After breakfast, we stop for a look at Granada’s train station now a technical school. In the 1990’s President Violeta Chomorro ordered the rolling stock and rail demolished and sod for scrap after years of steady decline in business and damages sustained in earthquakes and floods. Today all that is left is the station.
A couple of blocks from the train station is a small shop making piñatas and what is unique about this shop are the special needs adults making them. The business was started about 9 years ago by a couple devoted to making a difference in these folks lives by giving them employment. The business has the support of the area with donations of old newspapers and other materials.
Outside of Granada and on our way to the farming cooperative we stopped at a roadside viewpoint to see ash deposit from a 1570 eruption of Mombacho Volcano revealing the layers of ash. The site is now being quarried.
We soon turned off the highway onto a very rutted and wet dirt road to get to the Nicaragua Libre Farming Cooperative for a firsthand sense of how Nicaraguan farmers live and work. It was very slow going on and questionable whether or not we would make it up one hill as the recent rain made the clay surface very slick but as we had learned, out driver was a grand master at driving; we did not have to get out and push.
Two members of the co-op greeted us and gave a little history of their operation and then a tour of the farm. There are fifteen families living on the property. It is a cooperative effort growing beans and corn for the most part but there are also fruit trees, avocado trees, dragon fruit and, of course coconut. One of the young women demonstrated how she makes jewelry from seeds gathered on the farm, of course purchases were made and the proceeds go back into the cooperative.
We sat down with a few members and enjoyed a lunch of traditional Nicaraguan specialties including a beautiful dark red hibiscus drink that is delicious.
This was a very interesting visit but sadly many members of the cooperative are now have to find work in the city to supplement their income; the crops have not been doing well the last couple of years due to changes in the climate.
Back in Granada we took a horse and carriage down to the Malecon to enjoy the late afternoon light and cloud play on the water.
We walked back toward the hotel stopping at a little sidewalk bar for a cold, cold cerveza life is good!
Hector negotiating the price of cashews for happy hour
Our destination this morning was Masaya Volcano National Park not too far out of Granada. It is a complex volcano composed of a nested set of calderas and craters both active and inactive dominated by degassing and explosive events in the last 50 years and as recently as 2001. When we arrived at the ticket booth we were told that it was impossible to drive to the top because of the large amounts of sulfur dioxide escaping from the volcano, it would not be safe. After further discussion with the ranger he suggested we visit the museum and that perhaps the weather would moderate allowing us to continue to the top.
After about 40 minutes of we were allowed to proceed with a ranger on board, he had a gas mask . . . we did not . . . should I be nervous? At the top we really couldn’t see much due to the thick cloud of gas and clouds enveloping the crater again my thought was do I need a gas mask? Actually the wind was in our favor, blowing the gases away from us. We waited and it was not long before the clouds moved to give us a glimpse into the crater. We walked to the top of the hill for an overview and look into another crater but did not stay long as the wind was shifting and the ranger suggested we leave. It was impressive looking down into “La Boca del Infierno” or “The Mouth of Hell” as it was called by the Spanish.
A few flowers added a splash of color to the stark landscape.
We stopped for lunch at a little restaurant overlooking Lago Apoyo. The lake is contained inside the crater of Apoyo Volcano, blue, and thermally vented, think big warm clean lake and the surrounding area is a nature reserve, quite beautiful. The building housing the restaurant actually held three restaurants all right next to each other with no separation other than the signs. We had a nice lunch with a hard to beat view of the lake.
Bellies full we begin the drive back to Granada stopping first in the little village of Masaya where we visited the Valentin Lopez Ceramic Workshop and School then the home of a family who make bamboo baskets. Yes, I bought some ceramics, they were beautiful and I just wish that I had more room in my suitcase but settled for one small plate. We watched the whole process as the potter started by working the clay with his feet, then the wheel, the painting and design were added and then the pieces are fired in a wood burning kiln.
Ceramic Workshop and School
Bamboo Basket Makers
Stripping the bamboo
Bottom of basket
The beautiful daughter of the basket makers
This morning we get a little better acquainted with Granada, one of the first Spanish cities in Latin America, founded in 1524. My first impression – I love it here; Granada is charming with a warm, friendly feel, the people are lovely and not of lot of Gringos if only it were not SO hot and humid.
Walking the cobblestone streets we visit first the busy local market where residents do their daily shopping for fresh fruits and vegetables, home made tamales, tortillas, chicken and fish, flowers as well as hardware and clothing. There is a crush of people making it difficult to navigate the narrow aisles.
The Family Owned Cigar Shop
Resident Macaw in the Cigar Shop
Granada sits along the shore of Lago Cocibolca a.k.a. Lake Nicaragua, the widest in Central America and one of the biggest in the world, covering 3,166 sq. miles It is rich in tropical flora and fauna and home to the only species of freshwater shark. We cruised the small islands just before sunset, it was beautiful and cooler than onshore. Our guides were fantastic at finding birds among the dense canopy and along the shores.
And as the sun sets . . .
We did a city tour before leaving Managua for Granada stopping at a squatter’s encampment near the cathedral. You can read their story in my other blog but quickly these are sugar cane workers who are protesting working conditions and chemicals used in the fields that have resulted in their chronic renal failure. More than 3,000 works have died to date.
Former sugar cane workers protesting the toxic agrochemicals used in the fields
Metropolitan Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception
Domed roof of the cathedral
Light play on the walls of the cathedral
Loma de Tiscapa in Managua
Hilltop location of Samoza’s home before 1972 earthquake destroyed it.
Silhouette of Sandino
Storm clouds on the lake
The drive to Granada was quite pleasant through beautiful country passing large haciendas and gated communities intermixed with cattle grazing the large fields.
While in Granada we called the Casa del Consulado Hotel home and it turned out to be our favorite hotel of the trip.
The highlight of our flight from Atlanta was a beautiful sunset as we flew over the Florida keys and then a dramatic lightening storm in the distant clouds.
And, once in Managua a short drive to our hotel for the night. Tired from a long day of travel sleep came quickly and it was a good night.
Camino Real Hotel in Managua