We spent a day just checking out Grenada, saw some artefacts from Ometepe, took in some live music - 6 acoustic musicians playing in a museum, very cool - and went to the bar that night for the big fight. There was a boxing match held in Los Angeles between Vargas, a Mexican, and Mayorga, a Nicaraguan born in Grenada, so this was a huge deal. Even bigger because Mayorga won! It was pretty cool and every bar and restaurant was packed with locals cheering him on.
We went to a market the next day in Mesaya
. It is very different in Nicaragua than in Guatemala. In Guatemala, there was indigenous handicrafts everywhere and the people still lived and dressed in a very traditional way. Here, thatīs not the case and you need to travel to Masaya to see indigenous Aztec handicrafts. There specialty is ceramics and there were some pretty incredible pieces. I donīt know how it happened, but all of a sudden we bought 3 and managed to cram this into our packsack that is already bursting with other stuff...But! Itīs beautiful stuff!!
I think the reason there is no more indigenous dress etc here is because the Aztec were a much smaller population than the Mayan people and therefore dwindled in population many many years before the Mayans, so today not much remains of it. What does remain is the Nicaraguanīs love of baseball!! Everywhere else in Central America it is futbol only, but here I think itīs baseball first and soccor second. A theory is that it is a remnant from the US Marine interventions here. It is really fun to watch them play in the streets etc with makeshift bats and balls and they just go flying into cars or trees or whatever.
We took a ferry out the next day to the largest island on fresh water in the world, Ometepe, and it was just paradise
. The island itself is incredible - it is a result of the two volcanoes in the middle of this lake erupting repeatedly and forming a land bridge (island) between these two volcanoes. It was an incredible site to be approaching these two volcanoes in the middle of a massive, gorgeous lake. When we arrived at the dock it was mayhem to get us into somebody, anybody's taxi!! The drivers would literally strip down, jump in and swim next to the boat so you would pick them. Crazy! We paired up with 4 other people and took off to this perfect finca to spend a few days. The rooms were cozy, there were flowers everywhere, right on the beach to the lake with unreal sunsets every night and mountain views everywhere you looked. The volcanoes are still active and Concepcion was going nuts as we arrived. I ended up chatting with a local guide about climbing it the next day and he was reassuring me that deadly toxic eruptions are no reason to shy away from climbing all the way to the crater. Not to worry, he has bandanas that we can cover our mouths with while running down the mountain from the fumes that kill you. This guy had balls of steel and we booked for the next day. That being said, there was a ban put on climbing past 1000m (the crater is at 1610m) because of the eruptions, so we were fine.
The hike was incredible. Harold, our guide was awesome. He hooked us up with a delicious breakfast and we started climbing about 10ish
. We passed a bunch of people on their way down disappointed because they had a cloudy view from the top, too early for the clouds to clear. We took our time, he found us some howler monkeys to check out, showed us plants that will kill you within 15 minutes, told us that termites taste like carrots and then found us a nest so we could all get a taste - and he was right! - then we had to change into stealth mode to track down some wily white-faced monkeys, really clever and aggressive. So after tracking them for maybe 20 minutes up the volcano, we came across a couple and they were mad that we spotted them so they just stared us down and then started shaking branches to intimidate us and then went flying through the forest. It's so rare to see them īcause they go running the minute they hear a footstep - years of being hunted for pets, Harold said. So those 2 monkey spottings were outta this world incredible, but then we get to the 1000m where the trees break and we are next to the rocky ascent to the crater and we look out and it was so great. No clouds and we could see as far as Costa Rica, the Pacific, Leon, Grenada, tons of volcanoes, all the farms on Ometepe (exporter of plantains). Right next to us was the lava track that our own volcano made years ago and it was still smouldering ash and fumes from the eruptions the past 2 days. Better yet was that Harold was so much fun to talk to and also our friend Jean did it too - we met him in Leon at the cockfight and we spent a week just travelling with him checking out some cool things
The next day we had big plans to rent a motorcycle and tour Ometepe, but instead it just rained all day. So we played a little Scrabble, talked with friends about San Juan del Sur and got so excited that we peeled out the next day. And so glad we did, San Juan kicks awesome!! This place has the most amazing beaches seen to date on this trip. So clean, the beaches are long and untouched, amazing beach breaks, and sooooo tranquilo. We signed up right away for a surf lesson and we ended up with a pro-surfer who teaches privately in the off-season. He was great and 3 hours just one-on-two helped us a ton. We were so hooked on the feeling that we went to the main beach, Maderas, the next day to quickly have our asses handed to us. As was the case the next day, and will likely happen again tomorrow...But it was still so fun and by the end of the day we had caught a bunch of small ones and had an amazing time.
The night after our surf lesson we took off in a small group to La Flor turtle reserve. This is one of the important nesting beaches for Oliver Ridley sea turtles in the world. You can visit this nature reserve since the money generated this way helps to pay guards to prevent people from stealing their eggs for resale, a delicacy still for some down here so worth big money
. So we packed into a truck and drove an hour (25km) to this reserve. The stars were incredible and everything was pitch black and there in front of us is a fairly small female (1m diameter) digging her hole with her back flippers to lay her eggs. Everything she did looked quite hard and awkward but nonetheless it was efficient and she had her hole done in no time. Then she just aimed and starting popping out these ping-pong shaped eggs, about 150 of them, into her hole. Our guide dug a hole on the other side so we could see the eggs dropping in and even touch them, very soft. Once she was done, she starts flipping all that dirt back over the eggs and then she rocks her heavy shell around the nest to pack down the soil as well as patting it with her flippers. We followed her all the way back out to sea as well, about 100m, and she was gone.
So, we kept on walking and before we knew it there was dozens of mini tortugas beneath our feet all heading out to sea. They were about 1-1/2Ļ small, so tiny and adorable and just intent on getting somewhere, though they seemed really confused. They would walk up over my shoes, trip on my jeans, fall into a footprint or divot. We followed the trail back to the nest and there we actually saw these little turtles hatching from their eggs, digging out a little hole and climbing all the way up through the soil to get to the beach. Such an incredible feat in itself, then they need to head the right direction for 100m, avoid all the crabs waiting for them, pass the fish then waiting for them, and start their life alone without a mother. So, the success rate is only about 2% (3 turtles from 150 eggs) which is why when these eggs are stolen for sale it hurts their population so much - they are now endangered. Our guide has been doing this for 25 years and not once has he seen these babies crawling out from their hole. It was pretty amazing to see not only their birth but their hatching and very first steps in life.
San Juan itself is an incredible place. Such an open environment, locals and foreigners together, soooo clean and tranquilo, and I also have found a new boyfriend. He is 20 years old, named Antonio and he thinks I look like a mermaid. Therefore, I have a mini-crush back on him. Love it here!! hahah
Lots of Love Niko y Sarita
Grenada was pretty cool, a really beautiful colonial-style town with a huge open parque central where kids were always playing soccer, people were selling bracelets, but mostly people were mastering the trademark-Nicaraguan state of tranquilo...