Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Seeing some sights, settling in, the 3rd week syndrome~~


A street scene in Masaya
With an eye on the weather, which changes hourly, we scheduled a full day of sightseeing with one of our drivers.  We decided on the Classical Tour, with some modifications. We nixed the Masaya Market as it was hot and crowded.

First was a driving tour of Los Pueblos Blancos, a group of small villages that represent the heart of Nicaragua with strong pre-Columbian roots and traditions.  Each town has its own patron saint, its own fiestas, its own artisan traditions like hammocks, pottery, ornamental plants, etc.  We stopped often for photos and to look into the shops.

Church in one of the villages
Little did we know when pulling into a questionable alley in the village of San Juan de Oriente and entering a modest home and workshop operated by Valentin Lopez, Taller y Escuela de Ceramica, what a treat we were in for.  We immediately migrated to the "gift shop" displays, only to be re-directed in Spanish to come sit down and watch.

What followed was a demonstration of the creative process of one piece of pottery from start to finish, which if I understood correctly takes about 10 days.  The very basic tools consist of bicycle spokes for carving designs, natural pigments from different regions around the country, brushes made from hair for painting, and sea rocks and cocoa beans for polishing.

 I put together a slideshow from my Picasa album to demonstrate what we observed:

Our goodies, taken from the computer

And this is what we bought!

Posing with pre-Columbian art on the steps of a display in the village of Catarina....

Resuming our tour we gradually gained altitude as we head to the Mirador de Catarina, an overlook of Laguna de Apoyo,  a crater lake formed some 23,000 years ago by a strong volcanic eruption that left a hole measuring 6 km in diameter.  It is a crystal clear turquoise though on our visit the clouds and reflections presented a whole new perspective on the lagoon. It sort of looks like boiling water, or frothy waves...

We had to get in the picture..

Now we get to the exciting part!  I have been so looking forward to visiting Masaya Volcano National Park, possibly with a touch of trepidation.  It is quite active, spewing great quantities of sulfur dioxide, and we drove right up to the rim, climbed up to top, and peered into the bowels of "La Boca del Infierno", as it is locally referred to.  All cars must back into the parking area so as to face heading out, and I noticed our driver did not turn off his engine.  There are a lot of superstitions attached to this place, so best be ready for a speedy retreat!

On the brink of "La Boca del Infierno"

The cross, La Cruz de Bobadilla, named after Father Francisco Bobadilla, was planted on the lip of the crater in the 16th century to exorcise the devil!

For the grand finale to our day, we drove way down to the lake from which we were earlier perched for a view, to have a late lunch before heading back to Granada.

Lunch by Laguna de Apoyo

Why so many pictures of me?  Cause it's how I spent my birthday!!

How appropriate...posted on my Facebook page.  Notice the  "Age Limit"!

On another day we headed down to Lake Nicaragua for a boat tour of Las Isletas.  The islets are a group of 365 small islands, volcanic in origin, and formed when Mombacho blew its top thousands of years ago.  Most are covered in vegetation and rich with wild life.  Many are inhabited and several are privately owned.  No we didn't see all 365!  And yes, Mombacho is on the must do list.....

 Settling in:

Being here in Granada for a month allows us to settle in and pace ourselves.  I must admit that the heat and humidity can be fierce and we have to time our outings appropriately.  An overcast day is great for walking into town but not good for photography.  

Another obstacle for me is acclimating to the local diet. Not that I haven't absolutely loved the food, quite the opposite. I insist on experiencing the comida tipica, the street food (carefully, and with recommendations), drinks, and different restaurants  It's just that my IBS has kicked in with a vengeance.  Seems that any change in diet, climate, location...who knows, gets my wimpy guts groaning, especially at night, when I'd like to be sleeping!  

We spend a lot of time sitting on our patio or by the pool, swimming and reading.  I am somewhat struggling through Follett's Edge of Eternity, the 3rd and final in his Century Trilogy, but I am 90% complete and can then start reading something mindless and trashy!   Also currently watching our SF Giants play in the World Series.  Vamos Los Gigantes!

The 3rd week syndrome:

This is when we usually hit the wall when away for a month and start missing the freedom of the road, coming and going as we please, familiarity, our things...meager as they are.  This trip is no exception.  We have both decided a month is just too long for us in one place, and we would have been wiser to add a couple of other destinations to the itinerary.  The coast, for instance, is several hour's drive each way.  Better to have found a place there to stay for a week.  And then there is the Caribbean side; a whole different environment.

Our surroundings are wonderfully accommodating and quite beautiful and the staff attentive to our every need, and so much fun to be around.  They absolutely insist on speaking Spanish and are constantly correcting me, especially my verb conjugations which are always in the present tense. Howard doesn't even try!   They teach me phrases common to the Nicaraguans but not used in other Latino countries. 

 So I will leave you with Como amaneciste?  The verb amanecer means to dawn or wake up, and is typically used to ask how did you sleep, or wake-up....

Como amaneciste?  Bien....I hope!

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