Nicaragua 2 (Granada) – May 2009

– I decided to travel with Mel and Freddie for Granada, and we knew we were taking “a chicken bus”.  In Central America, they use old US school buses as normal transport and they are just known as chicken buses.  Most of these buses have been repainted in bright colors, but they are still the same buses with low seat backs, no leg room and are quite an experience.  We figured it would be much more fun  and easier to travel together in a group.  So as we were walking to the bus…it started to leave and I started to run to try to catch up and make it wait as Mel and Freddie were just a few minutes behind me.  Luckily, it did wait and we were off.  This hour bus ride was pretty uneventful.

-Once we arrived in the town of Rivas, which is really just a bus depot town, we had some entertainment from the locals.  First, little Jose came up to us and started to chat.  He was 10 years old and quite the salesman.  He was trying to “help” us as the taxi drivers were telling us lies about no buses for 3 hours and few buses since it was Sunday – all so we would pay them to drive us in their taxi.  Little Jose kept telling us they were lying and he knew when the next bus was .  He kept calling the taxi drivers loco.  So he was helpful to us and we started to chat with him about everything.  We ended up having to wait 90 minutes for the next bus and Jose was right there chatting with us as we practiced our Spanish and he was trying his English.  He later was telling us his story about how is mother is 26, his sister is 18 (later learned half sister as the age didn´t make sense to us), plus his mother lived in Guatemala, his father in Costa Rica and he is living with his half grandmother who has no money.  Jose´s story kept going as he said he broke his backpack, needed 50 Cordobas ($2.50) to fix it so he can return to school.  It was a slick story but just think another way to get money from tourists and he thought the school story is better than just asking for money.  He finally left us as he learned we weren´t going to give him any money.

– Jose did come back with his younger sister Rosa who was eight years old.  Rosa was even funnier and very blunt.  She didn´t understand how Mel, Freddie and I were not married (yet as we are so old).  He also couldn´t believe I didn´t have any babies since I was 33 and really old. That´s how we found out his mom has 3 babies and is only 26.  To make our time even worse, little Rosa, called us big, fat and old.  Normally I would have taken offense to this, but I know kids think tourists are fat if you can´t see your ribs and we can afford to eat food.  So being called “little gorda” wasn´t the best thing, but we all just laughed.

– Finally we got on our chicken bus to Granada.  We had to have our bags thrown up on top of the chicken bus and tied down, so by the time this was done, there was only one seat left for me.  I didn´t know this was going to be such an interesting bus ride.  I sat next to a woman that weighed about 400 pounds and really took up almost the whole seat for two people.  So I was trying to sit with half my bum on the seat and hold on with my legs in the aisle.  For 30 minutes before we left, while we were sitting on the bus, all the locals came on trying to sell us soda, fried chicken in a bag, snacks and everything else.  Normally this wouldn´t be a big deal, but as I was hanging into the aisle, and the woman next to me on the other side (who was sitting 3 people to the 2 person seat as this too is normal on these buses), I kept getting bumped by the hawkers.

– The rest of this 2 hour bus ride was just as hysterical.  A woman was holding a young child in her arms above me (and wouldn´t sit down when seats were offered to her).  The kid spilled coke on me and I was sitting on a wet seat.  Then another baby came along and was drooling on me.  Finally, as I was hanging my legs into the aisle, two different guys were standing right over my legs (almost sitting on me as they were short).  It was an interesting bus ride that I don´t think I will forgot for a while.  But it only cost me $1.25.

– Once in Granada, Mel, Freddie and I got settled into our lodge and got a huge triple room together.  A few hours later, we were standing in the street trying to figure out where to eat, and our friends from, Caitlin and Alex, San Juan del Sur (that left a day before us for another city), drove by on a bus and got off, so we were reunited with Caitlin and Alex and they joined us at the lodge.  So the five of us were off to enjoy Granada.

I met the worst local ever!

– As we were sitting at our lodge catching up with Alex and Caitlin, we met one of the most annoying locals ever, and it was worse as we kept seeing him for 2 days straight.

– A few hours before we had beers, Mel and I met another girl at our lodge, Reaganhild from Norway, and she met this local guy Richard the night before.  She told us how annoying and horrible he was and how confident and arrogant he was to her.  So we knew she didn´t want to be around him.

– He told us how he works in tourism, everyone loves him and he pays people to say hi to him on the street so he looks important.  How´s that for a cool guy?  As we are having beers at our lodge before dinner, Richard came up and was trying to join us.  He wasn´t invited to sit down, but did as everyone likes him.  As we were all talking, he would interrupt us, talk over us and was just self indulgent, but he thought he was the life of the party.  I had no problem being rude back as he was ruining our party.  For example, he asked where I was from and when I said San Francisco, he cut me off and went on and on for five minutes about how he lived in San Francisco and told us all about his sister and mother that are there….and kept going.  When I started to tell a story to my friends (not him) he heard me say the word “bank”.  So he jumped right in, cut me off and started to tell us all some dumb story way off topic about a bank. He was so stupid and arrogant, it was kinda funny.  The five of us at our table just started to laugh, and we started to ignore him.  I finally told him off and that I thought he was rude, arrogant and had an extremely high self orientation.  He didn´t get it and thought I was making a joke.  The others with me were happy I did this as it finally got him to leave.  Unfortunately, we literally saw him later that night, the next day, the next night and he and I finally had it out the last night at a bar.  He wanted to know why I didn´t like him, as he told me “everyone likes he”.  He wanted to know what he did to make me not like him.  So I said I was happy to give him feedback (a great skill I learned in training at Bernstein).  As I started, he said this may be long…and he wanted to get a drink.  I said if you need a drink to listen to something that would only make you a better person, I don´t need to waste my breath and walked away.  Good ridden to Richard.  Worst local I have ever met anywhere in the world!

– Anyway, back to Granada as I loved the city.  Granada was once the oldest Spanish – built city of Central America and is set on the western shore of Lake Nicaragua.  So quite a stunning setting.  Years ago, an American adventurer named William Walker, came and took over the city of Granada and thus took over the entire country.  In the end, William Walker was overthrown and the whole city of Granada was burned to the ground and lots of scars from the fire still remain in the town.

– I knew Granada was supposed to be one of the most touristy cities in Nicaragua, but also one of the most beautiful as it´s mostly  colonial buildings.  There aren´t as many sights to see as places to wander and enjoy so this is what we did.  Our first day out, we went to the main square and decided to take a horse drawn buggy as this is the best way to see the town.  It was a  nice ride and we got to see lots of old colonial buildings which I love.  From there, we walked the main streets and ended up at Lake Nicaragua and headed towards the pier to see if we could get a boat trip to the tiny islands.

– The funny part of our walk was we had to walk into the “tourist center”.  I thought this was weird as it was almost a 5 km stretch along the lake that was build in hopes of drawing tourist to visit and spend money.  What we found was a deserted area with many open restaurants, but no people in them.  Guess the concept never took off.

– We were able to find the pier and boats and started to negotiate for a price.  Our lodge was going to charge us $18 US a person, and we thought that was too high for a two hour boat trip.  Once we got to the pier, we then were offered $7 each and when competition among two boat operators, we finally got the price to $5 each for a 2 hour cruise of the islets islands.  This ended up being a highlight to Granada.  The islets islands have hundreds of little islands with fancy homes on them.  The owner of the largest rum company had a few islands for his summer home.  So we cruised the waters, listening to Bob Marley and finally came to Monkey Island which we were looking forward to.

– Our boat driver said that monkey Island was supposed to have 4 monkey´s that live there.  As we pulled up to the tiny island (about the size of a home swimming pool), one monkey jumped onto our boat.  She first was looking for food, but we didn´t have any.  At that point, she just jumped onto Alex´s lap and sat down to look at us all.  This was a wild monkey.  Our boat driver told us this monkey was named Lucy and she was the friendliest monkey on the island.  Lucy then made the rounds and climbed on all of our laps and even climbed onto me and just hung onto my chest.  It was like she was hugging me and listening to my heart beat.  It was so precious, and we didn´t want to leave.  We all decided this monkey encounter made the whole trip worth it.

– As we knew we were leaving town in the morning, we decided to have one more night out in Granada.  So we were off to dinner at 9:45pm but almost everything was closed.  So we settled for the only open place which was an Irish Pub.  With dinner and beers finished, we decided to move onto Rum and diet cokes.  Then they were not strong enough so we moved to double shots.  After dinner, we headed to Cafe Nuiz for more drinks and were able to get bottle service at our table and kept drinking more rum in the rain.  Not sure the timing of this night as it just kept going, but we eventually went to another club for more drinking and dancing.  It was at this bar that we saw Richard again and I finally I told him off as I noted above.  I think it was about 5am when this all occurred as the five of us walked into the lodge at 6am and the sun was just coming up.

– It ended up being a really fun night out, and we all crashed for a few hours.  Only problem is our room was so hot and the little fans they had didn´t really work. Nicaragua is just a hot country and there is no cooling besides little crappy fans.  Well Freddie thought he would be sneaky and had a plan.  He was going to go sleep in another room that was left open and unlocked and take the large double bed in that room to himself and put the fan right next to his face.  We thought he was nuts as they would find out and charge him for the room.  He said he would wake up before they knew he was in there…but we all woke up at noon.  Lucky for Freddie, they had no idea and he got his own room and fan for free.

– So all in all, Granada turned out to be a great city with old colonial architecture, friendly monkey´s, beautiful islands and a fun night life.

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