Day two of our Central American adventure found us having breakfast with our tour guide before packing our travel bag and registering at another hotel for the next night. Nicos and Ticos fight over who invented the traditional breakfast of gallo pinto (rice and beans mixture) with either scrambled or fried eggs, fruit and tortillas. Unfortunately the hotel we were in had mixed up our reservation and was booked for the night. The Hotel Granada is across the square from the old Granada Cathedral and has all the charm of Spanish colonial architecture. The good thing about moving hotels gave us the opportunity to see one of the oldest hotels in the city.
Once checked in, we headed straight towards the waterfront for a boat ride through Islets of Granada or the islands of Lake Nicaragua. Thousands of years ago the Mombacho volcano erupted and created over 300 small islands in the Lake.
Being the only passengers on a eight person boat allowed us to converse directly with the boat captain as we cruised between islands with their towering mansions. This one belongs to the owner of a rum company, that one belongs to rich Americans who visit once a year etc.
After a while we came to a small island inhabited only by monkeys. Some research venture where the animals were saved and then released on the island, we were told. Chico had brought some cheetos and we handed them out to the little guys who were quite happy as well as the fish that swarmed around when we dropped them in the water. But be careful, we were told, this is the only freshwater lake with sharks – we were careful and kept our hands in the boat from then on.
Magical things can happen in Central America and this was confirmed on the way back to the marina. The captain backed the boat up under a tree overhanging the lake and snapped off a large bean type object and told Rosie to hold the bottom part. He then pulled on the top and presto, a beautiful flower appeared in her hand – unbelievable.
Then, flower still in hand it was back to the car and off on the newly paved two lane highway to Managua on lake Managua, capital of Nicaragua and home to President Daniel Ortega of the socialist Sandinista National Liberation Front or (Frente Sandinista de Liberación Nacional, – FSLN).
This is like many larger cities with their Hilton hotel, McDonalds’s and Burger King restaurants. The city still has some of the Spanish culture we loved in Granada but is transitioning to a more North American type city. We visited the Metropolitan Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception which was completed in 1993 to replace the old cathedral that was destroyed during an earthquake in 1972. The new cathedral has created much controversy, particularly about its architectural style and finance. Locals refer to it as La Chichona on account of the plethora of cupolas adorning it like so many “chiches” (Spanish: slang for breasts).
And then we headed down to the waterfront of Lake Managua (also known as Lake Xolotlán) for lunch. The lake which was badly polluted by raw sewage being dumped there and created horrible smells has recently been cleaned up by the current government to attract tourists. A stone rip-rap and concrete wharf was constructed and a sight seeing boat called “La Novia de Xolotlán” makes hour-long lake tours when there are sufficient tourists.
Another great lunch, washed down with a Toña, a local beer, ended with Chico requesting a Spanish guitar player serenading us as we rested.
Before heading off to the volcano we went to the top of Managua to see the Managua lagoon which was created many years ago and today offers zip lining which criss crosses the lagoon. John and Chico said I should go and they would meet me at the bottom but I passed.
After, we visited a few more sites and found the residents very friendly.
Then made our way up the rugged terrain to Masaya, a local active volcano. After a very interesting visit to the volcano exhibit, we headed straight up to the top to look into the mouth of hell.
The volcano is still active and emits sulphuric gases which are highly toxic and tourists may be prevented from going to the top if the wind is blowing in the wrong direction.
A cross was erected on the top of the mountain in the early 1500’s to exorcise the devil and protect the villagers below. There were a couple of local guys who would take us to the top of the mountain on horseback for only $5 US each.
By this time the day was dwindling and it was time to head back to Grenada and freshen up at the hotel before heading out to dinner – more food! We didn’t have far to walk as the hotel is situated very close to some of the best street restaurants in town. The restaurants are housed in the buildings but everyone spills out into street to eat under the stars. The streets are closed to traffic and the party begins.
We selected a mixed grill of beef, pork and grilled chicken which we shared and ordered a bottle of wine – to help with digestion of course. Sipping wine, we hired another guitar player to entertain us as we looked back on our day and considered just how lucky we really are.
Just then, the crowd parted, the music started and five young men began to break dance in the street beside us; it was unbelievable. Soon after, Michael Jackson’s Thriller began to blast the street and they danced in unison. It was so entertaining, Rosie chased them down the street to get their facebook info. Again, it was quite the night under the stars in old Granada. Check out his video on Youtube. http://youtu.be/TUMefgMEdug