Our Final Visitor

>> Friday, April 10, 2009

With every visitor that came down here, we went to at least one new place we had never been, and each trip had its own feel.  On the Ragans' first visit, we went to Selva Negra in Matagalpa and regretted not bringing winter coats or avoiding the salad; when Laura and Nancy came, we enjoyed Pelican Eyes paradise; when my parents came, we braved the bumpy roads and one-way streets to visit León; and Danny's visit took us all the way to the Atlantic coast to ring in 2009.  My brother Jake was the last visitor we'll host in Nicaragua, and his trip was the most laid back of them all.  We knew Jake would be easygoing so we didn't really have a set plan or even reservations for where to stay during the trip.  The (lack of a) plan turned out to be a success, and we wound up visiting volcanoes all over the country and finally making it to Ometepe Island.

We started by staying a couple of nights in Masaya and riding our neighborhood bus, visiting the markets and hunting for souveniers, and enoying the best restaurants Masaya has to offer (one day was more than enough time for the restaurant part).  Here we are waiting for the bus:

We then made the journey down to Rivas to catch the ferry to Ometepe island, the large island in the middle of Lake Nicaragua that's the home to two large volcanoes.  From the water's edge, the island seems so close that you could swim to it, but that's actually not the case.  It's about an hour-long ferry ride that seems much longer when you're stuck with a lot of backpackers playing their guitars and bicycle enthusiasts wearing their padded shorts:
It gave us a great view of the volcanoes and the island, though, so we just tried to tune out Freebird.
We eventually made it to the island then took a taxi to our hotel, a nice little resort that was recommended to us by a Volunteer on the island.  We made it just in time to catch a really pretty sunset:
The next morning, Paul and Jake woke up before the sun rose to celebrate Paul's birthday and Obama's inauguration by climbing Volcán Concepción, the big, active volcano on the island.  My birthday present to Paul was that I stayed at the hotel instead of accompanying them to climb a really steep volcano.
The beginning of the path:
Taking a quick break on the hike up:
They couldn't go to the very top to look in because it was too windy, and the guide said it was too steep and difficult to be worth going all the way up anyway.  Here's the view from the volcano:
And proof that they were there:
There were even some monkeys up in the trees (don't tell Dora):
They hiked back down and made it back to our hostel by the middle of the afternoon in time for Paul to watch some of the inauguration activities and Jake to enjoy Paul's Nintendo DS until the battery gave out.  We went to the main city to have some dinner and explore and then left the island the following morning.
We unintentionally match a lot.
After a ferry ride back to the mainland, we took a bus up to Granada.  Masaya is only about 45 minutes from Granada in bus, so when we go we normally make it a day trip and come back to Masaya.  We had heard good things from other Volunteers about a hostel called Oasis, so we decided to give it a try and planned to stay there for two nights to be able to hang out in Granada without having to travel back and forth.  Plans changed, however when we woke up after our first night covered in flea bites.  We packed up our things, stored them in our little hostel lockers, and decided we'd spend the second night in Masaya where we'd at least know they were our own bed bugs biting us.

We decided to spend the day visiting our second volcano of the trip, Mombacho.  This was the volcano that cemented my hatred for all paths inclined, but at least this time we were only going part way up to do the canopy tour. 
On the very wire, you go from the platform to the ground and the guy at the bottom pulls on the wire so that you bounce.  My favorite is at the very end of the video when Jake crashes in to the guy:

We made it back to Granada, had some lunch and picked up our stuff from the flea-infested hostel, and went back to Masaya.   Jake's trip was quickly coming to an end, so we had to decide how we should spend his last day here: visit the old political prison? Go swimming at the Laguna de Apoyo? Visit Volcán Masaya?  Go to the zoo?  Go to the parakeet nature reserve?  Play more Nintendo DS?  We asked Jake for input, but he deferred to our judgment and said he'd be happy doing whatever.  Now, Jake and I did our fair share of bickering as kids, and a few short years ago he would have not only voiced an opinion, but he would have made sure it was the exact opposite of whatever opinion I had.  For him to be so darn agreeable was quite a shock, and it was nearly impossible for us to choose, even after consulting our guide books and telling Jake the pros and cons of each possibility.  Eventually it became apparent that Paul and I were just going to have to make a choice, so we decided to round out our volcano tour with a visit to Masaya's volcano.  Jake's response? "Oh, good.  I was just about to say I wanted to go to the volcano."

Masaya's volcano has a nice, paved road to the crater at the top and lots of trails surrounding it.  We went on the cave tour to get out of the mid-afternoon heat and to see some bats: mission accomplished on both counts.
We couldn't really take a lot of pictures in the cave because it was dark (we should have brought own own head lamps, because their flashlights were pretty weak), but the guide took a picture of us in the back of the cave.  It took a few tries since he was just pointing the camera at darkness.  Also, Paul and I have too many green shirts:
Here we are after the hike with the big crater behind us.
There was a lot of smoke coming out of the crater; the guide said the reddish color was because it was sulfur dioxide.  It smelled really bad and burned our throats.
Apparently this cross was built in the 16th century to keep the devil away; people thought the volcano was the mouth of hell.
Paul and I both had a great week, and since Jake never expressed an opinion to the contrary, we'll just assume that he did too.


It's hot

>> Saturday, April 04, 2009

Masaya is probably in the middle of Nicaragua's heat spectrum, generally not as hot as Managua, Rivas, or Leon, but hotter than Matagalpa or Jinotega. Right now, though, it's hot everywhere--right in time for a week of vacation for Semana Santa and nothing to do but sit around the house where we just sweat unless there's a fan blowing directly on us.

Yesterday we took a trip to the mall in Managua just so we could sit in the air conditioning for a few hours and it was everything we expected it to be. We took our time browsing at the stores and the nearby grocery store. There aren't many places close to home where we can enjoy the cold, but we're thinking of some complicated banking transactions that we'll need to do next week in the bank that has AC.

Here's our clock that annoyingly will not let us forget how hot it is in the middle of our house:


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