Power Cuts in Granada

Trip Start Jun 25, 2006
Trip End Aug 01, 2007

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Flag of Nicaragua  ,
Sunday, July 15, 2007

Julie Said: 
So, exchanging our surfboards for borders and our colones for cordoba, we crossed the border from Costa Rica to Nicaragua. Although prior reports suggested that it could take up to 6 hours to cross the border, it only took us two hours which is fortunate because it was already dark when we arrived at the border on our "Tica bus" transport.  Had I never crossed a border before in a similar fashion, I would have been surprised, perhaps even disturbed, when the Nicaraguan customs official boarded the bus with a large, pink, plastic bag, into which he "systematically" dropped each passenger's passport.  To the inexperienced traveler, this seemingly nonchalant passport handling can be disconcerting.  However, Katie and Todd have long ago stopped worrying about such minor travel events and for me it just affirmed that I was indeed back on the road of international travel that I love.
Katie and Todd will share with you some specific details of our journey between La Isla de Ometepe and Grenada; I'll just provide a snapshot of a small event that Katie references: the bus ride.  The last five kilometers before we arrived in Grenada, we found ourselves on a school bus. Everything was damp for we were caught in a rainy season deluge as we hopped between busses; my pack on my lap, the local passenger sitting next to me, and my hair all sort of sticking uncomfortably together in the moisture. I sat by the condensation-coated window feeling as if I were back in grade school.  If I wanted to see out the bus, then I had to wipe the window (upon which I was tempted to make happy faces).   You might wonder why I would be making happy faces when our ride sounds downright dreary.  Well, at the front of the bus, as I came to notice with many public busses, stickers were affixed to the metal above the large window.  Looking down upon the moist passengers were a collection of visages of Loony Toons characters, the mouth and tongue associated with Mick Jagger of the Rolling Stones, and the Virgin Mary.  How could I respond to this unlikely Nicaraguan bus decor except with my own smiley face on the window?
Todd Said:
Almost shedding a tear, we departed Playa Tamarindo to drive to the city of Liberia where we dropped off our rental car and caught a bus into Nicaragua (albeit after a four hour wait). After an overnight stay in the town of Rivas we made our way by ferry to Isla de Ometepe, which is a figure-8, shaped island made up of two volcanic cones floating in the middle of the expansive Lake Colcibolca. A short historical note; this lake originally was slated to be the midpoint of the canal that was later dug in Panama after concerns of volcanic activity took Nicaragua out of the running. We originally planned on doing some trekking on Ometepe but it turns out that Teva sandals aren't quite hardy enough to hike a volcano. Bummer! We contented ourselves with wandering the streets of Altagracia village, occasionally dodging a roving piglet, steer, or hen.
After departing from Ometepe the next morning by ferry we took a few local buses (including the ubiquitous yellow school buses that get a new life as public transport down here once their U.S. service life is over) to the colonial city of Granada. Granada is a charmingly well-preserved town that is actually the oldest continually occupied city in the Americas. We spent our time enjoying the architecture and partaking in the local cuisine as well as gelato and pastries from the "Euro Café". This town seems to be on the cusp of a boom. The urban center is being revitalized and renewal projects seem to be fanning out in all directions. There is so much great history, charming architecture, and chilled out ambiance to Granada that is it only a matter of time before it is "discovered" by the global mass tourist market. So if you are looking to invest in property or dream of building a small restaurant or hotel, Grenada seems appears an ideal candidate.
For Nicaragua, the turbulent times of the Contra War in the 1980's are clearly long gone. Although plenty of damage and suffering were inflicted upon this nation, little remains of that today. There are no guerrilla rebels running around, Nicaraguan people certainly don't hold a grudge against Americans for the role our government played in that conflict, and there is a steady flow of visitors making their way to the multitude of natural and historical sites on offer. Compared to Costa Rica, Nicaragua feels a bit off the tourist trail, but that is exactly what makes it such a great destination. Get here before everyone else figures out what they are missing!
Katie Said:
After dropping off the trusty rental car in Costa Rica, I was sad to get back on yet another bus.  I was getting used to the freedom that a car brings, and after this last year, the car was a nice relief from many long bus rides.  We crossed the border into Nicaragua, and the following day took a rusty old ferry-boat to the Isla Ometepe to have a go at hiking the volcano there.  As it turns out, we were CRAZY to think it could be hiked in Tevas, as it is the rainy season and the trails are extremely muddy. We ended up taking pass at the whole thing.  Let's just say that the Island isn't exactly happening, and unless you seriously want to hike up to the volcano, or see what life is like in a very small and secluded Nicaraguan town, there isn't anything to do there.  But the roosters are very active, and they make sure you don't oversleep the early morning ferry.
We then headed to the Spanish colonial town of Granada, and had our first real taste of local travel.  We took a local mini-bus from the ferry to Granada (about 100 miles away) for about $2 each...at least we thought it was going direct to Granada.  About halfway though the ride, I guess the driver changed his mind on the route, and he pulled over and kicked us out (by the way, it was pouring down rain) and told us to get on the converted old US yellow school bus that was behind us.  It's best to just go with the flow.
When we got to Granada, we splurged for nice hotel with a pool in a Spanish style courtyard and free wireless internet.  The town itself is cute, with pretty Spanish churches, wide streets, colorful buildings, and lots of local charm.  It seems that this town is really just in the beginning stages of tourism, but that many people are investing in upscale boutique hotels and nice restaurants in anticipation of the boom. It is certainly a nice place to spend a few days, particularly if you are interested in taking some Spanish language lessons.
During our stay in Granada, we realized that Nicaragua has a serious problem with its energy resources.  The power went out several times, included a full city blackout while we happened to be walking across the main square at night.  These power issues also affect the water supply, as most water is pumped with electric pumps.  It was quite common to have no water in the room from about 7am until 3 pm, with intermitted power outages throughout the day, ending with a long one at night.  In all our travels, not even in India, have we experienced this many power outages in one day.  We are meeting up with an uncle of one of Julie's students in Managua in a few days and will definitely be asking him about the apparent energy crisis.
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