August 18, 2004 GMT
Nicaragua, Granada and Masaya

It was an easy ride south to Granada (pop. 90,000), Nica's oldest city. Although it did see some recent fighting between the Sandinistas and Somoza's forces, it was spared the shelling seen by other cities.

Today Granada is the major tourist center, retaining it's colonial character - streets lined with Spanish styled houses with stuccoed adobe walls and large doors opening into cool interior patios.

While it is situated on the shores of Lago de Nicaragua, Central America's 3rd largest lake (fresh water) measuring 180kms long and 60 kms wide, there is no swiming because of polution. It is separated from the Pacific by only 20 kms, and contains fresh water swordfish and s h a r k s .

Rising out of the center of the lake to almost 5,000 feet are 2 twin volcanos, the larger of which is still active.

Here I contacted another of Bruno's friends, Maria Mercedes (thankyou Bruno), a beautiful spirited 17 year old girl living with her grandparents. She offered to show me the nightscene of Granada but not before I asked "permissione" from her grandfather. He agreed, but only on the condition that we be chaperonned by her 2 cousins. After hitting the first bar, Maria asked for a ride on the bike to show me the night sights. It was a great idea since there was only room for Maria, causing us to lose her cousins....tsk, tsk.

For the next few days I roamed Granada and explored it's beautiful restos, bars, and markets.

I began every morning for the next 3 days with the best massage I ever had. Carlo charged only $10USD for one hour in his huge parlor with high ceilings and his table in the center of the room. With the wide open windows allowing a breeze to blow across the table, I relaxed, totally nude under at least a liter of olive oil and Carlo's strong hands...heaven on earth!

The last day there I took a side trip to the town of Masaya (pop, 111,000). Despite the fact the town suffered an earthquake 4 years ago leaving 1,000s homeless and killing 30, the artists markets were open and life goes on amid the reconstruction.

Next to Masaya is the still active volcano, "Volcan Masaya". You can drive to the top of the crater and see the billowing toxic smoking and steaming gases rising from the crater. There is a huge cross, frequently obliterated by the escaping gases, overlooking the crater, which was placed there by the Spanish in the 16th century. They belived this volcano was the gateway to hell and hoped the cross would exorcise the demons who dwelled there. It's an awsome sight to be right there at the crater of an active volcano looking down.

Despite the fact it's a tourist destination, here is a quote verbatum from the visitor's guide;

"The active crater could present some phenomena without advisement sush as: emition of smokes, expulsions of rocks, sand, and others. We advise you that gases irritate the eyes, the respiratory tract, affect people with asthma, and diminish visibility of the area. We recommend to keep away from the area.

Park your car facing away fron the crater.

In case of expulsions of rocks you can protect yourself under the car. (What about a motorcycle !?!?!)."

Early the next morning after my last visit with Carlo, it was off to the Pacific seaside town of San Juan del Sur.

Posted by Ness at August 18, 2004 04:13 PM GMT
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