Granada - Foray Into Nicaragua

Trip Start Aug 16, 2003
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Trip End Apr 21, 2004


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Flag of Nicaragua  ,
Tuesday, March 9, 2004

The obscene, sleep-shattering beep of the alarm clock drew us inexorably out of our slumber at the unwelcome pre-dawn time of 4.45 am. With heavy eye-lids and uncomprehending brains, we dazedly performed our ablutions and stumbled out of our cabin to the awaiting taxi. As we wound our way back to the ferry terminal at Coxen Hole, activity on the island began to increase - early risers taking advantage of the beginnings of a new day.

We managed to doze off on some padded leather seats during the two hour crossing back to La Ceiba, and by 8.30 we had reached the airport, intending to catch a flight to Honduras' capital, Tegucigalpa. The next available option was at 1 pm, so we had plenty of time to acquaint ourselves with the inside of the terminal. This evidently turned out to be a blessing as we were unable to pay for our flight with our credit cards and consequently had to get a taxi back into the town for some more cash!

Eventually the time for us to board arrived and we made the half hour flight southwards. I thought that the plane from Flores to Guatemala City was small - this one was even more cosy: we sat right up front by the cockpit and in full view of the instrument panel - we even had to make way for one of the pilots to squeeze past!

From Tegucigalpa, we caught a bus to Danli near to the border with Nicaragua, so that we could make an early start over the frontier the following day. At nine the next morning we had boarded another bus to El Paraiso, where we changed to another for Los Manos (the border town). We experienced a fair degree of aggravation whilst following the red tape at immigration: first of all the Honduran authorities didn't stamp our passports to say that we were leaving the country (so we had to queue up again and try to explain this), then after changing all our money into Nicaraguan Cordobas, the authorities on that side of the border refused to accept the entry fee in their own currency, demanding American dollars! Nearing the end of our respective tethers, we finally succeeded in clearing immigration and boarded yet another bus to the town of Ocotal, Nicaragua. From there, we had to wait two and a half hours for the 'Express' bus to Managua, as the 1.30 pm bus was full. Our first impressions of Nicaragua were not as positive as those of some of the other countries we have visited due to the constant bombardment we received from the hawkers, peddlars, shoe-shine boys and beggars at this bus stop. As with many of the other places in this part of the world, we sat amongst the locals who have no compunction about spitting at your feet, throwing litter constantly, and invading your 'personal space', that we hold a little more dear. It made for a less than pleasant interlude, but one that we are becoming more accustomed to.

Arriving in the capital by sunset, we hopped into a taxi and were driven to a shuttle-bus depot, to change transportation for the final time. Within seconds of exiting the taxi, we were helpfully bundled into a mini-bus bound for Granada, Nicaragua's 'prettiest' city. This journey was a much more comfortable one, as the heat from the day had dissipated, and the dust from the road was reduced due to the higher quality of the surface sealant.

By mid-evening, we pulled up in the city's town square and walked the short distance to The Alhambra Hotel. Although not quite as opulent as its namesake in southern Spain, the hotel was decorated grandly and was a very welcome sight to two weary travellers. We ate in the attached restaurant, and enjoyed the food (it was our first meal of the day!), but could not fathom why the service was SO slow, when only a few tables were occupied!

After breakfast at the hotel (with a similar standard of attention from the waiters) we wandered briefly around the town centre before walking a couple of kilometres to the shores of Lago de Nicaragua. We paid a nominal fee to enter the Centro Turistico - a strip of shore-line dotted with bars, restaurants and children's playgrounds. The area actually seemed pretty dead, with only a small minority of the hostelries actually open.

The lake itself was vast, and with the strong breeze blowing in, seemed more like a sea - the only difference being that seagulls were replaced by herons, crows and larger birds of prey. After strolling down to the end of the promenade, we paused for a cold beer at a bar overlooking a small corner of the lake at a point where a river joined. It was a pleasant spot where it wouldn't have been out of place to catch a glimpse of a crocodile slithering into the muddy waters (in fact, there are apparently 'freshwater sharks' inhabiting the waters of the lake that migrate up the Rio San Juan from the Pacific).

Once suitably refreshed, we ambled back into town in the searing heat where we went to the bank in order to withdraw some cash. This proved to be no mean feat, and ultimately in vain as initially my driving licence was not sufficient proof of identity and I had to return to the hotel for my passport. After queuing up for a further twenty minutes I was to discover that my card did not work. Andrea repeated the process with her card, waiting in line for even longer, with the same results. Feeling more than slightly anxious that we were running out of funds, we asked at the hotel reception, where the girl pointed us in the direction of a new ATM round the corner (the guidebook had said that there were none in the city). Thankfully, it worked, and we were again in possession of hard currency!

We spent the next part of the day catching up with emails and the travel diary before readying ourselves for our evening meal, and spent a quiet night in, with cable tv and our books.

A couple of doors down from the hotel was a neat little cafe, where we had a lovely breakfast before heading to the bus stop and Rivas, for the next part of the Nicaraguan leg of our trip.

Dan and Andrea
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