Our flight down to Nicaragua was long and arduous. We flew over our destination, landing in Costa Rica, which ranked as Mitchs’ all time worse landing. After a long wait in San Jose airport, we boarded our next plane to Managua, certainly not the most direct way to Nicaragua, but the cheapest!
Freda spent the 5 hours wait becoming increasingly excited about the imminent arrival of Kitty and after landing in Managua it was a welcome sight to see our friends, Charlotte, Christian and Kitty. All knackered, we jumped in our minibus to Granada, the first port of call for our Nicaragua trip. Charlotte had booked us a great house called Casa Usma, it was nice to have help with the travel planning.
The next day was Mitchs birthday, unfortunately I had ended up throwing up all night and Freda had also threw up all over her bed, it was a miserable state of affairs for us two (and poor old Mitch!). He did get to go out for a birthday beer and a trip to the cigar factory with Christian and received another beer t-shirt as a present from me, so all was well.
So our days spent in Granada were pleasant, the city sits on lake Nicaragua, the largest fresh water lake in Central America and apparently is home to bull sharks! Granada is a charming, colonial city, although felt mainly geared up to tourists. But it did have a lovely laid back feel, with a few nice museums, and streets lined with beautiful bright painted buildings.
We attempted to explore the city, but as the temperatures soared into the high 30s, we were forced to retreat back to our house and cool down in our small swimming pool. Unfortunately, our peaceful retreat was blighted slightly by maintenance workers coming and going all day. The last straw occurred when a man started dismantling the electricity mains box, and armed with two wires proceeded to shove them in. As sparks flew close to the girls heads, Charlotte and I had to intervene, not only to save the mans life, but also to save our children from witnessing a fatal electrocution….poor guy, he just didn’t want to turn the electrics off so the girls could keep watching TV!
After Granada, we made our way down to Ometepe, an island in lake Nicaragua. Known for its impressive twin volcanoes, it’s a short boat ride over, but when you are in this, an hour seems a very long time.
After having arrived too late to get the larger ferry we decided to give the small boat a go, it’s only a lake, how bad could it be! Well, I think I speak for the whole group when saying I spent most of the journey wondering what I would do if we sank.
I think we were all eyeing up which life jacket looked the best out of the decaying bunch above our heads. Freda already had a stomach bug, so didn’t cope very well, in the end, I had to hold a screaming child, trying to shield her from the waves coming over the side of the boat until I think it all got too much for her and she went to sleep. We were happy to get our feet on dry land and all agreed the ferry would be taken on the way back.
Ometepe is a beautiful hourglass shaped island, the volcanoes rise out of the lake.
To the north Concepción, a perfectly cone-shaped active volcano and to the south sits the extinct Maderas. Nestled around them are lovely national parks, beaches, howler monkeys and even petroglyphs!
We had a fun afternoon playing in a natural springs pool.
We watched howler monkeys from our balcony and had a trip to the beach. It was definitely one of my favourite places in Nicaragua.
Taking the much calmer ferry, we returned to the mainland and went to stay on the side of the Laguna de Apoyo. This is a former volcanic crater, 200m deep, filled with lots of vere warm water, it was very cool to swim in a volcano!
We took a trip to the local town of Masaya, famous for its artisans market. Unfortunately we mainly found paintings of people sat on toilets and beer t-shirts.
After a few days hanging by the lake, we went to the coats at Las Penitas. A beach town outside of Leon with a nice relaxed, bohemian vibe, basically it means that not many gringos come here, yet!
It had a very local feel to it and the coast-line was stunning. We had a house right on the beach and spent our days doing as all good beach bums do, swimming, drinking rum, eating, reading, watching the sunset and repeat! Here’s our resident beach bums.
We also took turns to have some child free time……Charlotte and I even got to go on a horse ride, which was amazing! It’s been a long time since I rode a horse at full gallop and racing the guy along a beautiful beach was pretty special. My only issue with Las Penitas was my room, or the cell as I called it. It would take far too long to go in to the set up of the house, but I felt it necessary to share with Freda. In our cell we had no windows and as it never really went under 30 degrees in the room, instead of closing the door, I had to padlock us in through an iron barred gate. I had various nightmares, especially when the electricity went down in the middle for the night for 4 hours, meaning no fan. But every cloud has a silver lining, as anywhere I have stayed since, however bad, I just say to myself “at least it’s not the cell”! To add insult to injury, Semana Santa began. Easter to you guys, but party time to the younger kids of Las Penitas. On our last night, the worst music blared from next door until 4 in the morning. It was a long, hard, hot night in the cell for me!
We did an Easter hunt for the girls, but it seems they celebrate Jesus here rather than chocolate. So, Freda and Kitty had two kinder eggs each, but it was still very well received by our cactus bunny.
I escaped the cell and we went to Leon. A great town, full of character and history.
Here we read lots about Nicaragua, after previously having being rather naive to its past. Leon is the city of the revolution, the heart and soul of Nicaragua. Freda leant all about the revolutionary fighters in the museum of the Revolution of Latin America and we learnt the devastating affect the US and a terrible dictator had on the county.
Leons’ only fault was it was the hottest place yet. Once again we limited our time to explore to before lunch and after 4, but we finally persuaded Freda to embrace a siesta so we could stay out later than 7pm! This did mean that we were able to have one of the more surreal nights of my life, Easter in Leon! We decided to go to an area of town famous for creating murals on the pavement made out of sawdust, I’ve read this is a big thing in the Americas. There was about a mile of the murals, mainly of Jesus, it was bit strange some were better than the others!!
But we hadn’t seen anything yet, on our walk back to town we noticed people had turned their homes into religious shrines. Some were simple with a little Jesus statue on the cross, others had gone a bit further and had lights and extravagant displays, some were just damn right crazy. Our favourite was the poor little boy below that was made to reenact Jesus’ death. I was just pleased his dad had let him lay down and hadn’t nailed him to their cross.
It was certainly a very different Easter for us this year. In amongst all this madness, every corner we turned there was a parade of hundreds carrying Jesus on the cross. I felt a little out of place with my ungodly ways, wondering what the Nicaraguans would have thought if they spent Easter in England, where for reasons unknown to me Jemus has been replaced for a bunny and chocolate! To make up for it we visited Leon’s impressive Cathedral on Easter Sunday,
we went up on the roof, which was very white and very hot but had great views of the city and felt a bit like being in Greece.
We had to say goodbye to our Rum drinking buds, we had all become great fans of the local tipple, Flor de Cana and Tona and maybe drank a years worth of rum and beer in 2 weeks.
It was sad to see them go and even worse it meant Mitch and I had to get back to the drawing board and do some travel planning, it had been like having a holiday from our holiday. Freda was devastated by the loss of Kitty,
but luckily the hotel owners daughter came round and Freda spent the next few days playing with her, so it did soften the blow. Also Freda was recovering from a rather nasty allergic reaction to Mango sap, after picking up a handful from the floor she touched her neck which then proceeded to blister and it was pretty horrible, who would have known!
We had to leave Leon (it was too hot), but we did stay another 2 nights, sweating and travel planning, progress was slow. In the end we went down to the gringo’tastic town of San Juan del Sur. The town itself is nothing to write home about, but the nearby beaches are beautiful. We bunked down here and planned our next leg to Costa Rica.
Nicaragua, has been great. It’s a country just finding its feet after a long period of war and hardship. It’s a had a tough time but has a great deal to offer.