The one with the virgin, pool game and turtle eggs

Trip Start Nov 03, 2012
Trip End Jun 06, 2013

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Where I stayed
Amigos Hostel

Flag of Nicaragua  ,
Friday, December 7, 2012

On Wednesday 5th December we left the island of
Utila after a morning of diving and some lunch at a local restaurant. We
decided to leave that day after we got back from the dive so we packed pretty
quickly (we’re getting faster and faster at this!) and got the 2pm Utila
Princess boat back to the mainland. From here we didn’t really have much
information to get to the capital of Tegucigalpa but with the help of a fellow
Cross Creek diver from Barcelona, we got ourselves a taxi to the bus company
Cristina’s office and boarded a seven hour coach which got us in at 11pm. On
the coach we met a fellow Utila diver who was going in the same direction as us
and as he’d done this journey before to get to our end destination, we kind of
tagged along! We went to the same hotel in the city centre which was pretty
basic but the biggest plus was that they had hot water, but only between 5-8am.
That didn’t really matter as our coach the next day was at 9.30am so we needed
to be up anyway. After so many cold showers at Cross Creek it was amazing and I
could actually was my hair properly. Lucky for me I went first as Raaj didn’t
get any hot water!

The next long journey was from Tegucigalpa to the capital of
Nicaragua, Managua. This city is described in our Rough Guides book as a really
unfriendly city where there really isn’t much going on so post our 8 hour
journey on which we were lucky enough to see a really cool film – Taken – we
got a taxi to yet another bus station (this time a more local chicken bus)
which would take us to the town of Granada about an hour away. At this point we
were still grateful to be accompanied by our Dutch mate as he has done all of
this before and knew his way around. We reached Granada in the evening and made our way to a
road with two potential accommodations. Raaj being a gentleman let me choose
and I went for Hostel Amigos – it was a colonial building with really good
sized room, a fancy headboard and wall art along with a private bathroom (cold
water once more!).

Having not had a proper meal for a day and a half, we were
pretty hungry hippos and we’d found out about somewhere with live music so we
headed there. It happened to be a place called Imagine with lots of Beatles
photos, particularly John Lennon. They had a photo of the band crossing Abbey
Road which reminded me of St John’s Wood and when Natie & I visited the
studios a few years ago. The live music was great, a mix between reggae and
Spanish with three men in the band playing the guitar, maracas and other
percussion instruments. We quickly found the drinks menu and got some drinks.
It has become customary for us both to have a drink on our first night in each
new country and so on this first night in beautiful scenic Nicaragua, I went
for a Mango Madness Martini and Raaj had some 4 year rum with coke – his
regular tipple of late. We had a good chat with Jeremy who works there - he is
from California originally and settled in Granada with his family a few years
ago. While we chatted we were served our starter which was a yummy place of
Brie with roasted garic and little slices of toasted bread. We polished that
off pretty quickly and although the place was definitely not cheap, we treated
ourselves to a main each over another drink. We were so full of energy when we
walked in and we were enjoying the music so much but when it stopped and we sat
for main, the two of us just couldn’t keep our eyes open so we ate and quickly
went back to Amigos. This is where I should mention the festival; on our way to
Imagine, we walked through the parque central (central park) and pretty much
the whole town was heading back. I asked what was going on and the policewoman
told me that it was the day of the virgin – Dia de Inmaculada – when they
celebrate the virgin Mary. I’ve heard of this day before as they celebrate it
in Spain and my friend Inma is named after this day too but I didn’t realise
they celebrated here. It was a really cool thing to see and more of this to
come later as we saw some more really cool celebrations.

The next day when we woke up, we were knackered from the
travelling so after breakfast it was a day chilling out and getting some admin
bits done along with making a couple of calls. I was really happy to Skype my
friend Eranthi who has just got engaged (congrats!!) and the little ones back
home J After
lots of chilling out we decided to go to the nearby town of Masaya were they
have a very well known handicrafts market that we were recommended to go to by
a couple we met in Hopkins. I was so excited as I love markets and was hoping
to see the hammock of our dreams. We got there on a very squashed public bus
and walked and walked to get to the market. We finally got there, stick of
bread for lunch in hand and were unpleasantly surprised to learn the market was
closing in the next half and our or so because of the festival. We had a good
mooch around though and I really loved the paintings they had but we controlled
ourselves and got little paintings and Raaj bought some cigars. It was a shame
many of the stalls had already closed and when they were pretty much all
closed, we decided to leave but were told me had to walk to the highway to get
a bus back. We walked in the evening heat for about thirty minutes before
getting there and pretty swiftly catching an express back to Granada. We have
noticed a few things about Nicaragua: firstly - the scenery is incredible and
we noticed this as soon as we crossed the border, secondly – all the women look
the same as they have the same eyes and nose, thirdly – this country does NOT
agree with our stomachs, lastly – it is HOT here....during the day it was over
30 degrees, I swear (and I’m not complaining as soon we will be in the freezing
cold too).

Post-market, we had some ice-cream and continued with some
admin before heading out to Calle de Calzada where we were told is the hub of
the town with lots of bars and restaurants. There were so many people out,
practically what felt like the whole town, and some live music on the fringes
of the park. It was a great atmosphere and you can tell the locals were really
enjoying themselves. We got to a pizzeria which we both fancied and had some
great olives and veggie pizza between while playing some rummy and enjoying the
atmosphere. Babies, adults, teenagers, oldies – everyone was out and we loved
seeing them, especially when the float of the virgin came along.

The next day we decided to head to Isla de Ometepe, an
island with two volcanoes on it. Before the journey though we had a lovely
Skype date with mum and dad, filling them in on everything and hearing about
their Christmas party! Christmas still feels like ages away apart from the few
decorations/trees here and there. We got to the bus station and as we should
have expected, our bus to Rivas wasn’t running because of the holiday so we had
to go to Nandaime and then head to Rivas from there. At the bus stop we met
Canadian Brad who was heading in our direction so lucky Raaj had some much
needed company or the trip lol. We got to Nandaime and with the help of a
lovely local lady, we got on the right bus to Rivas. However, Raaj’s strong
need to watch the derby match the next day (and the fact that we had missed the
last ferry to Ometepe) meant that we ended up going to San Juan where Brad was going.
In the end we all managed to get a seat and some yummy popcorn from our stop in
Rivas and got to San Juan just after sunset. While Raaj had a beer (and
enquired about where he could see the match the next day at 7.30am!) I found
some accommodation and that was the start of what would be an awesome night. I
really think it was fate that we ended up there. Again, there were celebrations
in San Juan so after freshening up, we took to the streets and enjoyed the
atmosphere though for a while it was bizarre as the teenage boys seemed to
think it was hilarious to run around with fireworks and chase other kids –
seemed like some traditional game or something. Dinner that night was a wrap
and then tacos from a stand before heading off to the Black Whale bar for
another night of incredible live music and what I can only describe my most
memorable nights of playing pool ( perhaps apart from when I beat Alpesh and
won 100 in a bet) So, it started with me beating Raaj 3-0 over quite a few rum
& cokes when then some locals decide they want to play doubles with us.
First thing Raaj does is whip some money out to make a bet but they refuse him
lol and we play a friendly. We won!!! We were about to walk away but their
friends wanted to play winner stays on so again, Raaj whips some money out and
they’re not so keen. The dude we played previously had shown me some earrings
earlier that he was selling so I thought it’d make this night even better if we
could walk away with a reminder of the night and they agree so we played.....AND
WON!!! Having potted the black in both games and won a pair of earrings, I was
fairly chuffed and we had a shot with earring-man to celebrate and then we
danced for a good half an hour before heading off to Crazy Crab, a club nearby.
We had to pay to get in and it was pretty empty so we had a bite to eat there
and headed to Iguanas with some English girls we had met earlier. We had a
boogie and then headed for a walk on the beach before deciding to end the night
and walk home – Raaj had a very early start.

Around 10am, Raaj walked in a very happy chappy as we’d won
in the 93rd minute. I was really chuffed for him but as I’ve
mentioned the food here doesn’t really agree with us and I was feeling pretty
dehydrated from the night before so we were stuck in a hot stuffy room for a
while before I managed to go out and get food and book us on a turtle tour for
that night. I couldn’t wait, it’s always been a dream to see turtles but before
that, we decided to relax on the nearby beach. We caught some rays, rested,
read and then got some food while watching the stunning sunset in the bay. We
went back and got ready for some turtle-time. We got on what I can only
describe as a wagon type vehicle and in the back there were two back-to-back
benches so that we were facing sideways where the windows would have been (it
was completely open apart from a couple of rails) and able to glance into
people’s houses. Another observation about Nicaraguan people is that they often
keep their front doors open and more likely than not there will be a
middle-aged man or woman sitting in a rocking chair watching television.

An hour later in another new exciting mode of transportation
and we had reached La Flor National Reserve. We weren’t able to use regular
torches but were given little red lights instead to guide the way to the beach
and to use to see the turtles. The walk to the beach was pretty spooky and as
soon as we got there we started to huddle around the first turtle we saw. I
literally couldn’t believe my eyes and then when we looked further down the
beach, it was just incredible. There were hundreds of female turtles going
about laying their eggs and so many turtles coming and going from the beach. We
were led further into the beach and had to zig-zag our way across so that we
didn’t get in the turtles’ way. They were pretty quick despite the stereotypes
about their speed. We saw turtles making holes for nests and it’s so
interesting how they use their rear fins to scoop out sand, one fin at a time.
The group leader found an egg that was laying eggs so we all gathered round and
watched. Being small I naturally made my way to the front and bent down to see
this female turtle depositing her eggs into this self-made hole. The sad fact
is though that each female lays 100 eggs but only 1 out of 1,000 eggs mature to
become an adult turtle which is part of the reason they are endangered. Eggs
get poached, turtles accidentally destroy the nests of other, hatchlings die on
their way to see or get eaten by predators and ones that make it to see can be
food for sharks and whales. Those that do become adults can live for 70-100
years though which is amazing. That night the guard there estimated the beach
had around 1,000 turtles and we had to leave at 10pm as the beach was getting
far too crowded with the number of turtles. Under a blanket of millions of
stars, this really had to be one of our best experiences so far in the trip and
perhaps of our lives and we’d definitely recommend this experience. There
happens to be seven sites in the world where this happens for this particular
species and one is in India. 

Until the next adventure, happy holidays to you all and we
will be write soon with more adventures from Central America.

Lots of love and hugs,

Priya & Raaj xxx
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