Tuesday, October 29, 2013

A Fun Town with a Great Vibe! Granada, Nicaragua. Wednesday, October 23 - Tuesday, October 29, 2013

By our 2nd week in Granada, a pattern of weather had been established where the sun would be out when we woke up, grow hot by 10:30am, but by late afternoon or early evening, it would start clouding up and the rains would come hard and fast for about a half hour then just as quickly stop. Or, the rain wouldn't start until after dark but would come just as hard and furious but pass over quickly. 

Wednesday was no different and we got up to sun and began our daily routine. I had sent an email the day before to someone who had been recommended to me for my computer woes but I had not heard back, so at 9:00am, a respectable hour, I called him. Calvin answered right away and we made arrangements for me to drop off the computer later that afternoon. It was a relief to know someone else was going to deal with it. 

Mike and I were also feeling a bit better and we were definitely sleeping much better. I do think we got used to the noise and it became more background in our brains so we didn't wake up every time a loud noise was made. We also discovered that there was a real reason someone is blowing a whistle all night long up and down our street. Turns out there is a neighborhood watch group and they blow the whistle to let would be bad guys know that they're being watched and don't try anything!

The crime rate here is quite low with only petty crime being more of an issue. In fact, Nicaragua is the safest Latin America country and ranks 2nd below Canada being the safest in the western hemisphere. In order to get into our home, we have 3 locks, 2 on the gated doors and one on the wooden doors. It would take allot of racket to get in and being right under a street light on a very busy street, it's highly unlikely anything would happen. As in all the countries and neighborhoods we've stayed in, we've always felt safe when walking about day or night.  

We had made plans for Wednesday, October 23, to take the Masaya volcano night tour that included walking into bat caves in old lava fields under the same volcano. On our trip to Nicaragua last April, we were supposed to go up to the volcano but it had been erupting and the roads were closed due to fires. So we thought a night tour would be fun to see the actual lava in the cauldron. Although it's called Masaya, the Masaya cauldron is actually dormant and the one erupting and spewing steam is Santiago.

A group of 15 gathered with 9 of them being from a tour group who had been traveling for 4 weeks together. They began in Guatemala and were ending in San Jose, Costa Rica. Off we went in 2 vans with our guide, Carlos. The area of the volcano is a national park and is located about half way between Granada and Managua. 

Once up the "hill", we realized that this volcano is quite different than one would think. It's actually only about 1,800' above sea level, not high at all. Nor does it have the typical shape that you would envision. In fact, it was just a nice drive up a paved road to get there. However, this is the 3rd most active volcano in the world!!

Immediately, you see the amount of steam that's constantly being spewed out of its core. We were very fortunate that the weather was clear and the breezes enough to keep the gases away from us so we didn't have to wear gas masks. A real treat!  It allowed us to really see the beauty of this very active volcano. We were also lucky that it didn't have an eruption, which can happen without notice or warning. 

Video: https://www.sugarsync.com/pf/D646513_67028128_6361966

Do you see a volcano?

There's the first hint -- steam!

The cauldron!

Hiking up to the top of the "hill", which wasn't easy climbing due to the steepness and loose gravel, we were able to view a vast area of Nicaragua at sunset. Gorgeous!

The steam being caught in the sunset light!

From there we continued to climb along a steeper narrow trail, we could see all the way east to Lake Nicaragua and the lights of Granada, to the town of Masaya and Tipitapa, and west to Managua. A stunning site at night with all the twinkling lights and lightening strikes all around us. A huge storm was pelting Granada but we had nothing but clear skies for the moment. 


The hike down was quite a bit more dicey in the dark. A slow decent with our flashlights and my hanging on to Mike. I did have one slip and found myself on my butt and a broken bracelet. I was lucky that the lady behind me saw my bracelet with her flashlight or my Costa Rican coin links would have been forever lost. 

Due to other groups being in the bat caves, we were shuttled to a night viewing platform to see the lava glows in the caldron. Due to the danger of this platform being so close to the edge, we could only approach 2 or 3 at a time with guides holding onto you. Yes, it was clear enough due to breezes keeping the steam at bay so we could see into the heart 2 miles down to the magma chamber and the glow of the lava!

I have to say that it wasn't anything like flying low over the lava flows of Kilauea in Hawaii but it was exciting and thrilling nonetheless. Anytime you get to clearly view an active volcano safely, it's a great experience and one not to be taken lightly. 

The country of Nicaragua has 25 volcanos with 11 being active. That's a huge amount for such a small area!  

A short drive down the road, we were let out and given hard hats and flashlights to those that hadn't brought their own. Down a lava rock path we went descending into an area with openings into several lava tube caves. We immediately started seeing bats flying all around us. 

At the first one, we crouched at the entry with lights out and absolutely no talking or sound. Our guide, Carlos, would then flash his light on and we could see hundreds of bats flying in and out of the cave. We were actually a little early to witness the mass exodus of thousands that would take place in another hour. 

The first bat cave.

Can you see them?? They're coming!

Here are those little ones heading right at us.

A great shot by Mike!

Walking further down on very slippery uneven rock steps, we entered a massive cave!  We walked slowly, very slowly down into it until we finally reached the "end". Here the cave was a huge opening. A cave in had occurred in 2004 during an eruption and although there was still a small passage, it was too dangerous for tours. 

Heading down the long wet path to the big cave.

Carefully navigating the uneven descent.

Beautiful crystals.

Look at those roots trying to find water from up above through the rock & lava!

Oh, WOW!!

There's another bat.


We were then schooled in the history of this cave. In the 1980s, when the revolution between the Contras and Sandanistas was happening (yes, Reagan's era as US President), hundreds of children lived in this cave for years never seeing daylight. The children were fleeing the Sandanistas who had them fighting as soldiers. 

As a result, many of those children had difficulty with their eye sight once they no longer needed to hide. But many lost their lives. The living conditions were extremely harsh with no light and nothing but cardboard on the sharp uneven ground for bedding. A very somber moment for all of us but, I think more so, for those few of us from the US due to our countries participation in their revolution. 

It had started to rain pretty hard but not torrentially like in Granada, so we all got wet on our climb out and hike back up to the vans. Warm rain I can deal with. It's the cold rain that gets to your bones and is miserable. But by the time we got back to Granada the rain had pretty much stopped.

Being let off at Calzado, we made our way to a pizza restaurant that we had explored the day before. Funny, the whole tour group of ladies that had gone on the volcano trip with us showed up there too!  

Maria comes on Thursdays, so we decided it was time to walk the neighborhoods off towards the lake front and stay out of her way.  It's about 10-12 blocks and no tourists around. Truly a Nica experience with many taking their siesta on the sidewalks or people riding their bikes to wherever with as many on the bikes as they could get on there. 

Once we had reached the, still under construction, lake front park, we saw how much more had been completed since we were there in April. It's beautiful and inviting but we were the only people around at this time of day. As we looked out on the lake, which is the 19th largest in the world, we were saddened by seeing all the garbage along the shoreline. We didn't remember it being that bad when we here and because of how bad it is, we certainly won't go out of our way to come back down here. Very disappointing! Especially when it should be such an asset to this beautiful town. 


The ferry to ???

Now start looking closer.

Garbage, lots of garbage lining the shore. Sad, very sad!

The walk back was hot, humid, and felt like it took forever !  We did stop at the art school and view the student's work. Quite nice!

A nice picture of Guadalupe church.

Thursday evening we had plans to attend a free baroque concert in the San Francisco church and to then meet up with a fb friend, Nancy Bergman. The quartet was from Spain, 2 gals and 2 guys. 

The concert was extremely well attended by about 300 people and it was standing room only.  Thank goodness we got there 15 minutes before the 7pm starting time and had no problem getting a seat - albeit, the pews were extremely uncomfortable!  But at least we weren't outside when the rain let go at the end of the concert!

Video: https://www.sugarsync.com/pf/D646513_67028128_6362878

It was beautiful and I could let myself think we were all in that time prancing and dancing around the church. Well, maybe not....

I had heard nothing from Calvin about my computer except asking for a password on Thursday morning, so by 11am on Friday, I couldn't resist sending him a text asking if there was any progress. His response of "nothing yet, still working on it" was disheartening. I'd come to grips with figuring out what I had to do to buy a new one without paying exorbitant prices. Fortunately, I got a text at 3 pm saying it was working!  Yay!! My miracle worker!!

He brought it down to the house and we went through several programs and fixed a few more things but I had my computer back with email and my browser working!  A great relief for only $45 for his two days of work. A far cry from the thousands I thought I would have to spend or do without. 

It was a great feeling to head off to the expat gathering at the Grill House, again. It also felt really good to walk up and know many of these people. A couple of hours of chatting and trading stories and it was time to head out for dinner with Steve & Marti Owen. 

We ended up at a restaurant down the Calzado recommended by Amanda, Marti's friend. What a great place to go!  Some simple but delicious meals with the place all to ourselves. Simon, the owner was a delight!

From there we decided to try Chakana, not far from our place, for a night cap. Expensive for here, $9 for a wine and a beer, but really nice upscale atmosphere as we sat looking at the lush courtyard. 

Saturday turned out to be a spectacular pool day!  And, I was able to get a 30 min $10 facial with pool included!  Quite nice!  Turns out the poor young man at the front desk got things so confused that we both ended up getting free pool time for the $10 facial instead of the charge being $15.  LOL. 

Mike was in full conversation with Theresa and Jason, a wonderful younger couple we had met the first time we came to the pool, when I arrived after my facial.  They were here house hunting and trying to decide if they wanted to move from CA with their two young children. Turns out they decided this wasn't for them since the price tag for what they wanted was pretty high even here. We suggested they look at Puerto Vallarta, which would also be less of a culture shock. 

When did he take this one?

By Saturday evening, I wasn't feeling so great, again. And, by Sunday I was really not well. Mike went to Margarita's to watch football while I took at Benedryl and laid on the couch napping and reading. Whatever I had was messing with my stomach and causing me to itch all over. 

So on Monday morning, we called the doctor that had been recommended to us only to find out that he was out of the country for the rest of the week. At 11am, when the clinic opened, we called back and an appointment for 2pm that afternoon with Dr. Lopez. 

At precisely 2pm, I was told to go down to his office where we found him behind his desk and an exam table in the room. He was a very pleasant man of about late 40s, we think, but spoke no English. Again, thank you Mike!!  

After describing my symptoms, he had me lay on the table, a wood table with only a sheet over it and no padding at all. He proceeded to take my blood pressure, which was good, and look at some of my flea bites from Machu Picchu. As I've said all along, I have bad reactions to Mosquitos, fleas, no see ums, chigars, etc. He wasn't happy to see those and proceeded to prescribe for parasites. 

Parasites of all sorts are a common ailment in Latin America and we had our suspicions that that might be the cause of my discomfort. We should have probably been taking an over the counter drug that even natives take for prevention. This much time in Latin America and we were bound to have them. 

In the end, the total cost was $16 for the doctor's visit and $16 for two meds (one to kill the parasites and one to sooth my stomach during the ordeal). Not too bad!  Also, I was very comfortable with the doctor and felt well treated. Everything was clean and neat. The worst part is that I can't drink any alcohol for the 3 days I'm on the parasite medication. 

So not feeling any real effects from the medication, we made arrangements today to take a private tour with Marti and Steve to the city of Leon tomorrow. For $55 each, we will be transported at 8:30 am for 2.5 hours to the city of 390,090, given a private 4 hour tour of the city, a couple of hours to eat and meander around, then brought back by 7pm. Looking forward to a new experience with new friends who haven't been there yet either. 

The other thing I did this week was sign up for a travel writing course. Figured I might as well learn the right way to write and maybe dabble in the trade while we're still out and about. If it works out at all, it could help us in our desire to see more of the world and make a dollar or two along the way. 

At the moment, we're back at the pool all by ourselves since the moment we paid and got here, the heavens opened up and it poured buckets. But then quickly passed over so we stayed and didn't ask for a "rain check". Lol. Reading and going back in the pool during the rain breaks is still giving us more peace and quiet than if we were at home. 

So looking forward to more adventures and discoveries on this journey.....