Our Central America tour (8): Lago de Nicaragua

Today (Saturday) we began and ended the programme on or around islands on Lago de Nicaragua.

Overnight on Isla de Ometepe, we had shared our chalet with two tiny gekos and two large spiders which added some local flavour and then, in the morning, none of the chalets had hot water so it was an invigorating shower. Like all countries, Nicaragua has a past and will have a future and this morning – setting off at 7.30 am – we touched on both.

Our connection with the past came with a visit to a part of the island called Finca El Porvenir where we spent an hour and a quarter being shown various large petroglyphs. These are carvings on igneous volcanic rocks which are between 1200-1400 years old, representing a culture which existed long before the Spanish arrived in this part of the world. On the island as a whole, over 1700 petroglyphs have been discovered, but we only viewed half a dozen, The largest and most impressive represented a Mayan calendar which archaeologists are still unable to interpret.

Our vision of the future came when Eduardo told us a little about the plans to builds a Nicaragua Canal to rival the more southerly Panama Canal. The proposed route will traverse the Lago de Nicaragua which will bring economic prosperity but environmental challenges to this part of the country. Last tear, a 50 year concession to build and operate the new canal was awarded to a joint venture between Nicaragua and Hong Kong companies.

From Finca El Porvenir, we drove round to a location called Oyo de Agua. There is a waterfall here but it is not really accessible, so most visitors either use the open air swimming pool and/or the refreshment facilities. Roger & Vee bought coffees for the guide Eduardo and the driver Felix and chatted about our experiences

Our final destination on the island was of course, Moyogulpa to catch the ferry back to the mainland. We reached the village early so that there was time for a quick lunch and Roger & Vee and Brian & Cally enjoyed salads & beers at a place called “Pizzeria Bon Appetito”. The group and our coach were on the 12.30 pm ferry and an hour and a quarter later we were back at San Jorge where we soon accessed again the Pan American Highway continuing north-east. Vee spotted a dead pony by the roadside being devoured by around 20 vultures.

After an hour and a quarter, we reached the city of Granada which is located by Lago de Nicaragua and headed straight for a small quay where boat trips to the surrounding Islands commence. The group filled a long boat with single seats along both sides to maximise vision and a local guide operated the motor while Edwardo helped us to spot local water birds.

This area of Lago de Nicaragua is known as Las Isletas which is a collection of around 300 small islands formed by the volcanic activity of nearby Volcan Mombacho (1345 metres). Many of the islands are privately owned and serve as holiday homes for the rich (one which was pointed out to us cost $1.5 million). One of the tiny islands is called monkey island because it is home to three spider monkeys and one white-faced monkey. Sadly they are overweight because tourists keep feeding them with sweet foods.

The main attraction of the area for many tourists is the opportunity to spot various types of bird and we saw lots ospreys, egrets, cormorants, and weaver birds. Some members of our group were very, very adept at spotting these birds among the trees and bushes on the islands and some of them of the group were very, very excited to do so.

At 5.20 pm – after being out for almost 10 hours – we checked into our hotel in Granada: the El Almirante – our fourth hotel in four consecutive nights. The evening was the best of our holiday so far because we teamed up with Brian & Cally to go out for dinner at a Mexican restaurant called “Tequila Vallarta” behind the cathedral. The food was fine but, when Roger asked to see the dessert menu, he was advised that the restaurant had no desserts even though the menu suggested four options. His face was clearly crest-fallen because they then offered to go to the next door restaurant and find him a dessert, as a result of which he finished the meal with a delicious Neapolitan ice cream.

Meanwhile all around, downtown Granada was buzzing. Vendors tried to sell us all sorts of things; musicians tried to entertain us; a group of break dancers performed amazing feats of acrobatic dance; and there were two bunches of performers dressed like giant puppets who swirled round as a cacophony of drums beat out (the tall mannekin is called La Gigantona) It had the elements of a carnival atmosphere and we loved it.


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