Trip Start Mar 04, 2014
Trip End Apr 02, 2014

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Flag of Nicaragua  , Chiriqui,
Sunday, March 23, 2014

I should have checked our travel insurance before we left home to make sure that we are covered for all forms of natural disasters. After the excitement of the earth quake in LA, we had booked onto a tour to see active volcanos in Nicaragua and I'm hoping that we might bump into a hurricane as we cross the Gulf of Mexico to bring up the third horseman of the apocalypse. We like to live dangerously.

It was an early start this morning. We were up at 5.15 - I still can't believe it - as we were being tendered off the ship at 6.30. We were (un)lucky enough to get a seat outside on the tender for the 10 minute ride into San Juan Del Sur. It turned out to be more than just a little choppy and the fresh breeze made sure we were both wet through by the time we got to the quayside. Luckily enough, we stepped straight off the boat into a furnace and within five minutes we had been blown dry, although it left us covered in more salt than a margarita glass. There were four 50 seater coaches waiting for us and we made it onto the last one which meant we had to wait 20minutes for the stragglers who didn't get up in time. Not to worry, our guide Jimmy told us our driver Nick would make up the lost time and sure enough he drove like a looney, overtaking on blind corners and anywhere with a hidden dip in the road. We hadn't realised it but this was the "See Nick Drive" part of the tour.

Jimmy told us all about life in Nicaragua, the economy, geography and the civil war but was careful not to mention the CIA's involvement in the revolution in 1978. It is the largest country in Central America and Lake Nicaragua is the third largest fresh water lake in the world. Before the decision was made to build the canal in Panama, the preferred choice was to take it through Lake Niceragua. There is a natural water way from the Caribbean coast into the lake leaving only 25km of land to breakthrough to reach the Pacific Ocean. Then Mount Conception, a volcano in the middle of the lake erupted and the USA government decided it would be prudent to look for an alternative route.

We travelled parallel to the lake on the Pan American Highway which runs all the way from Alaska down through South America to Cape Horn. The villages we passed through were almost like shanty towns. There are high levels of poverty and in the countryside the people look to be struggling along at subsistence level. we were on our way to the Masaya National Park. This is the site of the largest active volcano in Nicaragua and the park itself is the site of a massive crater that was formed thousands of years ago. Mount Masaya is still bubbling away, spewing out tonnes of sulphur into the atmosphere every day. The coach took us right up to the rim but unfortunately the steam being generated by the volcano means it's not possible to see any activity. It must have always been like this. Legend has it that when the Spanish first arrived they saw a glow in the bottom of the volcano which they assumed was where the indigenous people hid there gold. They rigged up some scaffolding and lowered a bucket down into the crater. When the rope was retrieved minus bucket, they lowered one of the soldiers down to investigate. After they had lost three more soldiers, they concluded that this was not a good idea.

On the way back we stopped in Granada the oldest town in Central America. There are older towns but these had to be relocated to make them easier to defend agains pirates, leaving Grenada, which remains on its original site to claim the honours. It is a pretty town and the historic centre has been restored to its former glory after the ravages of the revolution.

We got back to the port of San Juan Del Sur at 4pm and needed a drink after a full day of scenic driving. We managed to find a bar offering beer and wifi - the best combination- and settled downto pick up emails and sort out my blog.

Thanks to all of you who have commented on my blog so far. It is good to see that your jokes are much better than mine.
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Steve on

You might not see a hurricane, but if you go to the midnight buffet you will seea plague of locusts!

So Jimmy is doing tours now, he has quite a business- a bar in Laganas, a bar in Limassol and now a tour guide. You have to admire his ambition

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