We stayed in Granada most of the next day. We started with French toast and coffee at Art Cafe, then made our way down to the beach. A taxi took us as far as he could, and then we were on foot. It was exciting to be surrounded by so many happy, partying people. There were very, very few gringos. The beach was crawling with people just relaxing, cooking meals, playing soccer, and swimming. Ocassionally a couple cows would walk by us, or a horse. We were trying to find an economically suitable option for kayaking Las Isletas, after having turned down a tour option in town. It turned out that the tour was cheapest option we could find, so we never did end up kayaking. Instead, we took the less environmentally sound vehicle: a motorboat. This was my third time in Las Isletas, but it was still nice to relax and be away from the crowds.
The beach in Granada
Momobacho seen from las isletas
It is, essentially, a real estate tour. The guide told us who lived where and how wealthy they are, and which properties were for sale. We also saw an old 15th century Spanish fort that used to protect Granada from pirate raids. The highlight of the trip, however, is the monkeys. There is an island with some relocated spider monkeys on it. The island is tiny (it is, after all, an “isleta”), and the 4 monkeys have one tree in which to cavort and fail to maintain distance from tourists. It´s a little sad for the monkeys (so unatural), but awesome for the boaters. We got some great pictures. Kelly tried to feed a monkey some mango. It took it right out of her hand, but immediately threw it into the water upon finding out that it was mango and not some delicious junk food. According to our guide, the monkeys are notoriously spoiled.
Post-Isletas, we walked back along the beach and went to Terraza La Playa for some guapote (a fish from Lake Nicaragua). It is one of my favourite meals in Nicaragua. Guapote and churrasco probably tie for first place, for Nica food. I will miss these foods when I return to Canada. Anyway, Kelly fell in love with the guapote, as I predicted. A quick wiki search reveals that guapote is a cichlid, it is native to Central America, and is named after Managua (Parachromis managuensis)! It is tough, predatory fish: it likes eutrophic, hot, alkaline waters, and will eat anything. They are delicious, and traditionally eaten with rice, tomato, onion, lime, and a salad. I posted a picture of this dish on my Ometepe post.
Fish demolished, we checked out of Granada and stopped at Laguna de Apoyo on the way home. The laguna was very brown and hazy, in contrast to the green, cloud shrouded hills that greeted us the first time I was there in August (or September?). The bus dropped us off at the road leading to Apoyo, and we got a taxi to take us the rest of the way, to Monkey Hut. Monkey Hut is probably the most popular hotel on the Laguna, and they offer a day pass, which includes the use of their kayaks. One of my favourite things about Monket Hut was that they run a tab for you, and you just pay when you leave. We went for a swim, then nabbed a couple kayaks as soon as we could. It was very busy, and the kayaks were popular, so we were lucky to get a chance. We paddled around until we couldn´t handle the pressure of knowing we hadn´t sunscreened in several hours. We returned to the shade, got some Toñas, and read for a while, before we went out to the road to get a bus.
Ah, buses. This was my first experience with one of the cattle-transporter type trucks. We crammed onto the back of a large truck that was carrying lots of Semana Santa partyers. A good number of them were drunk. One was so drunk he was passed out at my feet and threw up all over himself. I maintained my distance as much as possible and remained unsullied. We had been told that we would be dropped off at the road. That didn´t happen. They told us to get off and that we would have to walk a little ways to the highway. We paid the exorbitant sum of C$20 and disembarked. We started walking. It was nice, the sun was setting, but we were also tired. We kept walking. Eventually we asked someone about the distance, and were told it was 4km. Agh. We got on the next bus that went by – another very happy bus – and they took us to the highway. On the highway, we waited for a bus to Managua with a couple of boys, one of whom spoke English. we chatted for a while, until we realised that every bus that was going by was packed and not going to stop. We waited hopefully for almost an hour, getting increasingly worried. The sun was rapidly disappearing, and I did NOT want to be stranded on the side of Carratera a Masaya in the dark. Kelly and I resolved to try for a taxi to Masaya, and try to get a bus in Masaya to Managua. Eventually we got one, and he offered to take us all the way to Managua for C$100 each! Wooo! Relief all around. We left the boys waiting for a bus, and I hope they made out okay.
After a short detour in Masaya (not sure what we were doing there), we went home. On the way into Managua, Momotombo was brilliantly silhouetted against the setting sun. When the taxi dropped us off, he told us that he was actually the mayor. I was a little confused for a moment. Then he pulled out his ID, which clearly stated “mayor”, but I didn´t catch the city name. I´m still confused. Was he moonlighting as a taxi driver for fun? Is that why he charged so little? We got some food at a Casa del Cafe, and walked the rest of the way home. It felt great to be home after that particular adventure.
The next morning, we took a taxi to Mercado Mayoreo, where we got a bus to Esteli. When we arrived, we immediately took a taxi (C$20) to Luz y Luna Hostel. We got a GREAT room in behind Cafe Luz (US$25/night). It was huge and cool, with two beds, private bathroom, fans, and cozy blankets. It felt great to appreciate the presence of blankets once again. Similarly, every once in a while I miss the feel of carpet beneath my feet. Even putting on socks is sometimes nice. Anyway, we got some food at the Cafe, then inquired about the Salto Estanzuela (the waterfall that we failed to find the last time we hiked through Tisey).
We were instructed to take a bus, which was leaving in 30 minutes, so that is exactly what we did.
The bus through Tisey Reserve
We made sure the bus driver knew where we were going so we wouldn´t miss it. After a pleasant but very bumpy 45 minute ride (ish), we were dropped off. The bus goes off the main highway right beside the hospital in Esteli, then continues on that road for about 5 kilometers. So, one could ostensibly walk to the salto. We had to walk a little bit further to get to the waterfall anyway, from where the bus dropped us. The waterfall itself was beautiful.
El Salto Estanzuela
It was bigger than I though it would be, and dropped into a gorgeous pool where a few people were swimming. You could stand right under the falling water. Kelly and I dipped out feet in from the rocks and fiercely entertained the temptation to jump in sans bathing suits, since we hadn´t brought them. We didn´t though. Rather, we lived vicariously through the boys that were swimming in front of us. We relaxed, took pictures, walked around a bit, then went back up to the main road. The bus had left Esteli at 1:30pm, and would pass by the salto at 4pm, going back. By this time it was about 3:30, so we decided to walk back toward the town and enjoy the views. I´m so glad we did, because the views were pretty spectacular. The road was very rocky, and I did not have appropriate footwear, so my feet got a bit sore after a while. I was a little disappointed when the bus passed us and didn´t wait to see if we wanted a ride, and then very relieved when we made it to the road. Still worth it though.
Walking back into town
Post-showers, we went food hunting. We wanted steak. Pullasos Ole is a fancy-looking place, but I wasn´t very impressed with their menu, so we went to another place (I can´t remember the name of the place!). If you´re looking for good Nicaraguan churrasco, I recommend El Zaguan, in Granada, Porterhouse (Managua), or the best and most expensive: Los Ranchos (Managua). We spent an hour or so afterwards trying to find a place that would serve a macua (national Nicaraguan drink), to no avail.
Kelly decided she didn´t want to go to the canyon, we we just toured Esteli the next day. We checked out some murals, did some shopping, looked at leather boots, graded some papers (it never ends), drank a LOT of coffee (it´s unlimited if you stay at Luna), and finally had some Nica food at El Zaguan de Doña Milagros: salpicon de carne with semilla de jicaro! Salpicon is a shredded meat affair with lime juice, and semilla (translation, seed) de jicaro is a drink made with ground jicaro (a fruit) seeds in milk. It´s like a milkshake, but with a very unique but not unpleasant taste and texture. We headed back to Managua and Kelly packed up to leave the next day. I called one of my taxi friends to pick her up at 5am. Thus ended my Semana Santa. It was a hectic, not very relaxing week, and although I loved having Kelly around, I was also glad to get back to my routine.
With only a couple months left, I´ve started my countdown in earnest. I have a few weekend trips left, including a return, hopefully, to Miraflor.