Monday, August 26, 2013

We were robbed - well, almost!

So, it finally happened to us! We have been traveling throughout Nicaragua for more than a year and until now haven't been robbed or taken advantage of (much) until now. So what happened?

We spent a couple of weeks enjoying Granada and late in the day last Friday headed to León. Some friends drove us the first part of the way - to Managua - and dropped us off at the UCA terminal where we waited to catch an Inter-local to León. There was a long line of people waiting and we were a little worried at how long it would take to get a ride. After about a 45 minute wait we were seated in the bus and ready to go. When the driver came around to collect the money all I had was a 500 cord note - mistake #1! I should have had a smaller bill. He took the money, indicated that he was going to charge us for our suitcase too (I've heard that this can happen and wasn't too worried about it) and fumbled for the change. Then he abruptly motioned that he would give us the change when we got to the terminal - hummm - I saw that he had a big wad of bills and could easily have given us the change. Mistake #2 - we should have insisted on the change right then.

The drive to León was uneventful. When we neared the bus terminal the driver stopped on the road outside of the market to let out all of the passengers. He came around and helped us get our bag out of the van and Pat asked for our change. We waved his hand in a "wait a moment gesture" and walked to the far side of the vehicle. There were two ladies from Bluefields that were heading in the same direction as we were and so we arranged to take a taxi together. Pat and the women headed to the taxi while I followed the driver. He finally stopped and counted out some money, handed it to me and then quickly got in the van and drove away. I looked at what he gave me and it was $150 cords short! Although we had suspected he was up to something, we were now at a loss as to how to get the remainder of our money - sure, it was only about $6.25 but it bugged us that we had been taken advantage of.

The reaction of our new traveling companions was quite something - they were horrified that we had been "robbed". When they explained what happened to us to the taxi driver he offered to help us find the driver. It took us a couple of stops but we finally located the Inter-local office and went there to complain. The manager called the driver (Francisco) and told him to come to the office because there was a complaint. The driver made us wait over 1/2 hour before he finally arrived and we felt bad for interfering with our companions plans to get home. They were very friendly and were still hyped by the fact that we had been treated this way.

The driver finally arrived - probably thinking that he could hold his own against a couple of gringos. Little did he know that we had our own "secret weapons" - the two ladies from Bluefields. In Spanish too fast for me to understand, they shot down every argument the driver brought up for his actions and when the dust settled they were victorious - and so were we. Not only did the driver give us the correct change, but he also gave back the money that he charged for the suitcase. We got into the waiting taxi and headed to San Mateo where we were spending a few days with friends.

Of course, the helpful taxi driver charged for his time, but we felt it was money well spent. We are very grateful to the two ladies who helped us get our money back and sincerely hope that "Francisco" learned his lesson and won't try and cheat the next gringos that get into his van.

Festivities in front of the Cathedral in León, Nicaragua

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Getting your laundry done in Granada, Nicaragua

Besides death and taxes, another thing you can't escape is dirty laundry. Whether you are on vacation or trying to get your laundry done during rainy season one great option to eliminate this problem is taking your laundry to a local Lavanderia.

While visiting here in Granada we found a great local laundry service. This location, on Calle La Libertad, is self service as well as having the option of dropping off your laundry and picking it up a few hours later. We also noticed that they have an option that they will pickup your laundry for free - so you don't even need to trudge through town carrying your dirty clothes!

We took our clothes there at 9:00 a.m. and they were ready by noon. After months of drying our laundry on the clothesline it was a real pleasure to have nice fluffy, soft towels - and they smelled so good too!

Do you want to use this service the next time you are in Granada, Nicaragua? Here is the address:

La Lavanderia - del Parque Central 2 cuadras al Lago, Calle La Libertad
Telephone: 2552-0018

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

An afternoon at Laguna de Apoyo, Nicaragua

swimming - Laguna de Apoyo, Nicaragua
Ever since we started researching Nicaragua - both as a tourist destination and as a place to retire to - we have wanted to visit Laguna de Apoyo. The idea of swimming in the crater of an extinct volcano was intriguing to us.

Finally, last Saturday, we had an opportunity to visit the Laguna de Apoyo with some friends. The day started off bright and sunny, but as the afternoon approached rain clouds arrived and we weren't sure if a trip to the Lagoon was a good idea. However, determined to finally check it out we piled into the back of our friends truck and in spite of a light shower we drove out of Granada and headed to the waters. After a short ride from Granada we arrived at the rim of the extinct volcano and made our descent down to the water. The descent is quite steep so we were happy to be traveling by truck - I would hate to have to walk back up that hill! As you head downwards you catch glimpses of the water below.

kayaking - Laguna de Apoyo, Nicaragua
Once you arrive at the bottom you will find a number of accommodations and restaurants that will allow you to use their facilities either for a fee or require you to eat/drink at their establishments. Our friends headed along the street to a place called Apoyo Beach Restaurant. It really is no more than tiered table seating where you can order some food and drink and enjoy some time in the water. We opted for a table down near the waters edge, ordered some drinks and started to relax.

Even though the sun wasn't shining we did manage to spend a little bit of time in the water - which was cooler than I expected. Our friends had though ahead and brought a game for us to play and so we were able to while away a couple of hours enjoying the beautiful view.

Before we knew it the afternoon was fading and it was time to head home. As we were leaving the waiter asked us if we could take a couple of extra passengers up to the top - this is a very common request since the slope is so steep and there are few options to get to the top. So, we all hopped into the back of the truck, climb back up to the rim. Our passengers offered a cheery adios as we drove back to Granada.

Laguna de Apoyo, Nicaragua

Laguna de Apoyo, Nicaragua

Rachel, Pat and Charlie at Laguna de Apoyo

Do you want to visit Laguna de Apoyo? Here are two resources for you: Laguna de Apoyo info, and Laguna de Apoyo blog

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Enjoying a meal in Colonial Granada, Nicaragua

We love Granada - it's a great place to visit. There's lots to do and lots of great places to eat.

Although we aren't particularly into architecture one thing we enjoy doing is to walk about town and look at the many old buildings.  They have some beautiful buildings here - to us the Spanish Colonial style houses are the most appealing.

What we like about Granada is that many of these old homes have been converted into restaurants so that you can sit and enjoy a nice relaxing meal or snack and have an "insiders" view of what these homes used to be like in former times.

Along the tourist strip - La Calzada - there are many fine restaurants that cater to the tourist trade. A number of them are located in buildings that were formerly Spanish Colonial homes. As we were strolling along and looking for a small snack we found Nectar - I remember it from previous visits to Granada but we had never eaten here before. On their menu was one of our favourite light meals - Tostones con Queso (Fried Plantain with Cheese) - so we decided to give it a try. We were seated at a small table in the inner courtyard where there is some nice greenery and a water fountain. As we waited for our food I was able to stroll around the perimeter and view some local artwork that was displayed on the walls.

When our snack arrived we were very pleased with it. The cheese had been lightly fried and was slightly smokey. They also served it with a nice bed of lettuce with some pico de gallo - combine this with a cold beer and you have a delicious meal.

Tostones con Queso - Nectar Restaurant, Granada, Nicaragua

inner courtyard at Nectar - Granada, Nicaragua
inner courtyard at Nectar - Granada, Nicaragua

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Pearl Lagoon to Managua by Bus

The day will come, that for one reason or another, you will have to leave Pearl Lagoon to return to Managua. The cheapest way is to travel by bus from Pearl Lagoon to El Rama and from there on to Managua. Although cheap, it is not for the faint of heart - the road to El Rama is rough!

The bus from Pearl Lagoon to El Rama

There is only one bus a day that is direct from Pearl Lagoon to El Rama - it leaves early in the morning - 5:30 a.m. and sometimes even earlier during the rainy season. Your best bet is to be at the basketball court (La Concha) for 5:00 a.m. This will ensure that you get a seat and you won't miss it if they decide to leave early. Don't be surprised if you share your ride with men carrying machetes. Don't worry - they are likely heading out to their farms which are located around an area called Rocky Point.

The first part of your journey is through the jungle on either side with farms hidden behind the trees and foliage. Once you near the town of Kukra Hill the landscape changes to fields upon fields of Palm trees that are harvested to make oil. 

During the dry season the road from Pearl Lagoon to El Rama is usually easy to navigate. However, with the rainy season the road deteriorates. There are parts of the road that become mud pits and navigating through these areas pose a real problem for some vehicles. Also, when there are really heavy rains there are some lower areas that get flooded and the buses can't get through. At these times the bus may be canceled. We have even heard that at times it is necessary to ferry passengers across these flooded areas with a dory (small boat) but we haven't experienced this for ourselves.

Truck caught in the mud on the road between El Rama and Pearl Lagoon

Once you arrive in El Rama you will be dropped off at the local market/bus terminal - you should arrive between 10:00 - 10:30 a.m. You now have a choice to make. You can take the "Express" bus to Managua that is at the market or you can go to the Wendelyn Vargas terminal and take the 12:00 noon bus. Sometimes, due to the competition for riders, you will be told that the Wendelyn Vargas bus isn't running. If this is your choice you may want to check at the terminal to make sure. There isn't much difference in the price but the "Express" bus will deliver you to the Mayoreo terminal rather than the Ivan Montenegro terminal where the Wendelyn Vargas bus goes. Also, from my understanding, even though the "Express" bus leaves El Rama sooner both buses arrive in Managua about the same time - 5:00 - 5:30 p.m.

Bus information for Wendelyn Vargas Transport

Traveling from El Rama to Managua allows you to see some of the beautiful countryside of Nicaragua. After leaving the RAAS you will travel through the Department of Chontales (cowboy country) where you might get stuck in a cattle drive and also Boaco where you will see the beautiful, artificial Lago Las Canoas.

Boaco, Nicaragua

Boaco, Nicaragua

Artificial lake (or reservoir)  - Las Canoas in the department of Boaco

Lago Las Canoas, Nicaragua

Lago Las Canoas, Nicaragua

Lago Las Canoas, Nicaragua

Whichever way you go - sit back and enjoy the ride.

Cost for transport:  Pearl Lagoon to El Rama - C$150 ($6.13 CDN). El Rama to Managua via Wendelyn Vargas C$160 ($6.54 CDN)

Friday, August 9, 2013

Pancho is famous! - Friday Lens Affair #30

Recently, we submitted one of our pictures to Marysia at My Travel Affairs Travel Blog to be considered for her Friday Lens Affair feature. Unfortunately, the original picture wasn't suitable because of it's size but she found a picture on our Facebook page that she liked. We were thrilled to hear back from her and to find out that the picture of Pancho hanging on the clothesline outside of our house in León - plus a little write-up - were scheduled to be posted on her Friday Lens Affairs page on August 9th 2013.

Here is the picture that she liked:


This picture of Pancho was taken while we were still living in León so it doesn't show the crazy featherhawk that he has since his accident in May. Isn't he a handsome bird!

Check out the story at: My Travel Affairs: Friday Lens Affair #30

Thursday, August 8, 2013

What do you do when there's no Maple Syrup?

We don't eat a lot of pancakes or French toast, but when we do we love to smother them with Maple Syrup. Unfortunately, you can get any real Maple Syrup or fresh honey here in Pearl Lagoon and so when we made some French toast the other day we had to find an alternative.

Since we do have some awesome brown sugar that comes in blocks I decided to look for a recipe that features it. I looked at a couple of recipes but decided to try the one posted at Group Recipes by Tuilelaith because it contains butter and vanilla which I thought would make it taste better. The recipe took no time at all to make and the taste was good. However, the next time I make it I think I will increase the amount of butter. Also, I don't think I cooked it long enough because we prefer a thicker syrup - but we were hungry and in a hurry!

I found the recipe at Group Recipes posted by Tuilelaith. You can find it and others here: Brown Sugar Syrup

Brown Sugar Syrup
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 1/2 cups brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 cup water
How to make it

  • Put brown sugar and butter in a sauce pan.
  • Melt together.
  • Add vanilla and water.
  • Heat on medium/high heat until it boils.
  • Turn down a touch and boil for 5 minutes.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Our Favorite Bread in Pearl Lagoon

Miss Tina
Yum - hot, fresh bread, straight from the oven. Who can resist it? I know we can't.

Fresh bread is easy to find here in Pearl Lagoon. Many families here bake their own bread as part of their weekly routine. We could too since we have enjoyed making bread in the past. However, we have decided we would rather leave that task for the professionals!

 The Coconuts Delight Bakery - on Front Street - makes very good bread and at 30 cords a loaf it's a great price. We've enjoyed their bread and rolls on many occasions. But, in our opinion, you can't beat Miss Tina's hot, fresh bread for taste or price.

Miss Tina tells us that she has been making bread for over 20 years now. Every afternoon you will find her and her helper shaping 200 rolls from the mounds of bread dough that she had prepared earlier in the day. Would you prefer to have a loaf of bread? No problem. Just tell her before she has finished shaping the dough and she will prepare as many loaves as you require. Miss Tina doesn't start baking the bread until late in the afternoon and so by about 6:30 p.m. your fresh bread will be ready to pick up and take home. How much do these goodies cost? The rolls are only 5 cords each and you can get a whole loaf for only 20 cords.

Miss Tina and helper making "bread"
Loaves of bread baking in Miss Tina's oven - Pearl Lagoon, Nicaragua

FYI:  If you ask for a "bun" in Pearl Lagoon they will sell you a sweetened roll. The small rolls that Miss Tina and others sell are called "breads".

Fresh rolls ready for some butter!

So... by now I'm sure you are asking - Where is Miss Tina's home bakery? From the Basketball Court (La Concha) walk about 1/2 way to Casa Blanca (west). On the right side of the road you will come to a small shop with veggies for sale. 

Small store selling veggies - Pearl Lagoon, Nicaragua

Miss Tina's is behind the store, take your first right behind the store and follow the path to the back. If you aren't sure - just ask or follow your nose!

Take pathway behind the veggie store

You will find Miss Tina working hard baking bread every evening.

Friday, August 2, 2013

What is this? - Revealed

Are you ready to find out what this is?

When you open the door you find out that it is a Bread Oven

Bread Oven - Pearl Lagoon, Nicaragua
Coal is put into a container at the bottom part of the "box" and heats up the upper part. This locally made "oven" is used daily to make bread.