Luxury trip to Nicaragua

Trip Start Aug 28, 2004
Trip End Aug 2005

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Monday, March 28, 2005

Here in yet another sweltering clime, it's very barren out here and itīs definately the "Dry Season" no doubt about it!!!.

We entered the Nicaraguan capital of Managua on an air conditioned tourist bus. We figured $25 to get across two borders and six sets of border guards was well worth it. So we set of from San Salvador El Salvador at 4.30am we wisely stayed in the bus companies hotel the night before. Went through Honduras and arrived at Managua a typical Central American capital city cesspit at 5pm. Stayed one night and then did a quick tour of the "sights" by cab, argued over the arranged price and left. We did visit the "Huella de Arcahualinca" which houses a set of tracks, men, women, children and animals running in the general direction of the lake. It is presumed they were running from a volcanic eruption (Volcan Masaya)when they were swamped by lava, then were preserved by the ash and mud which settled afterwards. They are a wonderful record of C. American history and are over 6,000 years old, the museum attached houses some great archeological finds including the remains of human skeletons etc.... Well worth a visit. In addition to this we saw the "Neo Classical Cathedral", which is now a standing shell, due to severe damage from two earthquakes in that particular part of the city. There are a number of statues and monuments to various movements and times in recent history which were worth looking at too. Otherwise, itīs a bit of a ghost town area, where the more affluent part of the city is it appears to be another North American city style.

The same day, and a few hours later we were in the lovely Colonial city of "Leon". The weather was hot and we were hungry so we sought shelter in the grandest cafe overlooking the splended 1749 Cathedral, and wondered at the architecture while we feasted and watched life go by. The Cathedral overlooking the Plaza, was built on quite a grand scale and reflected the Spanish style very much. The original plans were grand, but the plans they did submit were scaled down, in fear that they would be turned down. The Cathedral was then built to the original grandiose scale intended. Inside the cathedral thereīs some wonderful marble carving work on the "stations of the cross", reflecting the pride of the Spanish. In addition to this Cathedral there were many other churches, the "San Juan Bautista" which is more characterful in contrast to the grandness of the Cathedral and more colourful too. "Veracruz" is the cities oldest church, and well worth a look too. the markets surrounding the centre are a bustling hive of activity, and a very colourful insight to everyday life.

After exploring Leon and meeting Johnny and Becky from St Neots, we continued the next day to Granada another wonderful Colonial Spanish town, with big airy houses which are built around a courtyard normally with a big tree in the center so you feel like you are living in the garden. A few American charities have set up here, presumably a guilt trip from arming everybody to the teeth. No matter how friendly people are in Central America you always have the feeling that it all could go horribly wrong at any moment.
Granada is the oldest of all the Colonial cities to be built in C. America and itīs very different in itīs feel to Leon as it was in some ways much grander, but it lacks the buzziness of Leon in some ways it has become too tourist orientated.

We decided we would go to the "Isla de Ometepe" which is situated in the middle of the Largo de Nicaragua and a four hour ferry ride from Granada. After queueing for two hours in the slowest queue we just had enough time to rush back to our hotel for our bags and catch the ferry. Five hours later we were at the delightful "Hotel de Castillo" and after sampling the food decided to stay for four nights. "Isla de Ometepe" translated in Nahuatl means "Two Hills". The island is made up from two volcanoes joining throīthe lava flow to create one whole island. we took a guided trek up "Volcan Maderas" and set off at 4.15am, this is fast becoming a time we are getting used too (very disturbing!!) but itīs definately the way ahead to see all the wild life and local people at work, day to day...

The actual trek upwards was a gentle and very misleading one, as you got higher the trickier the path became by turning into a bit of a mudbath and slide thrown in!!! The wild life however just makes the trip, right from the start we could hear the "Howler Monkeys", Martin has been desperate to see them ever since we got to C.America and even on this trek so far we still did not see them!!! We did however see the "Blue Jay" which has an unmistakable chatter and is just beautiful to look at. Charcoal blue/grey in colour with a brilliant white chest and a smart crest on itīs head and long tail feathers too. The butterflies were in vast numbers and a real array of patterns, sizes and colours. Just stunning, the most gorgeous one was as big as you hand and a brilliant lavender blue/black colour just fluttering by about itīs business. As you tread the path, frogs and lizards alike just scuttle off to safety away from our clodhoppers!!!

You can sit for hours and just listen to the wind, birds and all else, let it all come to you. At the top of the volcanoe that was, there is a bit of action man commando style climbing down due to a massive mudslide and then you just see the most amazing sight of forest land and the lake that now fills the crater. With the mists of the clouds surrounding it truly is quite magical and very rewarding to rest and if one is daring jump into the lake, knee deep into silty stuff!!! Yak!!

A guide is definately the way forward and we were very much entertained by Nicholathan, who was in the army and then special police, he even looked after the Pope on his visit in the 90īs. They are worth their weight in gold and definately know the terrain, this particular area has lost tourists who have gone (without guide) wandering on their own and plummeted to their death sadly. It was days before they were found. On our way down we finally got to see the infamous "Howler Monkeys" and Martin got his pictures, one was a pregnant mother and she got very excitable at Martin monkey noises (have the video footage to prove it!!).( Martin here; "I would like to point out that at no time did I upset anything pregnant"). They are pretty big, even when looking up from 50 feet below, and make alot of noise even when in small numbers. A great and rewarding stay was had and now it is time to move country....

Fact for the day, Lago Nicaragua has the only freshwater sharks to swim itīs waters....marinists believe that they migrate up river from the Rio San Juan(Carribean sea direction). Thanks god we did not come across any during our stay!!!!!

One thing we would have liked to have seen is "Solentiname" an archipelago south of "Ometepe" and is full of both artists and poets, a community set up by Ernest Cardenal, a poet and minister of the "Sandinista" years. It will have to wait for another trip in the future.
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