Nicaragua Love

We’ve only been in Nicaragua for a week and a half, but I am already looking forward to our next trip here. The people are amazing, hospitable, and creative. My only complaint is getting cat called when walking or riding around in Managua… Latin American machismo is not my favorite thing ever, but they’re mostly harmless and it is rather adorable seeing James yell back “es MIA!” to the guys blowing kisses and whistling at us.

Lights of Managua, Nicaragua 2014

Group Photo in Managua 2014

Managua is a huge sprawling city, bustling and gritty but MUCH less chaotic and crazy than San Jose. The streets are lined with trees, street art, and lots of colorful lights (even the taxis and buses are decorated with LEDs and bright paint jobs). We have visited a couple of busy open-air markets full of stalls selling everything from shoes to fruit to furniture. We got a tour in the back of a pickup through the city in the evening from one of James’s childhood friends from when he lived here, Elmer. He showed us some lovely parks and monuments, the old center of town that was destroyed by earthquakes, and the beautiful port along Lake Managua. We visited Elmer’s family in Tipitapa and had a delicious traditional lunch. As much as I am not normally a fan of big busy cities, Managua is definitely growing on me and it helps that we are staying with locals and meeting great people.

Last weekend we went to Playa Quizala on the Pacific coast with James’s dad, his roommate, and several of their friends. We stayed at a cute little place called Paraiso Bikini and had it to ourselves. We got to swim in the ocean and pool, hunt for treasure along the beach (I have never seen so many sea shells! And such big sand dollars!), enjoy tasty beverages and BBQs, and James, Ruben, and I spun fire on the sand, much to the delight of the innkeeper and his family, who were taking photos to put on their Facebook page. We got lots of sun, played music till the wee hours on the jukebox, slept in hammocks in a beach bungalow, and had a blast making new friends.

Paraiso Bikini Party Time, Nicaragua 2014 Paraiso Bikini Party Time, Nicaragua 2014

James Spinning on Playa Quizala at Sunset, Nicaragua 2014Ruben and James Spin Fire at Paraiso Bikini

This week we went to another beach, Tola, which had epic huge waves and a fancy resort where James’s dad was doing massage work for a few days. We enjoyed pitchers of mojitos (!!!) and spotted all kinds of creatures in the tide pools. We put on a little fire show at a surf shack and met a local hooper named Saffron who tried my fire hoop for her second time hooping with fire. We even made a few tips passing a hat around during our show.

We left Tola by bus and headed to Rivas, then San Jorge, where we caught a ferry across the enormous Lago de Nicaragua to the volcanic island of Ometepe. Two beautiful volcanoes form the island, Concepcion and Maderas. The lake is so huge that you can’t even see across it, and the huge island looms in the center, with the cone of Concepcion towering over it. We got off the boat in Moyogalpa and had a delicious lunch before catching a bus to Chico Largo hostel, near the center of the island and Laguna Charco Verde. James had stayed at the hostel the last time he was on Ometepe in 2012 and it was a gorgeous place right on the lake. We went for a walk along the lake shore and found volcanic crystals and rock outcroppings formed by lava flows. On our walk we stopped to check out a neat tree and saw movement overhead – there were four monkeys up in the tree! We sat and watched them for a while as they jumped from branch to branch and made all kinds of noise. They were adorable and the first monkeys we’d seen on the trip, so of course I took a million photos. We watched the sunset with the monkeys and walked back to the hostel to have dinner.

Ometepe Monkeys, Nicaragua 2014 Sunset on Ometepe, Nicaragua 2014 Volcan Concepcion, Ometepe, Nicaragua 2014 Spin Jam on Lava Rocks on Ometepe, Nicaragua 2014

The next morning we got up and headed to a zip line canopy tour! We got harnesses and helmets and hiked up a steep hill between the volcanoes, where we had a great view of the lagoon and lake below and the dry tropical forest canopy all around. We got to zip around from platform to platform in the trees on the zip lines, taking in the views as they whizzed by. We even got to go upside down on one of the lines, and James and I both got to do one together, which was hilarious since I was bent forward in front of him flying as he held on and braked for us both. We saw a couple of monkeys up in the trees from one of the platforms, the howler monkey kept making noises at us since we were in his turf. It was SO MUCH FUN zipping around in the trees and the guides even took my camera and got great pictures of all of us.

Zip Line Canopy Tour on Ometepe, Nicaragua 2014 Howler Monkey on Our Zip Line Tour, Ometepe, Nicaragua 2014

After the zip line tour, we checked out of Chico Largo and got on a bus to Santo Domingo, a little town on the back side of the island on the bridge between the volcanoes. It was super windy, especially on that side of the island, but with the tropical heat, we welcomed the cooling breeze. The first thing we saw when we got off the bus was a vegetarian restaurant, which I was super stoked to see! We had a delicious veggie lunch and then walked through the town looking for a place to stay, which took a while because many of the hotels were quite fancy and we were on a budget. We finally found one and settled in. We went for a walk on the beach and found a nice pool to cool off in for a bit. We had dinner at a cheap local place and played cards before falling asleep early. The next morning we got up and had breakfast and delicious smoothies at the vegetarian restaurant before walking towards Ojo de Agua, a cold mineral water spring in the middle of the island. It was AMAZING and we spent most of the day there, swimming in the crystal clear mineral water pools, drinking coconut water fresh from the coconuts, lounging, and checking out the farm behind the swimming hole. It was a beautiful and relaxing day. We got back to town and had a meal, then relaxed in our room and made some drinks with Flor de Caña rum and Shaler cola – local specialties.

Ojo de Agua, Ometepe, Nicaragua 2014 Coconuts at Ojo de Agua, Ometepe, Nicaragua 2014 Playa Santo Domingo and Volcan Maderas on Ometepe, Nicaragua 2014

This morning it was hard to leave Ometepe, especially since there was still so much there to see. Since it’s Sunday, there was only one bus to Moyogalpa on the other side of the island. We had a smoothie and waited for the bus, and when it arrived, we barely fit on the back of the bus, crammed in with tons of locals and tourists. I had to sit on a bag of beans and Ruben had to put his pack on the top of the bus. It was packed to the gills, definitely the most crowded bus we have been on yet, but that’s just part of the adventure! We had brunch on Moyogalpa before getting on the ferry back to the mainland and catching another bus back to Managua.

Tomorrow we are heading to Masaya, a local artisan village full of markets, and Granada, stopping by Laguna Apoyo to swim, a volcanic crater lake. We leave Thursday evening for home, if we can manage to pry ourselves away from this amazing place!

This trip has been amazing. I can’t believe almost a month has gone by and how many beautiful places we’ve seen. It has even been much easier for me to find vegetarian food than I thought – gallo pinto (rice and beans) is delicious, tostones (fried plantain slices) are better than fries, and quesillos (tortillas with cheese and a gooey cream sauce) are divine. We will definitely be trying these recipes at home. And the rum here is awesome, I have been drinking more here than I do at home for sure. I don’t even drink coffee at home, but the coffee here is so good that I can’t resist. We’ll definitely be bringing some of both home!

I can’t wait to share all the photos of the trip – all 2,500 or so that I’ve taken so far. Stay tuned for a glimpse!

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