The joys of chicken buses. Our patience was put to the ultimate test on the 1.5 hour trip from Leòn to Granada. Our trip began with a short taxi ride to the Leòn bus terminal, a quick transfer to a jam-packed van, and another hour to the hot, chaos of Managua and off the van at the bus terminal. It was all easy enough at this point, but that is where the pleasantries end.
We hauled our backpacks on board and shoved them between our legs, as we were smashed against 40 other passengers standing in the isle of the converted school bus, while the temps soared to a unendurable degree, and humidity so high you could hardly breathe. This uncomfortable position continued and even got marginally worse during the journey to Granada. It is these moments when you begin to question why this was ever a good idea.
Fortunately, as soon as you find yourself dropped off in the central plaza of Granada, Nicaragua those feelings quickly melt away. The tree-lined square is the perfect centerpiece of a plaza that gives one the illusion of being transported back in time. Tall, old colonial buildings mark the perimeter of the square, while the bright yellow towering cathedral is by far the standout highlight. An architectural masterpiece that demands a long gaze and a few camera snaps that can hardly do it justice.
The long walk to our hostel was also rather grueling. The mid-day sun beat down on us as we schlepped our packs through the Central Market, across the river, up the hill, and around the corner to a quaint, residential neighborhood where Casa Barcelona was located.
We weren't in the mood for much after arriving, aside from quickly dropping our bags, promptly flopping on the bed beneath the ceiling fan, and letting out a big, guttural sigh. Ahhh, we've made it, yet again.
It was at least an hour before we moved, somehow the journey, combined with the heat left us more than a bit lethargic. We investigated some options, and thought the best way to lighten our moods, and beat the heat was to go for a swim. And so we did. We managed to find the largest , most welcoming pool in Granada. We paid our small entrance fee, found two lounge chairs, dropped our things, and got right into that pool. A bar was conveniently located next to the pool. We first requested two soda waters in order to hydrate a bit, but they were fresh out. It seemed there was little option, Dos Toñas Por Favor.
We spent the rest of the afternoon enjoying our very limited activity poolside, until dark storm clouds began gathering. We gathered our few belongings, order two more Toñas, and watched as the storm blew in. Central American storms are a thing of beauty. Fast and Fierce; the rain pours down in sheets, the thunder booming, as cracks of lightening shatters the sky. And within 10 minutes, it's completely gone.
When it was safe for us to venture out, we paid our bill and went out in search of dinner. We came across a vegetarian spot off the central plaza that served yummy (and safe) food for our still slightly ailing tummies, and the restaurant was set in a gorgeous garden courtyard. It was perfect.
After dinner, we started heading back across town to our hotel, but on the way back stopped at a hotel tour office to book ourselves in for the trip out to the lake in the morning. The lake is called Lago de Apoyo, it was right out of town and was recommended to us by our very trust-worthy Aussie mate Chris Abfalter.
In the morning, we rose early to hit a quick workout as Pure Gym & Spa. The rates are dirt cheap, and the place is adequate enough, although stiflingly hot.
After we were feeling a bit stronger and a touch fitter, we called it quits for the day, hit a quick shower and began the walk across town for a quick takeaway coffee and to meet at Oasis hostel for our ride out to the lake.
A quick 20 minute drive and we were dropped at a lakeside hostel at Lago de Apoyo. Immediately, I understood what Chris was on about. The lake is stunning. Apoyo is a sizable body of water completely surrounded by lush, leafy-green hillsides. The sun was shining, fish jumping, and the was the picture-perfect setting for a day of relaxation. The kayaks were free to use, but for the time being the lounge chairs and are books were all we had in mind.
We passed the next several hours reading and pausing for heavenly refreshing lake swims. Around 1pm we headed up to restaurant to get a bit of lunch. We very appropriately share a plate of Gallo Pinto con Huevos, Platanos, y Pico de Gallo. Simple, cheap, filling, delicious.
The rest of the afternoon was spent in relatively the same manner as the morning. At around 2:30pm almost like clockwork, the dark menacing clouds began gathering once more. It began on the far end of the lake and was brought on rather quickly. Within minutes the entire opposite side of the lake was blanketed in a white sheet if thick rain. It crawled closer and closer as we all gathered under the shelter of the lakeside bar, ordered our obligatory rain-watching ice-cold Toñas, and very contently watched the storm seize and the waves of the lake pound the side of the lakefront deck.
This time, within 20 minutes the storm had past and conveniently this was also the time we were to meet our driver out front to bring us back to Granada.
That evening we relaxed in the fan-cooled room and watched the Spurs game commentated in Spanish. The announcers we paid particular attention to their obvious favorite, the Argentine Manu Gernobli. After the Spurs lost rather convincingly we headed out for our last dinner.
Unable to make a decision on what we felt like, we settled on another Veg meal, as there is no saying how often the opportunity will present itself, plus, well it's cheap.
The morning came and we rose for another workout across town at Pure. After, we stopped at a nice little cafe, Cafe Europa, for some coffee and delightful breakfast.
I could've easily spent another lazy day in the colonial beauty that is Granada, however, the road beckons. Next up Isla Ometepe for a few days of volcano hiking and other various activities.
We packed our bags, once again, and made the quick walk over to the Rivas bus station. An hour by bus, taxi to the dock, an hour and a half by boat will bring us to our next destination.
And away we go...