Monday, January 19, 2009

Nicaragua Trip 2009 - Part 1

I said briefly before that the trip wasn’t easy. This is true, but like many things in life it’s an extra effort that makes an experience unique and memorable. That said, the trip went as planned. We resurrected our Spanish skills and had loads of fun using them. We always got where we wanted to go and generally the food we thought we ordered showed up, but, alas, our Espanol is still so elementary that we missed a good deal of the history of Granada from our horse carriage tour guide, dissertations from our taxi drivers, and the musings of our nature “guide” on Ometepe.

We were absolutely floored by the scenery, people and lifestyle of the country. It seems as though we spent the entire fifteen days with mouths agape at a stunning view or smiling at the sights of the people merrily making their way through their seemingly very difficult life.

So, the beginning seems as good a place to start as any. Monday’s leisurely 7:30 AM start resulted in not arriving to our hotel in Granada until about 10 pm. A solid travel day. Along the way in Houston we met up with the Neumanns (Paul, Jen, Oso and Levin) and were introduced to their 18-year-old Albanian exchange student who was along for the ride, too.

The plane landed in Managua, but we didn’t see much of the City. We had pre-arranged for a taxi driver to pick us up and drive us straightaway to the Casa Caprichio Hotel in Granada where we planned to stay until Friday.

Granada is a beautiful City and was a good base camp for day trips to the nearby volcanoes. To describe it, I can’t do better than Randy Wayne White did in his book The Sharks of Lake Nicaragua: “Granada is an ancient municipality of cobble streets, open markets, marble columns, and ornate parks, everything filmed by a layer of grime and in the shadow of this Central American nation’s withering poverty.”

Highlights of our four days in Granada were day tours to Volcan Mayasa (where we inhaled smoke and toxic sulfur fumes from an active volcano and walked deeeeep into a bat cave) and Volcan Mombacho (where we opted for the adrenaline rush of the zip line canopy tour in the cloud forest).

We did a few short hours of Spanish classes. The kids endured them as good sports, but Susie and I thoroughly enjoyed our lesson.

Wandering through the streets was an enchanting experience. Every turn filled with a sea of humanity, multiple family members stacked on a bike, colonial colors and architecture and always a resigned desperation of the people just to get by. Four days seemed enough, but unfortunately it didn’t leave time to see the markets or find the best restaurants.

(See the next post for Part 2)

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