17/2/17… here we are, at Camp Granada.
(Sorry. Stephen could not resist another reference to the song. Did it bring back memories of Junior Choice and Ed “Stewpot” Stewart?)
It was in Granada that Eleri was mugged 18 months ago, so we approached the city with a degree of trepidation. Our experience was much better and at no time did we feel unsafe or threatened. We did take precautions, of course, leaving most of what little money we have with us, credit cards and passports at our hostel which had an iron gate at the entrance which had to be unlocked every time anyone went in or out.
Granada vies for the title of oldest city in Nicaragua with Leon (our next destination) and was founded in 1524 by the Spanish. As you will have guessed it is named after the city of the Alhambra and, like its namesake, is firmly on the tourist trail – with good reason.
We had a wonderful time, both wandering around on our own and on a horse and carriage tour, looking at the pastel painted houses and 4 grand churches. The view from the tower of one of the churches confirmed the impression from street level that the city is unspoiled by modern buildings and is being very sympathetically restored.
In addition to the horse and buggy ride we went on another couple of organised trips. The first of these was in the early evening to the Masaya volcano – the active one of two close by. Time at the caldera is limited by the park rangers to 2 to 5 minutes – allegedly but we were allowed about 15 minutes. This is because of the danger of the sulphurous fumes (the viewing point is positioned so that the prevailing easterly wind blows them away from the visitors – which was, thankfully, the case when we were there) and, we suspect, a way of increasing the numbers who can visit.
It was spectacular! We have never experienced anything like it. Peering over the low wall, you look down a near sheer shaft on the pool of bubbling, flowing, glowing, smoking magma (it is only called “lava” once it is outside the volcano, apparently). It was after sunset so the only light came from the magma itself but, as you approached it, it looked as though it was floodlit. It was like a scene from “Lord of the Rings”. The trip cost $19 each (negotiated down from $20!) which sounds a lot for a short time there (particularly if the shorter limit is applied) but, by crikey, it is worth it!
The other excursion was a boat trip on Lake Nicaragua (the city centre is about 1 km from the shoreline) through some of the 365 (why is it always 365 and never 364 or 366??) small islands close by that are the result of an ancient eruption of the other local volcano. It was beautiful and we had a couple of hours on a small island with a bar/restaurant where we (well, Stephen anyway) could swim in the lake which was a lovely temperature.
After four nights in the city of Granada, we moved to Laguna de Apoyo, which is a lake in the caldera of an ancient volcano (another one!) about 15 km away. What a blissfully quiet (apart from the howler monkeys!) and beautiful spot. It can be another day trip from Granada but we chose to spend one night there in a hostel – and could quite happily have extended the stay by a couple of days except that we had already arranged accommodation in Leon.