Lago de Nicaragua

February 16, 2014

Another warm day in Granada. We decide to get out on the water. Nearby Lago de Nicaragua is the only freshwater lake in the world that has sharks, though a local told me they’re rarely seen. The sharks have been severely overfished and a hold has been put on hunting them. Hopefully, it brings the numbers back up.

It is said that the 365 tiny islands in the lake were made when Volcan Mombacho had a ferocious eruption and spewed bits and parts into the lake. I can see that possibility, as most of the islets are like tiny tree-topped blobs, dotting the waters.

Telephone lines stretch across the lago, connecting homes that are fairly close to each other. Many of the islands we pass are concrete reinforced, allowing for more stability and enlarging surface areas.

The island in the foreground, Isla Jacqueline, looks like paradise. I think I spied a ball court and play area!

The island in the foreground, Isla Jacqueline, looks like paradise. I think I spied a ball court and play area!

The hanging sacs are actually bird nests!

The hanging sacs are actually bird nests!

 

This capuchin monkey's stranded, like on Gilligan's Island. People boat by, but never rescue him!

This capuchin monkey’s stranded, like on Gilligan’s Island. People boat by, but never rescue him!

Please don't throw chip bags on the island. This howler monkey, the capuchin's island-mate, is a curious sort.

Please don’t throw chip bags on the island. This howler monkey, the capuchin’s island-mate, is a curious sort.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lunchtime! Our guide takes us to an island restaurant. We place our order and enjoy the quiet just before a noisy tourist boat arrives. It becomes pretty crowded as there’s just so much space.

We stop by an island restaurant for their specialty, boneless fried fish. It's a popular tourist spot.

We stop by an island restaurant for their specialty, boneless fried fish. It’s a popular tourist spot.

 

When in Rome ...

When in Rome …

 

The island in the foreground, Isla Jacqueline, looks like paradise. I think I spied a ball court and play area!

The island in the foreground, Isla Jacqueline, looks like paradise. I think I spied a ball court and play area!

 

On the way back, the driver gently guides the boat through a patch of water plants and cosies up to a tree on an islet. He cuts the engine and reaches out for a closed blossom and proceeds to show us a simple way to “bloom” it:

 

Later, Gerda takes time away from her biking tour buddies for an evening walk around Granada with us. We stop for dessert before strolling over to the plaza. The International Music Festival is a high energy event. Some of the spectators get carried away!

Granada, Nicaragua

Colonial architecture in the town square

Colonial architecture in the town square

February 15, 2014

We finally make it to Granada! It’s already starting to feel HOT. Maybe a visit a month or two earlier would have been better. Oh, well.

Granada’s a quaint city with Spanish influences and is sister city to Guatemala’s La Antigua. It’s said to be the first European settlement in mainland America. If the claim that it’s registered in the official records of the Crown of Aragon and the Kingdom of Castile in Spain is true, that, indeed, bespeaks of royal acknowledgement of an exceptional lineage! Granada may have been spared major damage from the Sandinistas in the 1970s – 1980s, but an earlier history of battles and invasions from other countries, a long-running, often violent feud in the mid 1800s with neighboring city, Leon, and other issues have taken their toll.

Although Granada (named after the ancient Spanish city) is not quite as well-maintained as its “sister”, the past decades have seen an attempt to revitalize the city and save its ancient colonial architecture. Judging by the variety of indoor shops and decent eateries here, the city is becoming a more desirable tourist destination.

We stop in the “calle peatonal”, pedestrians only street, to sip a beverage, watch people go by and browse the vendor tables.

An artist adjusts a link before selling Gerda his hand-twisted silver necklace

An artist adjusts a link before selling Gerda his hand-twisted silver necklace

Using just a reed and a snip from small scissors,  this boy creates a heart with arrow through it. At any age, artists work hard to make a living in Central America.

Using just a reed and a snip from small scissors, this boy creates a heart with arrow through it. At any age, artists work hard to make a living in Central America.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                                                                                                                                    We explore farther and discover the Iglesia de San Francisco. Firefighters from Italy walk by, but Gerda’s too shy to approach them and see if they will trade firefighter patches. (Ah, Gerda! Missed your chance to meet interesting men who share your love of firefighting!)

Iglesia de San Francisco is considered to be the oldest cathedral in Central America. Sadly, the famous robin's egg blue paint seems to have faded.

Iglesia de San Francisco is considered to be the oldest cathedral in Central America. Sadly, the famous robin’s egg blue paint seems to have faded.

Iglesia de San Francisco’s current building is fairly new – in 1524, it had wooden walls and a straw roof. It burned down about 160 years later to be rebuilt as a sturdier structure. In 1856, it was intentionally burned down by the infamous American scoundrel, William Walker. His men set fire to the city when they left, destroying most of it.

Walker was a power hungry mercenary who schemed to become President of Nicaragua with a goal to control all of Central America. Those other Central American countries took exception to the idea. Walker didn’t rule very long, a year perhaps. It’s said that in 1860, he was hunted down and executed in Honduras.

If you miss Catedral de Granada in the town plaza, you're looking in the wrong direction!

If you miss Catedral de Granada in the town plaza, you’re looking in the wrong direction

 

 

 

Catedral de Granada is a boldly painted church in the plaza. The sprawling building is quite prominent!

 

 

Enter a peaceful sanctuary

Enter a peaceful sanctuary

 

 

 

The cathedral’s first structure was built in 1583, destroyed by the previously mentioned 1856 city fire, then completely rebuilt by 1915.

 

 

 

To view more Granada iglesias, visit http://felipedelbosque.wordpress.com. 

 

All around us, the city shows off its bright colors! The Baroque style with Moorish influence is quite evident. Granada is waiting to see if it qualifies for the World Heritage List.

Many styles of architecture abound!

Many styles of architecture abound!

A horse-drawn carriage goes by cheerfully painted houses.

A horse-drawn carriage goes by cheerfully painted houses.

Locals hang around a beautifully detailed gazebo

Locals hang around a beautifully detailed gazebo

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Life in here seems to be slow and easy.

Napping 4-legged resident

Napping 4-legged resident

I was surprised to see sanitarily wrapped vegetables!

I was pleasantly surprised to see wrapped vegetables!

Stopping play to watch visitors

Stopping play to watch visitors

 

Often, you will see darling children, such as this one on the right, on my blog. Except in crowd shots, I always ask for permission to take their images if they are recognizable, be it for a photo or video. It’s a habit from working in media. It’s also the right thing to do. Especially in Central America, parents are very protective of their children. Several times, a negative shake of the head was sent my way and I moved on.

Tip: Please respect the cultures of countries you visit. I noticed that if I very politely and smilingly communicated with locals, they reciprocated. English-speaking locals or ex-pats were very kind to explain local customs.

 

Tip: If you are looking for a change of scenery, Granada offers a low cost of living, attractive incentives for foreign investors such as limited tax breaks and there are few restrictions on foreign ownership. Just be sure to visit before any decisions are made.

 

Volcan Masaya, Nicaragua

February 14, 2014

We had planned earlier to head to Granada. Gerda’s bike tour starts in Granada, so we all decide to travel there by taxi. But … Masaya is on the way. We book rooms and are off to see Parque Nacional Volcan Masaya! It has the distinction of being Nicaragua’s first National park and its largest. The area contains active and inactive craters and calderas. The last eruption was in 2008. It’s part of the Central American Volcanic Belt, running from Volcan Tacana in Guatemala to Volcan Irazu in Costa Rica.

"Wel-come to Ma-sa-ya!"

“Wel-come to Ma-sa-ya!”

We’re warned that we shouldn’t inhale the strong sulphur dioxide fumes for more than 15 minutes. It is amazing to be so close to an active volcano!

Cricket couldn't see through the thick smoke screen

Cricket couldn’t see through the thick smoke screen

The stairs up to the cross are closed, but we’re able to go around and take another path up. I should say, “they” are able to, as I can feel great apprehension beginning to build up in my chest as we begin the climb up. So, I decide to stop, turn around and take shots of the smoky landscape. With shifting wind and heavy plumes of toxic sulphur vapors, I finally head down to catch a clear breath.

Gaseous vapors drift past the cross as Gerda, Lonnie and another visitor explore the terrain after climbing up to the cross

Gaseous vapors drift past the cross as Gerda, Lonnie and another visitor explore the terrain after climbing up to the cross

I DO love horse rides!

I DO love horse rides!

We take a too short horse ride to the path up an inactive volcano to see the grand vistas. Cricket and I stay behind as Lonnie and Gerda hike up along the rim with our taxi driver. On the way here, our driver, Wilmer Jose, was practicing his English and playing his English learning tape for us. Instead of dropping us off at the Centro de Visitantes and leaving, he waited for us to purchase the tickets and took us up to the volcano and craters. So, we asked if he wanted to hang with us and drop us off at our hotel in Masaya, and tomorrow, take us on to Granada. He did! I think it’s his first time at the volcan and to ride a horse. Tip: If going by taxi, confirm with your driver that he will wait for you to purchase a ticket at the visitors center and take you all the way to the volcan’s parking lot. Don’t be left to walk that really long walk like I read someone did on tripadvisor.com.

Many people walk all the way around the rim

Many people walk all the way around the rim

On the way out, we visit the Centro de Visitantes to see colorful exhibits and balcony views of surrounding craters and lakes. A cool way to wind down from a tiring walk.

Idyllic scene

Idyllic scene

An overview of Masaya

An overview of Masaya

Gerda proudly points out her home! Note the dangerous pink lines of a mosaic of shifting oceanic and continental plates.

Gerda proudly points out her home! Note the dangerous pink lines of a mosaic of shifting oceanic and continental plates.

Laguna de Masaya in the distance

Laguna de Masaya in the distance

We finish with a delicious meal and dessert.

End of  a happy Valentine's Day!

End of a happy Valentine’s Day!

February 2014 Nicaragua!

The present situation regarding Central American children seeking refuge in the United States is disturbing. There are strong, emotional pros and cons on both sides of the issue. I won’t go in that direction. I just want you to know the beauty I saw there earlier this year.

In 1524, the Spaniards established two settlements in what is now Nicaragua. The pre-Colombian Indian civilization there was decimated by infectious diseases the Spaniards brought, enslavement and deportation. So began a tumultuous history through multiple centuries. From power struggles, becoming a part of the Mexican Empire, breaking away from Spain (1821), an American becoming Nicaragua’s president (1856), assassinations, horrendous civil war crimes, dictatorships, the U.S.’s presence, guerillas, government corruption and the list goes on and on. Nicaragua may be the largest of Central America’s countries, but it is the second poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. No wonder it is still trying to recover! I hope the time we spent here helped a tiny bit towards that goal.

Welcome to adventure!

Welcome to adventure!

 

 

Cricket is excited as we arrive in Managua, Nicaragua’s capital. We plan to leave for Granada the next day. At a backpackers’ lodgings, we meet Gerda. Gerda’s from Canada. She’s a former firefighter from the Northern Territories. She talks us into going with her to Chocoyero, a secluded tropical forest outside Managua, named after the Pacific Parakeets known as Chocoyos.

 

Gerda peeks out from the bunkhouse

Gerda peeks out from the bunkhouse

We three are the only guests in the 455 acre woodlands. We all go up a three tiered walkway. Lonnie & I have the bungalow. Gerda has the bunkhouse all to herself. She has electricity, but just a trickle of cold shower water. We have cold water, but no electricity. (The bulb blew out twice.) Out come the headlamps! At least we have mosquito nets.

 

Alan is our guide. He takes us on nighttime and early morning walks. Some of what we saw:

A gorgeous day!

A gorgeous day!

Colorful resident

Colorful resident

A crab scuttling along

A crab scuttling along

Blue Crowned Motmot!

Blue Crowned Motmot!

"Hola, my Cousins!"

“Hola, my Cousins!”

A beautifully bushy tail!

A beautifully bushy tail!

An owl eye butterfly. The eye scares away predators.

An owl eye butterfly. The eye scares away predators.

A young owl peers through the brush

A young owl peers through the brush

Mother & Child

Mother & Child

Lonnie shows his hiking wounds to Cricket

Lonnie shows his hiking wounds to Cricket

Alan and his father take Lonnie and Gerda on a five hour hike. Steep terrain, stringing ropes from tree to tree and unstable paths make for strenuous exercise. It’s not for me. I swing on a hammock daydreaming until I get motion sickness, climb down and spend time writing in my journal. Lonnie comes dragging in, cut and bruised. Gerda bounces in behind him, dimples flashing, eyes alight with the joy of testing one’s endurance!

A 6am walk to the waterfall to hear and see the birds start their day:

 

It's a bit of a climb to Alan's parents' house

It’s a bit of a climb to Alan’s parents’ house

 

We eat beans, rice and plantains … three times a day. At breakfast, boiled eggs are added. At dinner, a piece of meat is added. There is a cup of delicious fresh squeezed fruit with meals. We go with Alan to thank his mother for cooking our meals. Gerda brings treats for the children.

Alan picks oranges for dinner

Alan picks oranges for dinner

Family and friends hold a prayer meeting.

Family and friends hold a prayer meeting.

 

Gerda starts a two-week bike ride through Central America this weekend. She brought school supplies for the tour donation, but decides the elementary school down the road needs it more. We add a monetary gift and head down the road.

Taking a break from passing out bags to all the classes

Taking a break from passing out bags to all the classes

Students gather in the courtyard as classrooms are fumigated

Students gather in the courtyard as classrooms are fumigated

 

 

While we are passing out bags, the exterminator begins fogging. It is difficult to get service in an isolated area. They come when they can.

 

 

 

 

If you are planning to visit Nicaragua, consider a natural reserve. Alan says that the people who maintain Chocoyero are only paid when visitors come.

Sources on Nicaragua:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nicaragua

http://wikitravel.org/en/Nicaragua

http://www.infoplease.com/country/nicaragua.html?pageno=1

“Happy July 4th!”

A reminder to my fellow Americans:

This female eagle was seen in Yellowstone Park.

This female eagle was seen in Yellowstone Park.

 

 

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” ~ from the Declaration of Independence

 

 

 

The teeny, tiny white dot in the background is the eagle. We had a wonderful time!

The teeny, tiny white dot in the background is the eagle. We had a wonderful time!

 

Last week, we visited Yellowstone Park. Matt from Buffalo Bus tours did a great job showing us bison, elk, a bear and deer in the park. More in a later post.

A “Happy July 4th!” shout-out to Em, Miss B., J., K., E., R., M. and all the lovely people we met on the shuttle!

 

This year is the 200th anniversary of our national anthem, the Star Spangled Banner:

“God Bless America!”

February 11, 2014 Bus to Nicaragua!

Tuesday

Cricket here. I am named Cricket, not because I am a cricket, but for the famous 1960s actress (Connie Stevens) that was named Cricket in the TV show, Hawaiian Eye. Cricket was a singer. Crickets can usually “sing.” I do not sing. Cricket the singer was very pretty. Soo thinks I am very pretty too!

Head rest covers are the best place to view the countryside!

Head rest covers are the best place to view the countryside!

I am so excited! This is my first bus ride. We take a Del Sol executive bus. It is very nice. Soo says it is much better than ADN or Litigua buses. At our 1:30am boarding, the nice attendant passes out pillows and blankets. At 8am, we transfer buses in El Salvador. Along the way, we have visits from immigration, then transportation agents, a drug sniffing dog and customs inspectors.

Are you my Papa?

Are you my Papa?

 

 

 

We have two meals. One is from Papa John’s Pizza. I am surprised!

 

 

 

 

 

We make friends with a man also going to Nicaragua. Rony has a phone. He calls our pre-arranged taxi driver that we will be arriving later. Rony is a good friend.

As the bus goes by, I see eighteen wheelers a couple of feet deep into rivers. The drivers are washing their big rigs.

Can you see the load of scattered clothes, drying on the river bank?

Can you see the load of scattered clothes, drying on the river bank?

 

Then, I see a woman in the river. (Lower right corner)

What is she doing?

 

 

 

We are finally here! Managua, Nicaragua is a big city. Many taxi drivers are waiting to take passengers away. They are loud. Soo and Lonnie scoop me up and push their way through the crowd. The driver is waiting and off we go on a Nicaraguan adventure!

February 12, 2014 Meet Cricket!

You will love my lovely hometown!

You will love my lovely hometown!

 

 

 

Hola! My name is Cricket. I was born in the central plaza of La Antigua, Guatemala. I am made of twisted wires and two pretty turquoise bead eyes.

Are you my cousin?

Are you my cousin?

 

 

 

 

 

I have looked for other family members, but it seems that they are not nearby. It is good that I am curious and make friends easily.

 

 

 

Let me show you some of the lovely things in my picturesque hometown.Cricket 2

Rooftops are perfect for exercising and reading!

Rooftops are perfect for exercising and reading!

Exotic ice cream creations to tickle your taste buds!

Exotic ice cream creations to tickle your taste buds!

Cricket 9

"Painting" sawdust carpets for Semana Santa

“Painting” sawdust carpets for Semana Santa

Though not considered lovely, the painted public wash tubs have seen decades of dirty clothes.

Though not considered lovely, the painted public wash tubs have seen decades of dirty clothes.

Senor Crepe makes Cricket a complimentary dessert

Senor Crepe makes Cricket a complimentary dessert

 

There are many pretty flowers here.

There are many pretty flowers here.