Monkey on my back

Trip Start Jul 21, 2012
Trip End Aug 09, 2012

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Flag of Nicaragua  ,
Wednesday, July 25, 2012

After a fairly poor night of hostel sleep involving noisy drunken french men, american girls who choose to leave at cock crow, lingering jet lag and an irritatingly bitey room mosquito, I woke at 8amish and did some reading and had a pleasant cool shower then voyaged off to get some breakfast.

Granada seems like a very civilised city.....nice grid-like lay out to avoid getting lost, pretty buildings that have a lot of charm (although reckon they could do with some UNESCO love) and lots of eateries.  Found a lovely place for breakfast called Garden Cafe.  It was set around a pretty garden with a fountain and a black bird of some variety flying about.  After several meals of rice and beans, it was time for a gringo breakfast so ordered a bowl of fruit with yogurt and granola and a plate of blueberry french toast.  Both portions came out rather larger than I was expecting, so greedily gobbled it all down.  Lovely fruit salad full of bananas, pineapples, papayas and the like topped off with some cinamonny granola and a good squirting of honey.  Tasty.  having had my fruit intake for the week, I went for a wander in search of a tour to do.  I found a tour agency that i had seen online, Leo's Communitarios Tours and enquired about tours for the afternoon.  I wanted to go on a volcano tour really, but was told that noone else had booked, but that a tour around the islets on Lake Nicaragua was running this afternoon, so plumped for that option.  This gave me an hour or so so trundled back to the hostel, put on some sun cream and read a bit.  

I trundled back to the tour office and was greeted by a rather handsome guide and the 5 others booked onto the tour - a newly married Israeli couple and three women travelling together but independently from Holland, France and USA.  I had purchased the tour from a lady who hadn't got a lot of english, but between her english and my pigeon spanish the acquisition had been made, but in translation I had seemingly missed a vital detail about the tour....we would be cycling from the office down to the boat :-/.  I have bad experiences of riding things - the donkey in Egypt threw me off within a minute, the camel riders dragged me up past the pyramids much to my protests, the bumpy elephant ride in Thailand....  Bad memories of bikes go even further back - the traumatic experience when Ma made me cycle behind her down a hill on my little pink bike whereupon I crashed into her and my brother in his baby seat and the last biking experience when I nearly passed out.  Hence I have a valid aversion to bikes.  I protested, offered to pay for a taxi but my lamenting was to no avail.  I sat on one bike, deemed it much too high so was offered a smaller bike. This one had no brakes so I rejected that one and instead plumped for the smallest bike on offer, a little BMX style thing that looked safest if I fell off.  I remember having this mentality as a child when I had riding opportunities - always pick the smallest, safest horse.  My camel in Australia was also the smallest of the camels on offer. Anyhoo, I wobbled off on my little bike for my first bike ride in about 20 years.  Steering was a bit of an issue, but the road was straight and the first bit of the journey was downhill to the lake.  We then had to cycle around the lake to the boat place, and this is when I relaised that choosing the smallest bike was probably not the most sensible option as my legs started to kill!  I don't have any bike muscles, so pedalling was not easy.  A lot of protesting and dashed hopes of an end point around every corner ensued until eventually we reached the end point - woop.  The guide locked the bikes up and we were shown to our boat.

We tootled off across Lago Nicaragua.  This is the second largest in latin america, bigger than Lake Titicaca (biggest is some lake in Venzuela....I think the USA great lakes are bigger than all of these).  There are hundreds of little islets dotting the peninsula.  the lake was formed by some massive volcanic eruption.  It is not particularly far above sea level.  It was important historically - I think it is linked by rivers to the Caribbean sea and is defnitely linked to the Pacific so provided access across the world.  The islets are now play ground to the wealthy.  They are owned by millionaires from around the world, americans, arabs....  which is quite sad really as the original inhabitants have bee brought out of their  ancesteral homes by the offer of money for their land.  Weaving in and out of these islands, we saw a myriad of wildfowl.... beautiful white herons, cootish things gliding on lily pads, snipish beaky birds and kingfishers.  We could see the Mombacha Volcano, with its cloud forests shrouded in mist in the distance although it was quite hazy.  

We wove in and out between the islets until we came to our first stop, an island still inhabited by a local community where the owner of the tour company had grown up.  They are adamant that they won't sell up their land and are trying to preserve their way of life.  They had a little basic house and a few animals - pigs, ducklings, dogs and their prize stud bulls.  They also had enough land to grow crops for market - mango and coconut trees, squash, maize, cucumbers... Had a little nose in their basic kitchen (much like kitchens I've seen in Thai hill tribes and on the islands of lake titicaca) and cautiously walked past the prize bulls.  The family prepared us a coconut each which I happily slurped up.  the guide cut it open and I ate some of the flesh, but was told to save some for monkey island.  Feeliing refeshed (but anxious about the return bike ride), we got back into the boat to the tune of "ice ice baby" and pootled off. 

Next stop was Monkey Island.  This is a small island inhabited by spider and capuchin monkey.  I enquired about how these monkeys came to live there......apparently a rich island owner didn't want them so collected them up and relocated them to the island they currently live on.  Anyway, they were happily swinging through the trees and generally monkeying about and seemed fairly pleased to see us.  One particular monkey has got in the habit of boarding the boat in search of coconut, She is not a biting monkey - we were warned to not touch her and just let her be, which I took note of.  She entered the boat via my lap, grabbed my uneaten half a coconut and sat in front of me munching on it :-).  She then did the rounds, scoffed up everyones coconut then hopped back into the trees.  

After the excitement of monkey island, we made a stop at a very old colonial fort - built in the 1700's. It had a cannon and a great view of the lake, the volcano and Granada in the distance,  After a few minutes appreciating the view, we boarded the boat again and returned to the mainland.  

Having realised I had made a mistake in choosing the small bike and fearing my legs wouldn't make it back if i was made to ride it up hill on the return journey, I managed to get the guide to swap bikes.  On a big bike, I wobbled off down the road without any major tragedy.  Steering again was a bit of an issue and I squeaked at every obstacle.  I rode off along the lake and back up the hill into Granada, feeling quite pleased with myself.  I am not queueing up to purchase my own bike.  Why on earth people go through that kind of torture for fun, god knows.  Hopefully I can avoid bikes for another 20 years now!  I survived the ordeal though and had had a good afternoon.

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