in town we were, I had no idea which direction we needed to head to reach our pre booked hotel. I looked up the street and I saw a sign that I was happy to walk towards. VICTORIA FROST! Beer is what we needed to recover from the bus trip and work out exactly where we were. No tourists haunts here so we were in with the locals in a bar half filled with poker machines and the other half filled with drunk young men who obviously did not work today. Dolly made a friend with an older (sober man) who advised us we needed to get a taxi to the hotel, which is what we did after another beer.

A collective taxi stopped and loaded our bags, took us to our hotel, charged us the local price of C$20 = A$.89 while picking up another passenger who squeezed into the back seat with Dolly and Lyn. Hotel El Castillo is on a hill overlooking the centre of town and our triple room (with 3 separate beds) is not bad for US$30.

After settling in we went for a look around town. Yep no other tourists here, it's quite nice. And the temp is a lot cooler. I applied for a job as an ice cream seller, but turns out I am too tall for the cart and my offsider I fear would eat the profits.

There was some kind of religious procession happening in the main street with lots of devotees following behind. We found a balcony bar to have a cold beer and watch the world go by.

Funny day today, took all our energy to travel just a short distance, but it was not a bad day!

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DAY 62 SATURDAY 8TH APRIL

Breakfast of scrambled eggs overlooking the town was included in the room rate.

A relaxing morning, we caught up on some clothes washing which we could hang up on the roof of the hotel. In our room we have a TV with cable channels showing English speaking movies, which we seemed to have got stuck in front. By the time we left the room to take a taxi ride up to the lookout it was already closed for the day, so a waste of taxi fare.

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Since we were out we stopped for a beer at a corner bar and it was the first time we have seen women drinking in a bar, suppose it is Saturday night. Before heading back for some food we stopped in at the supermarket and found a bottle of coconut rum C$145 = A$6.42 - so cheap here.

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We had dinner at a little hole in the wall next to the hotel which was selling local fare. Chicken, gallo pinto (rice & beans) with coleslaw and tortillas, all for C$90 = A$3.99 = awesome value. Tasted great too!

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Posted by Cindy Bruin 21:57 Archived in Nicaragua Tagged granada buses chicken de laguna apoyo matagalpa Comments (1)

2017 MARCH, NICARAGUA, SAN JUAN DEL SUR

TO THE PACIFIC COAST WE TRAVEL

sunny 34 °C

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DAY 53 THURSDAY 30TH MARCH

After our pancake breakfast (swear to god I will never eat pancakes again AFTER this trip, hey free breakfast is a free breakfast) we packed a small bag to take away with us and stored our big bags for when we come back.

Due to having a bit of time on our hands we are travelling backwards to San Juan Del Sur for 4 nights. Usually we would not go backwards, but we seem to have too many days left in Nicaragua to continue forward at this stage. Have heard mixed reviews about San Juan but I have booked a hostel will a pool so if the beach is complete shit we at least have somewhere to swim.

San Juan del Sur is a municipality and coastal town on the Pacific Ocean, in the Rivas department in southwest Nicaragua. It is located 140 kilometres (87 mi) south of Managua. San Juan del Sur is popular among surfers and is a vacation spot for many Nicaraguan families and foreign tourists.

Its population is approximately 15,553, consisting largely of families engaged in fishing or the tourism industry and foreigners from the United States, Canada and Europe. While the local economy was, for many years, based on fishing and shipping, it has shifted towards tourism in the last 20 years. In October 2002, to mark the city's 150th anniversary, it was formally designated the "Port of San Juan del Sur" and a "Tourism City of Nicaragua."[3]

San Juan del Sur, set beside a crescent-shaped bay, was a popular resting place for gold prospectors headed to California in the 1850s. Correspondingly, San Juan del Sur served as a hub for Cornelius Vanderbilt Lines.

Bus stop was a couple of blocks away and we had to walk thought the market street to find the correct bus station. Next bus to Rivas was at 11.30 and when we got there around 11.15 and the bus was almost already full. Still room for us as we took seats near the back. Chicken bus C$31 = A$1.37 and it took 2 1/2 hours to travel approximately 70km. The bus was full for most of the journey with local passengers coming and going, mostly gringos were on for the entire ride.

Just before arriving at the bus station in Rivas, taxi touts had boarded the bus and were trying to con tourists into taking a taxi instead of buses for the next journey. They tell lies like the next bus is hours away and try to con you into taking their taxi which is like 500 times the price of the bus. Must admit the prices they quote are cheap for a taxi compared to at home, but the chicken buses are soooooo cheap that the taxi fare is just ridiculous and they would have to catch a real green gringo to con them into a taxi ride.

Arriving at Rivas bus station we were asked where we were going next and were advised the next bus to San Juan Del Sur was due to depart in about 40 minutes. Just enough time for us to save a seat with our backpacks and then disembark again to sit in a café and have a beer.

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Bus conductors are very thoughtful here, he'd seen us sitting in the bar so gave a whistle when it was time to get back on the bus.
It took another hour to travel the 30km from Rivas to San Juan Del Sur.

On arrival we followed a little mud map I had taken a photo of on my camera to find the hostel. It was nothing flash but did have a tiny little pool which made up for the non descript room. Unfortunately, this place is like the most expensive place we have stayed at US$50 a night but it was the best I could find in this location that had a pool, cooking facilities and breakfast is included.
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We dropped our bags in our room, and went straight for a dip in the pool. It was tiny, but it was clean and it was nice and refreshing after our double chicken bus day.

Feeling a little cooler we walked the couple of blocks back into the centre to find something to eat. We soon realized there was not much to town and what little there was is expensive and not very interesting. We found a hole in the wall to have something to eat and then went in search of a supermarket of some kind to buy supplies for dinner. Again not much around and not much to chose from.

Best part of the day came when the sun started to go down. We found a waterfront bar that sold beer at a price we were happy to pay and watched the amazing sunset.

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As good as the sunset and the hostel pool was we made an unanimous decision to stay here only 2 nights instead of 4.
Back at the hostel Dolly cooked us poached eggs on bread for dinner which we washed down with a few rums and cokes.

DAY 54 FRIDAY 31ST MARCH

Breakfast was a choice of eggs, gallo pinto, bread and fruit or pancakes. No prizes for guessing which option we took, eggs and bread no gallo pinto, not quite up with rice and beans for breaky.

We took a taxi C$200 A$8.84 to get a closer view of Jesus today. Well at least to the statue of Jesus that overlooks San Juan Del Sur. Entry fee was US$2 for foreigners and US$1 for locals, which apparently pays for the upkeep of the statue.

The Christ of the Mercy is a colossal statue of Jesus Christ in the city of San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua, to a height of 134 m .The statue is located highly above the northernmost seawall in the bay of San Juan.

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Fabulous views over San Juan bay and the town and also a little of the cliffy coastline.

Although we had taken a taxi up, we decided to walk the 3km back down into the town. The road was steep and lined with very expensive looking houses which all had magnificent views of the San Juan Bay.
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With the tide out we walked along the great expanse of beach which at high tide is lapping at the bars and buildings that line the beach.
It was hot work and we needed a vital refreshment break at an aptly named beach side bar.

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Lunch was back at yesterdays hole in the wall, then we returned to the hostel for a swim in the pool. Well a dip in the pool anyway, not really big enough for a swim, but sure did cool us down again. After semi drying in the sun we all 3 had a laze in a hammock for an hour or so waiting for the time to go out for our sunset beer.

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Dinner last night was so good we had a repeat performance and enjoyed poached eggs on bread with rum and coke chasers. A quick dip in the pool before bed and we are still happy with our decision to just stay 2 nights. There are shuttles that you can catch to so called nicer beaches, but they still are relatively surf beaches, good for surfing not so much for swimming in the ocean.

The white-throated magpie-jay (Calocitta formosa) is a large Central American species of magpie-jay.


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DAY 55 SATURDAY 1ST APRIL

Enjoyed an egg breakfast before we headed out to the road to try and find a bus to take us away from San Juan Del Sur. Yesterday we could not find out what time the buses go or where exactly they depart from, so we just walked towards the main street. It was not long before we heard some guy yelling out Rivas, Rivas, Rivas and around the corner was a big yellow bus. All buses here do have the destinations written on them, but you will always hear the bus conductor yelling out the destination before you get a chance to read anything on the buses.

So basically we are just retracing our steps to get here a few days ago. The bus was only half full so we were lucky enough to all get seats and only had to wait about 15 minutes before it took off.

Arriving in Rivas less than hour later the next bus to Granada was about to leave. First thought was great timing, but after I climbed in the bus and saw it was already full what looked like capacity and that we would have to stand for the next leg of the journey we decided to wait for the next bus were we would be assured to get a seat. Rivas to Granada can take anywhere between 90 minutes to 3 hours depending on the amount of stops so this is not a ride we want to stand up in a full bus for.

So we went and sat in the same café and ordered a nice cold beer. It was only 11am but hey, it was hot (good enough excuse I reckon,) Within 2 minutes the next bus to Granada pulled up so I took our small backpacks and put them inside on seats for us. Buses go every hour so we still had a good 40 minutes to wait. Best to wait with a cold beer than in a stuffy bus. Good thing we learnt from locals is that if you put your bag on a seat it means you have saved it and when we boarded the bus it was full bus our seats were still waiting for us.

We are professional chicken bus travellers now and just tend to sit back and enjoy the scenery. Dolly always manages to have a snooze (some people can sleep in any conditions). Sometimes we get to sit with a local that speaks a little English when we can have a little conversation, or a chat with another traveller from a different part of the world. Or sometimes just a smile and a shared seat is what passes the time.

Back in now very familiar Granada we made our way back to Oasis Hostel, which is turning into our home away from home. Some familiar faces still there, plenty of new faces and a welcome back from Maria the owner.

As we returned back a few days earlier we could not get a room with ensuite bathroom. But the room we did get was a little bigger and just as clean with the toilet and shower just a few steps down the hall.

DAY 56 SUNDAY 2ND APRIL

Finally we managed to get up early enough for a visit to the butterfly reserve just 3 km outside of Granada. After our pancake breakfast of course.

Not sure exactly where it was we took a taxi for just C$200 = A$8.86. The taxi driver did not speak any English so he was not able to advise us that before taking us to our destination he had to drive across town and pick up some young girl on the side of the road that seemed to be waiting for him. Not sure who she was and they did not even greet each other, but she was obviously waiting for him so it might have been his daughter and they had a pre arranged meeting agreement. So we got a bit of a tour of the town and then he turned up a dirt road just on the city limits and passed shack homes for 3 km to the entrance of the Butterfly Reserve.

We were dropped at the reserve all wondering how we were going to get back into town as this was not a road where taxis are driving up and down. However we did see a couple of tuk tuks which we hoped would be some kind of transport for us later.

A little old man greeted us swiftly giving us very useful information all in Spanish. He soon got the gist we had no idea what was being said but we all smiled and said 'Si' when we recognized the word mariposa - Spanish for butterfly. He indicated for us to follow him as we walked to the back of the property. He pointed to a path that I guess was a walk around and then took us into the butterfly enclose. Again he prattled on for about 5 minutes and all I understood was that he grows the plants in the enclosure as they attract butterflys and then named the fruit that he feeds them. With that he left us to enjoy. There was a lot of butterflys fluttering around the enclosure including the big blue ones we had seen when in the jungle. These beautiful bugs were magnificent and in abundance for us to admire, but impossible to photograph. A video I took did a little justice but they were awesome.

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Before leaving we did a small lap around the surrounding bush and spotted a beautiful mot mot in a tree. We are getting good at seeing wild life everywhere now.

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Our only option was to start walking down the dirt road back towards Granada and hope we catch a lift. We walked for about 15 minutes which was not very far as I am travelling with EXTREMELY SLOW WALKERS. A tuk tuk passed us but it was full of passengers and again on its return. A second one came along that was also full, but on its return journey stopped to give us a lift. We had no idea how much it was and presumed he would only take us to the end of the dirt road, but that was good enough.

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Sure enough he dropped us at the main road and the fare was only C$30 (10 each) = A$1.33. We were more than happy with that and decided to walk the short distance back into town. Straight into Marcelos bar for a cold beer.

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Back out again in the afternoon, walk through central park to our favourite cocktail spot to finish off the day.

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DAY 57 MONDAY 3RD APRIL

Still in Granada as I did not hear back from Paradiso on the lake about our request for an extra night. They just did not answer my emails so we could not take the chance of just showing up there without knowing we had a bed for the night.

We are becoming part of the furniture here at Oasis Hostel Granada. The owner, Maria (originally from Puerto Rico) has sat chatting with us several times and has told us of her plans for the hostel. I think perhaps that we are closer to her age and honestly the young backpackers really could not give a shit what she is doing with the hostel. But she is nice and we enjoy having a chat with her.

It's hot today, correction it's hot everyday, but today is another lazy day for us. We spent the time hanging out in the hostel making use of the small but efficient pool.

We did head out late in the afternoon to catch the post office before it closed at 4.30pm. Stopped off for a beer in a different bar just for a change of scenery and walked back to the hostel via a roundabout route which took us through the poorer side of town. Now Granada is a pretty colonial town with lots of restored lovely buildings, but just 3 blocks off the main streets are the real people of Nicaragua living in much much less exuberant dwellings. They are in shacks of what looks like trash wood and rusted iron roofing. Still happy to say hello to us as we walk past, and the cheeky youths asking for one dollar. Such a contrast, we just happened on these streets by taking a wrong turn but I can guess most visitors would not dream that state of housing just blocks away from the beautiful grand Granada. No photos as I thought it would be an invasion of privacy, but just makes you think.

Filler:
On a lighter note I would like to give you an update on travelling with my short hair. As most of you would know I usually have long hair but after a few cuts at the beginning of the year. I left the country with the shortest hair cut I have had since I was 12.
I thought as we were travelling to hot countries and a long trip, it would be easier to look after and manage if I had short hair, compared to many previous trips with assorted lengths of long hair.
And my verdict:
Long hair is much easier to manage. With long hair if it's hot you just need to tie it up and its done. Or for any occasion, just tie it up and its done. Short hair is much more of a pain. The fact that its short means it really needs to be maintained and styled, something I am not prepared to do while travelling. So now that it has grown out a little and really should be getting some attention, its not. Which leaves me with a style that is crossed between Eddie Munster, Ray Martin and Scary Mary, as I'm sure many of you would have noticed from any photos posted. At what stage of growth will it sit down flat??? I'm currently supporting hair 5 -6 cm in length that still has the ability to stand on end with no assistance from me and combing it gives me a helmet head look.
In future please remind me to keep long hair when I travel and Scary Mary may not appear in so many photos. Just sayin'...

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Posted by Cindy Bruin 18:58 Archived in Nicaragua Tagged san del sur juan rivas Comments (4)

2017 MARCH NICARAGUA LAGUNA DE APOYO

Off to the lake for a bit of R & R.

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DAY 48 SATURDAY 25TH & DAY 49 SUNDAY 26TH MARCH

The crater of Apoyo was formed approximately 23,000 years ago, after a strong volcanic explosion which left a hole measuring six kilometers in diameter. Time went by and subterranean waters and rain filled the crater and the slopes became covered by vegetation. Today this crater is considered to be a sleeping volcano, in repose, with certain volcanic activity still present through a few hot springs in its interior.

The Apoyo lagoon has a surface of 2,110 hectares. It is very deep: according to investigations the lowest level of the conic hole is 100 meters underneath the sea level and the shore of the lagoon is 75 meters above sea level. The water is the most crystal-clear out of all fresh water bodies in Nicaragua and possibly in Central America. Even though it is not fit for direct human consumption, it is very clean, with a low level of natural or human contamination.

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That's it, pancakes for breakfast 4 mornings in a row is enough, time to move on. The shuttle bus collected us from our hostel and took us the 18km to Paradiso Hostel on the banks of Lake Apoyo. I have booked us here for 2 nights - a little time out from our busy travel routine to just sit around, sunbath, swim in the lake and relax.

Although we are in a dorm room (that was all that was available for us) it's ok. The room is fairly large and we only shared it with 2 others the first night, however the 2nd night all beds were full. I played the 'old lady card' when making the booking and we managed to get 3 bottom beds in the
4 bunk bed room.

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The food served at the hostel was overpriced and ordinary but as we are a captive audience here with little choice of anywhere else to go we did have to have most meals in the hostel restaurant. There website shows delicious yummy looking food but they have obviously had a change of cook since this was shot.

We did manage to find a beach restaurant on the adjoining beach that seemed to be where the locals came for the day out. This place served much cheaper beer and the food was more reasonably priced so we had lunch there both days. Deep fried chicken wings and fries

But most of our time for these 2 days was spent lazing in the sun and swimming in the lagoon. It was beautiful. Cindy took Dolly for a paddle in the canoe on the lake. Dolly also ventured out into deep water on a tube. Amazing for her.

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DAY 50 MONDAY 27TH MARCH

We had to check out of the room by 10am, so we took our stuff up to breakfast. We did not have much as we left most of our luggage back in Granada. We sat around chatting and wasting time.

We ventured to the beach next door again for a cold beer and lunch as we were more impressed by their prices than what was on offer at the hostel. We did have our dinners and breakfasts at the hostel and they were not very nice and way overpriced with prices quoted in US$.

The shuttle back to Granada was not until 3.45 so we still had most of the day to enjoy the lake.

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In the shuttle van on the way back to Granada Lyn remembered she had left her hat (the panama hat) and snorkel behind in the hostel room locker. Dolly's hat was with it as well. Panic panic !! When we arrived at Oasis hostel they phoned Paradiso and I spoke with them explaining what we had forgotten to take from the locker. They found our belongings and said they would put on the shuttle bus tomorrow for us. Phew

Checked back into our same room 'E', collected our luggage from storage and then went out for a cocktail. Which actually turned into 3 cocktails each and a happy night.

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DAY 51 TUESDAY 28TH MARCH

Today we did nothing! Nobody seemed interesting in doing anything!

At about 5pm Lyn & I walked to the supermarket to get some supplies for dinner, then she cooked at the hostel.

DAY 52 WEDNESDAY 29TH MARCH

After a pancake breakfast at Oasis hostel, we walked a few blocks to the bus stop to find a bus to take us to Masaya, just 18km out of Granada.

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The chicken bus was just C$10 = A$0.44 each way so did not break the bank. It dropped us right in the centre of the market which was selling all kinds of fruit and vege and fresh meat. You could buy a chicken ready for the oven still with half a dozen un-laid eggs in the cavity and we also saw live piglets ready to be taken home for fattening.

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Then we walked through the section that sold shoes and clothing. We saw a couple of frocks that we fancied but had to pass because of lack of space in our already bulging luggage.

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Then another big section that sold handicrafts and souvenirs from Nicaragua. To tell the truth most of these repetitive stalls were very overpriced and we did not buy anything. I don't understand how there can be so many selling the same crap and still survive. This market is on the tourist trail and apparently lots of tour buses stop here but still there seems to be a lot more stock compared to demand in my opinion.

Dolly managed to get a haircut in one of the many salons in the market and paid just C$44 = A$1.95 - pretty good job, cant really stuff up with short hair, although they would not have much experience cutting short hair as all the females have long hair and would probably only ever get trims.

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Lunch time we found a kiosk on the side of the road for a cool drink and a local snack, not sure what it was but tasted ok and it was a shaded spot to sit.
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Found our way back to the bus station in the middle of the market, Lyn purchased some ready to cook vegies C$20 = A$0.88 for our dinner back at the hostel tonight and we jumped on a bus heading back to Granada.

As we entered town we got off the bus to check out a supermarket and walked the rest of the way into the centre. It was not far but thirsty work so we went directly to our first bar for a large Victoria Frost or two to cool down.

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After dinner we watched a movie at the hostel, The Accountant. Then off to bed, we are again heading out of Granada tomorrow.

Posted by Cindy Bruin 17:05 Archived in Nicaragua Tagged lake apoyo masaya Comments (1)

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