Grotty Granada

Trip Start Nov 15, 2009
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of Nicaragua  ,
Tuesday, July 20, 2010

I made my way by bus to Liberia for a connecting bus to the border.  It's another walk across border (the worst) but hey, another couple of gringo's sat next to me on the bus and as we got talking they just so happened to be heading to the same place in Nicaragua, so I didn't have to cross the border solo.  Good job really as it was almost as bad if not worse than the non-direct Peru-Ecuador border crossing.  No signs, people shouting at you to change money, taxi's, buy something / aaarggghhhhhh!!!!!  You haven't even had your passport stamped and they descend on you like vultures!  Not a safe border crossing to do by yourself I'd say.  Plus on the costarican side, the immigration stamp hadn't printed properly in my passport so on the Nicaraguan side they didn't want to let me through but with my great Spanish I argued that I wasn't going to walk back over and that he should just stamp the bloody page and let me in!  Woman power!!!  Don't mess with me ... I am now a backpacking veteran! Ha!

Anyway, we crossed the border only to find out that it was a public holiday in Nicaragua - Independence day, so no buses.  Bloody hell.  With 3 of us it wasn't so bad, $20 in a taxi to San Juan del Sur (30 mins drive).  Got there and yeah it's a beach town but nothing to write home about if you're not a surfer.  Needless to say I moved on the next day.

Chicken bus it was to Rivas for a connecting bus to Granada.  Why "chicken bus" you ask? - it's a a colloquial English name for a colorful modified and decorated US school bus that transports goods and people between communities.  You enter the buses through a door at the back and your backpack goes on the roof.  Sweaty, cramped and lively with locals - it's an experience!

Arrived in Granada - first impressions were, what a grotty city ... reminds me of Bolivia in terms of poverty and dirtiness, in fact the whole of Nicaragua does so far (Panama, comparable to Brazil / Costa Rica to Colombia / Nicaragua to Bolivia).  Walked around the main sites of Granada - cathedral, main square, market etc.  The following day took a tour (1/2 day tour) ...

Nobody else had signed up for the tour so it was yet again a private tour all for little old me! Nice!  My guide (who shall remain nameless as his job depends on it) told me about 10 minutes into the ride that it was his first day on the job.  Ever so eager to please he was, bless him.  I'm an easy customer to please so he never had any worries. 
First stop was the still active Masaya volcano where we drove up to the rim of the crater and saw all the gases pouring out.  Apparently in the Mayan times every time the volcano erupted, they would sacrifice a virgin child to try and calm the volcano down!  I got stung countless times by these bugs that look like large ladybirds but yellow with no spots, but sting like wasps and come from the wasp family I think - "Avispa".  Next stop was the small foklore village of Catarina, which has a viewpoint over the Apoyo lake and Granada in the background.  Then it was onto San Juan Del Oriente, another small folklore village where they make ceramics and other handicrafts.  Both Catarina and San Juan Del Oriente are known as "Pueblos Blancos" because during the first week of April they paint themselves white, they make their houses white using chalk, they are not allowed to eat white meat (chicken & turkey), and they are not allowed to kill animals.  It is know as Semana Santa / the pure and sacred week.
Last stop of the tour was the ton of Masaya to visit a hammock workshop and the huge handicrafts market.  Unfortunately, my card didn't work in the ATM (and I tried a few different ones) - Brazil all over again - so I didn't have enough money to buy anything (I suppose it saved me from buying tat but still a souvenir would have been nice).

The mosquitos here are driving me insane.  The bites are so itchy that they even wake you up at night.  Oh and they bite during the day - those are the ones that are carrying the dreaded dengue disease.  Apparently there is currently a bad outbreak of the disease on the coast of Costa Rica somewhere.

With Granada done and dusted, I'm flying to the Corn Islands in the Caribbean coast of Nicaragua for some relaxation and diving and I even might have got lucky and sorted out a lift to Managua as opposed to getting on another chicken bus!!!
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