October 31st, 2016
Calvin met us at the airport when we landed from the Corn Islands and took us back to the hostel, where we found Tigger safe and sound but very annoyingly leaking from the bathroom ceiling vent again!
We unpacked, went for a walk looking for a few needed items and then went into the hostel for a beer. We met an American couple, Natasha and Warren who had just completed two years of service with the Peace Corps here in Nica. We enjoyed chatting with them.
So Tuesday morning after breakfast we headed back to the garage, Casa Cross, only to be extremely disappointed; not only had they not ordered the oil, but they tried to tell us we could use 20W50 oil instead! They did say their parts department had the filter and they could get 10W30 oil which we could have gotten away with in these warmer climes, but it was pretty price. We left the garage and Doug went to the parts shop and bought the one filter they had.
Now we knew that Joe & Josée were still at Las Peñitas (they arrived there the day we left) and would be heading through Leon so we called them and asked them to stop at the place where we’d been quoted $6.38 a litre and pick us up 7 litres. They very kindly did this for us. Even if we find it as we go today, it will be handy to have more for next time.
Our next stop was a spot where some ancient human footprints had been uncovered. We found the location on maps.me map but when we got there, saw nothing that even remotely resembled a museum. It was a non-descript building with no signage but it did have a tall white steel fence around it. We parked and went to ask; this WAS the place. We paid $2US to enter and an employee took us to the covered site and explained the history.
Here’s a pic of the “museum” and one of the foot prints:
Huellas de Acahualinca are considered Managua’s most fascinating attraction (not that there are more than this anyway). They were buried under 4 metres of compacted volcanic material and the tracks were discovered in 1874 by quarrying workmen. There is a track of ten humans (men, women and children) pacing in one direction. There are also tracks of deer and a sort of raccoon called a mapache. In further excavations in 1978 they found more footprints nearby and they believe there could be many more.
So now we made a pit stop at another Bridgestone shop and found the oil and we asked about them doing the change but this shop did not have the proper tool to get the current oil filter off! If it’s not one thing, it’s another. So we bought the oil anyway and left.
After doing some grocery shopping we made our way south to the small town of Nindiri which was the closet camping spot to Parque Nacional Volcán Masaya with power offered. It was a lovely little restaurant/bar overlooking Lake Masaya with a large swimming pool. The vistas were breathtaking and we could actually see the nearby volcano peak.
We paid nothing to camp and less than $2US each to use the pool. There were outdoor showers and clean bathrooms as well. We parked and told them we’d be leaving before dark to go to the volcano but would be back to sleep. They were cool with that.
While enjoying the pool, a young couple arrived. Leslie was 9 months pregnant and she and her husband, Ivan, were in town awaiting the birth of their child. They are from Ottawa, Canada and moved here to Nica three years ago. They own and run a little restaurant on the coast but she was going to have her baby in the hospital in Managua. They had come to Bucaneros Restaurant to spend the day.
After showering, we unhooked Tigger and headed to the National Park gates to go see the most active volcano in Nica. You can visit the park during the day but as the sulfurous gases are toxic you are limited to five minutes at the rim. If you go at night, you get fifteen minutes and a better view of the lava after dark.
The park was supposed to open at 5:30 for the evening shift and we were first at the gate at 4:50. A few vendors came buy and we bought a few homemade snacks to nibble on while waiting. 5:30 came and went and while we waited two Canadian women from London, Ontario came by to chat as well as Scott from Wisconsin who was doing the PanAm on his motorbike. At 5:55 they finally opened the gates and we paid our entrance fee. First you drive about a mile and wait at a barrier and when a certain numbers of cars are lined up there, you all drive about 5km/3m to the parking lot inside the park at the rim. You can see the steam/gases rising from the volcano through the trees as you drive and it has a pink/red glow to it reflecting from the lava deep inside.
This is a decent sized lot and there are rangers there managing the parking and the timing of your stay. By now it was quite dark and we went straight to the wall to get our first glimpses. Now we’d met others who’ve been here and were aware you can look down into the crater and see the lava but were not really sure what to expect. It was quite spectacular. As Lonely Planet says: “in a more litigious nation, there is no way you would ever be allowed to drive right up to the lip of a volcano cone as volatile as the Santiago Crater on Volcán Masaya”; so true!
There was steam/gas coming up out of the crater but with a slight breeze it was blowing away from the parking lot; we couldn’t smell anything but we understand that often the rangers that work up here wear gas masks. The lava was bubbling and flowing deep down inside and it was like white hot fire; definitely an experience like none other even if only for fifteen minutes.
Upon returning to Bucaneros, we went to the bar for 2×1 drinks and an appie for dinner as our snacks at the park gate meant that we weren’t hungry enough for a full dinner. It was quite pleasant until the skies opened up and it just poured and poured. So glad we weren’t still at the volcano rim!
Wednesday, we headed to our next destination: Laguna de Apoyo, a scenic crater lake with camping spots along one side of the lake. Joe & Josée were going to join us here later in the day. We made it to Punta El Cacique Restaurant/hostel and after a bit of discussion regarding price, found a level spot in the parking lot and set up. Many of these lakeside places are quite steep and it was several steps/levels to get down to the lakefront. It was somewhat cloudy so at first we were a little underwhelmed by the views themselves at first, but the fact that we were sitting on a crystal clear lake surrounded by crater walls inside a dormant volcano was pretty cool and get this, there are palm trees on this lake! When the sun finally came out, it was quite beautiful.
J&J arrived and we enjoyed a swim and happy hour before the evening rains came. As it is now early November, the rainy season is lessoning but it’s not gone yet……
Thursday, we spent the day (for the most part) at the lake. Part of the “price” to stay here is that you have to spend a certain amount per person in their restaurant so we arranged for the night before four of us eat breakfast Thursday morning. However, there was NO one in the kitchen or waiters for that matter that morning. Doug had a webex meeting for work that afternoon and the wifi was not cooperating so we unhooked Tigger and he went back to Bucaneros where we knew the wifi was good to take the meeting (about 14 kms away).
We had all thought about going to Granada together by taxi the next day but Doug and Fran were anxious to get back to the beach so we left early and hope to meet J&J at the beach in a couple of days. We drove the 15 kms to Granada and found a gas station with an oil pit so we had the oil change done finally for Tigger with the filter we’d purchased and the oil J&J had picked up for us. We parked less than a kilometre from el Centro in town and walked to the historic colonial area. It was stinking hot outside that day. We walked to see the two churches, one of which you can climb the bell tower in to get 360° views of the city (Iglesia de la Merced) and the other not so exciting although it is touted as the oldest in Central America (San Francisco).
The buildings were in pretty good shape as Granada’s el centro is a considered a museum and no tall buildings allowed. There are LOTS of churches and a large market near the cathedral which we wandered.
Walking to the market, we saw this chicken on a leash:
We checked the main cemetery where there is a scale model of the French chapel, Chapel of Spirts (Capilla de Animas in Spanish) and drove up to the Fortaleza La Polvora constructed in 1748 but it was closed.
Granada is on Lake Nicaragua so as we wanted to see that, we drove to the “tourist centre” on the lake shore and it was a little disappointing. There was supposed to be a sandy beach but there was not much of one, there was a lot of garbage though. We did see horses in the shallow waters and although we’d hoped to sit and have lunch here most places were closed and not right on the lake.
We thought the city of Granada had a lot of charm and was nicer and cleaner than Leon but there was no place for us to camp overnight with power (and we knew we’d never sleep without AC in this heat) so we left. We did consider splurging and getting a room for the night but parking Tigger nearby in el Centro was a concern for us.