Dear Muscles, Please forgive me, I did not mean to hurt you [Video]

We arrived on the grand twice-volcanoed island of Ometepe late in the afternoon on April 4th. 

It was my birthday and we celebrated by waking up early to chicken-bus travel on the busiest Nicaraguan day for travel. The day when most Nicas travel from the cities to the incredibly crowded beaches. 

The bus was a little crowded to say the least. I found myself standing and squashed into a 3×3 foot area that also included two families. It was a little crowded to say the least. Cynthia managed to get squashed next to the only guy who arrived for his 6:30am bus to the beach completely hammered. Too much Tona for this bloke. It was a little… you get the picture.

Basically, it was a mission to get to the beautiful island of Ometepe. So, the only thing to do was to delay my birthday celebration to the following day…

Ometepe has a treasure trove of natural delights for the traveler. There’s beaches and villages to explore, river and lake kayaking, waterfalls, hidden gem cafes. Lots of choice for the traveler. 

However, to truly bring home to me how old I was turning and to remind me and show Cynthia that these bones are a little more aged than they used to be, we chose to hike, scramble, crawl and climb up Maderas Volcano.

The hike was led by our never-tired and never-sweating guide Yeris, organised through the lovely people at Finca Mystica. I cannot emphasise this enough – it makes for such a great all-round experience when your guide speaks so highly of and positively about the place you’re in at that given moment.

We learned about the island and volcano’s history, about his family and his family’s farm and, in turn, he was eager to learn about Canada. The hike/crawl/climb was easily the hardest I have ever done yet our guide made a fantastic effort to keep things positive, interesting and, well, moving along of course.

  
The hike (all 17km up and down of it) was gruelling for me, great exercise for Cynthia and a walk in the Park for Yerys. He had, of course, done the hike yesterday along with “over 100 times before”. Anyhow, it was gruelling, with a great deal of sweat and tiredness going up and a whole lot of millions-of-knives-stabbing-you-in-the knees-multiple times over and over on the way down. 

Yet, along the way we saw and heard many a howler monkey and hiked through various differing layers of forest. From the dryer lower part to the huge trees and dense middle bit, to the even denser yet mud everywhere bit closer to the peak. And then there were the incredible views of Omepete island as we ascended. What a place. 

  
So, yes, we reached the top of the volcano (1,394 metres or a shade under 2.5 CN Towers or around 200 times smaller than the length of Wales) and saw the mysterious crater lake. We learned about Omepete and the people who have lived there for generations upon generations. We saw me sweat a lot and, yes, we made a video… Hope you enjoy 🙂

Where we stayed: Finca Mystica – hidden little gem of a place at the base of Maderas Volcano with very yummy food and clean little cabins to stay in. 

 — Matt

Granada, hotter than hot

Granada, the oven of Nicarauga, is certainly charming with its picturesque buildings and views.

   

        

We were in Granada for a week, doing Spanish classes (still pretty badly needed) and another homestay. 

 

 

Casa Xalteva is a wonderful place to study Spanish in Granada!Our teacher Maria was really friendly and she was quick to laugh at us.

Especially when she told us that…Matt had been calling the mother at homestay Doughnut instead of Mrs. 

You know, when you’re learning another language you’re bound to make some pretty hilarious mistakes. So it helps if your teacher is quick to point out your goofy errors and laugh at you. Dontcha think?!

Aside from studying Spanish, we passed the time hanging out in cafes and trying not to die of heat stroke. We were not prepared for the heat in Granada. Like it was just. So. Hot. 

Our favourite place to catch a warm breeze was called Garden Cafe. Their beers were cold and the cookies delicious! We didn’t try the food because we were being stuffed full at our homestay.  

   

   

There’s lots of opportunity to take advantage of happy hours in the city centre. You can get good deals, like 2 for 1 beers, at El Tercer Ojo. But make sure you pay attention to the actual hours of the happy hour. 

  

While it might seem like every hour is happy hour, it’s not. We went too early and had to pay full price for 4 of our 6 beers. Dang!

Fear not — we didn’t miss out on the natural beauty surrounding Granada.

We spent a blissful day soaking up the sun in the crater lake that is Laguna de Apoyo. 

  

 

And an adventurous afternoon exploring Mayasa Volcano, too. 

   

       

Chicken Bus Chicken Brain

 Image from Vagabond-travel.com 
Stand on the street. Go ahead. Hail a bus now. A big converted school bus. Just wave your hand around.

It’ll stop for you, seriously. Bus stop or not. 

Now get on. Oh what’s wrong? Is the bus packed like a tin of sardines

No problem. 

The bus conductor will shout something in a language you can’t understand. Then slowly people will start moving towards the back of the bus. You barely fit on but you’re on. 

The bus conductor is shouting again. You can’t understand the words that are coming out of his mouth. And yet you know. You know you need start making your way back. Through all the people. 

And you start sweating. Profusely. It’s not hotter, it’s just your nerves. Where do you hold? How do you shuffle on a moving chicken bus? Good god you’re going to fall over. 

Remember, tell the driver where you’re going. You have no idea how to get there so you’re completely reliant on the driver and bus conductor remembering you…and your destination…and telling you when to get off. 

And what to do once you exit the bus. 

But don’t worry about that right now. There’s other things on your mind.

 

image from www.explaura.net
 
Like…

….how on earth you’ll fit in between all these people

…if your short arm on your short body will be able to reach the handle that’s on the bus ceiling – CEILING!

…if you fall over, will you be trampled to death or just laughed at. And will you wish you were trampled if all 500 people on the bus point and laugh at you. 

…that there’s white deodorant clumping in your upstretched armpit and that you actually cannot physically get rid of it because that would mean:

1) letting go of the ceiling handle that is currently keeping you upright and alive

2) your 2 litre bottle of water is so frigging big and heavy you have nowhere to put it anyway

…but hey, at least you remembered your deodorant today because there’s a 15 year old kid’s nose straight in it

Some other things you’re thinking about:

…thank you Nicaraguans for being pretty short because I can actually reach your ceiling handle

…I’m never ever ever letting go of this ceiling handle

…holy shit my arm is going to fall off from stretching to reach the ceiling handle

…I believe the way I’m holding the ceiling handle is called the Vulcan Death Grip

…oh look, I found something to lean my leg against 

…oh my god I’m leaning my sweaty back knee on a man’s front knee! 

…well he doesn’t seem to mind

…I think I’ll leave my leg there. Sorry man, I wish someone invented leg antiperspirant. 
–Cyn

Stupid Hiking Shoes

Yesterday, Matt and I hiked Masaya Volcano in Nicaragua. It wasn’t a big hike or anything because we cheated and took a truck to the top of the volcano.

We were just strolling(ish) around an active volcano, as you do. 

  
I wore flip flops. Honestly, I didn’t think much of it despite the fact that everyone kept telling me flip flops were not appropriate hiking shoes. And despite the fact that we didn’t actually know if we’d be able to get a lift up to the top of if we’d have to hike straight up 5-6km in 35 degree weather in the blazing afternoon sun.  

  
But me being me, I didn’t listen. I once had to attach ice crampons to flops flops when I was in Banff. Walking around an active volcano couldn’t possibly be worse than that. 
Well, it was worse. The shoes were fine until THEY BROKE! At the top of the volcano! When our truck had left us! When there was NO way to fix them. 

  
You guys – I had very few options. 

Option One: Use grass to tie the shoe to my foot. 

  
The grass was so parched. Matt didn’t even bother harvesting it for me. 

Option Two: Shove the flip flop thong thing back in the hole with a stick. And break the stick off and hope it doesn’t impale my toes. 

I actually tried this. I don’t have a picture but take my word — it almost worked! I made it probably…20 meters down the volcano. 

Then everything broke. Again 🙁

Option Three: Walk BAREFOOT down a smoking hot volcano! 

It was like walking on lava. 

Bahahaha sorry. I couldn’t resist that joke! 

But seriously, the ground was so hot I was actually afraid my feet would be blistered. 

In a moment of complete desperation, I had an idea:

USE A BRA STRAP TO TIE THE SHOE ON!!!!

  
Genius my friends. It worked so well I did the other one too…you know, as a preventive measure.  

  
With my bra straps securely holding my shoes on my feet, I was totally prepared for whatever happened next. Even if it meant something like this… 

  
So…do backpackers need multiple pairs of shoes? Or will a pair of flip flops be good enough when you’re travelling through warm climates in Central and South America?

— Cyn