Posts Tagged With: Nicaragua

Laguna de Apoyo

I admit that I was a little burned out after the heat of Granada, so I decided to spend a few days in Laguna de Apoyo (no, not Laguna de a Pollo, or Lagoon of a Chicken, as some people have joked. Wocka wocka wocka), which is a volcanic crater lake about 30 minutes from Granada. I took a shuttle from a nearby hostel on Sunday morning and on the way met a couple from… Cleveland! I look forward to hanging out with Billy and Angela when I return to the Cleve later this year.

The shuttle dropped us off at a partner hostel where some of us would be staying, Paradiso Hostel. Now, any given town and city, especially in a warm climate, will have a place to stay called Paradiso or Paraiso. I have stayed at several, with varying results. But these guys aren’t kidding around. My jaw dropped as I walked down the steps to reception. Because this place is within a crater, it was necessary to walk down past several terraces to get to the water. Built into each terrace was a section of rooms and an eating or lounging area. It was beautiful: lush with flowers and green plants. Although I didn’t stay in the dorm, I cannot think of any other dorm where the entire front wall facing the lake is a screen and you can watch the sunrise over the lake from your bunk. Wow.

Along the lake itself was a restaurant/bar area with hammocks and hanging chairs; there were free kayaks for use on the shore, plus a ping pong table and another area that I didn’t notice until later with a television (although I can’t imagine wanting to watch TV when you are in paradise. But that’s just me).

The next few days were filled with swimming, kayaking, napping, writing in my journal, learning how to play Jamaican croquet, and hanging out with some fun new friends, culminating in a celebration of both St. Patrick’s Day and the full moon. I never thought that St. Patrick’s Day in Boston could be topped, but then again, I had never jumped off a party boat in the middle of the night to swim in a volcanic crater lake under a full moon, either :).

Laguna de Apoyo left me with some wonderful memories of Nicaragua. I would return in a heartbeat.

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20140324-214543.jpg My room was $15 per night

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20140324-214758.jpg Hanging out with some new friends

20140324-214927.jpgNo St Patrick’s Day celebration is complete without a Guinness toast. Fortunately, my swimsuit is green 🙂

20140324-214944.jpg Yes, this is the moon

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Gra-na-daaaa!

Before I continue this post on the city of Granada, Nicaragua, I will preface this with a link to the song that has been going through my head for the past few days. It has taken all my willpower not to break into spontaneous song and dance in the streets.

OK, now that that’s out of my system, we can continue.

Leaving the comfort of Big Corn Island was difficult, but I managed to get myself on the flight back to Managua (stopping in Bluefields to let off and pick up passengers) without a problem. One option of getting to my destination of Granada was to take a taxi, which would have cost about $40. However, I went the cheaper route: I caught a cab (about $5) with several other women from the airport and was dropped off at the front of UCA (Universidad Centroamerica, pronounced “OOH-cah”), where local shuttles leave every 20 minutes or so for Granada, Masaya, Rivas, and other towns. The cost? Twenty-four cordobas; that’s a little less than a dollar. Sold! I definitely stuck out like a sore thumb, which was evidenced by the number of taxi drivers who offered their services while I waited in the long line of locals that snaked its way around the shuttle bay. I realized that it was rush hour, so many of the people in line with me were professionally dressed and likely making the commute home from work. Several of the women near me in line were very helpful in helping me manage my cumbersome duffle bag containing my backpack while on the bus.

Managua is somewhat of an unusual city. From what I saw during the numerous car and shuttle rides I took through it, it doesn’t seem to have a distinct city center and so sprawls out for many miles. One thing that stood out were the rotaries along the highways. Most rotaries contained a huge yellow curlicue tree (look up “Managua trees”), often surrounded by Christmas lights (I’m talking reindeer, trees, and angels, not just twinkly ambient lighting) and an armed military guard in a chair beneath. Merry Christmas!

Upon my arrival in Granada, I checked into my hotel, Hotel Casa Barcelona, and decided that I would be staying in the rest of the night. The hotel was spacious and clean with a lush courtyard, and the staff was very pleasant and helpful, but I did NOT like the neighborhood it was in and did not really feel like hiring another cab just to venture out at night.

The next morning, the neighborhood didn’t feel much better. I was fine walking through the local market street to get to the center of town; I just got this really strong gut feeling that I shouldn’t be taking my camera out. So my photos of Granada are somewhat limited.

That said, the architecture in Granada is magnificient. There’s a reason why it’s often described as the “colonial gem” of Nicaragua. So I walked and walked and walked and walked that day, taking in churches, the entirety of Calle la Calzada, and the pier on Lake Nicaragua. I also got a 15 minute head and neck massage at Seeing Hands, which is an organization (similar to those in Cambodia) which offers training for the blind to work in massage therapy. My therapist found a couple of nice knots in my upper back left over from my week of oral surgery and worked those puppies right out (ouch).

All that walking in the heat (did I mention the blazing, scorching heat?) did me in: the next day, I was pooped. I nixed a trip to Mombacho, the nearby volcano, in favor of staying in the shady courtyard of the hotel, reading and writing, and then finding an afternoon yoga class, which helped to wake me up a little.

I finished the night by meeting up with Mary Ellen, who is the friend of a former patient in Boston, and her friend Heather. It was pleasant and very surreal to be grabbing a drink in Granada with two people who live (full or part-time) in Jamaica Plain, my old neighborhood! I felt like quite the social butterfly when I later joined Randy, Helena, and Gordon (recently arrived from Big Corn) for dinner and then ran into a girl that I recognized from my yoga class. This trip has already confirmed my belief that this huge world we live in is actually very small.

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20140321-221335.jpg Holding back a Patrick Swayze bar fight reference…. 😉

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Big Corn Island, Nicaragua

While the Amapala day trip was fabulous, something went wrong sometime after midnight back at the hotel in Tegucigalpa. Things were amiss at the Circle K, dude. I think that the most likely culprit was some of the food that I ate at the beach, but between that and sunburn-related discomfort, I was not a happy camper on Saturday morning. I silently thanked God that I had bought a Steripen as an afterthought right before leaving the States; at least I could get some drinkable water to rehydrate without leaving the necessary proximity to the hotel bathroom.

I skipped the awesome Honduras Maya breakfast (sniff) so that I could meet Randy, Helena, and Gordon on time in the lobby to take a cab to the Ticabus station. We would spend the next 8 hours or so on a bus to Managua, Nicaragua. This was uneventful other than the fact that I was in feverish misery: sleeping as much as I could, subsisting solely on Tylenol and electrolyte tablet water (now you know how sick I was. I am typically human vacuum cleaner when food is around), and occasionally waking up in order to plot my sabotage of the overhead television system, which was blasting the movie Captain Phillips at top volume. I will never look at Tom Hanks the same way again.

After about 11 hours of solid sleep in my simple room at the hostal, I was feeling much better and was actually able to eat some solid food without repercussion at the airport. Randy, Gordon, Helena and I were flying on La Costeña airlines to Big Corn Island, which is off the coast of Nicaragua. We checked in and waited at our “gate” (there was only one). A national baseball game was on the television in the bar, and we watched (with mixed amounts of amusement and surprise) as our pilot sat down and helped himself to a rum-based cocktail. On board the small plane, the flight attendant rolled her cart down the aisle for beverage service. Your choices? Coke, 7Up, or rum. La Costeña: We fly the friendliest skies.

The runway on Big Corn takes up a good part of the length of the island, which is only about a mile wide. Our taxi ride to the hotel took approximately 3 minutes. We were staying at Hotel Paraiso, a Dutch-run hotel with small bungalows in the Brig Bay area. It was simple, clean, and quiet. There are a resident dog named Nike and two caged parrots, Lola and Parrot To Be Named Later. I resolved to do as little activity as possible over the next few days.

Here’s a collection of photos from our stay on the island.

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20140317-075236.jpg Cleveland sports fans everywhere!

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20140317-075245.jpg Fresh coconut water right off the tree

20140317-075254.jpg Parrots enjoy coconut, too 🙂

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