|A main street in Granada. Bikes and horse drawn carriages were a common site in Granada.|
March 9th-12th my friend Karen talked me into traveling with her to Nicaragua, so she could renew her visa. A tourist visa in Costa Rica is valid for 90 days. My program is 84 days, so I didn’t need to renew my visa. However, my friend is staying a week after the program to vacation with her family. So come Friday, March 9th I was up at 2:30am so we could catch a taxi downtown to the bus station by 3am. The bus, Transnica, left at 4am for Managua, the capital of Nicaragua. I tried to pass the time sleeping, but the bus was freezing! Most buses aren’t air conditioned, so I was not prepared. It was obvious that some people make this trip frequently because they had on multiple layers, hats, and blankets! Crossing the border took about an hour but went fairly smoothly. The Transnica staff collected all our passports to have them stamped while our luggage was checked which was very nice.
|Lake Nicaragua - so vast at times the other side was hidden from sight!|
Karen and I didn’t travel all the way to Managua. We decided to spend the weekend in Granada which is the second oldest city in Central America and is known for its colonial architecture. Granada is also famous because it is one of the few tourist cities located on Lake Nicaragua. Since we left so early, we arrived in Granada around 12:30pm. After checking into our hostel, we rested for a while before we went out to explore Granada. We walked all the way to Lake Nicaragua. Lake Nicaragua is huge! You can barely see the mountains on the other side. We hired a boat for $12 for one hour to take us around the islets, very small islands. There are over 100 islets in the Lake. Some of the islets are completely wild while others are privately owned. Many of the islands are owned by Americans. There was also a restaurant, hotel, cemetery, and old Spanish fort constructed on islets. Karen and I were only out there for one hour, and I wish we had decided to pay for the two hour tour because there was so much to see!
|The fort built by the Spaniards to protect Granada. Much smaller than we imagined.|
While planning our trip to Granada, I learned that the pastor who baptized me now lives outside of Granada. We spent the night at his ranch which is very beautiful. Then Saturday he drove us on a tour of the Volcano Masaya. The volcano was very interesting and very different from Volcano Arenal. The volcano is still active with smoke, gas, and lava. The landscape around the Volcano was interesting because the ground was black with ash and the ground looked like it had been turned over with a large tiller. We visited the museum as well, and I learned that there are parrots that live in the crater which amazed me because the smell of sulfur is very strong. I’m surprised the birds can live there! There is a cross above the crater which was placed there by a missionary priest who believed that the volcano was an opening to hell.
|The rim of the Volcano with the cross in the left hand corner. What looks like black dirt in the bottom half is actually soot.|
|The caldera of Volcano Masaya|
After the volcano we went to the town Masaya. I really recommend visiting Masaya as well because the town is a little less touristy and gives a better feel of Nicaragua. Masaya also has a great artesian market. Granada has a very small market. Masaya is the place to go for crafts or if you want a hammock. We ate lunch in Masaya. We had a typical Nicaraguan meal which is slightly different from Costa Rican food. The food was more like barbeque but with local spices. Then we traveled to Catrina. Catrina is a lake that is a result of a volcano that exploded and then collapsed in on itself and created a lake. It is very beautiful.
|Catrina is a very large, beautiful lake in the old caldera of a old volcano.|
Sunday we visited the cathedrals and museums in Granada. My favorite museum was the chocolate museum which explained how chocolate was made. I also really liked the San Francisco Cathedral and Museum. The San Francisco Cathedral was attacked by William Walker as well. For those who haven’t read my previous blogs please check out the blog entry Santa Rosa for a more complete history of William Walker. We spent most of the afternoon sitting in the main square or looking at the different vendors. Another major difference between Nicaragua and Costa Rica are the number of children running around asking for money or trying to sell little figures made from thin, long strips of leaves. They kids were very cute but we didn’t buy anything from them. One of the young kids tried hitting on us by saying things like your really pretty and I love you both in Spanish and in English. These phrases were cute to hire from a little kid but are very tiring when shouted at you from many of the teenagers and older men. We were told during orientation that the whistles and other cat-calls are a type of compliment and that we should just ignore them. However, it does become tiring. Some of my teachers insist that we (women) will miss the cat calls when we return to the states, but I doubt it. At first I found the cat calls a bit flattering, but now I mostly find them annoying, or I just ignore them entirely.
|View from the tower of one of the Cathedrals and looking toward the main cathedral downtown. The haze in the background is Lake Nicaragua.|
We left very early Monday morning. This time the bus ride back was very warm. Crossing the border took about an hour. It was a bit more annoying because it began to rain as the custom officers began to check our luggage. We arrived in San Jose about an hour before our afternoon class at 3pm. I convinced Karen to take a taxi after I told her I would pay. I was just way too hot to walk to the bus stop and then walk home. Plus I was very tired. Overall, I had a great weekend and am very glad I ventured to Nicaragua.
|Cathedral San Francisco. It was originally blue, but the paint has faded over time.|