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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)

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