16 hours after we left roatan, Honduras we arrived in Granada Nicaragua. Thankfully Granada is a wicked city with plenty to enjoy and our hotel was ace so the day of travelling was quickly forgotten on the consumption of beer and food and a good nights sleep.
Granada is a restored colonial town and we spent a day just wandering through its beautiful streets. Nicaragua is a place where being conscious about where we spent our money was even more important. Nicaragua is the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere after Haiti. 48% of the population live below the poverty line and on less than $1 a day. Only 28% of children finish primary school. Civil wars, natural disasters and dictatorships fill its history. The entire world was shocked when an earthquake took out the capital 40 years ago and raised 70 million dollars to send in aid which was met with a tearful thanks from the then president, anastasio Somoza, who then put the whole lot in his Swiss bank account, not a pound, dollar or franc ever went to relieve the suffering.
So we opted for a non profit hotel whose surpluses are invested into education programmes supporting children to finish primary school and families to understand the importance of education. Projects aimed at enabling people from all warps of this society are dotted around the streets. We visited a cafe where people who are deaf and have no or very limited verbal communication are taught how to run a cafe and also how to make hammocks. We visited the pulsar project which combines the talents of artists across the country and sells their wares on their behalf so they can stay in school. After dinner one evening we came across a impromptu street dance performance from the grandad street crew. They were ace and even did a tongue in cheek gangdam style dance which would give even Julian Fennell a run for his money. The proceeds went to shelters for street children.
We only had time for two nights in Granada before we journey by bus and old school ferry to Isla de ometepe. An island formed by two volcanoes rising out of Lago de Nicaragua. As you can probably imagine it is pretty stunning and unlike nothing else I have ever seen its also a really charming, unspoiled, sleepy kind of a place which is wonderfully low key despite the number of tourists that make the journey over each year.
So the next day we did what all good tourists do and climbed a volcano. This is not easy. In fact it is really hard especially in the rain. But I managed it, just. 1000m through steep sweaty rainforest. The pay off, of course being the wonderful panoramic views of the island, lake and other volcanos. Except when its raining there is no view as you are in the clouds. So we climbed back down. I still climbed a volcano though!
As of that wasn't enough for one day and in the spirit of making the most of our time we decided make the day into some weird tourist triathlon and cycle to the beach for a swim in the lake, a walk on the black sand (which was pretty ace) and a view of the two volcanos. Beer has never even so well deserved.
Today we have another long travel day to take us over our final land boarder to Costa Rica!
From the older point of view I can only endorse what Rebecca has said. We have managed to play a lot of cards and dice games, and only when a street child stopped at our table, did he manage to help me beat Rebecca at cards!!! Granada is a beautiful small colonial town on the side of Lake Nicaragua, with a surreal centre on the lake, which felt abandoned. The contrast to all of this was the visit to Isle of Omepeta, which was very laid back. The first volcano was covered in cloud when we arrived by ferry, so we could not really see everything, We had nowhere booked, but struck lucky with a German man, Zwinki, where we got a huge r for £20 per night for both of us. The next day we went halfway up the volcano, had rain , wind and a bit of a view, which took 6 hours, as well as seeing Howler monkeys and some beautiful butterflies. Then cycled to a sand bar in the lake, to get the real panoramic view of both volcanos, a quick swim and cycling back which included cycling over the runway .
Have just crossed into Costa Rica, with a two hour border crossing, and you can already see how more expensive and western it is. Off to Monteverde tonight and se fun in the forests, before down to Sam Jose on Friday . Will be at work this time next week!!!!