March 19 Nicaragua - Central America XIII

On Tuesday, we said goodbye to KT and Honduras, and caught a plane to Nicaragua. Thanks to Dustin Kendall and Mike Cox for getting KT to the airport to catch her flight. We actually flew to El Salvador (if you look at a map, that is AWAY from Nicaragua, since San Salvador is the hub). After changing planes, we flew BACK OVER Honduras to Managua. We were a little apprehensive about Nicaragua, but the airport was very nice and the people were friendly. Our group of missionaries met us at the airport and we traveled together to the hotel to drop off our stuff.
The plan (we worked through Lilliam Romero) was to rent a vehicle\driver and spend two days seeing some of the sights, then having a reunion party with as many of our Nicaraguan missionaries as they could find. We pretty much left everything to the locals, other than our hotel. Well, they had rented a small bus and it seemed that everyone, including some of their children, were traveling with us for the two days! It was great - we had so much fun visiting and laughing.
I had given Lilliam a list of places I wanted to see, and it seems I pretty much matched the "trip advisor greatest hits". One nice thing about Nicaragua (among many) is that most of the things that are interesting and accessible are located in a relatively small land area, so it is quite easy to get a feel for Nicaragua in just a few days. We first drove to the shore of Lake Managua, just east of the capital, and got a first impression of the immense size of Nicaragua's two great lakes. We saw the lake from a new park (Salvador Allende Park - how appropriate) and took some group pictures (see above).

KR & Me with Victor Rodriguez, Yari Salinas, Juan Rivas,
Nidia Valle, Lilliam Romero (and Various Kids)
At Lake Managua
Nicaragua has a large rift paralleling the Pacific Ocean that contains Lakes Managua and Nicaragua, as well as a string of tall and active volcanoes. At certain open points you can see several of the peaks in a row looming over the landscape. A short distance south of Managua along the rift is one of the most spectacular volcanos - the Masaya. It is composed of a series of huge cones which contain several craters and vents and is contained within a national park, A small visitor's center houses some modest exhibits. A paved road leads up to the parking area abutting the rim of the active crater and a set of wooden stairs climbs up to the highest point, where a cross has been placed (the stairs are currently closed due to increased volcanic activity). We were given tacky orange hard hats to wear, none of which came close to fitting my head. 

The Masaya cinder cone-caldera-vent complex emits large amounts of sulfur dioxide gas, which took the form of dense clouds as they drifted upward. We were able to get right to the edge of the largest crater and look down to see the absolutely awesome size of the pit. It descends in layers, with the central hole getting progressively smaller with each layer. It is very deep. While we were oohing and aahing, the wind shifted directions, and we were treated to a lung-searing experience. The ranger told us to run to the van and exit the parking lot quickly. Our lungs seconded the motion as we quickly ran for cover. Wow, cool experience on the rim of Masaya.

Looking Down into the Active Masaya Vent
The next major geographical feature south of the rift is a water-filled caldera much like Crater Lake. Apoyo Lagoon, as it is called, seems bigger in diameter than its American counterpart, but the sides are not as tall. Perched on the north rim is a resort and restaurant with a great view of the lake. We enjoyed a delicious lunch there complete with music just for us. The food, ambience, and service were really quite wonderful. I would go back there anytime.
Apoyo Lagoon

Lunch at the Lagoon

After lunch, we headed east to the nearby city of Granada. Located near the shores of the immense Lake Nicaragua, it is a beautiful old city that has retained much of its historical charm. Clean and well-kept, it seemed bustling in the late afternoon as we strolled the plaza and took in the interior of the main cathedral.

Leaving Granada

Lake Nicaragua is one of the largest freshwater lakes in the world (19th on the list). It was the crossing point for the Central American canal's "second option", which was eventually built in Panama. The lake has a history of pirates, who entered from the Caribbean side on the San Juan River. Granada is thus, officially, a Caribbean port, although it is just miles from the Pacific. We were treated by our entourage to an evening cruise on the lake, complete with monkeys and a stop at a cannoned fortress built to repel pirates.

We Head Out on Our Nicaraguan "Minnow"

Posing at the Fort: Rodriguez, Rivas, Anderton,
Valle, Romero & Salinas

A Fisherman Casting His Net in the Fading Light

A very long, but enjoyable day in a very nice country..... a pleasant surprise. We had dinner at the hotel after being dropped off by our group and hit the sack tired and spent.

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