The Monkey Tail Fern looks like an upside-down octopus!
Monkey Tail Fern, unrolled.


Is it too rainy in Central America to have fun?

I was severely disappointed to see the weather forecast before the trip. Thunderstorms every day. How much fun could that be? I remember the same problem when I would go to Isla Mujeres, off the coast of the Yucatan close to Cancun. However, once you get there, you find that the weather forecast means something different than in the U.S. where we have fronts that move through and control the weather. The same percentage chance of rain might spoil your plans for Root Checker Apk the whole day there, whereas it might only be an one hour “speed bump” in Central America. The forecast for rain every day turned into one, one-hour shower on one day and a little sprinkle another evening. There was some overcast on some days, but nothing that spoiled any plans. Don’t believe the weather reports. They are based on averages unless a hurricane or tropical storm is in the waters. Then watch those closely!

Mombacho Volcano near Granada, Nicaragua

There are 3 trails, short, medium and long which wind around the four craters of the volcano. I wanted to take the short trail, because I expected it to blow at any time and I didn’t want to be up there when the molten lava starts to blow hundreds of feet into the air! The guides say it has not blown for 1500 years, but you can’t trust them. I think it was probably only like 1000 years, so I wanted to hurry. There are many species of tropical plants to see, a few of which are only known in this area. I was outvoted and we did the medium walk, which is a combination of the short and long trails. Augustin & Jackee were our guides. In order to go on the “Puma” trail (the long trail), a guide is required and is well worth the small price on any of the trails. The Puma trail is only for those in good shape. They tell you thelength of the trail, but what they don’t tell you is you will be going up several hundred meters (about 600 feet) in altitude. Whew! Don’t even think about it on a day when it is too cloudy to see the view, its probably not worth the effort. Even when it is cloudy on the short trail you can see many flower and plant species as well as hear the howler monkeys (which sound like a pack of dogs howling) and feel the hot, humid air blowing up through the old lava tubes. Word to the wise: it can get a little chilly and wet up there no matter what the weather is below. Also, wear comfortable walking shoes. To get to the volcano, you have to turn off the road and go a few kilometers to the landing. You pay about $15 per person to get in a Mercedes diesel truck with seats mounted in the bed and which leaves about 8:30 and 10:30. The brochure says it is closed on Monday, but they were open when we went there on Monday. The rest of the trip is pretty much straight up. I didn’t get a warm, fuzzy feeling when, half way up, grinding in granny-gear drive, the driver stopped and filled up a jug with water and went to the radiator, which was covered by plastic held with rubber bands instead of a cap and put some water in. The trip went without incident though and on the way down we stopped at the Las Flores Coffee Plantation gift shop, which is about half of the distance down. They have several coffees made and give free samples. It was good enough that I bought a pound. Also, the dark chocolate was some of the best I have ever tasted.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

A Man of the Cloth

Saturday morning: Another great night’s sleep. Can’t wait to see what Martha comes up with for breakfast. Every meal has been great. I have learned from traveling all my life, first with my parents while my dad served in the U.S. Army and later on my own, that one always packs a washcloth because many, if not most places don’t have them. Did I do that? I’ll let you guess.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Is it Safe to Go to Nicaragua?

I had the question from a friend in the elevator at work before I left Texas: “Is it safe there? You know, with the Sandinistas and all?” I never thought anything about it, being very busy trying to get everything at work in place so I could be away for a few days. Being self-employed, the expense of the travel has to be added to the loss of income from being away from the business. Of course, I could easily have checked the Department of State Travel Warning web site (link at bottom of blog), but, true to form, I didn’t really think much about it until now, the second night in country. In the country in the country. As in VERY remote. And dark. I guess the faint rumbles in the distance made me think. Well gosh, we are only two miles from the base of a huge volcano, maybe it is just that rumbling. Wait, is that good or bad? Looking up “Sandinista” tells me it was a movement named after a dude named “Sandino” who was evidently a relative of Dean Martin and who led a revolution against U.S. occupation of Nicaragua in the 30’s. Then the Sandinistas came into power in 1979 to 1990. Then there were the Contras, supported by the U.S. all of which probably just made the U.S. unpopular except with whoever  probably got millions (billions?) of U.S. tax dollars in the process. Oh look! It says the Sandinistas were elected as the governing party in 2006 and I suppose are still there. That rumbling is getting closer. Kind of like thunder, but shorter “booms.” You know, I was in combat in Vietnam and I would swear those were mortar shell sounds. Kind of a hollow “thud” sound. You know, I think I hear the popping of small arms fire! OMG what have I gotten into? It is definitely getting closer. I can hear people yelling, the popping of small arms fire. machine guns, mortar shells it sounds just like they are in the next room! Oh… The TV is on a war movie in there… Never mind!

In the Square, Granada, Nicaragua

Looking Around in Granada

Octavio gave us a ride to town in his pickup so we could look around. Granada is the oldest city in Nicaragua. How old you say? Don’t get me started here, it is really, really old. It was founded in 1524 by a Spanish dude named Cordoba. (This may be where we get the name for cordovan shoe polish.) It has been razed and even burned to the ground several times, but has always been rebuilt. Most of the buildings had to be rebuilt from the ground up after the sieges. However, we stopped in a bar/restaurant just off the square called “Drilos” which, they claimed, was in a building built in 1525 and the walls were original. They said only the roof had to be replaced each time. It was a beautiful place with an old cannon and some kind of monument, celebrating something in the median of the street out front. More importantly, they served “Tofia” beer, which is the local light beer. It is very good and, they say, it is light so it makes you want to drink another. Not being ones to disappoint, we had two. With the second one, we had an order of onion rings. They breaded and fried the onions in a light batter with jalapeno pepper slices. It was incredible! The kids hang around after school close by and a couple of the posts on the covered sidewalk out front had “I love Justin Bieber” scribbled on them. Some things are the same all over!

Fountain in the Square, Granada, Nicaragua

Paxeos Shuttle Service Office next to Cathedral on the square in Granada, Nicaragua

The Next Morning…


It is now Friday morning, 6:00 a.m. Texas time, 5:00 a.m. here (They don’t observe daylight savings time here) and it is bright daylight. Wow! What a great night’s sleep! Gee, its a little chilly in here with that fan on. I wonder if the owner would sell me this mattress? Oh well, breakfast is ready. Martha has chopped up various fresh fruit, some or all of which came from her garden here around the house. They even grow their own avocados. They are very mild tasting, almost like eating smooth butter. They have mangos which are wonderful. Skip says his son-in-law breaks out when he touches a mango skin. Seems there in the same thing in the skin as in poison ivy. I am very allergic to poison ivy, but I didn’t have any trouble downing that fresh, sweet mango! I didn’t eat the peeling though. They even have a cinnamon tree. I didn’t even know cinnamon grew on trees. I thought it came in jars at the grocery store.

How Will I Ever Sleep Without a Ceiling Fan?

It is incredibly hot and humid here. I don’t see how anyone sleeps without a/c or ceiling fans. There is an upright pole fan in the bedroom. Humm, it is much cooler with it on. Now this bed seems incredibly hard. I don’t think I can possibly sleep under these conditions.

Granada, the Environs

The van took the typical bumpy ride through the lush jungle and typical Central American huts and fields toward Granada. Just before we got there, the van took a right, went a few miles and then went down this incredibly narrow country road. The driver got to where he deemed he couldn’t go any further, a fact that was uniformly agreed upon by the passengers, and he asked directions. The 8 year old on the bicycle was evidently not much help. The driver, to his credit, was able to turn the van around on a road that was only about 3/4 as wide as the van was long and we took off again. Finally, we located the right house and we were dropped off. Now we are miles from anywhere, in a typical Nicaraguan house with no a/c or hot water. It’s nice to get away from home. Do you appreciate home like I do right now?

Arrival in Managua

The Managua airport is quite modern and mostly glass. They keep all the people waiting for arriving flights (the friends, relatives and swarms of hawkers with signs to sell you something) outside peering in. It gives the arriving passengers the feeling of being the star attraction at the zoo. Luckily for us, our Paxeos ride service lady was able to get inside with her sign where we were rescued and hearded off to the waiting (well almost, it came within an hour) van to take us to Granada.

The Flight to Nicaragua

The flight went without a hitch.  Continental now has individual Direct TV screens for each seat. They give you a bit of “teaser” TV and then you have to swipe a credit card for about $7. I did not see anyone on the plane who did this. Good luck with that, Continental! I only got four hours sleep the night before so I was too sleepy to read very much.  I couldn’t sleep very well because every time I would go to sleep I would snore and I woke up. It is too embarassing to snore in front of all those people.

Departure to Nicaragua

Our flight was late taking off.  The pilot said: “A minor maintenence problem.”  My mind said: “Oh sure, like the starboard engine won’t start?  Don’t worry folks, we have another engine that should run ok. It usually does.”  Or maybe the pilot was named “Halsey.”  As in: “Admiral Halsey noteefied me, he aad to aave a baath or e couldn’t get to sea.” As I was contemplating all that, they evidently worked things out and we pulled away from the gate.  I was no longer worried about the maintenence problem because I saw the crew. As long as they don’t have parachutes on, I’m ok.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Getting Ready for Nicaragua

I am gathering my stuff to pack for a trip to Nicaragua in a few days. I have to transfer the liquids from my old 4 ounce bottles to 3 ounce bottles to put in a gallon plastic bag. It is a pain to carry on your luggage these days. Maybe I will just check one bag. There is a great Continental flight directly from Houston to Managua, the capitol, which leaves at 9:10 a.m. and arrives at 11:29 a.m. their time, leaving plenty of time to get where you are going. Using 35K reward miles, the round trip fare is $63. Can you see me doing the “cheap dance?” I am meeting some friends from Austin, Madison and Skip. We will take a transport service to Octavio’s B&B in Granada where we will stay. We will operate Ham Radio from his station YN2N. I will post more when we leave.