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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, 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)

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