19.03.2011 - 23.03.2011 35 °C
We pulled into Granada in the middle of the day and started the search for a place to stay. As we get closer to April and further down south, the temperature is rising and with backpacks on in the mid-day sun, we were exhausted. We were told that there are many accommodation options in Granada, but being dropped off in the central park we were unsure where to begin. Many of the cheap options were dirty and cramped, while the nicer places were far beyond our price range. At the verge of throwing our hands up in despair, we stumbled upon Hotel Valeria, only a block off of the main tourist street. We were sold immediately by the friendly owner and the large, bright and clean rooms. Dropping our bags we went in the search for food and ended the day with an early bed-time after a long day of travel.
We decided to spend our first full day in Granada walking around the city. The large central park is full of vendors, selling drinks and food, as well as trinkets, hammocks, and horse carriage rides. A fountain and large gazebo-like building are central in the park, with local children running around and playing between the structures. The main focus of this center plaza is the vibrant, large, yellow cathedral that is visible from most areas of town. The streets of Granada are full of character with the brightly coloured buildings clustered together, boasting many little shops and restaurants. The main tourist street is lined with bars and coffee shops with the streets cordoned off for walking, with tables and chairs set out for those looking for a rest and drink throughout the day.
Granada was founded in 1524 at the foot of volcano Mombacho on the Northwestern banks of Lago de Nicaragua. The convenient placement made it a central trade center in Central America with the Rio San Juan connecting the lake to the Caribbean Sea. The city was destroyed and rebuilt a few times before finally being burned down in 1856 by William Walker, leaving the famous placard, “Here was Granada.” Since Granada was rebuilt it continued to flourish and is now a thriving mecca of tourism. There are many Americans buying property here, which brings wealth to the city but also widens the poverty gap for the locals.
The walk down to the edge of the large Lake Nicaragua brings you through the poorer parts of town, and while the buildings lose their grandeur there still remains a charm to the busy streets. Sunday is obviously a time spent with family as well as cleaning, with many sweeping sidewalks, cutting hair in barbershops, fixing cars and kids giggling as they run into shops for a few candies. Basketball courts are full of teenagers and the baseball field was being used by the younger children for practice. The pretty walk along the water’s edge is spoiled only by the fact that the water is a murky and muddy hue; however, locals still gather with their children for picnics or a stroll along the walkway.
On our second day in Grenada, we took a taxi to the nearby Laguna de Apoyo –a crater lake surrounded by thick forest and a few tiny restaurants. The mineral water is meant to be some of the best swimming in Nicaragua, but we spent our time basking in the sun and enjoying the complete quiet of the area.
The following day we signed up for a canopy zip-lining tour from the volcano Mombacho. The drive takes you up the active volcano, which is inhabited and full of farms; the people are sure that the volcano will not erupt any time soon. The rich volcanic soils and high altitude make the volcano a prime area for coffee plantations and the zip-line course ran above one of these fincas. We were given an opportunity to try the coffee produced on the large farm and given a tour of the plantation. From plants to flowers and then red berries, workers wait until the berries are just ripe enough before hand-picking them. During harvest there will be over 250 workers, working ten-hour days, and getting paid by the weight of coffee they are able to pick in a day. With heavy baskets the workers climb up the hills in the scorching heat, making only around $5 US a day. We asked about “Fare Trade Coffee” and were told that many farms work towards this certification simply because consumers happily pay more; however, often the money does not go back to the workers. This particular finca is working on making conditions better for workers and making conscientious efforts to be ecologically friendly. Berries are dried in the sun and the methane gases that are released are captured and used in the farms kitchens as fuel. The husks of the coffee beans are used as mulch and line the pathways to the zip-lines. With many different lines that allow you to see the beautiful views of the landscape below, a rope swing, trapeze line and repelling rope, the course was a great way to spend an afternoon amidst the shade of the large trees.
We met a group of travelers at our hotel that were in Nicaragua building a school for a rural community and we all went out for dinner and drinks with the hotel owner. Sitting outside along the busy tourist street we were greeted by a mariachi band that serenaded us with song after song for our entire meal. There was also a group of young Nicaraguan men that did the most incredible break-dancing tricks we have ever seen on the concrete streets. Add some drinks and a great group of people and we had a lovely evening out in Granada.
Our final day in Granada was spent exploring the many churches. With stunning rooftop views of the city, we stayed in the bell tower of one until sunset, covering our ears when the large bells chimed every half hour.
The days in Grenada were full of walking and taking in the beautiful city, but after our four full days here we were ready to move on towards the beach once again. Loading onto a bus we headed towards the city of Rivas where we connected to another bus taking us to San Juan del Sur. This idyllic little beach town is known for surfing, beautiful stretches of beach and a lively nightlife. We are staying here for five days to simply enjoy doing nothing but work on our tans. It’s a hard life!
We hope all our friends and family are doing well back home. Sending love,
Ana and Andrew