Star Date:  November 2012
NW Nicaragua


Hello Dear Family & Friends!

"Adios  Dal pues!"
(Good bye in Spanish but used as a greeting here.  o.k., go on, fine in Nicaragua)

"Buiti binafi "
(good day Moskito)





"There is one thing stronger than all the armies of the world, and that is an idea whose time has come."
(Victor Hugo - 19th century author)


Incorrigible. Nicaragua, the largest country and least visited in Central America, coined the phrase 'never give up'!  Zero ancient archeological sites remain and many of the countries museums, colonial buildings and theatres have been destroyed by years of revolution, a raging civil war and natural disasters.  Seventeen volcanoes take turns erupting, earthquakes on the countries 11 seismic faults level towns or whole pueblos and hurricanes blow coastal fishing villages off the map.  What remains is a vibrant landscape of rivers, tropical rainforests, lush mountains and dazzling beaches.  The 'Nicas' are strong individuals who have survived hardships, live with little infrastructure in remote areas and yet continue to have a passion for life.  Lively music blares as colorful markets offer a medley of handicrafts and produce.

Shaking off the yoke of the Spanish in 1821 the country was seized by American adventurer William Walker in 1855.  He was overthrown and executed in 1857, but only after burning colonial Granada.  What in the world was this criminal element doing invading a country?  Has much changed?  In the early 1900's US military bases were established and the US and CIA took control of the military.  A string of puppet presidents and dictators came and went.  Assassinations and civil unrest prevailed.  In the 1980's the US funded the Contra guerillas to overthrow the Sandinistas.  Once discovered years later, the funds were withdrawn and undoubtedly the control of Nicaragua went underground.  The CIA activity here is alive and well, with corruption of politicians allowing free reign.  The political situation in Central America remains as shaky as life on the fault line.  However unless all out fighting erupts, traveling in the region allows one to enjoy the country without knowing the bubbling mess under the surface.

Arriving in Managua by bus was nothing less than a shock.  Having 'gone bush' after weeks of quiet star filled nights and buying whatever we could find in little wooden shacks along dirt paths; we just walked around drop jawed at the size and confusion of the country's capitol.  The downtown has suffered greatly from the 1972 earthquake that swallowed up the historic colonial buildings and killed over 20,000 people.  Gone are the cobble stone streets and character, replaced by a number of far from attractive modern buildings and large expanses of open spaces where historical structures had been.  Such is life in a country with 17 volcanoes ready to erupt when they have a bad day.  If that wasn't bad enough the civil war of the late 70's made sure to bomb or destroy whatever was spared by Nature.  

A further look at 'Nica' life on the other coast.  Different coast, different world.   Modern malls on the outskirts of the city attract residents from miles around.  But I still don't know who can afford to buy a pair of sandals for $200?  The contrast of poverty and opulence within the borders of Nicaragua is typical worldwide.  We still feel that the simple joy felt in the poor rural villages surpasses those people shopping for fancy footwear.  Can you imagine high heels walking down a muddy lane along the east coast?  The locals would line up from miles around.  I can hear the belly laughs now!

We visited the national University, where we were warmly welcomed by the Regent and Vice Regents and groups of students. Joseph spoke on the benefits of e-text in our modern world.  Education is the key to solving the ills of our planet.

Granada, founded in 1524, is a pleasant colonial town, perfect for walking the cobblestone streets, sitting in the squares, visiting fine restaurants or stopping by the many well restored cathedrals.  Tourist flock here, some of the first we have seen in over a month, and we got our quota of, "Hi!, "Where are you from?"  "How long are you traveling?"   "Have you been to ............. ?"  We met a fun couple from Australia, Bernie and Trevor, who sold everything and moved overseas a year ago.  They excitedly told us of their adventures over pizza or a beer in the outside cafes of Calle Calzada street.  The highlight of our stay was to hook up with Rae Ann and Lee, friends of many years from Ocean View, on our Big Island of Hawaii.  This fiercely independent couple abandoned ship 8 years ago and have been teaching or just living overseas.  Rae Ann was raised in Central and South America traveling about with her Dad as he moved gold.  She knows the ropes in this often confusing and intricate web of life in the Americas.  We met for lunch many times at our favorite Nuestra Mundo buffet and learned of their life in Nicaragua over the last 2 years.  A week full of Aloha!

Ometepe.  Island of two volcanoes.  The only place I had marked to visit in the country looms in massive Lake Nicaragua.  Taking a 5 hour boat down from Granada we arrived after dark and were whisked away down a 4 mile 'road' of bumps in a mini van.  Spending the night in the northern coastal town of Altagracia, we walked the black streets punctuated by the singing from an ad hoc church or a small shack selling beans and rice.  Choosing food for the belly over food for the soul we passed several hours enjoying the local action along the sand streets.

One of the good things about traveling is that we left the worry of ownership of houses behind.  When the water wasn't working the following morning we simply got on the bus and moved on.  Not our problem!  Driving through the lush countryside with green pastures of the islands farms, we finally settled in Playa Santo Domingo (Beach).  Playa Santo Domingo is the thin wedge of land that connects the massive volcanoes of Concepción and Maderas, the product of rich volcanic soil that washed down from the slopes of both volcanoes over millennia, gradually connecting the two islands.  We had promised ourselves a R & R leave for a week and that is exactly what we did.  Nothing.  Getting the one room right on the beach we swam, wrote, rested and hiked.  Next to a vegetarian restaurant we had the best smoothies daily but I ended up cooking nearby over a fire.  Fully smoked and flavorful (not only the food but me) I cooked alongside Grandma and daughter, turning out tasty vegan plates, with enough food to fill us, not just look nice.  Only eating one cooked meal a day we need more substance without just starch fillers; which my plates of international flavored vegetables are able to provide.  Buying the freshest vegetables in the market and using the spices I haul in my daypack, we end up with Thai Tom Ka soup or Indian curry on an island in the middle of Nicaragua.  The spice of life!

The indigenous people, Chorotegas and Nicaraos, were the first people to settle Ometepe.  Their descendants have a small town, laid back manner which makes you feel at home the minute you step off the ferry.  The Baile de las Ramas (Dance of the Branches) is a major component of one of the celebrations held on the island. The dancers tear off smaller branches of the guanacaste tree, and hold them to their heads while dancing to imitate the worker zompopo (leaf-cutter) ants carrying leaves off to the ant hills.  Leaf cutter ants work non stop in the tropics like the residents during high Christmas and Easter season.  During low season everything grinds to a halt and community members have time to actually swim in the revitalizing waters and relax like their ancestors.  Low season is a great time to visit anywhere; lower prices and relaxed locals in exchange for a little rain at night or a brief downpour in the afternoon.

We hiked part way up the Maderas Volcano, stopping for a lunch at Finca Magdalina a co-op coffee plantation nationalized during the war.  We hiked an hour further to look at interesting pre-columbium petro glyphs hidden in the dense forest.  Roberto and Marcus from the local Community Center led the way through winding paths.  On the way back we arranged for Joseph to give some e-text to the Center for use in their community education project.  With either Concepcion or Madera Volcanoes providing a stunning backdrop we walked almost 4 miles back to our beach, a real effort after our day of hiking up the volcano.  Weren't we supposed to be resting?

A couple days later our daily walk took us past the sign for Sendero Pena Inculta Park.  Not to be missed, this rocky path led us for hours around a dense tropical forest full of pristine old growth trees, teeming with birds singing and monkeys squawking.  The little office building was closed tight, as were a lot of places on the island during low season, but it would have been a worthwhile entrance fee to help protect these majestic, rare old growth trees.   

Back to Granada we basked in the relaxing atmosphere only a colonial town can offer with historical buildings, central squares, and horses clopping along the stone streets.  Our bedroom was where the first President of Nicaragua slept over 100 years ago.  Spacious yet simple we luxuriated in the tiled bath, high ceilings and our own patio with an enormous 2 tiered inner courtyard.  Our range of rooms over the last 10 years has been from thatched roofed mud huts in Africa, to camel hair yurts in Inner Mongolia to oceanfront penthouses in Vietnam and now a colonial room of the first President in Nicaragua.  What next?  The truth is that right now, we carry our home in our heart.  And it is a happy home.



And so it goes.........................................Next continuing up Central America to Honduras.  Until next month Keep Smiling and remember to live with an 'Attitude of Gratitude'.  Your cup really IS half full.  Thanks for traveling with us and for keeping in touch!  We love hearing from you.  Take care!


Love, Light & Laughter, 

xoxoox  Nancy & Joseph



Travel notes:

$1.00US = 24 Cordobas

Travel friends we met recommended checking out  or for volunteer experiences in exchange for room and board.  Couch surfing is also an option for meeting people and a free place to crash.

Jardin de Italia, a quiet little place with basic but comfortable rooms with BIG screened windows!!  Green lush courtyard the perfect place to hang out away from the fury of the big city.  Taxi here from where the Aguillar bus drops you off from Rama about 150-200c.  Near Tico bus terminal in the center part of town - Barrio Marta Quezada. $20 - discount for longer stays.  Lesbia is a bit gruff but warms up.  Room #2 has lots of air and a good fan.  Phone #
(505) 2222-7967
Email or

2blocks down and one block over is a water shop next to Eskimo.  Buy a big 20 litres and pay 10c to have someone haul it over.

The best part of this place is the local neighborhood, a safe location (don't walk anywhere at night in Managua) and the best vegetarian food in Managua.  Two BUFFET(t pronounced loudly) restaurants one across from the other owned by the same owner.  For only 60c or less you can have a plate full of about 10 different salads, potatoes. and vegetables.

An honest, helpful taxi driver with a little English.  Sisto Domingo cell 8470-2461  Also a jazz player and?  Call him for a good price and safe arrival

Naturaleza - Health Food Store                   
phone: 2222 6944

The address to the store is; 
Porton Hospital Bautista
2 c abajo   1 c al lago
1/2 c abajo
There is a guard outside and one inside plus helpers and watchers.  You must take a taxi for safety and to find the place.

Walking down the main street towards the the Lake is an interesting look at Managua.  Squatters live in crumbling ruins next to large expanses where the debris was cleaned away.  The Cultural Palace is worth a look as are the monuments dotting the open areas.  The lake is dirty and undeveloped but worth having a drink in one of the little cafes (during the day).

Don't miss stopping in all of the historic churches scattered through town and try to get lost in the back far reaches of the local municipal market.

Hotel Terrasol: Avenida Barricada- A friendly small boutique hotel with several rooms with balconies overlooking the street and the volcano.  Every convenience, with a good cafe downstairs.  Low season $25/$35 discount for longer stays.  The street gets a little noisy at times but there are rooms at the back. Phone # 552-8825  email:  75 varas al Sur  

Nuestro Mundo First President' s Mansion:
Next to City Hall on the Central Park, one of the oldest houses in the center of Granada.  Rooms/Apartments $20-$40 night

Herko is extremely friendly and helpful, plus has one of the best smiles in Granada.  Call him to book ahead as there are only a few rooms.  Fantastic location right on the park, yet quiet in the inner courtyard. Wifi.  Ask for the President's suite!  # 89839803

We felt one of the best buffets in town was the 12-3 at Nuestro Mundo.  60c left you with a plate full of tasty food and they will make extra vegetables for vegetarians.  Sit out side enjoying your tasty food , while watching the activity of the Central Park or Cathedral across the street.

Mi Museo:  One block from the plaza, worth a stop in to see thousands of pre-columbian artifacts. (free)

Garden Cafe: a lush, cool relaxing courtyard.  A pplace to hang out and escape the heat or noise.  Fresh baked deserts and lots of vegetarian options.  Music every other Fri night.

Just off the La Libertad side of Central Park is a large, lively pizza place (maybe Tele Pizza).  Full of locals and a few visitors they make great vegan pizzas, loading the fixings on.  Worth a change from rice and beans.

Hostal San Angel:
Across the street from Nuestro Mundo
Singles $12 with bath, double $20-24.  Small, older rooms but good value.  Orlando and family welcome you into their home.  WiFi in living room.  2552-6373

We had the pleasure of being treated to an excellent vegetarian dinner in Masaya at Verdes.  Look it up on the internet for an amazing classy place to spend an evening.  Candlelight, indoor and outdoor dining and a wide range of diners and tapas.  Even an organic store attached.

Ometepe Island:
Hotel Castillo:  We were approached by a tout on the ferry who proceeded to gather up all the stray travelers and take them the dark, bumpy 3km into town for 20c each.  We stayed at his offered place with bath for $15.  The room was newly renovated but musty and when there was no water the next morning we decided not to spend another night s planned.  The little town - mostly in the dark- was a pleasure to walk around.  Everyone was so friendly.  The town central park was an eclectic collection of cement volcanoes and paths with dogs and children playing.

In hindsight I would have taken the van in then walked across the street to the newer hotel starting with a K.  A room in the back, 2nd floor looked good.

Playa Santa Domingo:
ospedaje Buena Vista - Hotel Isla de Ometepe - Nicaragua

This is the budget option on Playa Santo Domingo. There is an even cheaper place next door, but it is not recommended.  Eco lodge starts at $60.  Rooms are a bit faded and not as flashy as the pricier places in the area, but reliable, clean and friendly. An excellent choice if you're looking to stay on the beach for a reasonable price. No reservations accepted.  Room #1 is on the water and the best for air flow.  The staff can be a bit indifferent but just enjoy the manicured, clean place they have created.  Right on the lake!!!

Santo Domingo
Isla de Ometepe, Nicaragua

Per Room Prices:

At the other end:
Hotel Costa Azul - back up from the lake but the lobby still on the road.  Steps down to the sand, great views from many of the large rooms.  Off season $20 per room - less for 3 nights or more.
Phone:  #  8958 4943  Great rooms for a good price.

Several organic farms to check out around the island


San Juan Del Sur:
Casa Dolfina
Pink house right on the beach
Low season $15/night












Stunning colonial buildings surround the cobblestone streets and
 plazas in Granada.


A beautiful young traditional dancer in the Square.


Pre-performance jitters backstage.


Genuine smiles abound.


Contemplative moment between dances.


Hats off to you!


Toyland on wheels.


Colorful historic murals abound.


A beauty amongst the flowers.  She gave me a flower after
we talked with her and took her photo.


A new scene awaits through every door!


The main cathedral off the Central Plaza.


Light, bright sunshine colors inside.


A classy final ride to church and beyond.


Horse drawn carriages at the Plaza.


Bands playing in the streets.


'Nica' music is always playing in the Square.


Goofing with our long time Hawaiian friends, Lee and RaeAnne,
 outside our presidential suite in Granada.  They have been on the
road for 7 years, settling here the last 4.


Wonder if Nuns get a discount?


Heading out of Granada towards Ometepe Island, 4 hours
across Lake Nicaragua.


Ometepe means "Island of two volcanoes" - Concepción and Maderas.


The view from our room on Playa Santa Domingo.


This fish eagle is enjoying a fresh fish lunch.


Like blue jays in Canada or Myna
s in the tropics these large
ornate birds sit in the trees above 'laughing'; waiting to swoop
down and steal part of your food!


A two foot long iguana sunning himself on the wall.


Groups of howler monkeys passed by high in the tree tops.


   Sendero Pena Inculta Park.  Not to be missed, a rocky path led us
 for hours around a dense tropical forest full of pristine old growth
 trees, teeming with birds singing and monkeys squawking.


As a matter of fact this IS my room!


This good sized lizard just wandered in, had a rest on my bag, and
wandered out without saying a word!


The road leading to the hike up Maderas Volcano.


We hiked part way up the Maderas Volcano, stopping for a lunch
at Finca Magdalina a co-op coffee plantation.


Pre-columbium petro glyphs are hidden in the dense forest.




Back in Managua we spent a full day walking around looking
at what buildings still remain after earthquakes and war.  The
majority of the city's center is vacant lots, ruins or some
interesting but a bit tacky new structures.


Old meets new.  An occasional cart or horse drawn wagon clogs
the already busy traffic lanes.


Off to entertain at a wealthy child's birthday extravaganza. 
The gap between rich and poor in Managua is immense with
designer boutiques next to squatters shanties.


This is where Roy Orbison really ended up!
(or check out the sunglasses in the movie "They Live!")




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