17.04.2016 - 21.04.2016 36 °C
Sunday 17th April - Granada
Today we left El Salvador and made our way across to Nicaragua, country No. 6.
We had a very early start, leaving the hotel at 5am we drove down to La Union,
a small coastal town where we boarded a small fishing boat.
The quickest way to get over the border as for us was to sail across the Gulf of Fonseca directly to Potosi in Nicaragua.
However then came the fun - it really was a small boat, open topped, with just 2 guys manning it.
We moored off around 6.30 for the 2.5hr crossing.
It was like a scene from a news report of refugees crossing into another country !
All we had were some wooden homemade seats to sit on, thankfully wearing life jackets,
as halfway across, the sea turned rough, with water spraying overboard, the captain started handing out ponchos,
anyhow sunburnt and wet we arrived on the Nicaraguan shore, literally,
as there was no jetty, the boat just stopped short of the beach, so off with our shoes,
wading onto the beach we arrived on Nicaraguan soil.
Then out of nowhere a customs guy appeared and started checking some of our bags at random,
soon after we paid our $12 entry fee, cleared immigration and we were in.
Then for the last leg, a 5hr bus journey across the country, passing through the capital Managua and eventually arriving in Granada.
Granada, is very much like Antigua in El Salvador, a typical Spanish style colonial town dating back to 1524 and named after Theo Spanish founders hometown back in Spain.
After checking in, we went to stretch the legs with an orientation walk around the town.
We weren't feeling to hungry after travelling for the most of the day, so we had some Burritos and Tortas in local cafe near the hotel.
Monday 18th April - Granada
We had a free day in Granada, so during our walk about yesterday we arranged a volcano hike & Boat tour with a local tour company.
They picked us up at 8am and took us to the nearby Mombacho Volcano, the main volcano that overlooks Granada.
(there are 28 Volcanos in Nicaragua). Once at the entrance lodge,
we jumped into a very large amphibious truck that drove us up the side of the volcano to crater rim at 1,150m (3,700ft).
We then went on an easy circular hike around the crater rim with
our guide, spotting various plants and wildlife,
although the volcano was technically no longer active we went to a warm Fumarole just off the rim and
viewed plums of smoke arising from it, it was quiet a nice walk, cool and refreshing given the altitude and
that down in Granada it was fast approaching 36c ! after lunch in the shade, we went down to Lake Nicaragua,
The largest inland lake in Central America, (it's 160km long by 60km wide, but only 60m deep and
you can apparently fit the whole of Costa Rica into it).
It also empties it's fresh water into the Caribbean Sea and has Bull Sharks living in the lake,
albeit ones that have swum up stream from the coast.
We cruised out to a very small Island with just one small toy castle on it, built by the Spanish back in the 1500's,
It was to protect Granada from invading pirates. Then on to Monkey Island,
again an even smaller island with a group of Spider and White-faced monkeys living on it.
The island was only about 10m in diameter and protected as a reserve.
Lastly we ended up on yet another small island with just one hotel on it, having a drink,
swinging in their hammocks and watching the sun starting to set.
We returned back to land around 6pm just after sunset and went out for great Seafood Paella and
tried the local, most popular Nicaraguan Beer (well Lager) which is Tona, a 4.6% Pilsner, cold n refreshing like all the rest.
It was happy hour again, well here they have the HH from 6-8pm and some bars 11-11pm !
Anyhow a few cocktails later we retired back to our hotel.
Tuesday 19th April - Granada / Ometepe Island
We had a local breakfast before heading out for a walking city tour of Granada.
Steeped in history, mainly Spanish colonial that is, it full of streets with multicoloured houses,
The end of which usually has a grand church towering above them.
We visited the Central Park with the main Cathedral and Plaza, Merced Church,
the old Hospital and various other sites around the city, however the temperature was reaching 37c (98F),
so we had to retire to a local bar for some fruit smoothies before heading out again,
but this time dodging in and out of shadows due to the intense heat.
We good some good shots of the town, but the "postcard" shot was taken from one of the church towers and it was closed in the afternoon.
Not to be put off, determined to get "the shot", I noticed the best hotel in town was located on the central plaza and had an upper balcony overlooking the cathedral, so I went in, up the stairs to find the cleaners cleaning the suites at the front,
so I just went into the room, smiling at the cleaner (who thought it was our room) and went out onto the balcony and
took a few shots (result !).
At 3pm we left Granada to drive to the ferry port of San Jorge and boarded the ferry for the 1 hour crossing to Ometepe Island
where we would be spending the next couple of days.
Ometepe Island ("two Volcanos"), is an "hourglass" shaped island in two parts, each having it's own volcano;
One called Maderas (1,394m) and the larger one Concepcion (1,610m).
We docked at 6pm and transferred to our hotel.
As we were approaching the island, we watched the sun set over Granada and then the volcano on Ometepe erupting ! (?)
well we saw what seemed to everyone on board the ferry, to be lava flowing down the side of the volcano !
As we got closer to land the brightness increased, as did everyone's excitement,
However, after we had landed and got onto our transfer bus,
the bus driver calmed quipped that it was farmers burning off the scrub on the mountain side,
which due to high winds had got out of control !
Back to reality, we drove down a bumpy, dusty road in the middle of nowhere to this little hotel, which on approach looked very dodgy,
but we then checked in and an old security guard took us via torchlight to a detached little house, about 10m from the sea !
We had a quick turnaround and went to the restaurant where the local specialty was Pescado la Plancha (grilled local fish).
After another fish meal and a briefing from a local guide.
We went for a walk to the sea front and listened to sea crashing against the shore and just outside our "house"
Wednesday 20th April - Ometepe Island
After last nights briefing, we decided to have a go at climbing one of the Island's volcanos,
Sadly though due to the "lava flow" (scrub burning getting out of control), the Concepcion Volcano was closed,
so we attempted the Maderas Volcano, still at an impressive, 1,394m (4,500ft).
We left the hotel at 6am and starting climbing just after 7am, effectively from sea level (50m).
It started off quite gently, but due to the heat, (it was now around 28c with the humidity in the 80's) it was heavy going.
Then shortly afterwards after the gradient increased dramatically and so did the sweating,
we were leaking from everywhere, the temperature now getting towards 36c (95F), however we soon reached the jungle canopy and
thankfully a cool breeze that dropped both the temperature and humidity.
Onward and upward we pressed on to the crater rim, which revealed a large lagoon in the now dormant crater,
it had taken us 3.5 hrs to the top, which apparently impressed our guide, as the normal time is 4.5 to 5hrs.
We ripped open our bagged tortillas and tinned tuna to a well earned early lunch.
The decent was again as tricky as the temperature was now around 37c (100F) and quite technical in places,
that said we made good progress and we're safely down by just gone 2pm,
(7 hrs trekking in very hot conditions), as we'd finished early "Gelato time" beckoned and
on the way back we stopped off for a well earned ice cream, then a desperately needed cold shower,
followed by a relaxing early evening in our bar having a cooler or two or three.....
We ended our stay on the island, sat on our balcony watching the sea in the dark evening breeze quaffing the local
"Ron de Cana" the most popular Nicaraguan Rum.
The evenings entertainment was provided by the hotel security guard, a very old guy that walked around the hotel grounds every night.
Among the array of artillery that he carried was a homemade catapult, when I asked him about it,
he took get pleasure in showing me his skills, loading it and firing at the wild dogs on the beach outside our room,
(he was a pretty good shot too).