The Nicarao are the earliest natives of Nicaragua assumed to be related to the Aztec & Mayan people of Mexico. When the Spanish came under de Córdoba in the 1500s, they named the country after the Nicarao people plus the vast amounts of water (agua)
The current currency is the Córdoba
Population is approximately 6million and 1million live in the capital Managua
Lake Nicaragua or Lago Cocibolca is the largest freshwater lake in Central America and the 19th largest lake in the world. It is 161 km long and 71 km wide, over 8200 square km.
Nicaragua has 19 volcanoes, 7 of which are active
Volcan Masaya - is unique in that it is one of the 7 volcanoes in the world with a molten lava lake
We have booked a tour with Gerald from Tours By Locals and Duran Tours (his tour company) to see Granada. As I am a guide in Vancouver for Tours By Locals, I am very excited to meet one of my colleagues. Gerald arrives early and within minutes we are enroute to Granada - approximately an hour away.
Although it was not included in the tour we booked, Gerald suggest we visit Volcan Masaya, an active volcano and one of 7 in the world that has a molten lava lake. Following a visit to the visitor centre, we drive up to the top to peer into the crater. It was very smoky, burning our nostrils and throats, so smokey we could barely see the lava. Photos were taken and then we were off.
Fero mentioned he would like a juice, and not just any bottled juice would do, according to Gerald who drove us in to El Centro of Masaya where Don Pollo (his nickname) made the freshest juice. We waited as Don Pollo whipped up three delicious concoctions and they were finished in seconds - delish.
During out wait time, one of the locals pointed excitedly to a tree and low & behold there was a sloth on one of the higher branches, just hanging out. We were thrilled as generally the only time you see a sloth (if you are lucky) is in the national parks, not in the middle of an 80,000 person city. I told Gerald he has to charge more as we are now on a wildlife tour - this brought a giggle from him.
Just before we head off, I have the opportunity to change some US cash with fellow on the corner - yes standing on the street corner. Gerald knows him and says he gives the best rate, he gave me 36 cordobas for $1 and the banks give 30 cordobas - a huge gain. Within seconds of telling him I wanted to change $100, he had the money counted and we did the exchange. Fero commented "he is amazing, he calculates faster than any one of those guys at Nasdaq". Apparently he also carries a gun, just in case someone gets an idea to rob him.
Granada is a beautiful colonial city, and along with the city of Leon, it was one of the first cities settled by the Spanish. The indigenous people of the region chose the site many years prior for its great location on Lake Nicaragua and eventual access to the Caribbean Sea. They had been traders for centuries before the Spanish arrived.
The city is a favourite for most tourists with its brightly coloured buildings, museums, cathedrals, collection of shops, bars and restaurants. In researching our holiday, Granada and its picturesque cathedral were featured at least 20 times more than other areas of Nicaragua. Although very beautiful, we are keen to venture elsewhere where it is a little more low key. We have since discovered Leon which is yet to be a huge tourist destination so it has more of a local feel to it.
Next up is a private boat ride on Lake Nicaragua taking us through some of the 365 small islets on this side of the lake. Many of the islands are inhabited with summer homes, some simple, others grandiose! Many of the local wealthy Nicaraguans have their second homes on the islands.
Weaving our way through the Islands, we see egrets, tri-colour herons and come to a very tiny island that has a family of four spider monkeys. Apparently, there are also howler monkeys which swim between the islands. As the spider monkeys don't swim, they are confined to this small area which is a little sad. Someone dropped them off there and now they have no where to go. They do get very excited when boats pull up as they know they will be offered food. Just like children, their favourite food is junk food and not fruit!
Time for lunch and Gerald has the perfect spot, the Villa Mombacho for Guapote (big mouth bass caught in Lake Nicaragua). The villa restaurant is on the shore of Lake Nicaragua and in the shadow of Volcan Mombacho, which is one of the 7 active volcanoes! Gerald ordered the Guapote for us and when it came our eyes popped out. It was huge, and very, very tasty so it was eaten up in no time.
Ok, it is now time to head back to Managua and end this wonderful action packed day. Gerald dropped us off at the hotel and it was sad to say goodbye to our first Nicaraguan friend. Adios until next time.
Back at the hotel we escape the heat sitting next to the lovely pool and both of us promptly nod off for a wee nap. Somewhat refreshed we decide to head to the local supermercado for some light snacks and refreshments as we weren't hungry after our large lunch.
Retiring to our room, we sip wine and munch on cashews, and before you know it we are sleeping.