Trip Start Jul 07, 2007
Trip End Jul 15, 2007

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Flag of Nicaragua  ,
Friday, July 13, 2007

This is the one of the places we were all definitely looking forward to seeing.   We had wanted to swing through when we landed and were on our way to our hotel, but it just wasn't feasible.  Being that it was so close to Managua, we were a little concerned that we wouldn't be able to fit it in unless we wanted to drive a lot. And, of course, we did.  We were glad that we not only fit it in, but that we took the time to look around the area, visit the market and the volcano.

We wanted to go straight to the market for some lunch, but this was easier said than done since we were back in the "no street sign" zone (i.e., everywhere outside of Granada).  Through a series of missteps and missed turns we ended up at the malecon (waterfront promenade) for the view of Laguna de Masaya; 73 meters deeps, 8.5 km2.  No swimming here, as the city dumps some of its waste into the lake.  We'd planned to come here eventually anyway, but stumbling upon it early was fine and it helped us get our bearings.

Next stop, lunch.  We found a colorful patio nestled inside one of the alleyways near the market and plopped ourselves down.  Beers all around and some very good food.  And, those yummy Tostones (fried plaintains).

Finally, we walked the market we had read so much about...Mercado Nacional de Artesanias.  It was fun with its low ceilings, stuffed aisles of pottery, leather, wood and a plethora of stuff.  While we're sure you can find this stuff anywhere, the atmosphere of the market was fun.  Lots of friendly people who want your business, children following you around (be wary!) and the smells of goods waiting for new homes.  Amy discovered that this is the place that you buy that one piece of pottery that you will have to carry on the plane with you!!  But, rightfully so, it does look nice in our house.

We headed out to Volcan Masaya next, no time to waste!  Well, maybe let's stop at Forteleza Coyotepe to get some 360 views of Masaya and the surrounding countryside.  Managed by Boy Scouts, you are officially greeted at a gate with Siempre Listo and the recognizable hand gesture of the scouts...albeit quick and dirty.  This place is a small fort that overlooks Masaya and was the site of a tormented battle between US Marines and national troops.    Jerry, Nathan and Amy climbed the tenuous ladder to the small bump that was a viewpoint but we didn't take a tour of the dungeons.  Instead, we opted to let others do it and we headed on towards the volcano.

The weather had thankfully cleared by this point.  As we parked at the volcano, literally within feet of the crater rim, we were approached by someone watching the parking lot who informed us that we were required to park our vehicle facing out to the road.  What?  Oh yeah, active volcano.  Must  ...  have .... quick ... getaway!   Seriously though, apparently in 2000, a boulder got burped from the crater and crushed a car in the parking lot.  How unfortunate is that?  I guess it doesn't really matter which way their car was facing, but everyone else was able to hop in and go. 

The "great wall of Masaya" looked daunting at first, but it is truly a wonderful walk.  You can't help but stop along the way to admire the view of the surrounding area.   We had hoped to see the species of parakeet that inhabits the crater, but we got there a little late for their afternoon return.  Except for that one straggler.   No kidding folks, there was one bird flying to the crater in a bizarre, very drunken fashion.  We thought for sure his state was due to too much oxygen; having been gone from the crater's sulphurous interior all day.  Very odd, but worth a laugh.

We all arrived safely at the top to peer into the gaping mouth of the crater.  Steam rolling up, sulphur smell abounds, wind blowing and all kinda surreal if you think about it.  We spent some time taking pictures of ourselves and others and headed back down. 

We were obviously running pretty late to catch the sunset before dinner.  Disappointment was in the air, but excitement over seeing what we saw today also could be felt.  We called Renda while we were on the road and asked her to move our dinner out by 1/2 hour.  We rushed home best we could through the small towns, over the potholes.  We ran in, changed clothes and walked up the street behind the Villas for our dinner.  Our hosts were French, and have lived in SJDS for many years.  Although they spoke very little English and us very little French (Miriam stepped in), we did manage to communicate through some Spanish.

We were seated in a courtyard and enjoyed some Limoncellos while we confirmed dinner.  Since we had placed our lobster orders ahead, they knew what we wanted. We enjoyed more cocktails and had a chance to tour their home. At one time, they had a beautiful view of the bay and SJDS, but we soon discovered that Park Avenue Villas took away a good part of that.  None the less, their property is gorgeous with lots of garden space, a large front courtyard and tastefully decorated digs with a large kitchen.

It started to rain and while we Northwesterners are used to the rain, we ultimately had to move the table up on to the stoop and cuddle around the doorway out of the downpour.  It turned out nice, as we had lost power and were eating outside by the light of lanterns.  Reminiscient again of our camping nights at Mt. Rainier.  Dessert was equally as decadent, served with the appropriate liquers and once again, we had enjoyed a beautiful meal at the end of another wonderful day.

Buenas noches!
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