Nicaragua: Final days (16-20)

So day 16 after internet-cafe-ing, we went back to the finca and there was another little hatched baby chickie.

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The rest of the evening was pretty uneventful and involved me getting more mosquito bites and reading guidebook stuff for my upcoming adventures.

Day 17, we woke up early and drove out to the same lake as I have photos of from a week ago, Lake Apoyo. But this time we continued down a long winding road to the basin of it where we’re staying at a little biological research station/hostel called The Peace Project. Its very cute and everyone staying there was really just great, super friendly, super eager to learn about eachother so that was really fun. They had wifi and lots of nice seating and hammocks looking out at the lake so we spent all day just getting back online and chitchatting with everyone. In the evening, my mom and I went on a nice walk around the neighborhood, where we were unfortunately accosted by a very very drunk stumbling slurring local. But the walk was still nice and we saw some little birdies. ALso we walked along the lake and dipped our toes in and since its a volcanic lake with fumeroles, the water is 85 degrees so that was impressive. We would have gone swimming, but there wasn’t really a sandy part of the beach so that was a little uninviting.

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I awoke Day 18 with a cute little monkey sitting right outside my window. Then we spent most of the day just hanging out around the hostel talking to everyone. For the most part, they are all working/volunteering there to develop various different programs (educational program, biological ones, etc.). In the afternoon we went on this really nice hike around the rim of the lake and I saw another new species of hummingbird and a couple other new bird species. The view was quite impressive.

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There was also a huge pack of howler monkeys right next to the trail. There were 4 little babies in the pack and they were so adorable crawling all over the trees. And there was some really cool rock graffiti along the trail.

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We did some more relaxing and chatting in the evening while I was working on arranging all my future travels.

Day 19 we left the hostel and headed into Granada to spend our last couple days here. Our new hotel seemed pretty nice at first, especially since it has excellent internet (these opinions changed later). We spent the day wandering around Granada doing some touristy shopping. Granada has lots of pretty churches and, like all parts of Ecuador, the houses and buildings are painted such pretty colors.

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We got some tasty smoothies at a really cute cafe and I got a nice new wallet from a local leather goods company where they even had a person making purses in the back. Then we stopped by a bakery that smelled so heavenly and got some fresh baked goods. Later, we had a lovely dinner at a brand new tapas bar and got some really exceptional cocktails that were all fairly original and the food was really delicious.

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Unfortunately, we woke up yesterday (day 20) to realize that this hotel situation was not so great. Because it turned out that in the middle of the night my parents found bedbugs in their bed biting them (though thankfully not in my bed). First time my parents have ever had that happen to them. It was very not fun. Fortunately, the hotel got on it immediately and gave us a new room far from the old one. After that, we got some more pastries from the tasty bakery and headed up to volcan masaya. Its one of the 2 currently erupting volcanos in Nicaragua. Unfortunately, you can’t see the lava because its deep down in the crater but you can get right on the edge of the crater and look down in it. Your view however is blocked by huge amounts of sulfuric acid gas (Vog) spewing out of the crater. It was crazy. I’ve seen that a lot before (on Kilauea in Hawaii), but in the US they don’t let you get anywhere close to the crater because the gases that come out of volcanoes (vog) is so unhealthy and its so dangerous to go right up to the edge of crater so that was kinda crazy. It was funny because they even provided hard hats if you wanted them since the last time that the volcano erupted, it spewed huge boulders that came down and really hurt a lot of tourists and cars.

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Then we headed back to Granada, stopping by our previous hostel on the way so I could pick up the beloved rubiks cube which I unfortunately had left there. Then it was time for some rearranging of my things because I’m headed to Ecuador today and I really wanted to get my suitcase more compact and not have the extension part extended.

Looking back, my overall impression of Nicaragua was really wonderful! Supposedly it is the poorest country currently in central america, but it really didn’t seem like it. And everyone here is so unbelievably friendly and eager to chit chat and be helpful. I also really love how colorful it is, they really know how to make their buildings look pretty. And the nature here was also really nice, lots of birds everywhere, and geckos. Its quite fun to me to have geckos crawling all over your walls all the time (even if they’re not the native kind of gecko).

Since I’m leaving today and then will be in Quito meeting up with everyone else in the group and hanging out with them and going all over Quito for a while, I might not be posting for a bit. We shall see!

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Nicaragua: Days 8-9

Well to say we were covered in mud after Day 8 is an understatement. So after breakfast, we decided to go on a search for the elusive Quetzal up through the rainforest. Our search was unproductive, but we had quite the day anyways. We went all the way up through a rainforest up a mountain to the cloud forest on top of it. Because its a high elevation rainforest turned cloud forest, it is much colder and rainier than the areas we have been previously so the ground was very wet. Also, apparently the trail builders around here aren’t big on switchbacks so the hike up this VERY STEEP mountain was straight up. Basically we were slipping and sliding all over both up and down.

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My pants and shoes were coated in thick thick layers of mud and my mom managed to get her raincoat pretty coated too. But it was still good exercise and I saw a few new birdie species. The find of the hike was 2 emerald toucanettes, which are relatives of toucans and have the same sort of beak but they are a bit smaller and green instead of black. They were very cute and kept calling back and forth to eachother. There were also lots and lots of butterflies and interesting insects along the trail.

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After the fairly long and up and down hike, I spend a while wandering through the gardens between the different cabanas. I could hear lots of hummingbirds, and so I followed the sounds around until I came upon a bush that had one very beautiful hummingbird guarding it. It was called a Violet Saberwing Hummingbird.

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They are much bigger than the typical hummingbird you see, so that was especially neat. There were a couple of them in the area but this particular guy let me get really close to him and was very defensive of his flowering bush. This other little hummer, a Rufous Tailed Hummingbird, kept aggressively dive bombing him for the longest time. It was quite a fabulous scene.

 Then I continued walking around and found a few separate agoutis, which are little rodentia, they look either like mini capybaras or supersized guinea pigs. They are quite cute and were nibbling fruit from the surrounding fruit trees.

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Yesterday (Day 9) we went on a finca/farm tour. The place we were staying, Selva Negra, is a huge sustainable farm and so they offer tours to show you how they produce all the things they produce and how it is sustainable and how they run the farm and what not. It was really an impressive tour. Our guide was really knowledgeable. To process their coffee, they remove the outer skin (the red skin) and treat it with ground bone from their slaughterhouse so that it isn’t too acidified and then they turn it into compost with worms in a vermiculture area. They reuse the worms and put the compost (worm casings) on their crops as fertilizer. Then to get rid of the second mushy layer of the coffee, they put the beans in water and wash the beans and then filter the water through ground volcanic rock. They use the water to irrigate the fields and then they take methanogenic bacteria from the stomachs of cows in their slaughterhouse and put methanogenic bacteria on the mushy stuff that is filtered out of the water. They chew this layer up and release lots of methane which is used as fuel for the houses of their 250 permanent coffee pickers. There are all sorts of other things they do considering they grow all the food for their workers on site and most of the food for the hotel part of their ranch on site and they have multiple types of animals that they slaughter at the on-site slaughterhouse (very sad), and they produce around 10 types of cheese.

We also got to go look at the houses and living areas of their workers. They house 250 permanent workers, and they get very cute little houses. They also provide them with schools for their children and an onsite clinic. They also have dormitories for their 700 seasonal workers.

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After the tour we drove to Leon, which is where we are staying now. Our hotel is very cute and very tasteful. Its right off the main street by the main cathedral, but its tucked away off the street so its really quiet. Its very modern and minimalist but quite relaxing. I spent all evening sitting on this massive circular hanging bed. Its so comfortable and looks out onto a very pretty pool and you can even see the main street through the front doorway but its so tranquil.

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We did a little walking around in the evening, its quite an interesting scene. There is this really old (1700’s) cathedral right by our hotel and the main square right in front of it, so we sat on a bench there and did some people watching. Because its almost New Years, they had lots of these massive paper mache and fabric giant lady puppet type things that people were using to dance around with.

Tonight might be quite the scene since it will be New Years Eve… we shall see!

 

 

Nicaragua: Days 5-7

I’ll start this off by just saying, if you are ever thinking about getting a chromebook, don’t do it. This is turning out to be the most frustrating thing ever. The graphics card is basically shit, and so a set of 135 photos that I have to go through and decide which ones to edit and then edit would usually take about 15 minutes on a macbook, but on this computer each photo was so slow to load that it took about 5 or 6 hours in total. Plus, during the editing process, the application shut down at least 10-15 times. Which, for a brand new computer, is just ridiculous. Also, the color and contrast and stuff is so week and the colors are so muted that now i’m afraid that my edits will appear to be over-edits on normal computers viewing my pictures. But I guess thats what you get for a 200 dollar laptop..

oh also, the touchpad is so hypersensitive that while i was trying to edit my photos it kept zooming waaayyy in and then wayyyy out and back and forth without my intending of it whatsoever.

Ok so on day 5, we woke up after a lovely christmas evening and decided to go to the next beach over because we heard it was even nicer and had a bit more going on. Of course no one let us know how crazy the road getting there was so after stalling out and sliding down a hill mutliple times before finally cresting it, we get to the top and look down the road and it was so terrible and so steep that there was no way we would ever be able to get back up it. It was even too steep with too loose of gravel to walk it, so instead we hitchhiked a ride down to the beach (with my grandma!). The beach was a very happening place and was very beautiful.

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The sand was super duper soft and the water was perfectly clear and shallow way way out which was perfect. There were lots of beginning surfers and it was filled with young hippie types. There were multiple little open beach shacks with cheap drinks (I got a tasty mojito) and loud reggae music. There was a yoga studio and a hacienda hostel type place with a hammock covered deck. It was super fun. Also, apparently living in Portland has deprived my skin of its much desired color, because just a couple hours in the sun and i was already over-tanned.

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After a while at the beach, we hitchhiked back up the hill to our car and headed back to our hotel to spend some time in the pool.

Before dinner we had a sunset yoga class. It was vinyasa yoga, which is definitely a more demanding form of yoga and although I used to do yoga regularly, I’ve been far too busy lately to do it so I was incredibly out of shape and I’m still sore from some of the strength poses now. But despite that, it was really really relaxing because we were on the top floor of our multi-story cliffside hotel and in front of us was the ocean and on either sides of us was the jungle so with the sun setting during our practice, the view was amazing. After that for dinner our hotel happened to be hosting an all you can eat pasta night, and they had homemade raviolis and they were so tasty.

Day 6, we left our hotel in San Juan del Sur and tried to head into the center of town to get gelato, but it was unfortunately closed, so we started the long drive back to managua. Along the way, we stopped at Lake Appoyo, which is essentially the crater lake of nicaragua. Its a very round, very blue, lake that was a crater and filled up with water. We ate lunch at the lookout point while being hasseled by all sorts of vendors.

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After that we headed to managua, took a wrong turn, and ended up going the extra long way to the hotel. THen we got to the hotel and something had gone wrong and they only had a reservation for 1 room instead of 3 and they were completely full, and we are 7 people so there was no way that would work out. Fortunately, there was another hotel nearby, and so we gave my grandparents that room since it had a free shuttle to the airport and we were in Managua because they were flying back to the states. So we spent the evening playing around in the hotel pool, drinking pina coladas and chowing down on foods so that we could all hang out together before the grandparents left.

Then yesterday morning (Day 7) we packed up again and drove north through coffee country. It seems like they grow the coffee in the highland rainforests and then bring it down to the lowlands to dry it out. So as we were driving north through the dry areas, there were fields and fields of black tarps covered in drying coffee beans.

We stopped in this little down that had lots and lots of roadside fruit and veggie stands. Really, they had basically every vegetable or fruit I could ever want, it was incredible. It was also so cheap! We got 12 huge passionfruits for the equivalent of 1 dollar, while in the us its 1.50 for an itty bitty single passionfruit. If you can’t tell, passionfruits are my favorite fruit, and thankfully theyre extremely plentiful here!

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Slowly we moved out of the dry areas and into the higher elevation cloud forests and stopped for lunch in Matagalpa. It was a really nice city. Its pretty big, but it doesn’t feel overwhelming like Managua and its really nicely tucked into these hillsides and a valley. We walked around Matagalpa for a bit and went in a church that was completely decorated in Bromeliads, which was quite pretty.

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Finally we finished our journey as we went out of Matagalpa into the mountains above it. The road was super steep and went up and up until we got to our current hotel, Selva Negra, which is tucked into the rainforest in the mountains above Matagalpa. Its a humongous organic farm/ranch that is ⅓ coffee growing plantation, ⅓ mixed fruit trees, and ⅓ rainforest preserve. THey have lots of little cabanas and haciendas surrounded by rainforest and organic farms and there are multiple lakes and gardens on the property. Its extremely lovely. In the rainforest part, they have a huge network of trails that go up the mountain through the rainforest. We went on one of the loops this evening and it was quite nice.

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After the forest there was an old little church. It was so pretty. It had a completely green roof which was covered entirely with moss and bromeliads. A lot of the windows had fallen out but the view that were still there were beautiful stained glass. It was quite lovely and peaceful.

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We added a couple of birds to the bird list and saw lots of pretty little plants. Unfortunately it got dark pretty quickly because of the cloud forest-ness and being under so much canopy so we had to head back. Oh and we got extremely muddy. But I think we’re planning on doing some more of that rainforest hiking today.

Nicaragua: Days 1-4

I’ll preface this post with the fact that up until now our internet has been TERRIBLE and unusable, so in the future if I don’t post for a while, its likely because my internet is either not present or unusable.

So my trip has finally begun! Unfortunately posting on a blog might not be quite as easy as I had hoped. It turns out that this new little computer that I got for my trip, a chromebook, only really works on line.. you can’t even type in any sort of word document without being connected to the internet since it all gets stored on the google drive [a cloud sort of thing], and then once you’ve gotten past that, you also can’t download photos onto it without being connected to the internet, and thennnn you can’t edit photos without downloading another app (which you have to use with the internet as well). And the internet here is very sketch. At this particular place, you only get it in one particular corner of the entire ranch and it takes about 10 minutes to open each link that you click.

On top of which, there is no software on it for ARW files (a raw file format) and I was planning on shooting all my photos in raw format since its better quality, and so I did that all of the first day and now I can’t open this files (so unfortunately I won’t have any photos to post of day one). And all the photos from then on are compressed jpegs so they’re not as good of quality.

But besides that its been mostly lovely here!

My mom and I got in to Managua Sunday and I was immediately hit by total culture shock and confusion. First off its so humid and hot here that my hair and skin are just permanently greasy, but my mom claims that I will adjust. Also, apparently my “proficient” Spanish does not seem to sound right because no one understands me and everyone here speaks so quickly with their words almost slurred together that I can’t understand them. Once we picked up our very rickety rental car from the airport in Managua we had to make our way 2 hours south to Rivas, a town on the south-west side of Lake Nicaragua. It was certainly an adventure. To start off, there are ZERO street signs or numbers on any of the roads here. We were relying on directions we had printed off from google which told us the directions entirely based on street names so once we had no street signs, we immediately got lost. Basically we got lost about every 5 minutes, ended up in some crazy areas, and asked multiple people how to get towards Rivas. We made it after lots of hectic and crazy driving thankfully and got on a ferry there to Omatepe, an island made up of 2 volcanos in Lake Nicaragua. The ferry was quite long and slow but beautiful and we got to the island right at dark. The rest of the family was supposed to meet us at the dock and guide us to our finca (the word for farm, which usually also serve as hotel retreats of sorts), but they weren’t there so we had to try and get to our finca ourselves. It’s not a terribly huge island but somehow we managed to drive past this finca 4 different times and ask probably 15 different people for directions before we FINALLY, after 1.5 hrs of driving back and forth, we found it.

So day 2 we woke up nice and decompressed and got to see our finca in the daylight. It was so beautiful there. There are lots of little hacienda places with big patios covered in chairs and lounge chairs and hammocks. On one side of the lodging parts of the finca is Lake Nicaragua (which is so big that it looks like the ocean) and on the other side is a wetlands area filled with birds. The patio of our hacienda faces the wetlands.

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We sat on the patio and watched birds all morning and added bunches of new species to our bird lists. There was a cinnamon hummingbird (my favorite), these beautiful jays with little head bobbing things and long flowy tails, parakeets, and lots more.

DSC00080Then we took a nice long walk on the very narrow strip of beach, which has incredibly soft sand and fairly warm water (although its so incredibly hot and humid here that cold water might be pretty refreshing).

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Then we sat in little lounge chairs on the beach and all caught up. Its so nice to spend the holidays with family.

DSC00120In the late afternoon, we went on this 3 kilometer hike through the jungle here. It was so great and so beautiful! We saw lots and lots of white faced capuchins (they look like fuzzy little monkeys) and howler monkeys and there were parakeets and other birdies flying all around the canopy. The sounds were just beautiful, and the howler monkey’s calls are so intense. It was great. I got a couple photos of the capuchins and monkeys but they’re pretty low quality.

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Finally we ended the day with a night hike. It wasn’t terribly exciting but we sure saw lots of spiders. There are tons of these massive Goliath spiders and other big spider species as well. We also saw a couple baby snakes, a HUGE bullfrog, and tons of bats, so that was fun.

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Yesterday we woke up early to rain and wind (but it was still hot). But, as I was told would happen, the rain only lasted 5 minutes before it was hot and sunny again. Then we went on this crazy hike up to a HUGE and tall waterfall. It started off with a long drive over very volcanic and rough road. There was a very cute turtle crawling along the road too.

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Then we went up and up and up on a road and parked there right off the road. Supposedly from the “parking area” to the waterfall, it was a flat hike, but this was NOT the case. It was a fairly pleasant and mildly uphill hike up to a gorge with rainforest on either side and then once we reached a gorge it turned terribly strenuous and was almost vertical for a long ways. However, the waterfall was incredibly worth it! It was really huge, much bigger than I was expecting. But I forgot a bathing suit so I had to go in essentially naked but that was ok. It was super refreshing seeing as I was covered in sweat from the hike up.

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Then on the way back to our finca, our little car’s tire popped. I guess the rough road and my dads driving were too much for it. It was a quick fix and we got back to a nice restaurant on the beach in time for late lunch.

DSC00267After late lunch we got dressed in nicer clothing and spent the evening drinking Pina Coladas and watching little xmas parades. The town of Altagracia where all the parades were was covered in Christmas lights, really even moreso than in the US.

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The main parade was later in the evening and it ended in the main church on the island. It was a very interesting cultural experience with lots of kids singing and acting out the roles of Mary and Joseph. We came back and I worked on my Rubiks Cube skills and now I can successfully complete it in 3 minutes and 13 seconds 🙂

Woke up this morning very early to pack. I was very tired seeing as I was kept up all night by a group of very loud Howler monkeys right outside of our hacienda. As we were pulling out of the driveway, the monkeys that kept me awake decided to appear. There were tons and tons of them leaping around in the trees outside of our room and a lot of them had little babies on their back.

DSC00324We took the ferry back across to Rivas and drove over to San Juan del Sur, a city on the beach. We’re staying in a very nice casita that’s part of a local hotel. Its beautiful and on a cliff overlooking the Pacific ocean, with a view of the tropical dry forest as well, and is covered in lounge chairs and hammocks. We were even greeted by howler monkeys here too.

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We walked down the 100 meters to the beach for lunch and it is very very nice. Nice soft sand and beautiful water and no rough waves, so its good for swimming.

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We returned again to the beach to watch the sunset which was wonderful and then sit around the beach and watch terns dive into the water catching fish. Finally we sat around our casita and did Christmas-y things like opening gifts 🙂

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Also, theres excellent internet here at the new hotel so far! Feliz Navidad!