Gone Walkabout...

This blog was going to be about my travels and impressions I had from them. But my attention span went walkabout. And like with any good walkabout I discovered unexpected things. I invite you to come explore with me...

You can contact me at teri-gonewalkabout@live.com

Friday, December 19, 2008

Cruise: Nicaragua

From Costa Rica we sailed overnight to Nicaragua. This port is not developed enough to allow a ship as large as ours to come in to their dock area, so we were “tendered” to the shore. To do this, they lowered several of our lifeboats and by groups people were taken to the dock. It was a bit choppy when we left, and to get from ship to lifeboat took a bit of timing. Wouldn’t be a good thing to try to cross when the ship was moving opposite the direction of the lifeboat!

** Our lifeboats, now tender boat **

** Where we had to come from. **

So we were heading along the Nicaragua countryside for our excursion. First stop, a market place for some souvenir shopping. And good shopping it was too! The Mercado had many small shops to look thru, and while they more or less had the same merchandise, there were enough craftsman differences to make it fun. We only had 45 minutes – 4.5 hours would not have been too much!

** In the Mercado **

** In one of the shops with our self-appointed "guide" and shopkeeper **

From there it was a short drive to the Masaya Volcano… an ACTIVE volcano. How cool is that!? Our guide informed us that only a few months earlier, Masaya had a little ‘hiccup’. Here’s what a volcano site said about that ‘hiccup’:

NICARAGUA - Masaya volcano

As of the 19th of June, the Instituto Nicarag├╝ense de Estudios Territoriales (INETER) informs that on the 18th of June at 1650hrs, local time, an explosion happened in the crater of Masaya volcano, that threw gases and volcanic ash in moderate amounts. Communication of the park was received Masaya volcano, the explosion was felt by inhabitants of the zone and the ash column had dark color.

Masaya lies within the massive Pleistocene Las Sierras pyroclastic shield volcano and is a broad, 6 x 11 km basaltic caldera with steep-sided walls up to 300 m high. The caldera is filled on its NW end by more than a dozen vents erupted along a circular, 4-km-diameter fracture system.

Masaya has been frequently active since the time of the Spanish Conquistadors, when an active lava lake prompted attempts to extract the volcano's molten "gold." Periods of long-term vigourous gas emission at roughly quarter-century intervals cause health hazards and crop damage.

Wow! Had I known how much a hiccup it had been, I might have been a wee bit more concerned as I leaned over the wall to look down into its sulfur smoking crater!
The sulfur... it was rough!! Depending on where you were standing and how the wind was moving, at times it was literally choking in a weird sort of way. Not choking like when you are in too much wood smoke, but a chemical it-hurts-to-breathe sort of way. But it was so incredibly fascinating to see. It was one of my favorite stops on the entire cruise.

** Himself at the volcano park entrance **

** an old lava flow from the crater rim **

** Me on the rim. The cross is at the highest part of the rim. **

** A LONG way down! **

** Long way from every angle **

** Sulfur smoke **

** Himself in the midst of the sulfur smoke **

** Sulfur mineral on pumace **

** the extremely jagged landscape of pumace **

** Notice how are the cars are parked? **

** Why?! In case it "hiccups" (erupts), so you can get out faster?? **

** Video of the Masaya Volcano **

From the volcano we headed to lunch. More beans, rice, chicken, and fresh fruit! Good thing we love that stuff! Oh, they did have some sort of beef & onions and some fried sea bass. Cute restaurant, we were serenaded by a papa and his 2 sons. Papa on a bass guitar, Son 1 on a regular guitar and Son 2 on an accordion.

** Son #2 **

There was a nice garden of various fruit trees (they served REALLY fresh fruit). It's fun to see all that produce growing instead of sitting on a refrigerated shelf in the grocery store. I have discovered that I really enjoy banana plants. They are so cool looking! And interesting. The plant stem bears fruit one time and dies back, to send up another stalk to bear fruit. The normal span of this is 3 times before the root stock is depleted (according to our guides).

** The banana flower **

** With the cluster of fruit **

** Bananas upside down! **

** With my favorite plant! **

Back on the bus and down the road to Granada. This is where the "feel" of the excursion changed. The other places we had been were pure 'Tourist'. Scrubbed venues and smiling people, everything looking good. But in Granada you remembered that you were in Nicaragua... Nicaragua -- Sandinistas -- Contras -- and Oliver North. Guerrilla warfare and a country brought to economic ruin. Nicaragua.

** A destroyed hospital **

** The square **

** The horses were pretty much scrubs **

** Tho the oxen looked beautiful **

** Local eatery **
Here in the city you could see the after affects of war. Everywhere we'd been there were souvenir hawkers trying to get you to empty your wallet by buying their stuff. Some were pretty persistent too. But here there was a subtle feeling of desperation.
** Hawkers trying to sell to those on the bus **

And here was the only place in the 6 countries we stopped at that there were beggars in a very large number... and some of them were grandmothers. The Latino culture still has great respect for its grandparents. So to see the grandmothers with their hands out, whispering "Por favor, senora" just about killed me... I can never walk by them...
** One of the grandmothers **

We walked a bit to reach the museum we were to see. I'm not sure how long they've been doing the tourist bit in Granada, but they definitely don't quite 'get it'. I got the feeling that the line of thought is "tourist like museums, so we will make a museum and they will pay to see it". But the exhibits and signage are amateur. Huge displays holding one small item. Signs with major spelling errors. Artifacts within easy touching reach that should be protected.
I hope they figure it out. It was a beautiful country with talented artisans and gracious people, well worth the time to visit.

One the bus ride back to the ship, the driver suddenly pulled over to the side of the highway. There in the trees was a family of howler monkeys. First and last monkeys I saw... which suited me just fine! I'm no fan of them...they remind me of rats with hands!
** Howler monkeys **

** Souvenirs of Nicaragua **
A piece of local pottery, a cross with clay flowers, a clay chicken whistle, a painting by a Masaya artist, a carved soapstone Nativity and a bag of coffee.

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