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Nicaragua

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)

2017 MARCH NICARAGUA, GRANADA

Colonial City

DAY 45 WEDNESDAY 22ND MARCH

Free breakfast pancakes included in the room rate, and they were cooked by the staff so Lyn did not get to test her cooking skills again.

I was up at 7am and wanting a shower, but there was no water. I left the shower tap on and at about 7.15 the water came through. I was down eating pancakes by 7.30am, an unusual early morning for me, as I am usually the last one out of bed, but the oldies were still sleeping when I left the room. Lyn was down by 8.30 and Dolly by 9.

I had advised reception that our room leaked last night after we'd had showers and we'd had to use a towel to mop up the water. The receptionist came to us later after breakfast and advised we would receive 10% discount for last night and we are able to change to another room today as soon as it become free. Later the owner came and introduced herself and to ask exactly what the problem with a plumber. Nice customer service.

Hostel Oasis Granada is very large and has lots of relaxing areas. We 3 are by far the oldest here, but not a problem. Triple room is US$38 per night including breakfast and all day tea and coffee.

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Granada is a city in western Nicaragua and the capital of the Granada Department. With an estimated population of 123,697 (2012), it is Nicaragua's sixth most populous city. Granada is historically one of Nicaragua's most important cities, economically and politically. It has a rich colonial heritage, seen in its architecture and structure.

Granada was founded in 1524 by Francisco Hernández de Córdoba, ostensibly the first European city in mainland America. Unlike other cities that claim the same distinction, the city of Granada was not only the settlement of the conquest, but also a city registered in official records of the Crown of Aragon, and the Kingdom of Castile in Spain.

Granada is also known as La Gran Sultana, in reflection of its Moorish and Andalusian appearance, unlike its sister city of León and historical rival, which displays Castilian trends. Its very popular and well known as a Touristic Town.

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We headed towards the central park and then down some little streets that led off the park. Different bright coloured paint is used for every dwelling or business which creates streets of rainbows. Larger buildings painted in bright colours also like yellow contrast beautifully with the amazing blue blue sky.

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The weather is wonderful, but it's pretty hot - in the 30's is my guess. This kind of heat makes you thirsty so it was not long before we needed to find a beer stop. We were certainly spoilt in San Carlos for prices as the beer here is almost double the price that we had paid. But it is still cheap enough, painfully though now they quote the prices before tax and before what seems to be a compulsory tip. Again, it is still cheap and the beer is served icy cold.

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We stopped at a bakery to try a piece of tart and have a sandwich for lunch. C$90 = A$3.99 for a ham, cheese & tomato roll.

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Continuing walking we passed Guadalupe Church and finally came down to the lakes edge, Lake Nicaragua. Hard to believe just yesterday we travelled 7 hours parallel to this lake and we are again on its shores. Looking more like a sea there are apparently 365 islands & islets close by here that we hope to see some of in a tour while we are here in Granada.

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From the lake we walked back up the street to the central park. The sun was a killer and on the way we had to go inside the church for some shade and a little sit down. The only thing that got us moving again was the promise of a cold beer back up near the park. Now it may sound as if we are piss heads just moving from beer to beer, but the truth is that the cost of beer is the same as a soda and actually not much more than the cost of water so it makes sense for us to support the local brew and keep hydrated. (So did that sound convincing?) Anyway, we are on holidays, it's hot and we needed a drink. We purchased some giant cashews to have with our beer and they actually cost more @ C$50 = A$2.21 than a bottle of beer @ C$40 = A$1.77.

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On our way back to the hostel we found a Pali supermarket and purchased supplies for dinner. Lyn cooked a pork and vegie surprise, very tasty. And we also purchased a small bottle of rum C$59 = A$2.61 and a bottle of coke zero C$34 = A$1.51 to mix with it for drinkies after dinner.

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Tonight the hostel advertised movie night and we rocked up to the large screen telly near the kitchen to watch the movie, only to discover it was being played in Spanish with no English subtitles. We thought this was a bit odd in a hostel where most occupants were not Spanish speakers, but there you go. We opted for a few drinks and then an early night instead.

DAY 46 THURSDAY 23RD MARCH

Pancakes for breaky again today and a banana and coffee/tea.

We had a bit of a late start getting out as I am trying to organize future days travel and accommodation, so it was already after 11 before we headed outside. On the way to dropping off our washing we stopped to have a look inside the Cathedral.

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Now we would usually do our own hand washing, but due to the fact that we had been in the jungle for a few days and some of our clothing got quite muddy so we are having a washing treat.

The horse and carts that line one side of the central park are there to take tourists for Jaunts around the town, you can go for 30mins or 1 hour or however long. We decided to have another little treat and go for a 30 minute ride/tour. Granada is not very big and at US$10 for 30 minutes divided by 3 it was not so bad. Our driver/guide spoke very good English and as we rode along the streets of the oldest part of Granada he gave us the spiel about the buildings, churches, statues etc that we passed. Although all this information is very interesting at the time, it really does not all sink in, as we are not memorizing along the way. We enjoyed the ride anyway.

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After our jig around town, we walked through the local market as this was where we were told we would be able to buy a frilly pinnie that we have been seeing the local women wearing. We did in fact find them and happy with our purchases decided to celebrate with a beer. We chose a random bar in a building with an assortment of bars and ordered a large beer. I thought the waiter asked if we wanted 3 glasses, but in fact he asked if we wanted 3 bottles. We could have easily shared a large bottle each, but since he bought us 3 and they were already opened we had to drink them. Had a bit of fun with the waiter and our new pinnies, him taking photos for us and even giving me a tray of crisps from a walking vendor to take a photo with.

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After drinking our very large beers we continued up the street to check out one of the churches we had passed in the horse and cart. On the way we had a quick tour of a hammock making factory. This particular business hires blind and deaf people, and we saw a blind man who was weaving as quickly as the sighted man next to him. They also had the worlds biggest hammock and boasted that they had even made a hammock for the pope when he visited.

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A little further up the street and we were back outside the La Merced Church, still bearing the black scars of the fire ordered by William Walker (but that is another story). In this church for C$30 = A$1.33 you can climb up the bell tower, which offers magnificent views over Granada. It was like a sea of terracotta roof tiles, with churches towering up over the roof levels and with views of volcanos and the lake in the distance. Worth the small entrance fee and the 70 step climb up. Luckily the sign said not to ring the bells otherwise we would have been deafened.

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The volcano in the last photo, when it blew its top created a lot of the islets that are now in the lake - see did remember something from the tour this morning. Not sure when this happened, obviously a long time ago.

Around 5.30 we headed out to collect our washing from the laundrette. On the way back it seemed like a good idea to stop for a cocktail, so we did. We ordered our old favourite pina colada, but what we received was nothing like a pina colada we have had before. It was a cocktail, it was icy cold and it was very yummy, but it was not a pina colada. When I questioned the waiter, and showed him the picture on the menu he just said 'yes different'. lol At C$60 = A$2.65 we were not going to complain too much.

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It was dark when we walked back to the hostel and the streets have gone quiet again. Gone is all evidence of the madness of the daytime street stalls and traffic. Back at the hostel we finished off rum and coke from yesterday.

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DAY 47 FRIDAY 24TH MARCH

Third day in a row for pancake breakfast - think I am reaching my limit. Miss Dolly has managed to catch a cold and is not firing on all cylinders today. Must be all these cold showers we are having?

This morning we did a boat tour of the small islands in Lake Nicaragua.

Boat Tour of Islets US$15 each

When the Mombacho Volcano erupted thousands of years ago, it threw huge rocks into Lake Nicaragua. As a result of this violent eruption 365 islets were formed in front of Granada. The islets differ in size between a hundred square meters and over one hundred hectares.

The wild nature, resident birds and visitors and the day-a-day routine of the local families make it an ideal place for a boat ride or kayaking around the lake.

The small islands, in Nicaragua called "Las Isletas", serve different purposes. There is a community of about 1200 people living on the islets. Most of the people living here are fishermen. Other islands accommodate hotels or luxurious houses (some of them can be rented). There are also uninhabited islets with only some palm trees growing on it.

Lake Nicaragua or Cocibolca or Granada is a freshwater lake in Nicaragua. Of tectonic origin and with an area of 8,264 km², it is the largest lake in Central America, the 19th largest lake in the world and the 9th largest in the Americas, slightly smaller than Lake Titicaca. With an elevation of 32.7 metres above sea level, the lake reaches a depth of 26 metres. It is intermittently joined by the Tipitapa River to Lake Managua.

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We stopped on Isla San Pedro to look at the fort that protected Granada from the pirates crossing the lake. Good ole Captain Morgan was the pirate of the day.

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Next stop near monkey island where there are 3 spider monkeys residing. A pregnant Miss Lucy Monkey (or should I say Mrs) came aboard our boat after checking out the talent on another boat first. She seemed to take a liking to me as she sat on my shoulder and gave me a throat hug. She then went over to a Spanish lady and checked her out for nits.

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Our last stop was on an island where we could buy a beer, have a swim in the pool and watch the locals go about their daily chores. This island had everyday people living on it. Obviously not anywhere near same living standards as the mansions we had passed on other islands. It seemed like one extreme to the next. Today was obviously washing day as the ladies were in the lake thigh high washing clothes. But washing did not stop at clothes, the family pig was dragged begrudgingly into the lake for a scrub down, and we saw a little boy washing a chicken!

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The boat sped back to the dock weaving its way through the small islands giving a another view of how the rich and famous would live if they visited their own properties. We were barrelled back into our transfer van and taken back to the hostel. Nice way to spend a morning.

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The rest of the day we just hung out at the hostel, Dolly having a bit of a rest, Lyn reading and me catching up on travel work.

Come 5pm it was cocktail hour and unfortunately Dolly did not feel up to heading out with us, instead opting to rest her head cold some more. Shame for her as we found the best pina colada cocktails. They were so good, Lyn and I had 2 each! Extravagance. At C$66 = A$3 it was above budget but they were so nice we just went for it. Don't worry about Dolly missing out, we will be back here when she is feeling better.

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Lyn cooked a delicious chicken & vegie dish at the hostel tonight. We had purchased some marinated chicken at the supermarket earlier and she certainly cooked it to perfection.

Time to sort and repack our bags. We are heading to Lake Apoyo for the weekend and will be leaving most of our luggage here at the hostel in Granada for when we return.

Posted by Cindy Bruin 04:54 Archived in Nicaragua Tagged oasis granada hostel Comments (4)

2017 MARCH NICARAGUA, DEEPER IN

CHICKEN BUS FROM SAN CARLOS TO GRANADA

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DAY 44 TUESDAY 21ST MARCH

We had a relaxing morning as today is a travel day, but our bus does not depart until 3pm. We hung around at the hotel using the internet until checkout time which was 11am. We were able to leave our bags while we had a last little stroll around town and then back to our usual restaurant for a beer (at 11.30am, is that too early when on holidays?) and something to eat.

We walked via the huge big yellow church on the hill.

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Yesterday while sitting in the restaurant we saw another patron eating chicken wings and chips so this is what we decided to have for our lunch. Lucky when it came to order there were some young Americans there to help us ask for chicken wings. It took 30 minutes for our food to come out but this gave us enough time to finish our beer. Nice every so often to have a meal that does not include rice and beans. Not a bad deal for C$140 = A$6.20 each.

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We lingered over lunch until about 1pm when we decided it was time to go collect our luggage. It seemed we had walked this path many times before so it was only just after 1.15pm when we were back in our lunch seats and ordering our last C$19 = A$0.87 Victoria Frost beer, our farewell to San Carlos.

Just after 2pm we dragged our luggage the short distance to the bus station. It seemed that a lot of the shop owners were saying adios to us, perhaps we had stayed in this little stop over town longer than others, or just the fact we had luggage and were leaving they bid us farewell.

We were at the bus station by 2.10pm, lucky there were benches that we were able to sit at and wait for the bus. The station was a hive of activity, surrounded by shops and swarming with walking vendors selling everything from food, drinks, fake jewellery and belts to a lady (who was in great need of her own product) selling bras!

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I had a walk around taking a few photos of some colourful chicken buses, not realizing that just before 3pm we were instructed to board one of these un-coach like machines.

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We sort of knew it was going to be a long ride when the first 25 km took about 1 1/2 hours to transverse. This was a long distance bus for us, but it was the normal getting home bus for the locals, so we stopped at just about every 2nd tree to pick up or drop off passengers. At least the seats were comfortable and there was plenty of leg room, even for me. It was not air-conditioned, but there was a fair breeze coming in through the windows so although the travel was slow, it was not uncomfortable. Throughout the journey we all had 2 seats to ourselves intermittently shared with oncoming and offgoing passengers.

At one stop, the bus conductor (guy collecting the money and loading the luggage), there were great huge heavy tubs loaded onto the roof of the bus. This was done by 2 other men lifting the tubs onto the conductors head. With this load he scaled the bus loading ladder and passed the big tub to men waiting on the roof, this was done with the great weight balancing on his head. A man sitting next to Lyn advised us it was queso (cheese). I was impressed, especially when he repeated this action about 15 times lifting the tubs up onto the roof.

The trip continued and continued and continued. We witnessed a beautiful sunset, I took photos through the dirty bus windows. Darkness fell as the bus continued, stopping and starting as it picked up and dropped passengers. The end of the line finally came just before 10pm, after we had driven through a very quiet and deserted looking Granada.

Not having any idea where the hell we were, the bus stopped in a back street with no visible street signs. The conductor pointed us in the direction of the central plaza so we started to walk in that direction. I had pre booked our hostel accommodation, thank god, and had a map that I could follow from the central park. There was a security guard standing on the corner so I asked him for directions to Calle Estrada, he did not know but did not hesitate to flag down a passing car to get directions. Luckily for us the driver spoke English and shouted out the directions to us. Another plus we were not far from the hostel and only had to drag our luggage for about 10 minutes.

We checked in and were shown to our room. First up was a coffee and tea, even though we had not eaten since the early lunch none of us seemed to mention needing any food. It's surprising how exhausting sitting in a bus for 7 hours can be. After 3 tepid showers we went to bed, it was midnight by now and although we had all 'napped' in the bus we still seemed to feel buggered.

Catching up on internet, I posted photos until about 1am and then crashed.

Posted by Cindy Bruin 10:39 Archived in Nicaragua Tagged bus san granada chicken carlos Comments (0)

2017 MARCH NICARAGUA OVER THE BORDER TO COUNTRY #3

COSTA RICA TO NICARAGUA, then into the jungle.

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DAY 39 THURSDAY 16TH MARCH

We were outside and waiting just minutes before 9am - our agreed meeting time for the taxi to take us to the border. We had a quick breakfast of toast and coffee/tea and had the luggage waiting. No taxi by 9.10 gave cause to our landlady to offer to make a phone call. Luckily I had been given a mobile number of the guy we negotiated with yesterday. She advised taxi would be here in 5 minutes.

Sure enough 5 minutes later a clapped out old battered car pulled up and two blokes got out saying something about frontier and it turned out they were our lift. The driver had to empty his boot, which had 3 spare tyres in it, so our luggage could be loaded up. Then us 3 had to squeeze in the back seat which was a pain considering it was only a 2 door car. Of course the mate was coming along although it would have made much more sense for him to stay with the excess taken out of the boot and make more room for us. But whatever.

The driver started the engine and music started to blare out of the back speakers, thankfully an English song was playing with prompted us 3 squashed in the back seat to start to sing along, much to the delight of our driver and co pilot. I had remembered to write down in Spanish that we needed to stop to pay the exit tax for Costa Rica and we were driven to the pharmacy opposite the bus station soda to make payment. The exit tax for Costa Rica is US$7 plus there was an extra US$1 commission. Not exactly sure what this fee is for, but if you don't pay it you can't leave the country.

Back into the car we pile and drive the 6km to the border. This was a bargain ride at US$5.

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Due to lack of signage we actually missed the place where we were supposed to get an exit stamp and after walking 100m into no mans land we were sent back to get the stamp. The border guards were very polite and happy and had a bit of a chuckle on our return with the correct stamp.

So it was adios to Costa Rica and hola to Nicaragua. First up we were met by some lovely ladies who pointed a thermometer gun at our head to take our temperature. Not sure what this was for, but they asked so nicely and then offered us tourist information to take about the country we had just entered. We picked up some maps and were advised to move on to the immigration counter where we had to pay US$12 entry fee and received a Nicaraguan entry stamp in our passports.

Next our bags were put through an xray machine and given the all clear were advised to walk down the road to the awaiting collective taxi van that would take us to San Carlos. I was able to get some local currency out of an ATM before walking to the taxi. Crushed into the back seat of the mini van it was not long before it was full and we were on our way passing citrus groves on either side of the road.

About an hour later we arrived at the bus station in San Carlos which was a bit of a shit fight. Touts started hassling for bus tickets to other places before we even got out of the van. We did not want to travel on any further, but most of the other occupants of our van were taking tickets as the touts thrust them into their faces. I suggested we grab a seat at one of the bus side restaurants to have a drink and to move away from the chaos.

I had not heard back via email from the hotel I sent a request to so I decided to go and find it while Dolly & Lyn stayed at the bus station with luggage. Of course just before I set off it started to rain, but it was dry again even before I left the bus station compound. Enroute I checked out a few other hotels, but the one I had picked was in fact the pick of the hotels I saw along the way. They still had a triple room available so I said we would take it and I returned to collect D & L waiting at the bus station. Hotel Gran Lago was only about a 15 minute walk with our luggage along a pedestrian market street and then the lake side boulevard.

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San Carlos has a very nice relaxed vibe, which we all noticed instantly and it seemed to be more friendly than Costa Rica.

After checking in it was time to find food. The lady at the hotel said her husband is selling food and she sent their young daughter out with us to show the way. Luckily it was one of the water front places we had seen and wanted to try out. Beer was the first order for the day and on the first sip got a thumbs up from all three of us, and at a great price of 19 cordobas = A$0.84c. Yes we liked Nicaragua already. Food was good too, similar fare to local food in CR but cheaper. Chicken, rice, salad & fried plantain 100 cordobas = A$4.43. We had a few more beers to celebrate the new country.

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The young girl at the tourist office advised where we are to catch our boat tomorrow as we are going into the jungle. Actually up a river that is off the lake, about 4 hours from here in a boat.

We had a bit of a wander around town. Bought a pineapple from a street vendor and Dolly asked her to cut it up for us. She did this no problem even dividing the cut pieces into 3 bags for us. 30 cordobas = A$1.33 - it was sweet and juicy.

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We ventured out again to catch the sunset on the lake - beautiful. There are a few tourists around, but not many. Returning to the lake side restaurants for dinner and a beer, we joined many locals doing the same. Lyn & I shared a whole fish that was only 150 cordobas = A$6.65, and Dolly had a chicken soup that could have fed us all for 100 cordobas = A$4.43, washed down with our new favourite beer.

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After dinner we returned to the hotel to have cold showers, no hot water here. And we had to pack a bag to take into the jungle, we are going to leave most of our luggage here at the hotel.

DAY 40 FRIDAY 17TH, DAY 41 SATURDAY 18TH & DAY 42 SUNDAY 19TH MARCH

Our luggage left in the room, we headed out to have some breakfast before boarding the boat. We went to a restaurant and had scrambled eggs with ham, gallo pinto & tortillas, with coffee C$65 = A$2.80 . We needed something in our stomach in case we would be throwing up later on the boat, lol. We walked to the pier at 8.30 but the boat was already almost full, and the best seats (bits of plank) already taken, side seats where you can lean are prime position. We scrambled aboard and found a some empty space in the middle. We were the only non locals on board, so all eyes were on us.

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The boat was scheduled to depart at 9am and we pulled away from the dock at 9.30am, fully laden with what I guess is supplies for the little village we are heading to.

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===Los Guatuzos Nature Reserve & Rio Papaturro===

Los Guatuzos Wildlife Refuge is located in the south of Lake Nicaragua, within the municipality of San Carlos, Rio San Juan. This natural site is a strip of wetland bordering the nearby country of Costa Rica. “Los Guatuzos” has an extension of 438 square kilometres consisting of tropical wetlands, rainforest and wildlife refuge. Adventurous travellers can take pleasure in its luxuriant flora and fauna through the magnificent Paputurro River. Here avid nature lovers have unique opportunities to spot all different kind of birds such as northern jacanas, purple gallinules, fasciated-tiger herons, great egrets, green herons, neo-tropic cormorants, anhingas, great kiskadees, and other colourful interesting birds.

The site has been recognized by UNESCO as a biosphere reserve and belongs to the list of wetlands of international importance of the Ramsar Convention, which is an intergovernmental treaty that provides the framework for national action and international cooperation for the conservation and wise use of wetlands and their resources.

Both “Los Guatuzos and Papaturro River” also provides the opportunity for nature enthusiasts to observe mammals in wildlife like white-faced monkeys, spider monkeys and howler monkeys, actually the loudest monkey in the world. In addition caimans are also seen sunbathing along the river. Reptiles like “green iguanas” are also spotted in lush trees.

Around 11.30 we make a stop at a little island in the middle of the lake. This looks like the lunch/toilet stop as most of the boats occupants evacuate and head for a shelter that is serving what looks like fish soup. Dolly decides to stay on the boat and Lyn & I get off to stretch our legs. We don't eat, but watch as the locals purchase fresh fish from the islands inhabitants. These fish are kept in a wooden box which is in the lake water keeping the fish alive and kicking, or at least tail swishing as they are dragged out and sold off. Can't get much fresher than that.

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It was almost another 2 hours before we finally reached the month of the Papatorro River. Now the boat really slowed down as the river was narrow and shallow and the boat had to be poled along up the river. WOW this is where the adventure started. Not very far into the river I spotted iguanas in the trees. The second one I saw was a giant monster and was to be the biggest I would see all weekend. I was loving this place already, it took us 45 minutes to manoeuvre the boat to the dock, it was slow going, but great for viewing.

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Eileen & Armando were at the dock waiting for us. I had pre booked this trip months ago and Eileen advised they did not speak any English. Turns our her English was quite good, much better than any attempt by us at Spanish anyhow. Armando spoke very little English and we did the tours with him. What he lacked in language skills he made up for by having the eyes of an eagle and could spot wildlife in darkness and in light.

We had a wonderful couple of days here and we saw tonnes of wildlife. We did 3 tours: night tour by boat, walking tour at crack of dawn and afternoon boat tour. All 3 were fantastic, as I said Armando had an eagle eye.

We also had a lot of time to relax outside our cabanas. Lyn and Dolly would sit reading for hours as I just sat and watched the wildlife come to within eyesight of us. I fell in love with the iguana's and they were plenty. Not only on the tours did we see them everywhere, but in the trees across the river from our accommodation there were basking iguanas too. I particular one that I named Oskar became a favourite and we monitored his movements. Smaller lizards would be closer and some would co-operate and sit still to be photographed. Unlike the 3 species of monkeys we saw, which we not so good at staying in one place for very long. Still we saw plenty of howler monkeys, white faced monkeys and the long limbed spider monkeys. I managed to get some photos, but these guys are high up in the tree and move so fast.

Caiman were in the river, and we saw them during our tours and one came to visit on the beach opposite our cabana. Armando had said it was safe to swim in the river, but I'm kind of glad I didn't. Not that the caiman were likely to attack, but I would have had heart failure had one come swimming up next to me while I was in the water. Birds, birds everywhere. Not a birder, but still appreciated them all. Dolly became quite fond of the kingfisher and we saw a lot of those. Both the large amazon kingfisher and the smaller one. Beautiful they were.

We had an amazing encounter with an anteater, who seemed to want to drink from the river but would get spooked every time he went close to the water. Perhaps he could sense a nearby caiman which we could not see. Armando actually got a cup of water from the river and the anteater drank from that. These fury animals were also delightful. So cute looking with not a great fear of humans as it just went along its way.

And the frogs, we saw some ugly toad looking frogs on our boat tours but Armando went above and beyond when he started to rustle around in then jungle during our morning walk, following the sound of the frog to produce a highly poisonous blue jeans frog. This beautiful and very tiny creature was the size of a 5c piece and happy to sit for just 2 seconds while we took a photo. Not even Armando touched this little guy, using his cap and a stick to bring it closer to us. Seeing this frog was just amazing, only to be topped when Armando showed up at our lunch time with a red eyed green frog. Another absolutely beautiful specimen. Wow!

We even managed to see a very large snake which Mr Eagle Eyes pointed out to us high high up in a tree. It was not until I saw the photo on the bigger screen of my computer did I realize that the snake had his head up and was watching us from a great height.

These days in this environment really has been a big highlight in the trip so far for me. Our hosts asked us on the last night if it was as good an experience as what we expected, and we all replied it was much better than we imagined.

The meals that Eileen fed us were great too, no way would you ever go hungry while staying here. The accommodation was excellent also. The cabana we stayed in had a double bed, single bed and bunk bed so we all got to sleep in our own bed. And the sheets were changed daily. There were mozzie nets on all the beds. Cold shower, but it was pretty hot so not a problem. And the lights were run on solar power so there was no electricity, but all this just added to the experience.

As you can imagine I took lots of photos - all posted on Facebook. I don't have a very flash camera (and it has been playing up) and these animals are in the wild and do not do the curtesy of stopping to pose for a photo, and a lot of the time they were at a distance, but still I think I took good enough photos to get an idea of what we saw.

I'm just going to post a few photos here, a few highlights of our sightings. Also am going to list costs for my future reference.

Boat C$105 = A$4.65 per person each way on ferry boat
Accommodation US$20 per person per night including breakfast
Lunch US$8
Dinner US$8
Beer in local bar C$40 = A$1.77

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DAY 43 MONDAY 20TH MARCH

After breakfast we were back on the ferry for the 4 hour trip back to San Carlos. We hugged Eileen and Armando goodbye and left with many wonderful memories of our last few days.

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Halfway across the lake instead of stopping at the island for a meal break we were met mid stream by another boat selling ready to eat meals.

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We had a quiet, relaxed rest of the day in San Carlos. Went to the bus station to purchase our tickets for our departure tomorrow, had a few beers and just reflected on our time in the jungle.

To Raymundo who requested more details, today I am wearing black knickers.

Posted by Cindy Bruin 21:25 Archived in Nicaragua Tagged iguana rio los caiman papatorro guatzos Comments (3)

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