Monday, May 2, 2016

Granada: Wrap Up

This is my last day in Granada. I'm leaving around noon, heading for the Managua airport to pick up my daughter Hannah, Intermezzo's crew for our sail to Costa Rica.

Here's a catch up of the last few days.

On Thursday, I hiked up the Mombacho volcano. It's about a half hour's drive from Granada to the parking lot for the preserve. When you get there, you can opt to take a 4WD truck to the trails at the top or walk up the narrow road. Most visitors choose the truck. I chose to walk. It was about a 4 mile uphill slog in the ever-present heat and moist air. Two young women also took the walking option, to get some exercise and enjoy the experience, like me.  We each walked individually in varying order and varying space between us, but all at the about the same pace, so we arrived at the top about the same time.

The crater at the top of the volcanic cone is densely vegetated, with a trail around it's circumference.  Leaning over and looking down into the crater, I was hoping to see a trail leading to the entrance to a mysterious subterranean world, like in the movies. It wasn't hard to imagine such a thing. There were beautiful views of the Grenada, Lago Nicaragua, Las Isletas and the surrounding volcanic mountain landscape looking outward from the crater rim. 

I met up with the young women again at a lookout point and, since I had a rental car, offered them a ride back to Granada after the hike. That sounded good to them and we ended up hiking most of the way down to the parking lot together, enjoying conversation over a wide range of topics, including me summarizing the history of the Sandinista revolution and it's immediate Cold War aftermath. I took a particular liking to one of the women, Natacha, who seemed to be curious, adventurous and really getting a lot out of her travel experiences which made conversation easy and enjoyable.

The three of us drove back to Granada together and I dropped them off near their hostel and then struggled to find my way back to my "villa" through the maze of deadend and one-way streets for which Google map directions failed miserably, resulting in me having to pull over in a not very nice barrio to manually reorient myself and figure out how to escape.

Natcaha had to get back to her hostel to catch a shuttle bus to Hostel Paradiso at Lago Apoyo, a nearby lake in a volcanic crater. I mentioned to her that I was thinking of going to Apoyo myself, tomorrow of the next day and that maybe I would see her there.

On Friday, I decided to indeed visit Apoyo. I did some research and decided that the Monkey Hut offered the best combination of swimming, facilities and food on the lake. When I arrived, the place looked great- nicely landscaped grounds, well-kept buildings, a wood-fired pizza oven blazing away, a pleasant beach.  Only there were no people. I had been feeling pretty lonely over the past few days and just couldn't bear to hang out all by myself for the whole day there.  So I decided to check out Paradiso.

When I go there, the place was buzzing with people enjoying themselves, which was great. However, I felt a bit apprehensive on two counts. First, I was worried that Natacha might see me as some creepy old guy that was stalking her. Second, I was about twice the age of just about everybody there. I felt kind of shy and self-conscious on both counts.

I needn't have worried, though. I said a brief hello to Natacha, had a beer and some lunch and then floated in the clear, warm water of the lake, enjoying the nice weather and scenery, natural and human. It wasn't too long before Natacha came out for a swim and introduced me to two friends, Sebastian and Emilia. The four of us hit it off well and spent the rest of the afternoon and evening enjoying each other's company. They are all in their mid 20's, Sebastian a securities analyst from Paris, Natacha from Geneva, taking a break between studies, and Emilia, a grad student from Toronto. Despite my age difference, I felt very comfortable hanging out with them, very much reminded of the time when I was their age and Carol and I were backpack-traveling around the world, but also realizing that I have lived through so much since then. Natacha told me the three of them really enjoyed being able to talk with someone my age so comfortably and listening to my stories about traveling, sailing, kids. It was a great day and I am so grateful for the friendship they extended to me at a time when I was feeling pretty lonely.

For my last two days in Grananda, I decided to take advantage of the air conditioning and fast wifi to tackle some administrative and financial chores. I also binge-watched The Man In the High Castle series, the first TV I have watched since leaving California. I took breaks to continue exploring the city and checking out different restaurants.

But now I'm off to pick up Hannah and start the next leg of the Sailing Intermezzo journey.

The Mombacho volcano crater, with Lago Nicargua and Las Isletas in the background
Panorama from top of the Mombacho volcano

Lago Apoyo from the top of Mombacho

The Hostel Paradiso on the shore of Lago Apoyo