Bright and early we boarded the bus with about 30 other people and our guide Jose for the 45 minute ride to the border with Nicaragua. Thanks to Jose it was a relatively easy border crossing on foot with our passports being checked three separate times in Nicaragua. On their side of the border we had plenty of time for shopping and Curt got a belt made to fit right there in front of us.
He also got a wallet and I tried some cookies. One lady was selling hammocks that were very soft for like $7. She carried them around on her head! There are a lot of tractor trailer trucks waiting at the border to get inspected because this Pan American highway is huge for moving drugs.
Dad is sad to learn that in Nicaragua you have to pay to use the bathroom. $1 will get you about four trips and you don't get your toilet paper until you pay up!
At the border we picked up our guide for Nicaragua, Elvis! He was born right before Elvis died and when he passed away his parents decided to change his name to Elvis. It sounded like he got bullied a fair amount when he was younger in a place where everyone is named Jose, Carlos or Pedro. He tells us about the Nicaraguan equivalent of Costa Rica's Pura Vida. They say De Acachimbo?? which means Happy Spirit. He promises that after some rum your spirit is much happier
He promises to show us amazing sites and he is very proud of his country and happy we took time out of our vacation to see it. First up we pass by two volcanoes, Conception and Maderas. We have a two hour drive along Lake Nicaragua which is the same size as all of Puerto Rico. It is so big the first people arriving here thought it was the ocean. It is a beautiful site with the volcanoes sticking out of it.
Our first stop is a boat ride on Lake Nicaragua. Our driver doesn't speak English but tries to point out things and we all guess as to what we are supposed to be looking at.
Just towards the end of the tour this monkey was just posing as if that is his job to look cute for photos. He is a spider monkey so now we have seen all three types of monkeys found in this area.
The highlight was riding by a school just as it let out and seeing all the kids get in their boats to paddle home. Elvis later tells us that there are not enough teachers or schools so the kids go in shifts. One group goes 0730 to 1200 and another 1230 to 1700. They often have to go on Saturday and Sunday to complete the requirements for that year of school.
As we continue along the lake we see birds, restaurants, hotels and private houses. All the little islands were made years ago by volcanic eruptions.
Restaurant with hammocks
Next up is lunch in Granada at El Tranvia. It is in a huge and beautiful hotel and the service is wonderful and efficient. They actually have coke zero and we try the local beer, Tona. We also sample the national drink, Macua, a tasty blend of guava juice, fresh orange, lemon juice and Flor de Cana Rum.
Hotel with El Tranvia restaurant inside
Lobby of hotel
The lunch starts with a potato salad...
then either carne (beef), chicken or fish. Curt and I chose fish that came with dried plantains, fried plantains and gallo pintos. It was fantastic.
It was all finished off with a rice pudding.
After lunch we had a chance to go across the street and purchase some Flor De Cane far cheaper than in the resort. It is in fact the resort owner who also owns the rum company!
Lots of people buy coffee also and you could stock up on dried plantain chips if you wanted.
Spider-Man drink cart
Methods of transportation in Nicaragua
We are given some time to walk around the historic plaza and take pictures.
The church is open for visitors with what looks like brand new paintings on the ceiling.
We pass one more church that is very beautiful and the first in Granada.
After our time in the beautiful colonial city of Granada we get back on the bus for another 30-40 minutes. Someone asks Elvis to talk about the conflict that the US was involved in. Sadly he gets very emotional telling us about the Sandanistas and how his brother fought in the conflict as was killed at 16 years old. Because the US government had put an embargo on imports they had to get food from the Soviet Union. Many times by the time it arrived it was expired. He tells us they were lucky to eat rice and beans together during that time period. His parents actually sent him at the age of 8 and his other brother at the age of 7 across the border illegally in to the United States because they feared for their safety. Because of this conflict there is a deficit of men in the country making it 10 women for every 3 men.Now that he sees his country happy he is so proud to be there.
His sad story raps up when we arrive at Masaya Volcano National Park. It is Nicaragua's first national park and we can see an old lava flow on our drive up to it. We stop at the top at La Boca de Infierno or "the mouth of Hell". We actually get to look down in this volcano and see the lava glowing red at the bottom!! We are only allowed to stay 5-7 minutes and are instructed to run to the bus if we hear a bunch of steam or little rocks flying up
On the way to our last site Elvis has the driver stop and get out. we are next to a cashew tree and he has the driver get one of the fruits from the tree. He actually bites in to the reddish part or the fruit portion which they regularly eat. Each one has one cashew on....now I know why they are so expensive.
Our last stop is in Catarina, another 25 minutes away where we send Elvis on his way, pay for the pottie break and have a few photos over this beautiful caldera.
I guess you could ride horses around the caldera if you wanted to also.
Our day ends after a 2 hour drive back to the border, border crossing in reverse (much faster at night), and a two hour drive back to the hotel. Exhausted but happy after all we got to see we get room service for dinner and pass out.