From the northern part and Diary 1, I now reach the central part.
15/12. I get a deserved great night's sleep, and celebrate with a road-trip: The waypoints are Yali, Jino and then Granada. The first stint is by the great NIC-1, then by the significantly smaller NIC-3. The altitude remains above 800 metres, and reach 1300 in some stretches. Where Honduran demanded a 4WD to negotiate the mortal speed-bumps, here are hardly any, and the few that are, are gentle. Here are no military check-points, and hardly any police. But everyone drive nicely - although a bit slow...
I stop at a single fantastic looking Ipomoea, but lack the sun. Next stop is at a framer's field with some huge Opuntia trees. I find several species of orchid in the Guava trees, some flowering, and a nice Bursera tre. Unfortunately, the farmer spots me, and he had a bad morning. Four horses have gone renegade during the night, and he is walking three home, the last is on the back of his pick-up. We get a small chat in Spanish, a good handshake and finally a wide smile.
I continues through the green mountains, and every cornet reveals a now great view. Most seems to be undisturbed, but there are small patches of farming here and there. Despite here are no bigger fields, it seems like the beans are dried up her. Around 500 metres height, it is a huge business. And these are huge fields, most with plastic, some with concrete.
In Condega, I turn into NIC-3, and it is made of concrete bricks at first. It have a more remote feeling about it, and the few farms are more humble. Then it turns into a rather smooth gravel road. The view get even greater, the huts smaller. I have to stop for a huge rooster, leading a pack of Guinea fouls across the trail. I meet a large bus in the middle of nowhere, but not much else traffic, but horses and mopeds.
I drive straight through Yali, which is a small and remote town. Here, I meet a sealed road, although it is still NIC-3. The altitude raises, and the forest get significantly more dense and lush. Here are a few small patches of coffee, but is might only be for private consummation. I reach a pass in 1310 meters height, and from here on, it is in general downhill.
The trees are covered in Spanish Mosses, and way up here, I cross Puente Los Encueentros; a little river. The road leads in-between Reserva Natural Miraflor and Reserva Natural Volcán Yalí, but I see enough from the car. I reach San Rafael del Norte, another little sleepy town. I guess it does not help, it is Sunday.
I reach a huge plateau, which is pretty farmed. Here are a huge, and presumably artificial lake; Lago Apanás, with brown water. It is at 965 metres height, and to judge from the old, road, leading into it, quite new. Then I reach the larger town of Jinotega. It is found in the large valley, surrounded by green mountains. I stop outside, where the "highway" pass a huge market area. Here are several big halls, filled with small stands.
Here are everything from plastic household, vegetables, meat, beans, corn, boots (lots of Wellingtons!), toys and - everything people uses. I do a big loop around, and then I drive the short way into the central square. Where the market was a tiny bit Sunday closed, the centre is almost dead. I find a breakfast at the central square: Rice & beans, cheese, fried eggs and some spicy pickled chilli. The town is found at 1000 metres height, and it can be felt: It is a bit chill.
I head on by some larger roads - Nicaraguan style. As I am closing in on Manangua, the area gets more populated. It is still around 1000 to 1200 metes. I still have 160 kilometres to Granada, and as the road descents, it does get less interesting. Which might be a good thing; I got quite some highland photos by now. I hit NIC-3 again, then NIC-1. As I pass 700 metres, the landscape turn significantly dryer, but I hardly see any cacti. Been-drying, on the other hand is a huge business.
Cattle is another way of income. A big herd crosses the road along with their cowboys. Stonewalls are common along with the endless barbwire. A few brick factories mix in, then I get down below 100 metres, and bananas and alike take over. The bean fields are harvested by now, but this is where they grow them.
I reach the old colonial town of Granada close to three, and start with a hostel. This is a popular town, and not without any reason: It is pretty with all the old buildings. Here are long lines of small but colourful homes and shops, and some really posh old city-houses. I go for a dorm-bed, hoping for low-season. Drop the bag and walk towards the central square.
One street contains an endless line of restaurants, while most others seems to be quite untouched by tourists. Here are numerous horse carriages, and the horses have a bag-pack, keeping the streets clean. Ought to be mandatory on any streets in the word!
I find an access to a church tower; La Merced, offering a great view to the entire town and surroundings. The sun get too low for the narrow streets, and I head home to start the work. It is a real cosy back-packers hostel with pool and all. They charge for the drinking water, but have a free bar from 16-18. Assholes... Well, I manages to get through the diary so far, along with the 300 photos. Road-trip in the mountains and Granada city.
16/12. I thought it was time for yet another cruse, this time on the Lago Nicaragua/Cocibolica, out to Isla Zapatera. It is a 629 meter high dormant volcano. Besides from the three hour track to the peak (which I failed to talk my self into), it is famous for its petroglyphs and statues from 500-1500, made by the Nahuatl people. I start the day with a big breakfast, and pack a small day-bag. Unfortunately, the ferry stopped six years ago, and I don't feel like hiring a 25-person boat, all by my self.
Well, the drive to here and back is great. The first part is through a now real lively market area near the centre of town. The shops are expanded way out on the road, slowing down the traffic significantly. It turned gravel quite soon after I left the town, and passes some lakeshore and huge trees.
Plan B is a tour up on the live volcano of Masaya. It
should be seen at night, and I guess Treehouse Nicaragua will be the
right agent. The lodge is found way out in the rainforest, through a maze of
tiny clay roads.
The last bit is a rudimentary staircase to Hell. When I
finally make it to the top, they have no activity today. But
That leave me with a whole day to explore the shore and lake. I drive to the closest point to the island, and the GPS estimate the 60 kilometre tour will last two hours. Well, the first 40 kilometres I do 80 km/h, and I start fearing the last bit! It is gravel, but nice and smooth. Some huge farms, some humble sheets. At first, I passed some cane fields, flooded rice fields, and harvested barley or wheat.
Then, along the gravelroad, it is through flat cattle land. A lagoon reaches into the semi-dry landscape, creating some great views. A few banana farms are found along the shore. The surroundings are truly lush; the trees are overgrown with Ipomoea, Passiflora and Cucurbitaceae. And oddly enough, a few huge cacti penetrates this blanket of leaves.
Due to the flooding, the trail turns a bit worse, but I experience worth main-roads in Easter Europe - in my own car. Sure a rental can cope! I reach the huge Lago Nicaragua, and it have a perfect sandy beach. I make a stroll and feel the not-so-cold water. It is a bit strange it is fresh, as it look so much like the sea. A hundred metres out, I can see Isla Zapatera, and it does look so lush.
A few wooden dinghies are found on the shore, along with a group of Black Vultures and some horses. I find a third species of Jatropha, but not any other interesting plants. I head out to the end of the road, and here, a few fishermen are found. They are mending a larger dinghy with raw timber. I fail to find anyone, eager to give me a ride to the island. Even the vultures are unlikely to take off, as I passes them on the beach. This is truly a tranquil place!
I reschedule and re-plan, head back to Granada and reclaim my dorm-bead. A tea-brake at the poolside, then out to find some cheap shoos for the night-walk up the volcano. And while I'm at it; a tour around the busy market area I drove through this morning. It end in a large covered area, offering all the usual stuff. I get a cooling haircut, and head home along the back-side of the market.
the central square, I find the national dish - the girls claim. Cooked sweet
yuca, covered in generous amount of finely threshed cabbage and added some
pickled mini-melons and jalapeños, served in a wooden dish on banana leaf.
Not bad at all!
I get here half an hour before they close the daily opening. I head back to a supermarket I passes, stock some water and müsley. My GPS have an unnamed sight at the shore of the crater lake; Lago de Masaya, and I give it a try. It is kind of an amusement part, right at the shore of the great looking lake. I sneak in, as they let a fire-truck out the backdoor, and get a few photos.
While I wait for the evening opening of Park Nasional Masaya, I discover the soles of my new shoos are not glued on at all. They were not THAT cheep! As I get closer to the active volcano, I see the huge cloud is spews. I pay the fee, and get to drive a long way into the park through partly barren lava. It is fast getting dark, and I try to capture a bit of this semi-barren landscape.
A sign is banning smoking, but seems a bit misplaced here, where the volcano lets out huge amount of poisonous smoke! Then I reach the parking near the peak. I'm not supposed to spend more than 15 minutes at the opening to the magma, but parrots live in caves along the crater, and as I'm alone, I don't really care. And the wind leads away anyway.
It is truly amassing, standing and looking down this hole with a button of bobbling magma. While it is still slightly light, I head up to the top of the nearby extinct volcano. The sinking sun add to the orange flair of the smoke clouds. The extinct crater holds no magic, when you just gazed down a live one.
back, and now, I wished I had a 300 mm lens. I can clearly see the bobbling,
but fail to capture it. Not that I don't try! It been a great experience,
and I wished, I had a proper photo to prove it.