Thursday, February 10, 2005


Me Gusto Nicaragua

Fui a Nicaragua y toda lo que conseguí era una camisa de la te

I'm back. Nicaragua is a wonderful country, and as interesting and nice as its cities, towns and landscape are - the people (Nicas) are some of the nicest I've met anywhere. So let's get to the details.

Granada: The City by the Sweet Sea

I arrived in Nicaragua about 6pm on Friday, Rene, the driver from my hotel in Granada, met me in the baggage claim and we were off. 45 minutes later we pulled into the town square of Granada. A handsome, spotlessly clean Spanish colonial square, full of locals out relaxing and socializing in the cool night air. The Hotel, La Gran Francia, is a gem of a place. A restored Spanish colonial structure with 10 ft tall wood doors (some dating back to the 1500s) and rooms surrounding a small, lush courtyard. My room was spacious and decorated with local art.

After checking in, I headed up to El Balcon, the second story bar on a balcony overlooking the town square. This is where things get a little blurry. You see, the El Balcon has the best Mojitos I've ever had, and after a long journey, I was thirsty. Oh yes, and the fact that I rarely drink alcohol probably played a role too. Anyway, I was sitting there looking over the town square when a local 'mariachi' band set up on the corner and starting singing. It was very nice. A couple more mojito's later the band took a break and the staff at the bar put on a Milli Vanilli CD. It's hard to explain the dissonance of sitting on a balcony looking out at a Spanish colonial town, horse and buggies trotting past as you're listening to...."It's a tragedy to me to see the dream is over, and I never will forget the day we met.... girl I'm gonna miss you!".... But despite the surrealism, it was...well pretty darned cool. I staggered back to my room and drifted off, humming blame it on the rain.

Despite my mojito consumption, the next morning I awoke early and strangely refreshed. Grabbed breakfast at the hotel cafe (included) and set off to explore the city. First destination was the local market. Of course I'm not talking Safeway here, rather the teaming and crowded alleyways where local farmers set up stalls to sell their products. Fresh veggies, live chickens and adorable piglets seemed to be on the menu. One lady, having made here purchased, was walking up the street, holding a small pink pig by the hind leg. The pig seemed pretty content. I imagined that he told his colleagues, "Hey guys, this nice lady invited me over for dinner!" (Luckily for the pig, a local later told me that most of the piglets purchased were for raising/breeding so the little guy was not destined - at least in the near future-for the dinner table).

After checking out the market, I wandered south of town to the shores of Lake Nicaragua, known to early explorers as the Sweet Sea. Almost as large as Lake Erie, Lago de Nicaragua (or Chocibola in the native tongue) was an impressive site. It is apparently, the only habitat of fresh water shark. Looming in the distance what the island of Ometempe with its nearly perfect conical volcano, Conception. I sat enjoying the vista, the cool breeze off the lake and a diet coke in a glass bottle. After a few minutes, a local man, about 40 or so, approached me and we chatted. His name was Clifford and he was from the Mosquito Coast (The largely unpopulated Atlantic coast of Nicaragua). Anyway, he spun some pretty good yarns about his time as a Contra. True or not, it didn't matter, it was a fun story. I bought him a Coke and we chatted for a while. He promised that if I returned, I was welcome to visit him in the Mosquito Coast to relax, drink marijuana tea and perhaps find a wife among the mosquito women.

Later after a siesta and a few more mojitos, I was back on the village square to check out the action. The handsome cabs were lined up along the north end of the park, the horse teams manes decorated with pretty bows. People were milling about and Spanish guitar players were drifting from bench to bench playing and singing. I picked up a local drink called Cacao. It's made with fresh chocolate beans, milk, cinnamon and god knows what else. It's alleged it closely resembles the original chocolate drink consumed by the early settlers. I liked it, but a couple of backpackers from Norway thought it tasted 'like meatballs.' In fact, it tasted like a really yummy Yahoo. As the evening progressed, the square became more crowded and the whole pulse of the small town seems to speed up. In addition to the mariachi bands, there was a little 'party' train that made a circuit around the center of the city. It was a tractor, made up to look like a train, pulling two brightly decorated carts full of parents and children. For the teens, there was an old school bus; it's top shorn off and painted bright colors. A DJ sat in the back and about 1/2 the seats had been removed to make room for a dance space. The bus, trailing the party train, cruised around town chocked full of dancing Nica teens.

The action continued to swirl about me and the mojitos seemed to be drinking themselves. I stumbled back to my room looking forward to heading out into the jungle for a canopy zip line tour.

(To Be Continued...)

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