Sunday, April 28, 2024

Nicaragua January & February 2024

All Pictures are at the bottom:

Exciting news! Nicaragua is about to become my 85th country/territory, marking my 6th adventure in Central America! With only Honduras left unchecked on my travel list, I'm already gearing up for the journey slated for 2025.
A massive shoutout to everyone who contributed to making this trip possible through donations. Your generosity knows no bounds, and while I wish I could name each and every one of you, there are too many amazing people to list.
A round of applause for Council Rock United Soccer for once again stepping up with an abundance of soccer equipment. And a heartfelt thank you to Our Lady of Hope Catholic School in Potomac Falls, VA, whose children's shoe drive managed to fill one of our large suitcases with smiles and warmth.
Now, let's dive into what we're packing for this epic adventure:

Suitcase 1
55 pairs of shoes
6 string backpacks
2 mobile phones

Suitcase 2
32 pairs of soccer cleats
51 pairs of soccer socks
2 mobile phones

Suitcase 3
67 soccer jerseys
30 soccer shin guards
6 pairs of goalie gloves
41 pairs of soccer shorts
2 flags for coaches
20 practice jerseys
5 pairs of soccer socks
7 school backpacks
2 mobile phones

Suitcase 4
19 school backpacks
16 soccer balls
2 ball pumps
1 mobile phone
2 MacBooks
1 iPad
In addition to our packed bags, we'll also be stocking up on school supplies and computer tablets once we touch down in Nicaragua. A huge shoutout to our friends who, despite our plea not to send financial donations, couldn't resist lending their support.
Our efforts will be focused on collaborating with two fantastic organizations in Nicaragua: La Esperanza Granada and Soccer Without Borders. These partnerships will allow us to make a meaningful impact on the communities we visit.
Our home base will be the picturesque town of Granada, nestled on the shores of Lake Nicaragua, the largest lake in Central America. Did you know that at one point, it was considered as a potential location for the Nicaragua Canal, rivaling the Panama Canal?
Get ready for some surprises along the way, as we'll be joined by several mystery guests throughout the month, adding even more excitement to our already thrilling adventure in Nicaragua.

Donations arrive or maybe NOT!

Hold onto your hats, folks, because it's story time! For the past seven years, we've been lugging donations across borders, and let me tell you, it's been quite the rollercoaster ride. From charming encounters to nail-biting moments, our journey to Nicaragua was no exception.

Touching down in Managua at 7:50 PM on Thursday, February 15th, we sailed through immigrations without a hitch—well, almost. One feisty Aussie accused Margarite of cutting the immigration line, but a stern look from a burly bystander swiftly put that debate to rest. Crisis averted!

With our four colossal suitcases brimming with donations in tow, we braced ourselves for the customary customs dance. Each bag, along with our carry-ons and backpacks, went under the X-ray scanner—a routine we were all too familiar with.

But then, the plot thickened. The donation bags raised some eyebrows, but hey, nothing we hadn't seen before. Meeting with the customs officers was par for the course, and armed with our trusty list detailing each suitcase's contents, we thought we had this in the bag. Pun intended.

Alas, fate had other plans. The discovery of two iPhones in the first bag raised a few eyebrows, but we played it cool, passing them off as our personal devices. No harm done, right? Wrong.

Bag number two was where things went off the rails. Fifty pairs of shoes and two more iPhones greeted the customs agents, and when the shoes decided to stage a grand escape, chaos ensued. The agent's expression was a mix of sympathy and sheer disbelief as he realized the extent of our donation haul.

Cue the paperwork frenzy. iPhones were cataloged, bags were sealed with official government seals, and our patience was put to the test as the clock ticked past the one-hour mark.

Just when we thought we were in the clear, a curveball. The bags were re-X-rayed, weights were documented, and suddenly, the dreaded words: "You'll need to come back when the customs office is open."

Tax talk ensued, but my friends, we were not about to pay a tax on items destined for those in need. With a bold declaration, I offered to leave everything behind—a not-so-subtle attempt at bribery, or so I thought.

Their response? Utter confusion. Turns out, subtlety doesn't translate well in Nicaragua.

So, with a chuckle and a shake of the head, we bid farewell to the customs officers, knowing that while we may have left empty-handed, the memory of their faces when those shoes made their grand entrance would be priceless—no photo or video necessary.

Talk about a plot twist! With an appointment looming at the Venezuelan Embassy in Managua on Monday, we faced a dilemma: do we tackle the customs conundrum head-on or leave the bags behind and live to fight another day? Well, you guessed it—we chose the latter.

Opting to carry the paperwork with us, we bravely ventured forth, ready to take on the challenge of reclaiming our bags without paying a single peso in taxes. But here's the kicker—the real MVPs, our trusty MacBooks and iPad, were snug as a bug in my backpack, flying under the customs radar like true stealth warriors.

It just goes to show, sometimes the best-laid plans come with unexpected perks. So, armed with our paperwork and a newfound sense of determination, we set our sights on Monday's Venezuelan embassy appointment, and then a visit to the customs office. Knowing that whatever obstacles lie ahead, we've got this.

As you read the next part, please allow this song to play.

Friday - We spent the night in Managua at a very nice hotel, Elements.
What an eventful day in Managua! Our trusty guide Jorge, accompanied by the ever-reliable Ricardo behind the wheel, whisked us away at 9:00 AM from our hotel nestled in the bustling commercial district to the heart of old-town Managua.
As we traversed the city, Jorge shed light on a dark chapter in Managua's history: the catastrophic earthquake of December 23rd, 1972, which obliterated 90% of the old town and claimed over 20,000 lives. With such devastation, rebuilding seemed futile, compounded by the unfortunate reality that international aid meant to aid recovery was shamelessly pilfered by the then-president.
Our first stop? The original main square, where only three buildings survived the quake's wrath. The Cathedral, though still standing, bore scars too deep to be salvaged, while the parliament building found new life as a history museum, our first port of call.
Amidst relics and artifacts, we soaked in the rich tapestry of Nicaragua's past for an hour before embarking on a leisurely stroll through the old square, encountering monuments paying homage to the nation's historical luminaries.

Next, we descended upon the revitalized waterfront, a picturesque park teeming with life and vibrant metal tree sculptures inspired by "The Tree of Life" painting. Here, a grand plaza bore witness to a historic moment: a mass led by the pope himself.
A poignant moment awaited as we beheld a replica of pre-earthquake Managua juxtaposed against its verdant present-day counterpart, all against the backdrop of a crater lake, once home to the presidential palace reduced to rubble save for a lone tank, a gift from Benito Mussolini.
Our final stop? The controversial new Catholic Cathedral, its architecture a testament to the city's enduring resilience.
After a delightful lunch, we bid Managua adieu as Ricardo ferried us to Granada, our home for the next month-plus. Click here to see our house!
But before settling in, a visit to La Esperanza Granada to donate computers and an iPad, with the promise of assistance from Roberto in retrieving the donation items at the Customs Office come Monday.
As Saturday and Sunday unfolded, we familiarized ourselves with Granada, its vibrant markets, and the serene shores of Lake Nicaragua—though a word to the wise: don't leave your car unattended for long!
And that "gotcha" moment? Well, let's just say it wasn't snapped in Nicaragua, but it sure added a touch of humor to our journey. This picture was actually taken in the U.S. after some sports fans celebrating their team winning a national sports title.
Rise and shine, early birds! Today, we kicked off the day with a brisk stroll around Granada, eager to soak in the sights before the sweltering heat and humidity took over. And let me tell you, Granada isn't short on picturesque views—or Catholic Churches, for that matter! It seems like every street corner boasts its own magnificent place of worship, with Sunday morning masses in full swing, adding to the city's vibrant energy.
As we meandered towards the serene shores of the lakefront, taking in the tranquil beauty of Lake Nicaragua, our curiosity was piqued by a flurry of activity ahead. Lo and behold, it was the annual Granada 5 & 10K race in full swing! With the sun beating down and humidity levels off the charts, it was a true test of endurance for the brave souls tackling the course.
Both Margarite and I couldn't help but feel a twinge of regret for not stumbling upon this adrenaline-fueled event sooner. After all, who could resist the allure of a challenge, even in sweltering temperatures?
But fear not, dear friends, for the day is far from over. With a mix of anticipation and trepidation, we gear up for tomorrow's big agenda: a crucial meeting at the Venezuelan Embassy and a daring attempt to reclaim our donated treasures from the clutches of the customs office. Here's hoping luck is on our side as we navigate these exciting challenges!

Stay tuned for the next chapter in our Nicaraguan adventure—it's bound to be a nail-biter!

Over the past few days, I've been hit with two burning questions:

Did you manage to retrieve your donations from the clutches of Nicaraguan Customs? What's the deal with your rendezvous at the Venezuelan Embassy while stationed in Nicaragua? Let's tackle the second question first.

Picture this: Monday morning, the crack of dawn, and there we were, Roberto whisking us away at 8:00 AM sharp. Our destination? The esteemed Venezuelan Embassy. With high hopes and punctuality on our side, we strutted in for our 9:00 AM appointment, only to be greeted by a disappointing twist of fate—the Ambassador was called away to a meeting of utmost importance. Talk about timing, right?
But fear not! In a plot twist worthy of a telenovela, they assured us that if we left all our vital documents behind, the Ambassador could still give the green light to our request without our physical presence. A bit unorthodox, perhaps, but hey, when in diplomatic limbo, one must adapt!

So, with bated breath and fingers crossed, we're slated to return on Wednesday for the grand reveal. Stay tuned for the big reveal—I'll give you a hint: it's not about adopting a Venezuelan cherub!

While our Embassy escapade didn't quite yield the results we'd hoped for, it did jumpstart our quest to reclaim our confiscated donations from customs.
Arriving at the airport Customs Center at 9:45 AM, a mere mile from the airport, we were greeted by a sprawling fenced warehouse—a labyrinth of bureaucracy. Lesson one: bureaucracy loves paperwork, so copies upon copies of every document were demanded, including multiple iterations of Margarite's passport and entry stamp.

Fortunately, fate smiled upon us with a copy center conveniently stationed across the street, staffed by a seasoned pro who knew the drill like the back of her hand.

Back at the customs gate, a harsh reality hit—only Margarite, the designated paperwork bearer, was granted entry. As Roberto and I waited outside, oblivious to the unfolding saga, Margarite embarked on her odyssey.
Inside, Margarite found herself in a dim, narrow room, reminiscent of a waiting area straight out of Kafka. With a lone air conditioner valiantly battling the tropical heat, she joined a motley crew of fellow victims, all awaiting the return of their confiscated goods. With no instructions in sight, and survival rations dwindling, Margarite relied on the wisdom of her fellow captives: wait for someone to emerge from the bureaucratic abyss and demand your paperwork.

Hours ticked by, each one adding another layer of frustration and uncertainty. By 1:00 PM, Margarite resorted to borrowing a phone just to keep us in the loop.

By 2:00 PM, she was summoned to determine the value of our items and cough up a hefty tax—a process that dragged on until 5:00 PM, culminating in a jaw-dropping price tag surpassing the value of the items themselves.
After a grueling eight-hour ordeal, Margarite threw in the towel—literally and metaphorically—opting to abandon our donations rather than endure further torment in the sweltering, bureaucratic purgatory.

While our tale may sound like a nightmare, we count ourselves lucky that our losses were material, not existential. Yet, the horror stories shared by Margarite's fellow detainees paint a chilling portrait of a system gone awry—tales of exorbitant taxes levied on humble car parts or cherished personal belongings held hostage for ransom.

So, to answer the burning question: no, we didn't retrieve our items, and it seems we never will.
On Tuesday, our adventure began at 1:00 PM sharp, as we rendezvoused with Roberto at the La Esperanza office. From there, we embarked on a unique journey in a one-of-a-kind van, courtesy of Roberto, to explore three out of their four schools.
These schools serve as beacons of hope, providing enrichment education to local children after their morning public school sessions. With public school only running for half a day, La Esperanza steps in to bridge the gap, reinforcing the day's lessons and nurturing young minds.
What sets La Esperanza apart is its innovative approach: former students become volunteers, giving back to the community while paving their paths to higher education. The organization offers scholarships to those who age out of their program, but the catch? You've got to pay it forward by teaching the next generation.
Having traversed the globe and visited numerous NGOs, we can confidently say that La Esperanza stands head and shoulders above the rest in terms of efficiency and impact.

Wednesday marked our return to the Venezuelan Embassy, courtesy of a morning text informing us that our paperwork had been greenlit. Back in December, we embarked on the arduous task of applying for a tourist visa to Venezuela, navigating a labyrinthine 30-page application reminiscent of a mortgage form on steroids. Birth certificates, police checks, financial statements, and even invitation letters from Venezuelan residents were among the plethora of documents demanded.

Why the detour through Nicaragua? Simple: diplomatic estrangement between the United States and Venezuela meant no Venezuelan consulates on American soil. So, seizing the opportunity during our Nicaraguan sojourn, we decided to tackle the visa saga head-on.

January brought news of approval, but our journey wasn't over yet. Monday's plans for DNA tests, fingerprinting, blood draws, and photo ops were derailed by the Ambassador's unexpected absence. Round two on Wednesday proved more fortuitous, as we sailed through the biometric rigmarole and emerged victorious, clutching our golden ticket to Venezuela—a visa, freshly minted.
With official matters settled, we turned our attention to the afternoon's festivities at La Esperanza, where a Canadian family, benevolent volunteers, basked in a well-deserved thank-you bash for their repair work at the school. A heartwarming celebration captured on video, epitomizing the spirit of giving and gratitude that permeates La Esperanza's endeavors.

And thus, Wednesday's tale of triumph and camaraderie draws to a close, paving the way for future adventures in the sun-soaked landscapes of Venezuela, slated for the summer months ahead.
Thursday – We've officially hit the one-week mark in Nicaragua, and despite a day spent navigating customs, our time here has been a blast!
This morning, Martina, our awesome housekeeper, offered us a crash course on navigating the bustling local market. Picture this: a sprawling ten-acre playground where you can find anything and everything under the sun. But fear not! Martina's tutorial was like a beacon of knowledge in this maze of merchandise.
Now, armed with insider info, we can confidently navigate each section of the market – from the freshest fish to the juiciest fruits and everything in between. We've even mastered the art of bargaining, knowing exactly when to haggle and when to gracefully bow out. Plus, thanks to Martina, we're now pros at deciphering the ripeness of a papaya and the edibility of a squash.
With newfound expertise under our belts, the rest of the day calls for soaking up the glorious weather and perhaps a leisurely afternoon stroll. After all, we've got some exciting adventures on the horizon, and we'll need all the energy we can muster!
Restaurants We Have Tried:

Boca Baco: Excellent for sushi. 
La Hacienda: Nice outside seating. Food is good traditional Nicaraguan food. 
Pampa Restaurant: Steak and seafood. 
El Zaguán: Great steakhouse. 

On Thursday evening, we went for a walk-in search of the band "Trip n Tonic".
The band is made up of college students from a French university. We met several of the band members volunteering at La Esperanza. They are on a gap year as part of their engineering program.
We found them playing outside the historic cathedral. They play most evenings at random sites throughout Granada.

What's impressive is they carry their instruments on their travels.

We also ran into them on Sunday evening just off Central Park.

Band Video:  

Friday - Today, we are meeting Veronica, who runs Soccer Without Borders Nicaragua.
We showed up at 9:00 AM and delivered the news that the soccer equipment we promised them was confiscated by customs agents.
The good news is we told her we would gladly go shopping for new equipment in Managua next week. Soccer Without Borders is a worldwide organization that works with young ladies from five to 18 years of age. They use soccer as the base but are involved with many aspects of these young ladies' education and building them into independent women.
We walked to the soccer fields. Today is an in-service day for public school teachers, so the children do not have school. This allows Soccer Without Borders Nicaragua to have a Friday morning practice. These young ladies played soccer for two hours in the hot, humid conditions with only a few breaks for water. Every one of them had smiles on their faces.
Video of Practice:

After the practice, we walked back to the office where the younger group was just finishing a class.
After that, we parted ways and promised to return with new equipment.
One thing I have been very impressed with is the use of renewable energy vehicles in Nicaragua.
Monday - The Chicas swooped in like heroes, landing a whopping 30 minutes ahead of schedule. But alas! The immigration gods decided to play a little game, keeping them in limbo for a solid two hours.

Thank the travel deities, customs waved their magic wand and let them keep their treasure trove of goodies.

Laney, our seasoned travel companion, graced us with her presence once again. It's like a reunion of adventure aficionados! And then, out of the blue, enters Super Taster. Now, that's a name to ponder! Is it Supertaster, or perhaps Super with a side of Taster? To unravel this mystery, I've dubbed her ST.

Exhausted from the marathon journey and the epic immigration saga, we opted for some chill time by the pool.
Tuesday - We embarked on a quest for knowledge with Kike, our guide extraordinaire, on a thrilling free walking tour. The adventure kicked off promptly at 9:00 AM and unfolded over a glorious three and a half hours. Prepare to be enlightened!
As we strolled through the city's bustling streets, Kike regaled us with tales of yore, weaving a tapestry of history and intrigue. However, there was a whispered caution in the air—guides in Nicaragua must tread lightly when discussing the powers that be. One wrong word could lead them straight to the slammer for an extended stay.
But fear not! Amidst the serious stuff, we unearthed some nuggets of fun facts:

Granada, the crown jewel of Nicaragua, wears the dual mantle of the oldest city on the continent and the trendiest tourist hotspot. Picture-perfect cathedrals and colonial charm define its skyline.
Did you know Granada is pushing 500 years old? It's like the Methuselah of cities!

Behold Cocibolca (Nicaragua) Lake, reigning supreme as the largest body of water in Central America. It's like the Big Kahuna of lakes!
Now, let's talk grub. Forget about New York's pizza or Mexico's tacos. Granada's culinary ace up its sleeve is none other than El Vigorón. Imagine boiled yuca, pork rind, and cabbage joining forces to create a symphony of flavors. It's like a party in your mouth, and everyone's invited!
Our journey also led us to the hallowed grounds of the San Francisco Church and Museum, a historical gem dating back to 1529. Despite skirmishes with pirates and marauders, remnants of its former glory still stand, whispering tales of resilience and faith.
Wednesday - We embarked on a pilgrimage to the stunning Laguna de Apoyo, a majestic crater lake just a hop, skip, and a jump away from our humble abode—a mere 25-minute taxi jaunt.
Our destination? None other than Hostel Paradiso, a veritable oasis nestled on the lake's tranquil shores. With day passes in hand, we secured prime real estate for our lakeside escapade.
Arriving bright and early at 9:00 AM, we snagged coveted seats with front-row views of nature's splendor. By 10:00 AM, the beach buzzed with activity as sun-seekers vied for their slice of paradise.
Oh, the sights! The beach, kissed by the sun's gentle caress, stretched before us in all its pristine glory. And the lake—oh, the lake! Its azure waters beckoned, promising respite from the sweltering midday sun.
As the clock struck 1:00 PM, we bid adieu to our lakeside haven, the hostel abuzz with activity as new arrivals flooded in.
But fear not, dear reader, for tomorrow holds grand adventures for Laney and ST. And as the afternoon waned, we retreated to the cool embrace of the pool, seeking solace from the relentless heat. Ah, the sweet joys of vacation life!
Thursday - Margarite and I made the executive decision to forgo the Laney and ST escapade and instead relax in the comforts of home sweet home.
As we lounged in blissful tranquility, our only link to the outside world was the faint echo of Las Chicas' adventure. All we knew was they had commandeered a car from a mysterious figure named Jose (seriously, who is this Jose character?), bound for a Slot Canyon nestled on the border between Nicaragua and Honduras. A 6:00 AM departure promised thrills aplenty on their three to four-hour one-way drive.

Laney & ST’s adventure video:   

But as the sun dipped low on the horizon, our serenity was shattered by a cryptic message: a photo of their stranded vehicle, accompanied by a tale of woe.

The car, victim to a bout of overheating, had left them stranded on the roadside. Yet, amidst the chaos, a glimmer of hope emerged—a benevolent mechanic, a veritable guardian angel, appeared with a replacement water hose in hand, rescuing them from their roadside plight.
When Las Chicas returned, they regaled us with tales of the kindness of strangers, recounting how the mechanic refused any form of compensation. And thus, the mystery of Nicaragua's ranking as the 6th safest country for solo female travelers was solved—it's the warmth of its people that makes it a sanctuary for adventurers near and far.
Friday - Cooking Class
The Las Chicas sprang to life around 10:00 AM, shaking off the remnants of yesterday's wild escapades. With spirits high and stomachs growling, we eagerly set off to our next adventure: a sizzling cooking class! Today's menu? A tantalizing array of traditional Nicaraguan delights.
Picture this: heaps of colorful veggies, fluffy rice, and ripe plantains, all simmering together to create a symphony of flavors.
But wait, there's more! Our secret ingredient? Local goat tongue, adding a bold punch to our savory soup.
And dessert? Brace yourself for a taste bud extravaganza! A luscious casaba creation, crowned with creamy goat cheese and drizzled with a sugary syrup—pure indulgence on a plate!
As we savored each mouthful, our taste buds danced in delight.
Tomorrow promises even more excitement as we welcome new guests and dive headfirst into a whirlwind of activities. Stay tuned for the next chapter in our escapades!
Saturday - It's the day we welcome our newest guests, and the excitement is palpable! But before they arrive, we've got an adventure of our own lined up. This morning, we enlisted the help of Jose—yes, Jose again—to be our guide on a boat expedition to explore the enchanting Las Isletas, the cluster of small islands just off the coast of Granada in Lake Nicaragua.
Las Isletas—just saying the name brings a sense of mystery and intrigue. These tiny islands are like hidden gems, each with its own story to tell.
Some are home to local families who've lived there for generations, their lives intertwined with the rhythm of the lake and the bounty of its waters. Fishing isn't just a livelihood here; it's a way of life.
But wait, there's more! Among these rustic abodes are magnificent homes, the creations of adventurous Canadians and Americans who fell in love with the tranquility of the islands and decided to make them their own. Imagine owning a piece of paradise, complete with palm-fringed views and the gentle lapping of waves at your doorstep.
Our first stop on this island-hopping escapade? Fort San Pablo, a fortress steeped in history and lore. Built in 1524 to fend off pesky British invaders, this sturdy stronghold stands as a testament to Granada's resilience and determination. As we wander through its weathered walls, echoes of the past whisper tales of battles fought and victories won, reminding us that every island has a story, waiting to be discovered.
After our island adventure, we returned home for a well-deserved afternoon siesta, rejuvenating ourselves for the excitement to come. As the sun dipped lower in the sky, our eagerly awaited new guests finally arrived. Eager to show them the wonders of our surroundings, we set out for a leisurely stroll along the tranquil shores of Lake Nicaragua.
Introducing our newest additions, each with their own unique story to tell from left to right:

First up, we have Super Taster — yes, that's his actual name! But to avoid any confusion with our other esteemed Super Taster guest, we'll affectionately refer to him as STM. And our first Super Taster is now STF.

Joining STM is his delightful counterpart, completing their dynamic duo, we have the enigmatic Mrs. Rocket.

Sugar — though I assure you, his name has nothing to do with his taste preferences! Or his sweet tooth, but due to his wife constantly telling him to eat Sugar.

DA, Sugar’s wife whom many of you may remember from our adventures in Panama.

And of course, all our familiar faces are here, ready to welcome our newcomers with open arms and open hearts. With laughter in the air and anticipation in our souls, we embark on this new chapter of our journey together. Welcome, one and all, to our ever-growing family of adventurers!
Sunday - Today's adventure took us to the majestic Mombacho Volcano, where we embarked on the thrilling Crater Trail hike. Mombacho, a slumbering giant of a volcano, offered us the rare opportunity to trek around its entire crater, immersing ourselves in its ancient splendor.
Perched 700 meters above Granada, the rim of the volcano provided a refreshing reprieve from the sweltering heat and humidity we've been battling. The cool breeze kissed our skin as we marveled at the lush greenery stretching as far as the eye could see, punctuated by breathtaking vistas that took our breath away.
From every angle, the views were nothing short of spectacular, reminding us of the awe-inspiring beauty of Mother Nature herself. As we traversed the rugged terrain and drank in the sights, it was clear that a good time was had by all, our spirits lifted by the sheer majesty of our surroundings.
But the adventure doesn't end here! Tomorrow, we're off to conquer Cerro Negro and explore the vibrant city of Leon, brimming with history, culture, and endless possibilities. Stay tuned for more tales of daring escapades and unforgettable moments as our journey continues to unfold.
Monday - Cerró Negro Adventure!
Ever wondered what Cerro Negro is all about? Well, it's not just any old hill – it's a sizzling, active volcano! Picture this: hiking up a volcano, with most of the trail covered in sand and gravel, making every step an adventure. And oh boy, does it get hot! You'll be questioning whether the air or the ground beneath your feet is hotter.
But fear not! Once you conquer the summit, it's time for a quick costume change into your protective gear. Why, you ask? Because you're about to learn the exhilarating art of sandboarding down a volcano! And here's the kicker – you carry your trusty sandboard on the hike up, adding an extra challenge to the mix.
Once you've soaked in the views and adrenaline rush, check out our video for the full scoop on this heart-pumping activity.

Cerró Negro - Video:  

And guess what? Despite the burning muscles and sweaty brows, we all wanted to ride that volcanic wave again. But alas, the thought of another uphill battle was enough to have us heading to the charming town of Leon instead.
Leon, the second oldest city in Nicaragua, welcomed us with open arms. But the real highlight? A tour of the majestic cathedral – the grandest in all of Central America. Trust us, it's a sight you won't want to miss!
Tuesday - Dive into Deep Sea Fishing Fun!
Today was all about reeling in the big ones as we set off for a thrilling deep sea fishing adventure in San Juan Del Sur, nestled along the picturesque Pacific coast of Nicaragua. And let me tell you, the scenery alone was worth the trip!
While our fishing expedition may have been a bit of a mixed bag, with STM landing a sleek needlefish and Mrs. Rocket hauling in a whopper, the excitement of the chase made every moment unforgettable.
But the adventure didn't end there! After our time on the water, we dove into the crystal-clear depths for some snorkeling fun, immersing ourselves in the vibrant marine life below.
And what better way to cap off a day of salty sea air and sunshine than with a scrumptious seafood feast right on the sandy shores? With bellies full and hearts content, we headed back to Granada.
Tonight, Taco Tuesday, so off to dinner we went, ready to savor every delicious bite.

Until next time, may your days be filled with adventure and your tacos always be tasty!

Wednesday in Nicaragua - A Tale of Shopping Adventures

Embarking on our noble quest, our goal was clear: procure 40 computer tablets for the eager minds at La Esperanza Granada, and replenish the soccer gear for the spirited girls of Soccer Without Borders, after customs snatched away their treasures.

Our first task seemed straightforward enough. Yet, as they say, nothing in Nicaragua unfolds without its own unique twists. With tablets preordered, we anticipated a simple pick-up. Alas, upon arrival, we found ourselves ushered into a cozy lounge, offered coffee, and informed that our coveted gadgets languished in some distant warehouse.

Undeterred, we pivoted to the soccer mission. But fate had other plans. Despite the store boasting an array of gear fit for champions, our hopes were dashed at the checkout counter—no plastic accepted!

Adapting on the fly, we devised Plan B: wiring funds to Soccer Without Borders, who promised to return with pockets brimming with cash. Remarkably, amidst the chaos, our local helpers remained unperturbed, shrugging off these misadventures as mere quirks of the system.

Hours later, armed with tablets and dreams, we embarked on the homeward journey. What should have been a brisk return stretched into an odyssey, highlighting the timeless truth: haste finds no home in Nicaraguan time.
As dusk settled, casting its golden hue over Granada, serendipity graced our evening. In a delightful twist, Kimberly, a long-lost friend, materialized at our doorstep. It was a reunion years in the making, sparked by chance encounters in the vibrant streets of Managua.
Kimberly, a nomad on a journey through Nicaragua, shared tales of her yoga retreats across the land, weaving an enchanting narrative into our unforgettable day of trials and triumphs.
Thursday - Exploring Ometepe Island
With SuperTaster M and Mrs. Rocket bidding us adieu, our clan dwindled to five, plus trusty Jose, of course.
At the crack of dawn, we hit the road, bound for the ferry and the promise of Ometepe Island. A bumpy hour-and-a-half drive later, we embarked on the hour-and-twenty-minute ferry ride across the vast expanse of Lake Nicaragua, the largest in Central America, cradling within its waters the largest island in the region, home to some 40,000 souls and not one, but two active volcanoes.
First on our island itinerary: A Punta Jesus Maria, a tranquil peninsula offering breathtaking vistas of the lake and the imposing silhouette of one of the island's volcanic giants.
Next, we ventured into the lush embrace of Charco Verde Nature Reserve, where a leisurely hike around the lagoon revealed a world teeming with wildlife and the simple beauty of nature at its finest.
As the afternoon sun beat down, we sought refuge in what we thought would be our final stop: a natural spring turned tourist attraction, now boasting a sprawling swimming pool. Despite its transformation, the cool waters provided sweet relief from the relentless heat.
But time was slipping away, and with the ferry's departure looming, our intrepid guide, Jose, tempted us with the promise of a unique local concoction: a corn-based "tequila" reminiscent of moonshine. Unanimous in our thirst for adventure, we made a detour, seizing the opportunity to sample this spirited elixir.
Check out the Video: Happy Hour on Ometepe Island

We returned to our abode as the sun dipped below the horizon, reflecting on our whirlwind excursion. While Ometepe Island had not disappointed, our rushed itinerary left much unseen and unexplored. A lesson learned: next time, linger longer, soak in the natural wonders, and perhaps spend a night or two in this captivating island paradise.
Friday - Shopping and Surprises in Granada

Our mission today: gather school and cleaning supplies for La Esperanza and extend our gratitude to those who entrusted us with this task.

The contrast between our school supplies and tablet procurement experiences was stark. Arriving at the supply store, we were greeted with efficiency and preparedness. Everything was meticulously organized, and after a thorough count to ensure accuracy, we swiped our credit card and were on our way.
Next stop: the supermarket for cleaning supplies. Smooth sailing once again, as we swiftly gathered what we needed without a hitch.

As the day transitioned into evening, our dinner table welcomed unexpected guests. Rosalita, drawn by our Nicaraguan adventures, flew down with her family in tow, eager to explore Granada's charms for themselves. Alongside them, Kimberly graced us with her delightful presence once more.

After dinner, Laney's adventurous spirit led her on a spontaneous horseback ride, captured for posterity in our video diary.

Video Horseback Riding in Nicaragua:

To cap off the evening, we indulged in Eskimo Ice cream, a Nicaraguan treat worth the wait. As age catches up to me, the sweetness seems to linger a little longer (fat) and no longer melts away as in my younger days, reminding me to savor each moment, as I ration my ice cream indulgences.
In the coming days, we'll immerse ourselves in Granada life, blending in with the locals, exploring the markets, soaking in the culture, and even squeezing in some workouts at the gym. No longer mere tourists, but temporary residents, until our next adventure beckons next Wednesday. Stay tuned for more tales from our Nicaraguan escapades.
To address a burning question about the updates, I began using an Artificial Intelligence (AI) tool to write my updates. However, the feedback I've received so far has been negative. Therefore, I won't use AI for my updates anymore.
Today, we woke up at 5:00 AM for our trip to Managua Airport. We had a 7:00 AM flight to Big Corn Island, located on the Caribbean side of Nicaragua.
Trains, Planes, Automobiles? Not quite! It was Automobiles, Planes, and Boats for us.
The flight was smooth; we landed at 8:00 AM on Big Corn Island. However, our journey to Little Corn Island was not as straightforward.
Our next step was to take a taxi to the boat dock. But that plan hit a snag when the boat captain injured his leg while pulling up the anchor. As they looked for a replacement captain, we were taken to Arenas Beach. It wasn't a bad place to wait, enjoying a nice breakfast as we waited for the replacement captain.
An hour later, our taxi returned to take us to the boat dock where our boat awaited us.
After a 45-minute, rather rough boat ride, we arrived in paradise. I was surprised by how rough the Caribbean Sea was during our ten-mile crossing from Corn Island to Little Corn Island.

If you're curious about Little Corn Island's location, click here: Little Corn Island Location.

For the next three nights, we'll be staying at Yemaya Reef Little Corn Island Resort: Yemaya Reef Little Corn Island Resort.

The name "Corn" Island supposedly originates from pirates storing meat, known as "carne" in Spanish. The British pronounced it as "corn."
Corn Island and Little Corn Islands were British protectorates until 1860 when they were annexed by the Nicaraguan Government.

Little Corn Island can be likened to Gilligan’s Island on steroids. There are no cars, only dirt and paved sidewalks. Twenty-four-hour electricity is a recent addition with a solar farm. Previously, electricity came from generators with limited hours.
We were told there are 2,000 permanent residents, but after walking the entire three miles of sidewalk and greeting everyone, we only counted about 200 people. The total number of permanent residents on Little Corn Island since its inception might be closer to 2,000.
Yemaya Reef Little Corn Island Resort is situated on the North Shore, while the main village, where most locals live, is on the South Shore. The island is about one mile across.
Besides Yemaya Reef Little Corn Island Resort, most accommodations are hostels run by locals. There are several dive shops and local restaurants run from owners' homes.
If you want to escape it all and truly enjoy island time, this is the place to be. Someone described it as “Key West before it became Key West.”
The water is crystal blue, and the sea breeze makes the hot temperature comfortable.
Visitors are a mix of backpackers, divers, and those seeking to escape reality. It's a popular destination for Canadians.

Our first day was spent exploring the island.

Today, Thursday, after breakfast, Margarite attended a yoga class while I relaxed at the pool.
The resort has 16 casitas, but I estimate there are only six to eight guests here.

It was a very lazy day, enjoying the sounds of the Caribbean crashing onto the beach and the sun warming my skin.
We did get a burst of energy and went sea kayaking in the late afternoon when the sun wasn't as strong.

Kayak Video:

The food here has been delightful. Each night, they offer a three-course special along with the normal à la carte menu. Tonight’s special was octopus in a passion fruit sauce as an appetizer. Fish fillet in a cream sauce for me, in a curry sauce for Margarite, followed by a delicious cake.

Today, Friday, is our last full day on Little Corn Island.

We woke to the rising sun and decided to do another long walk around the island. While we had thought we had found most of the sidewalks and dirt paths, we discovered another section of the island we had missed.
By our count, maybe another 100 residents.

Along the coast, we did find the S.S. Minnow and the village where Gilligan, the skipper, along with the castaways lived.
After walking five miles, mostly on dirt paths, we returned to a very hearty breakfast.

We have tried to snorkel twice so far, but with the seas being rough, it was suggested that we wait.
We are happy that we waited as the seas have calmed, and today we had a great time snorkeling about a quarter mile off the beach. We visited two rather large reefs.
Snorkeling Video:

We asked about the rather large freighter (ship) that appears stuck very close to the reef we were snorkeling at.
Apparently, about a year ago, there was a hurricane that blew the ship from Corn Island, where it was being serviced, to the reef just off Little Corn Island. A ten-mile trip.
Since it has run aground, the Nicaraguan Government and the Colombian Government (the boat is registered in Colombia) have been fighting over who will pay for the boat's removal. So for now, it is just sitting hard aground in the sand.

After the snorkel adventure, more rest and relaxation. Tomorrow we depart paradise at 1:00 PM to catch our 3:00 PM flight back to Managua.

Leaving Little Corn Island, we opted for the luxury powerboat instead of the rowboat for our boat trip to Corn Island.
For our flight from Corn Island back to Managua, we went for the puddle jumper rather than the larger luxury plane.
Juan drove us back to our house in Granada.
After dinner, we took a walk to Central Park as it is Jazz Weekend. We enjoyed the music before turning in for the night.
Sunday morning run. At the five-mile mark, we ran (literally) into a couple of locals out for a run. We asked if we could join.
They explained in Spanish that they were running to the top of the local mountain. My Spanish is good enough to understand what they said. But after running five miles in this heat, I am not sure my brain understood what we were getting into when we asked if we could join them.
This video is from the top of the mountain, at about mile eight. As you can see, everyone looks great except me. I look like I am about to die.

Running Video:

At 10:00 AM, we are heading to the White Village. A friend, Harold, offered to take us. We are not sure what it is, but we have nothing planned today, so we agreed to go.
We learned that the White Village is an area known for making traditional pottery, following the same techniques used by indigenous people since ancient times.
We stopped at a pottery shop and received a full demonstration of the traditional craft.

Pottery Video:

After the pottery demonstration, we walked around the town and tried a traditional drink called Chicha Bruja, which is fermented corn with sugar. Very tasty.
The town is also known for growing ornamental flowers.
Lastly, we stopped at the overlook where we could see the entirety of Laguna de Apoyo, a crater lake we had visited earlier in the month.
Now it's time to pack as we depart tomorrow.

That's it from Nicaragua. I have a few domestic trips, and then in May, Little L joins us for a trip to Ireland and one other surprise destination.

All Pictures are Below: