It was the first time I had to do a land border bus crossing, and I did not enjoy it. We eventually managed to convince the reception lady to call and ask which bus stop we needed, as there is quite a lot in San Jose.
The border crossing was much more expensive than we had anticipated. We had to pay $8 each exit tax and then $14 each entry tax into Nicaragua on top of the bus fare we had already paid. The journey was okay at first, they didn’t blast the air-con like they did for Jake, but played movies very loud, well very loud for me, I find sense sensitivity is something that affects me a lot with my Aspergers. It took seven hours to reach the border and we didn’t stop once, we were so hungry and dying of thirst when we got there. I found the border crossing very stressful. It was at night, we had had a long day, everyone had extremely large guns, asking us questions in Spanish and I didn’t really understand what was going on. I did panic quite a bit, which doesn’t look good at border control.
Once on the other side, in Nicaragua, we saw a lady selling Pringle’s, they looked heavenly to us, and without really knowing the exchange rate we gave her a 100 Cordoba note and hoped that was enough (worked out about three dollars.)
Once at Managua we couldn’t find a way out of the bus station, then the taxi driver didn’t know where we were going so took a while to get there and eventually arrived around 10 PM. The woman at the guest house we were staying at was really nice it took us out to get something to eat, she did our ordering for us as our sleep-deprived Spanish was awful.
We only spend one full day in Managua as there is literally nothing to do. We walked down the main street filled with lots of light up trees called revolution Avenue; we went to the pier and looked out over the sea which was filthy, rubbish everywhere, it looks like the sewage pipe went straight into the water which was a very stark difference from Costa Rica. We went to the Main Square near the park, presidential Palace and cathedral and that’s about it, we did everything there is to do in Managua. The little bar made out of someone’s home next to ours was the best part of the day.
The next day we set off for Granada, a little village town by the side of lake Nicaragua. We stayed in a place called – surfing donkey on the lake. Only about 1 km from the Main Square so very central to everything which was good. The place was nice too, very social, with a pool and Hammock chairs. There is a 24 bed dorm which is completely open, and looks out over the lake, no windows or anything – at least it’s hot here. We found that hammock chairs are the most comfy things ever, if we had enough room in our rucksacks I would definitely be taking one home.
At the surfing donkey there was something new each night, Sunday night was barbecue night, so sat down with people from all over the world and chatted the night away. American, Russian, Israeli, German, Spanish. It was great, we even got garlic bread too … it was just heaven. The drinks where very strong. The rum and cokes had 75 mil shots in them, which means I was drunk after two.
The second day we attempted to climb one of the church towers but it wasn’t open, we did see a lot more of the town though and managed to book a few tours. We didn’t stay out long, soon the heavens opened and Jake was not best pleased about getting soaked to the skin again.
Around Granada there is a lot of horse and carts, it’s a symbol of Granada. Unfortunately they all seem very thin and weak, most have sores on the back so will not be going for a ride. We got a better look at the lake too, it’s filthy, you can see why they advise you not to swim, every so often along the shore there are big piles of rubbish that get swept up every day. Apart from that Granada is actually lovely and beautiful to look at.
Day three we had a very long lying and then a healthy early lunch at this healthy food place, I got an avocado and tuna sandwich with Chia seeds and turmeric smoothie drink which was really nice, turmeric is really popular here. We went to the main cathedral and had a look in and climbed up the bell tower to see over the most Granada, Jake even came up the last bit despite his hatred of heights. They were painting the ceiling with bible stories, but the pictures were very bubble-like, more cartoonish like a children’s book then what you usually see in a church, it didn’t really fit at all.
That night we had a tour to Massaya volcano, we got picked up and drove to the entrance, then had to queue for about an hour. Our guide said there were 28 visible volcanoes in Nicaragua and nearly 1000 unseen ones. There are only three volcanoes in the world where you can definitely see you lava every day, here the Congo and Hawaii.
When we got up to the top it had gone dark and you could see over the Massaya town, then we got the summit and look down to the crater and could see the lava bubbling below. It was so bright it made the smoke and the sky red. It was really beautiful, almost mesmerizing to watch. We didn’t have long enough in my opinion but so happy to have seen it.
The day after we had a walk along the lake going the other way, away from the town. The lake smells and is seriously contaminated, the huge piles of rubbish are piled up every 6 foot. We walked into the old-old bit of town, it looks like there was a lot of parties and clubs and nightlife, now it’s all abandoned like a creepy theme park, all except the Gardens and kids park was still maintained, that night I did yoga, you could easily tell who had done it before, I was not one of them. I was amazed to see how much flexibility I had lost since not going to the gym and pole classes. Afterwards I helped the Israeli girl get her very, very drunk unconscious boyfriend out of the toilets and into bed, he didn’t stay there long but at least we tried.
Thursday our guide came for us and took us back through the abandoned park to the little pier and we got a private tour just for us as it was low season. We went around all the little islands off the coast of Granada in Nicaragua lake, there is around 134 of them, most of the people who live there never leave, everyone moves with row boats, no running water, one bar with a TV. Most do have electricity, but Wi-Fi is a no go, and most make a living from fishing. Our guide took us to San Pablo Island, you could see back to Mainland Granada. There was a fort there that was built to protect Granada and we could see all the different animals that live in the lake, such as bull sharks, turtles and alligator gar. He gave us lots of different fruits to try and flowers. There were lots of huge boulders dropped everywhere from when Massaya last exploded.
We got to try a lot more fruits and then went to another island with some very friendly monkeys and got to hand feed them. Saw lots of birds and sleeping bats and playing spider monkeys, it was a great trip, you also got free drinks which helped.
That night there was a bar crawl that finished at the donkey so we didn’t sleep very much so had a very lazy day the next day. Jake got this awful sun hat which makes him look like a stereotypical American tourist, and I had a massage by the “seeing hands”. An organisation which gives blind people the opportunity to work.
That evening we went into the town of Massaya which we did not enjoy at all. Imagine an open sewer filled with mud and rubbish, people throw their waste into the middle of the street, dogs did their business and people spat everywhere all squashed into one small space. The people seemed quite hostile towards us too. We smiled and said hello, but did not get a single smile back. I was also very glad I wasn’t wearing sandals and exited fast, especially when we realise were being followed to be pickpocketed.
The last day we got up and finish packing, we had a game of giant Jenga before heading to the bus stop to get a bus down to the docks to get to Ompete Island which was our next stop. Really enjoyed Granada even though it felt like we didn’t do all that much. But I am on holiday, so I don’t need to.