Countries Visited

Svalbard Spain United States of America Antarctica South Georgia Falkland Islands Bolivia Peru Ecuador Colombia Venezuela Guyana Suriname French Guiana Brazil Paraguay Uruguay Argentina Chile Greenland Canada United States of America United States of America Israel Jordan Cyprus Qatar United Arab Emirates Oman Yemen Saudia Arabia Iraq Afghanistan Turkmenistan Iran Syria Singapore China Mongolia Papua New Guinea Brunei Indonesia Malaysia Malaysia Tiawan Philippines Vietnam Cambodia Laos Thailand Myanmar Bangladesh Sri Lanka India Bhutan Nepal Pakistan Afghanistan Turkmenistan Tajikistan Kyrgyzstan Uzbekistan Japan North Korea South Korea Russia Kazakhstan Russia Montenegro Portugal Azerbaijan Armenia Georgia Ukraine Moldova Belarus Romania Bulgaria Macedonia Serbia Bosonia & Herzegovina Turkey Greece Albania Croatia Hungary Slovakia Slovenia Malta Spain Portugal Spain France Italy Italy Austria Switzerland Belgium France Ireland United Kingdom Norway Sweden Finland Estonia Latvia Lithuania Russia Poland Czech Republic Germany Denmark The Netherlands Iceland El Salvador Guatemala Panama Costa Rica Nicaragua Honduras Belize Mexico Trinidad & Tobago Puerto Rico Dominican Republic Haiti Jamaica The Bahamas Cuba Vanuatu Australia Solomon Islands Fiji New Caledonia New Zealand Eritrea Ethiopia Djibouti Somalia Kenya Uganda Tanzania Rwanda Burundi Madagascar Namibia Botswana South Africa Lesotho Swaziland Zimbabwe Mozambique Malawi Zambia Angola Democratic Repbulic of Congo Republic of Congo Gabon Equatorial Guinea Central African Republic Cameroon Nigeria Togo Ghana Burkina Fasso Cote d'Ivoire Liberia Sierra Leone Guinea Guinea Bissau The Gambia Senegal Mali Mauritania Niger Western Sahara Sudan Chad Egypt Libya Tunisia Morocco Algeria
Map Legend: 28%, 75 of 263 Territories

Monday, November 30, 2009

Lots of agua, but not yet Managua, in Nicaragua

We are now in lovely volcano-covered Nicaragua. As in most countries we have visited, the people are very nice for the most part. Nicaragua is the poorest country in Latin America, and that shows mostly in the number of people who come up to us on the street asking for money. In general, they have been more aggressive here than other countries. Rooms and tours are cheap, but food is surprisingly expensive compared to other countries in the region. Now for some pictures:

Tara was enthralled with the Nicaraguan sunsets, which would have been nicer without the city wires, but it still looks nice. This is from outside a church in Rivas, which has a colony of parrots nesting in the church. They are really cool, but so loud that I have no idea if anyone hears the priest speaking.
Most of Nicaragua seems to celebrate one or more religious festivals on any given night. Some of them have accompanying rides. In Rivas, they had a ferris wheel that went backwards at about 5 times the speed of a normal ferris wheel. And the whole thing looked like it was built out of extra scrap metal in someone's yard. This meant you felt like you were falling each time you went around. It was a lot of fun, and we were happy to have survived.

We traveled by boat to Ometepe, an island in Lake Nicaragua that is the largest lake island in the world. It was created by two erupting volcanoes. This is the smaller of the two covered in clouds.

This is the ferry that we took to Ometepe. We don't have a picture of the boat that we took back, but it was half the price of this one and looked like it was built of popsicle sticks. This one was very full going to the island. For some reason, the boat that could barely float on the way back was almost empty...

We didn't realize it, but the devil apparently lives at the bottom of this lake in Ometepe. According to local tradition, if you want to make a Faustian deal with the devil (and a lot of people apparently do), you go to this lake in the night and talk to him. They have many local stories about people who suddenly became rich or powerful after taking trips there.

In Ometepe, we went swimming in a nice large pool filled by natural springs. Here, Tara tried to show off her diving skills and I agreet to take a picture underwater of her entrance. As it turns out, Tara dives much like a cat would. Arms and legs pointed down and entering first and then the belly hits. I was laughing too hard to take the picture right as she went under, but here is one a second later.

We took maybe a half dozen underwater pictures. In this one, we agreed to keep our eyes open and stick out our tongue. Somehow, Tara configured her face to look like a diseased gnome.

This is a view of the pools, advertised as natural pools. Many things on our journeys have been advertised as natural, which translates to "slightly more natural looking than a cement block". It was very nice, though.

At the pool, we saw this lizard. It sat still just long enough for me to snap a shot, but not long enough for me to get the better camera.

We also saw these birds, which the locals apparently hate because they eat the crops. We thought they were terrific. Look at the crown on its head. We plan to introduce them to New York in hopes that they supplant pigeons.

Also on Ometepe, the natives there used to build huge statues. Not Easter Island size or anything, but bigger than life size. This was apparently a likeness of a king. This is clear because he is looking straight ahead. Everyone else has to look at the king's feet.

The primary method of transport for most of Nicaragua (and much of Panama) is old school buses. Some are painted, but many look just like the yellow Blue Bird specials that delivered me to school each day as a kid.

While sitting in an internet cafe one night, we heard what sounded like an explosion. Then a band. Then saw a float coming by. Part of a random religious procession, but they had a full marching band leading the way. That's the virgin on the back of the float. They really, really like the Virgin Mary here.

This is the larger volcano of Ometepe when the clouds cleared for a moment. This is considered the most dangerous volcano in Nicaragua because it is active, due for an eruption, and the 30,000 or so people on the island are sitting ducks if it erupts.

Tara took this picture in an attempt to Jew up Nicaragua since Adonai is one of the names for god in Judaism. Truth be told, I suspect the Jewish population of Nicaragua is a donut. (For more on donuts, see Tara's food post.)

At the market in Masaya, they had these colorful piggybanks stacked up for sale. Not sure who buys them, but they looked so nice all piled up.

In Masaya, we went to see some folk dancing. All the local professional dancers perform every week. Tough to take pictures in the dark, but you might be able to see here that most of them have these huge dresses that they have to hold the whole time they dance. One of the traditional dances is somewhat Halloween like and everyone wears crazy outfits. Really funny since they can't really see out of the masks and frequently collide.

We went to Masaya Volcano, which actually has five different craters, one of which is currently active. This cross was erected by an early Spanish missionary in hopes that it would stop the local people from sacrificing women and children to the volcano. Not surprisingly, it didn't work.

Here we are by the active crater. The smell of sulfur is definitely strong there. We didn't see them, but there are parakeets that live right down in the toxic fumes.

One more shot near the active crater. You can see how the crater falls off. We couldn't see any lava--just lots of steam. The last eruption in 2001 was a small one, but threw up lots of rocks that destroyed many of the cars in the parking lot, but no deaths. The signs warn you to hide under your car in the event of an eruption.
This crater is no longer active, but was responsible for one of the largest eruptions in Nicaragua's history. It is right across from the active crater, so it certainly isn't impossible that it could blow again someday. Fortunately, it didn't the day we were there.

Two cities in Nicaragua were historically the most powerful: Granada and Leon. Managua was the compromise capital between the two. Both are nice colonial cities. Then you find out that they have both been destroyed and rebuilt about a half dozen times, with both being in really bad shape after the civil war that ended in 1979. Here is a shot of Granada.

Here is a closer shot of the church. About as colonial looking as it gets.

From Granada, we took a kayaking trip around the 365 small Granada Islands in Lake Nicaragua. Well, we didn't see them all, but a lot of them. The current trend if you own one of these islands is to sell it to a dumb American willing to pay a minimum of $100,000, so if you have some spare money and want to buy one, they are available. Here is Tara in her kayak.

This is a tiny fort built on one of the islands to defend against lake pirates! That's right, Lake Nicaragua is so big that it historically had a ton of pirates who would show up, burn Granada to the ground, and loot everything in sight. So, they built this fort that apparently saw a lot of action and had to be rebuilt several times. I wonder if lake pirates were laughed at by ocean pirates. Are you a real pirate if you sail around a lake?

If you are a lake pirate, you only get a parakeet rather than a full sized parrot. Arrgh!

And there we have the first half of Nicaragua. More to come.

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