Saturday, March 28, 2015

Nicaragua March 2015


this pic is on the mangrove tour...(in the wrong place)
Nicaragua..... March 2015
Flew to Houston, met Evelyn Helminen, and then on to Managua, (the Capitol) Nicaragua, to be with Darlene, who has been living with a family since January 11. Darz and a taxi driver were waiting for us, and we then drove to Chinandega, about 2 1/2 to 3 hours north.
We stayed the first night in Luciana Gurdian's hotel. (Lady whom Dars has been living with.)




I opened the door in the morning to a scene like Mexico, busy streets, tangled electric wires, street vendors, crazy drivers, but a whole heap hotter, like a furnace! I instantly had misgivings about me and "heat" cuz we don't get along. But that was only the first day, and things improved after that!



We had breakfast there,
our breakfast was egg, white toast toasted on one side, rice/beans, juice and coffee

and then Luciana (Darlene's host mother and friend) drove us to check out hotels with pools and air, which is what I require. Checked into Hotel Farallones, which is near a grocery store, and other things. Perfect pool and air conditioning, which I've made much use of.


Some days small green parrots would fly over our area.
Luciana's family owns four hotels, two cafes, and a coffee plantation. Luciana is the overseer of the three hotels and one cafe in Chinandega, and her sister takes care of the one hotel and cafe in Leon. She has three children, ages 7 months, 5 and 7, and is 35 herself. She also goes to law school on Saturdays, because she wants to know that their property is kept from corruption and everything is legal.

Transportation is really varied. Pedicab, taxi, bicycle, motorbike, horse drawn two wheeled carts used for hauling people, wood, and lots of other things. Two adults on a two wheeled bike, carrying a baby, one carrying all his set up for selling on the street, really loaded down. Saw a man pushing his baby in a home made wood stroller. Trucks with 15 to 20 people jammed in the back on their way to or from work.
people were friendly, they let us take pictures of them and didn't ask for money
notice them smiling at us


(The heat is terrific-Darz loves it).
Travelled to Leon, 45 min. away, first taxi to the bus station. The station is full of people selling everything from food to clothes, so colorful and noisy. Saw ladies carrying dishes and pots full of fruit on their heads.

( no prob balancing, seemed like they were glued on) There were several kinds of buses, we took the mini's which hold up to 15 people jammed in.

No air, very warm, but I did it!
In Leon, we walked thru the street markets, took pictures,
SHOEMAKER
LADY HAD A CELL PHONE IN HER HAND





(shoemaker, pedicab, etc) then took a pedicab to Tierra Tours.


Saw a church which was yellowed with age, built in 1790 on the way.
TA, DAAA....OUR FIRST PEDICAB RIDE


ACTIVE VOLCANO

Driver told us that there were two more from the 1500's.
The tour bus then drove us to the mangrove estuary where we got in the open boat (only 8 if us, two from the Netherlands) and went slowly thru the water for three hours total, spotting all kinds of birds. (700 bird species here in Nic)




I had seen most before, but what amazed me the most was the termite nests in the trees.


(Surprised that they would be near the water). The mangrove trees were a big root tangle, growing from the ground as well as from the tendrils the tree grew, and made another tree as it got to the ground.



On our way back, we docked at a leatherback turtle sanctuary on Isla Juan Venado. The man there explained that the turtles, which are huge, 3 to 4 feet across and larger, come to the shore at night, lay their eggs, and go back into the water. The men would dig up the eggs and bring them into this fenced enclosure away from predators, re-bury them (some in bags so that more survive the earthquakes) and when they hatch and are mature enough, are released back into the ocean.
DARS COOLING OFF


We were shown a rhinoceros bug, ugly, icky and scary looking...about 4 inches long with thick black legs and pincers...they bite big.




Wednesday we took a bus and a pedi cab to Corinto Beach. It was super-hot, and we couldn't go into the ocean because the surf had a dangerous undertow.




The beaches here often have black/grey colored sand mixed with sand color because of all the volcanos that have been active. We had some cool drink at an Oceanside restaurant and the same pedicab took us back to the bus station. (Surprisingly, there are many round-abouts)


YUM, YUM, ER DAT

This country reminds me so much of Armenia and Mexico, with third world similarities, in housing, work, dress, dry areas, lots of dust and so much garbage. The rainy season is six months, so it's very dusty in the dry months. Super dry right now because there was only two months of rain this past There is more than 50% unemployment here, no welfare as we know it, so a man must eke out a living doing what he has to to live. Married families live with parents, single kids live with parents till married, and move out if they can afford it. And vendors on the street are selling their fruit from their small farms, there's shoemakers, homemade wood items, etc. Guards are at all the hotels 24 hours a day, women collect passes from taxi drivers coming from bus stations (why, I don't know) , lots of women at the bus station selling fruit and water in containers on their heads, going to the waiting buses.

Most vehicles are Toyotas and a few Hyundais. Lots of near-misses with the crazy fast traffic, and all the different kinds of vehicles on the streets....taxi, car, pedicabs, horse drawn carts, man- drawn carts, motorcycles and bikes, weaving in and out. Crossing the street, you have to be VERY careful because the vehicle has the right of way. And you always get out of the taxi on the sidewalk side. I am amazed that I don't see more mirrors on cars broken with so much "cozy" driving!






There sure is color, noise and heat at the bus stations. The drivers of the mini buses are yelling their destinations, (one guy was yelling to me, "Managua, Managua, Managua, Managua, Mama!" Try saying that as fast and as loud as you can!) they don't leave till the bus is full. Horns beeping, the ladies selling their wares with their various selling voices...some hilarious.


Taxis are waiting at one end, beeping their horns for passengers. Garbage, heat....!!!!! The men and boys openly ogle, whistle, make kissing sounds (ducklips!) and beep when me and Darz walk on the sidewalk to the cafe. (Not for me, for heaven sake! Sheeesh!)

At night, we see police cars with no tail lights, none on many of the motorcycles, and most often than not, no streetlights unless it was heavily populated. Many of the semi trucks, which are profuse, are all lit up, back and front, like Christmas trees! The people burn their garbage in their yards either first thing in the morning or at night, so sometime your eyes water from the smoke, and you often see ashes flying around. It seems like many of the poorer homes and businesses have this blue dim looking light, it looks so gloomy and not a bit homey, no lamps, no curtains, just one light dangling from the ceiling. (But they seem to have a tv) At our hotel, they don't put the pool or pool area lights on at night, although the fixtures are there, and you still can swim, and one night we got in late, and almost had to feel our way to our room because all the door lights were off, too. There is a beautiful chandelier in the lobby as well as wall sconces, all unlit. Electricity is very expensive? ( did I say it was hot?)

EVELYN SECOND FROM RIGHT

There is a place near us that is a volleyball court outside, nothing fancy, with just anybody who wants to play. Darlene has played here a lot. We all went one afternoon, I watched of course.


Then we went to an English class taught daily by a guy called Taylor Rocha.
enjoyed boning up on my spanish, while the students were learning english
interesting listening to them trying to pronounce our english words
FRIENDS OF DARS....ALL THE FRIENDS WANTED TO MEET ME;  CUSTOM IS TO GIVE A KISS ON THE CHEEK AND A HUG

He has about 15 students and Darz has helped with pronunciation.
EV WITH "PUPUSA"...VERY GOOD

We went and listened, and Ev took part. It's held in a very dilapidated and unclean building, where several classes are held, and not part of the school system....something like night school would be in the U.S. In the regular school, half of the kids go in the morning and half in the afternoon. They have white blouses and shirts and navy skirts and pants. After one class with Taylor, he treated treated us to supper at an outdoor cafe, which sells "pupusa".... We all had it, it was good. It was a sort of meat, cheese and bean pancake folded over and heated on a griddle; served with coleslaw. Very good.




March 5, Luciana's business driver took us to Aserrodores. The last five miles was such rough gravel dusty roads, felt out in the "boonies," although we saw a lot of people and cows walking.




We passed a road that Darlene explained that she, Heidi Helminen and 4 kids stayed for a week. The driver dropped me off and took the girls to go horseback riding on the beach, which was a dream come true for them!


I was at Marina Puesta Del Sol, a thatched beach building with a pool where I stayed and enjoyed until the girls and driver picked me up. I felt so weird, driver drove thru a winding bush road, and dropped me off, didn't have a clue where I was, and I was the only person there most of the time.


( A couple from Vancouver came to swim from their sailboat at the marina later.) Beautiful beach, weather, and, again, dangerous water. Mosquitoes were bad toward dark, and the girls looked like chicken pox the next day. The mosquitoes really like Darz, especially!! The Mosquitos here are smaller than ours. (Did I say it was hot?)

Friday I stayed at the hotel all day to rest my old bones, swam, drew in my travel book, read, etc. while the girls went back to Leon to look around.
Saturday...best tour ever! We had a private tour, guide (Franklin) and driver for the whole day...picked up at 7AM, and headed south to Granada. We stopped for a picture of an active volcano, called San Cristóbal, one of the 19 Nicaraguan volcanos.


Franklin said I would be his Grandma for the day, because he didn't have one, so he called me that. He told us a bit about the country: they harvest sesame seed, a plant that when ready to dry, is gathered into tent shapes, tied and dried. After its dried, the tent is shaken (by hand or machine, I don't know) and the seeds fall out. The main product of Nic is sugarcane, then coffee, beans, peanuts and rice. We saw Ace Hardware, Sherman-William Paints, Burger King, and ReMax businesses. (And Pizza Hot......yes, Hot)

Baseball is the main sport, which was taught by the United States Navy in the early 1900's. The population of Nicaragua is 6,071,045. They also grow teak, which is exported, and he commented that teak will not burn.

Granada is on Lake Nicaragua, which is the 10th largest lake in the world. (100 miles long and 40 miles across at the widest point).

There are freshwater sharks in this lake, when it was more open to the ocean, with the mixture of ocean and fresh. There is an area which we passed thru, where clay is in abundance. There were a few brick factories and many tiny family business making and selling bricks. We passed thru a town which was known for its tenants who practiced sorcery.


A vehicle which looked like a fixed up high-class (?) golf cart is used in smaller towns called a "tuctuc" and is a taxi. They have lights, open to the air, and a convertible type cover, although it doesn't lower. Driver in front, and I saw as many as five people pile out of the back.

We saw a kid holding up iguanas for sale on the roadside. He had about 3 or 4 (I couldn't tell) in one hand, alive, wrapped around his hand tangled together. People eat them, boil in a kind of stew and taste kind of like chicken. I wanted to get a picture, so the driver turned around, but when we got back, a car had pulled up to buy them. The iguana kid came to our car, but he wouldn't let us take a picture because it's illegal to sell iguanas in Nic since they are endangered. The people bought the whole bunch and took them, and I have no idea where they put them, being that they were alive. They don't bite, and go into a sleepy stupor when held, cuz they become terrified and freeze up. So our guide said go a little further back, as there was another kid selling iguanas. We just got there and the same car was there and bought all of them again! Alive, and a whole bunch in their car! So no picture.( did I say it was hot?)


We arrived at the Masaya Volcano Natl. Park, went thru the visitors center, then headed up the road to the rim. Great clouds of steam and smelly gaseous odors, warnings to move away if the smell bothered you.


Parrots live in the crater, surprisingly. There is a cross at the highest point of the rim with steps leading to it, erected by spaniards over a century ago to ward off the evil spirits (?) but the stairs are closed because the volcano has been active for five years, and if it should erupt, you could never get down in time to escape



On the next hill, at your own risk, you can walk around an inactive volcano, or ride a horse. It was awesomely creepy, when you looked down, it felt like you were floating in space with all the white steam. It was great to see such a sight, but glad to leave.

One of the rocks by the road, was spewed out a while ago is larger than a car.

There is a sport here that they say is the only country that has it, called volcano boarding. Takes 4 hours by car, and some walking to get to the top, and 60 seconds to get down. The boards are similar to a snowboard, but made of wood, and you can either stand up or sit down. One is suited up, along with gloves and goggles. Look it up on U-tube. It's unbelievable.  (WE DIDN'T TRY IT)

We then went to small town, Katarina, overlooking a huge crater lake, Laguna De Apoyo,


I didn't expect HALF of a chicken!  it was ok,, but......had fried plantains with it.  softie drink.



had lunch and the girls shopped while I pooped out and sat on a bench in the shade and watched the humanity and color around me.

granada park

granada shore



We then went into Granada, enjoyed the city square, which is common in many of the Latin American countries. There's a raised gazebo in the center, trees, benches, and outside cafes all around, full of people, resting, eating, enjoying the park.
EV POSING WHILE I TALKED TO MY "GRANDSON" FRANKLIN
HE CALLED ME GRAMMA FOR THE DAY CUZ HE DOESN'T HAVE A GRAMMA

Around the square is a cathedral, government buildings, police. There were buildings from the 1600's. We went to an art gallery and took a ride through the town with a two-horse drawn carriage.
TOOK A RIDE AROUND GRANADA IN GRAND STYLE





When we took off, I yelled with my arms out, "MAKE WAY FOR THE QUEEN!" (Nobody will ever see this crazy American again, right?) We enjoyed an ice cream cone before we headed back.

There are so many motorbikes on the road, and on the way to Granada, we saw a crowd of people, and as we neared, saw a body in the ditch covered with a cloth. Franklin said it happened at least once a week. Bad driving either with the car or the bike. In the dark on the way home, we could have easily hit a person on his motorcycle because he had no lights and our driver saw him in time. As we were passing, I saw that he was texting! (In the dark, no tail lights).

I AM STICKING THIS NEXT FEW PICS IN THE MIDDLE....
AN EVENING SPEND WITH LUCIANA'S FAMILY, WITH A YUMMY MEAL
THIS IS LUCIANA'S LITTLE BOY, WHAT A DOLL

ME AND LUCIANA'S SISTER, WHAT A JOLLY FRIENDLY BUNCH

AT OUR MEAL: LUCIANA'S PARENTS ARE THE MAN IN FRONT AND THE LADY IN RED TO HIS RIGHT:  EVERYBODY WAS TALKING TO EVERYBODY, SOMETIMES, ALL WERE TALKING, AND YOU COULDN'T FIGURE WHO WAS TALKING TO WHO, ALL YELLING TO BE HEARD!


THE FAMILY WITH KIDS AND GRANDKIDS
NOW TO CONTINUE ON:
We dropped Evelyn off at the airport. She had a 7 hour wait for her flight. Hated that she had to leave! It was a long day, had to be ready for our ride at 7, got home about 7:30.
THE COUNTRY'S FLOWER, THE "SECUANJOCHE  BLOSSOM"

On Tuesday Darz and I headed to Leon again, which is the bigger and better touristy city. Franklin was our guide again, and we went to the base of the Telica Volcano to see the boiling mud pools.



On the way there, we had to go thru the small town of Telica. The people there are Sandanistas, a political party. They are very friendly, Franklin said. The first thing I noticed was how neat the town was, no garbage, houses and business neat, painted, and tidy! Franklin said they have a woman mayor, and she had the town cleaned up.


Very impressive! (The garbage still puzzles me, if one place can do it, why not more??) Yesterday we were in the pool, enjoying the conversation of a lady and a 13 year old girl. They were amazed at my swimming, and I tried to help the girl with pointers. There were two other ladies in their party, and they had a meal delivered to them at the table by the pool. After they left, their garbage was on floor! Sheeesh!






We reached the mud pools, and immediately a ten or twelve year old boy came, introduced himself, and shook hands with me. He proceeded to give us knowledge of the mud pools very importantly in pretty good English.

My thought was he took over Franklin's job, but Franklin said that's ok, it's usual at this place. Of course, I gave him some coins when we left. The pools were smelly and boiling vigorously.


There were little vents in the ground also, and Franklin poured water into one little hole and steam shot out like a sauna. Interesting.


The boy moulded a small turtle from clay and wanted me to have it, but I had to refuse it, as it was sticky.




There were trees nearby with a fruit called "Jicaro" which was a little larger than a softball. It grows well in hot and dry season, is yellow, sweet, and seedy. When dried, they make maracas from them. Horses eat them off the trees, crushing the hard shell with their teeth to get at the fruit.


When the horses poop, the seeds in it start to grow more trees, so these trees are all over the place.
AT THE IGUANA FARM



Next to the iguana farm down a road so big-rocky, with 10-12 foot walls on each side, big trees with their roots hanging down the sides, and we could have made a milkshake from the jerking and jostling around!!!


Our truck whined its way up a narrow driveway to a farm, which looked so poor, but so interesting. The iguanas were in an enclosed metal corrugated fenced in yard which they couldn't climb. There were only three 3 footers and the rest were small and up to about 15 inches. We talked to the lady there and she gave us six inch sweet bananas. I showed her and our driver, Walter, the pics on my phone of our snow....actually showed a lot of other people, too.


we headed back to Leon, ate at a restaurant, planned to go to an art gallery, but forgot all about it because I was so HOT, 103 degrees, I was miserable, and we had to take a taxi to the bus station, hot and sweaty bus back to Chinandega, taxi to our hotel, and jump in the pool. AAAAAAAHHHH!!!

On the way back to Leon, we passed very poor neighborhoods, and there were outhouses, but electricity. They can only get water in their houses once a week, and sometimes many days will go past the one week for one reason or other. (We haven't got a clue, have we? Let us be thankful!)

They have dust storms here, just like our white-out snow storms. Everything for miles is covered in dust. With the dryness and the yard fires everyday, one must dust or mop all outdoor tile floors and furniture, which they are constantly doing here at our hotel.
LUCIANA AND DARLENE, HAD OUR LAST LUNCH TOGETHER THE DAY BEFORE WE LEFT

Today is Darlene's 19th birthday. Started out with sitting at the pool and facetiming home with Stanley, Joyce, Bruce, Darryl and Corinna. We had lunch with Darlene's host, Luciana. She then dropped us off at the English class, and we were late.


There the room was decorated with balloons, a piñata was in place, they had gifts, and they all clapped and yelled when we came.
TATIANA GIVING DARLENE A VERY BEAUTIFUL BRACELET
(SHE ALSO GAVE ME A  GIFT EARLIER IN THE WEEK....A BLOUSE)


We all had to put party hats on. We took group pictures, then had pop. ( I proceeded to drink the pop, then took the ice cubes and melted them slowly on my neck and face. Didn't take long to melt. It helped to cool me, in the 96 degrees and the wind felt like hot sauna.)


One of the kids drew a misshapen donkey on the board, and even I had to play "pin the tail on the donkey!" (At 77 years old!!! sheeesh!)  haven't played since i was EIGHT!!!


Next was the piñata...Darz had to be first, and finally one of the girls broke it...candy all over the floor, and a mad scramble and yelling!
Then cake time. One of the students mother made a cake, and they sang a couple birthday songs in Spanish, then our traditional song in English. The cake was called "tres Leches", or three milks...very moist and delicious, my favorite. Served with more pop, and I did the same with these ice cubes when my cup was empty. As all of this was going on, one student was playing (loud as usual) music, and everybody was yelling and laughing.....my ears, oh, my ears, the Latinos are so dramatic! I finally said my farewells, and took a cab to our hotel.

After gram left, (said Darz) each person took their turn telling me something along the lines of thank you for sharing your time with us and we hope you return soon. We will miss you, good travels. Then some of them danced a little bit but they were all kinda shy about it and yelling at each other to do it. Hugs all around and they all headed out.

I went to la cancha (the volleyball court), sat and watched the girls in their warmup and then coach came over to me and made me stand up and all the girls stood in a circle around me to clap and sing happy birthday. Then practice went on as usual.

It was our last day in Chinandega, and we were sitting on our beds talking, when it felt like someone gave the beds a shove. I said it that to be an earthquake. It was...4.0 on the R. Scale, we found out the next day. They experience earthquakes off and on.

Some more info on Nic: school buses have their lights flashing at bus stops, but traffic doesn't stop.
We were in a restaurant, music was playing, and some people took out their cell phone and proceeded to play their own music....a common occurrence, we were told. So we were hearing two kinds of songs mashed together!  taxi's had loud music on also, and surprisingly, many were playing american songs from the 60's and 70's.
No self-serve at gas stations. There's also a man writing down license numbers of all the cars getting gas. Don't know why, but at least it was this man's job to eke out a living.
I noticed several babies with cloth diapers, with no plastic protection. Some people who can afford it use the disposables.

We went to the mall, with only one clothing store. The clothes were all mixed up as well as sizes; children's, men's and ladies. So one has to dig through all the racks in order to shop. There was an electronic store, jewelry store, and a DJ playing his music (another job) as well as a food court with games and rides. Several outdoor cafes also.
darlene packing up to leave

our most frequent waiters each day....trying to learn a few english words.  so friendly.

THIS IS SOMETHING THAT I ABSOLUTELY COULD NOT EAT....DARLENE LIKED IT.  I COULDN'T EVEN TELL WHAT WAS IN IT.  SOMETHING COOKED IN LEAVES.   SHEEESH.  GOTTA ASK HER THE NAME, AND I'LL TYPE IT IN HERE.

No speed limit on the roads between towns. The main two-lane highway had super-heavy traffic, with many semi trucks, and mixed with the various other vehicles again.
COMMON SIGHT AT STOP LIGHTS;  PEOPLE SELLING THINGS BETWEEN THE CARS
THIS MAY BE SLICED PAYPAYA.

THESE STREET "TREES" ARE IN MANAGUA, AND ARE LIT UP AT NIGHT ON THE BOULEVARD
SUPER HEAVY TRAFFIC ON THE TWO=LANE HIGHWAY.  THERE ARE FACTORIES ALONG THIS MAIN ROAD, SO THERE ARE MANY SEMI TRUCKS...THIS TRACTOR IS HAULING A  GARBAGE TRAILER.

I took several pics thru the windshield as we headed to Managua to stay overnight before flying out the next morning:




pigs in the back of a truck, with a man, going to "market",



a cement truck loaded down with a man riding on top.
RIDING DOUBLE IN HEAVY TRAFFIC
GOING TO WORK

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All in all, the trip was truly an education in history as well as a way of life in an entirely different culture.
THREE MUSICIANS IN CHIMANDEGA...FIRST GUY HAS AN ACCORDIAN, OTHER TWO WITH GUITARS
I enjoyed it very much despite the heat. After our trip to Armenia two years ago, my thought was, that I don't think I'll leave the USA anymore. That's what I said before Armenia. But when someone asks, I just say OK, and I go. Now I say the same thing to myself again. We'll see.