Archive for July, 2010

Ferry Fun

Posted on July 30, 2010 by 2 Comments

We stopped by San Jorge to check out the ferry schedule to Ometepe and as luck would have it there was a ferry leaving in 20 minutes. Another boat ride!

  

 

This one was pretty easy. For about $20 USD, we could ship the bus and all four of us over to the island. Since we were still a little paranoid after the break-in, we found a perch right above the bus and took a seat where we could see it.

Every single person on the ferry went by the bus and took a gander. Some folks pressed their noses against the glass, some folks used the mirrors to check their hair, some were just drawnd to lean against it. I’m pretty sure that every single person on the ferry put their hands on the car at some point. I never knew how much attention it got when we weren’t around and this was a bit of an eye-opener.

 

 

Ometepe is an island in the middle of Lake Nicaragua formed by two volcanoes. We hadn’t planned on ferrying over that day so we were a little out of sorts when we arrived. We found a place next to the water with a good view of the biggest volcano.

We swam in the warm lake and then whipped up some dinner. Doug was introduced to the wonders of Cavender’s Greek seasoning and we enjoyed a peaceful evening next to some mooing cows.  

  

I spent some time with my new friend that I named Elsie (pictured) and tried some long exposures using my thoroughly emptied wine glass as a tripod. All in a day’s work.

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Total Bummer

Posted on July 29, 2010 by 8 Comments

We stopped back by Granada for the day so we could grab some lunch and show Doug around. When we stayed here last time, the hostel said we could safely park on the street in front of the door. that time, we opted to pay $5 a day to park at the fire station. This trip we parked in front of the hostel and started wandering the town.

We had lunch, climbed the church tower and meandered our way to the lake. It was hot and closing in on late afternoon so we decided to get going.

What we didn’t realize was that while we were goofing off and taking pictures around town, someone was busy trying to rob us.

I often have an uneasy feeling about the van when we park it full of all our stuff… and I did this afternoon too. As we were walking back towards the bus, I hurried Bode along because I was anxious to see it. When we turned down the street where it was parked, I remember scanning the roof and seeing the camping chairs there and thinking it was okay.

But, when we got to the van we immediately saw that someone had used a screwdriver to break open the side windows and reached in to try to open the door. They mangled the window frame on both sides and broke off the hinges on the lower window and the screen frame. They obviously reached in and tried to open the door from the inside. Fortunately for us, they didn’t get very far (you can’t unlock the door from the inside.)

Anyway, total bummer. It was bound to happen sooner or later, as everyone we meet here has some sort of story about getting robbed. I guess we’ve been lucky to go 11 months without any problems. Meanwhile, 3 of my friends back in the U.S. have had their car broken into recently.

For hours afterward, we had the normal “what if?”discussions and we thought about how bad it could have been. We don’t have many valuables, but nearly everything we own is inside the van (and now Doug’s stuff too.)

The good news is that they didn’t get inside the bus. They must have gotten spooked and run off before getting much farther – the bus is not very hard to break into. Later, we discovered that they took the canopy from the roof.

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Filed Under: Nicaragua

Doug Arrives, Bode Roars

Posted on July 28, 2010 by 10 Comments

We headed to Managua to pick up our friend Doug at the airport. He’ll be kicking it with us for a few weeks. He had an interesting flight (we’ll tell you about it soon) so we took him straight up to Volcan Maysaya once he landed. The beauty of this volcano is that you can drive right up to what they call ‘the mouth of hell’. Pretty cool stuff for a 5 year old and someone who just got off the plane.

You are encouraged to park your vehicle facing the exit… just in case.

The view was incredible, but the bugs were weird and out in full force. They didn’t seem to mind the sulfuric fumes.

We had planned to take Doug back to Granada for a few days, but decided instead to take him to Lago Apoya for some instant relaxation. We got in late, got our same room and headed straight out to the water to cool off.

Since summer began we seem to be on the backpacker’s circuit. We run into the same folks a lot. It’s good, seeing familiar faces and “catching up.” However, it has been a little disconcerting since we discovered they are generally closer to Bode’s age than ours.

Bode is now kayaking by himself and doing a really good job at it. And luckily for Doug, who he’d been pestering to play with him the entire day, he also continues to make friends with just about anyone who will talk to him. This time around he befriended a large group of traveler’s on the floating dock in the lake. He convinced everyone to jump into the water with him, investigate the slimy algae on the ladder and throw him in.

Later, we were floating in inner tubes and he was headed toward a group of young woman. I asked where he was going and he replied, “To the ladies” and then roared like a tiger. Hmm.

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Granada

Posted on July 27, 2010 by No Comments

Granada was fine – another colorful colonial town. A town square, a few nice churches, backpackers’ coffee shops, etc. Now that we’ve seen so many of these, we’re a little pickier than we should be and prefer options in Mexico and Guatemala.

It didn’t help that the hostel we were in tried to charge us an extra $10 a day when we checked out. After some back and forth, they returned $20 US back to me. The hotels here quote you in US dollars, add a few extra things to your running tab and then bill you in cordobas with a pretty bad exchange rate. Watch the math.

Every day there is a downpour which leaves the town muddier, but doesn’t provide any relief from the mugginess. Every day, in every Nicaraguan town we’ve been in, the electricity goes off for part of the day or night. The water goes off too. It usually isn’t a problem (though nights can be rough without the fan). Last night we were at a pizza joint where the lights went on and off 3 times before they went off for good following a chorus of ‘ohhhh’ from the patrons. A few minutes later the generator comes on, with it the lights and music and the new chorus of ‘ahhh’. 15 minutes after that, the entire restaurant was packed as it was the only light on the street.

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Hair Today, Gone Mañana

Posted on July 26, 2010 by 6 Comments

We made it to Granada and it was a dreary day. Bode had been eager to learn chess, so it was time to play. It took me a while to remember all the rules (and what to call the Rook) but eventually I was able to explain it. He picked it up immediately. I was really impressed. Actually, I am really impressed. Look out Kaspárov.

Then the rains came and the electricity went out. We decided to walk around town and look for something to do. The slot-machine houses all have generators, so people are inside gambling without interruption. Everywhere else in town was dark. But, you don’t need electricity for a haircut.

Onward to the 007 Barberia. Old school Nica.

I was first. For 100 Cordobas (less than $5 US) you can get an honest cut and shave – a close one. I’ve never had my hair cut so fast – it was like Edward Scissorhands. Hair was literally flying. The shave took a good long time, though. It was actually enjoyable. I’ll do this again.

Bode was actually eager to go next. He did great – and even got some straight razor action himself… AND aftershave! We should have done this a long time ago… we feel better already.

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Apoyo

Posted on July 25, 2010 by No Comments

We were a bit of a wreck after our night in the hut, so we thought we would throw our stuff into the car and just move down the beach to a more comfortable spot. We looked, and well, we couldn’t really find one. Not thinking we were going farther than the end of the street, we ended up setting out on a 4 hour drive to Lago Apoyo.

Once we got past Leon, the road sucked. We came up on kids (4 sets of them, actually) holding a rope across the road trying to stop us for money. I didn’t stop. They dropped the rope.

It’s hard to believe that this is the main artery connecting Leon and the capital of Managua. It’s absolutely terrible. If the 5 year old kids trying to extract a toll are the maintenance crew, then that explains it.

Eventually, the road improved and we found our cut-off that would allow us to avoid Managua all together.

We stopped for gas and met a guy who said he’s driven from California to Nicaragua 10 times. The first time was in 1955. His advice was to only drive on major highways. Hmmmm…

We went south and found our next cut-off through the mountains towards Volcan Masaya.  Definitely not a major highway, but a really pleasant country road across a mountain ridge. We can see Masaya smoking in the distance and we’re all alone in the mountains again. Things are looking up.

A few hours later, and after much getting lost (Angela actually walked into someone’s house and asked if it was The Monkey Hut,) we finally found our place on the lake.  We also decided that if anyone ever walks into our house in the future and asks for The Monkey Hut, we’ll say that they found it. They can stay as long as they like.

We like it here. The lake temperature is perfect. The rain doesn’t matter at all. Bode is kayaking like a champ, playing with cats and dogs, and chasing butterflies. Scrabble, Candy Land, cards – all the usual lakeside games. It feels pretty darn good.

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Kings of León

Posted on July 24, 2010 by No Comments

We’ve really been putting some hours on the bus lately. It’s good. The scenery is beautiful and the weather has actually been fairly cool. Overcast is good for a driving day in the tropics.

As we get closer to León, the clouds open up and it starts dumping. We generally avoid driving in any unfavorable conditions, but we really didn’t have anywhere else to go but to León. We went even slower than normal.

Guess what? It’s another nice Spanish colonial city.

Wet and moldy churches. Town square.  Bustling mercado. Blah blah blah.

We’ve decided we are a little burned out on colonial cities. Maybe in a rut. It’s all interesting and nice to look at, but they all start to look the same after a while. We need to rest, or take a break, or do something a little different. Maybe the beach at Las Peñitas will cure it.

First, we have to get pulled over and go through the rigmarole yet again. I think these guys were just looking to catch someone without insurance, but they did ask for triangles and a fire extinguisher too. Some folks down the road wanted to know how much money they asked for. None.

We met Cookie in León and she invited us down to her place on the beach. We could camp there. The trouble was that the dirt parking lot was about to turn to serious mud. Also, her husband started telling us about a few thefts at that very location. Also, there was a church group there for the weekend with lots of squealing teenage girls. Also, at that moment, they started blaring the Grease soundtrack. The last straw.

We moved a bit further down the beach into a bamboo hut for the evening. Major storm – bamboo hut – why not? There was crazy lighting, thunder and a torrential downpour, but we stayed fairly dry for the evening.

We took showers in the rain and then huddled under our mosquito nets for a hot and humid mostly sleepless night.

Our plan to relax and recharge at the beach wasn’t going to happen here.

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