Monday, November 30, 2015

Around the world dream

For about 10 years or so, Dean and I have been dreaming of taking our family on a trip that would encompass the globe. We thought that we would love to take a year off from our lives and go without a firm long term destination. Six years ago we did a version of that dream. We sold our dream home and put our physical lives in a shed and traveled, house sat and worked for about a year and a half. It was the most awesome, amazing time of our lives. A the little part we did not do was actually go around the entire globe. So now it is time. We are in the process of buying an around the world ticket. We will go east. We will be gone for 4 months. We will step foot on 5 continents, we will visit 7 or more countries. We will visit about 5 new countries. We will go as a family.

We have changed our flight itinerary so many times in the last month, that I hesitate to put it here in writing right now. But as soon as it is finalized, I will put it here, in our travel diary. To be looked at for many years to come.

I also have a Facebook travel page with the same "our family travels" name. I usually put lots of pictures on that page as Facebook is the easiest way to upload pictures when the internet is sketchy.

Keeping the dream alive

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Laguna De Apoyo

Right outside of Granada is Laguna De Apoya. It is a fabulous crater lake that always has warm water 
We went with a crazy taxi driver up the mountain and we stopped at a little resort that allows people to use their facilities for $6/day. We went down the hill, dropped our bags and jumped into the warm clear water. Because it was a bit windy, the waves were big as if we were swimming in the ocean. It was a weird feeling to have water splash into our faces and not be salty. 

 The view from above showed how huge this lake is.

Laguna de Apoyo (Lake Apoyo) is Nicaragua's largest volcanic crater lake. It was formed 23,000 years ago after a huge volcanic explosion left a large crater which interrupted the underground water table. Today, the lake is 180 meters deep and four kilometers in diameter. Its clear water is always warm, never below 28 degrees Celsius (great for swimming!).

Masaya Volcano, Nicaragua

Masaya volcano is between Granada and Managua. We had a driver take us on an all day tour on our way from Granada to Managua the day before we were to leave Nicaragua. The Masaya is the most active volcano in Nicaragua. It is constantly smoking stinky sulphur fumes. 

When we arrived at the park we were handed a pamphlet with things to know while we were visiting. Some of the things that we read were that the volcano could erupt without notice. We were to park our car backed in facing the exit. In case of rain or lightning, people should turn off their cell phones. Don't spend more than 5 minutes in the crater area. If your eyes or nose start to burn, you should leave immediately. 

During the pre-Columbian age, Masaya Volcano was on object of veneration by the indigenous people. They believed the eruptions were signs of anger from the Gods and to appease them they offered sacrifices, which ofter included small children and maidens. During the Conquest, the Spaniards baptized the active Volcano "LA BOCA DEL INFIERNO" or "THE MOUTH OF HELL". They then planted a cross, "LA CRUZ DE BOBADILLA" (named after Father Francisco Bobadilla). It was placed on the crater lip in the 16th century in order to exorcise the Devil.

Granada, Nicaragua

We love Granada! It is an old Spanish Historical city. It reminded us a lot of Morocco, Africa. We stayed in the old tourist part of the city. Granada is right beside Lake Nicaragua. This area sits on a volcanic chain, it's home to to over 300 islands and islets.  

        A street view through a doorway. From the outside you would have never known that this was a hotel with a courtyard in the centre filled with trees and fountains.

A wonderful place for breakfast and coffee is The Garden Cafe. We had lunch in the  cafĂ©, it also has a large reading room with wall to wall books, a gift shop with local handmade items, and a gorgeous patio facing the garden.

 In the central park we found this local artist and fell in love with a painting that he had painted. He is wrapping it up for us to take home.

                                                    The vibrant colours of Granada.

Spending three days in Granada offers plenty of time to explore this hidden gem of Central America. Although we mostly kept to the city center, there would be all sorts of things to do around the city and on Lake Nicaragua. This was a perfectly sized walking city 

The crazy staircase up to the bell tower

                                                                The bell tower

 The buildings all have open air courtyards in the centre. You can't tell from the street how amazing the building is inside. When we would walk by an open door, we would glance inside and sometimes it would be a restaurant, a store or a home. Each was unique and I would have loved to explore them all.

Central Park is Granada's city center and where the horse and carriages line up to take you for a tour around the city.

 A typical street on a busy weekday morning

 Granada is home to many vibrantly painted homes built in Spanish- colonial architecture. Many of the buildings are very similar and share the same walls. They have enormous doors and high-vaulted ceilings with open aired courtyards in the centre. Each building is special in its own way. 

  The Cathedral of Granada is probably the most iconic building and sits right next to Central Park and the main street.We climbed the bell tower and took some great pictures.

We climbed the spiral staircase up to the rooftop terrace. The first thing we noticed is all the huge mangos all over the terracotta tiles. The mangos had fallen from the massive tree that hung over the hotel.
                                                       Hanging mangos

Relaxing on our roof top terrace at La Islita Hotel

                                                    gorging in fresh mangos


San Juan Del Sur, Nicaragua

If you watch Survivor, you will have heard of San Juan Del Sur. It is one of the only beach towns in Nicaragua. We love beach towns, so we thought we should go check it out. We heard that it is a backpacker party town. But that doesn't usually affect us much as we are usually in bed by 9:30. 
Yes, I know.....9:30?? 
We are typically up by 6am and after a full day of diving, hiking, biking and walking. We are ready to get to bed early. 
 When we first arrived, I felt like it wasn't going to be great place to stay. There seemed to be a lot of local people that didn't have that cheery feel to them that we are used to when we travel. That usually means that they are not happy with the tourists attitudes. With the reputation of a backpack party town, I could see where that might be why I felt like that. Once we spent a few more days, I felt a bit better about the town, but it still wasn't on the top of my list for beach towns we have visited. I think had we stayed at a nearby beach, we would have had a bit more fun. 
The other thing that didn't make this my favourite place was the wind. It was soooo windy. I'm talking 60-70km hour winds. EVERY DAY!We couldn't walk on the beach, or near the sand without getting sand blasted. Wind is one of my least favourite things. Mostly on the water or near sand. That did take some of the joy out of being there. 

As you can see by the palm trees. It was really windy. If you look at the waves near shore in the distance you can see the white mist of the water being blown back into the ocean from shore.
In the middle back of the picture. High on the cliff is the hike we went on.

 One of the things to do was to climb the hill and see a huge Jesus statue at the top of it.


           This is what I ate for breakfast most day. Eggs, rice and beans, toast and cheese.

        There were very few people on the beach because of the wind. We spent time every morning watching people's shoes and towels blow across the beach as they were trying to go for a quick swim.

                                             The view from our hike up to the statue.

      We just about got blown off the hill once we got there. The statue was beautiful. It was huge!

              We wanted to take a better picture at the top. But my camera kept blowing over.

 Time for the walk back down. It was steeper than it looks.

There was a festival the weekend we were there. They had surfing and volleyball tournaments

        This is the beach where survivor was filmed. It is not in town, but a 25 minute ride down the road. It is dry season, so the trees and bushes look dead.


                                                         Surfing competition

                                                             Bye windy San Juan Del Sur

Big Corn Island

We had 1 day on Big corn island. We lived through the crazy panga (boat taxi) ride back from Little corn island, We had heard stories about the boat rides to and from the islands and we were "lucky" enough to have gotten to experience the trip that people had told us about. Basically is was a boat that was overloaded by 20+ people. With huge rolling waves and a boat motor that seemed to be struggling. Not great!! 
I was lucky enough to be sitting right behind Dean. He took the brunt of the water that splashed over the whole boat for the 45 minute trip. All our bags were stored in the dry storage in the back. So at least we didn't have to worry about all our stuff getting wet. I kept reminding myself that they do this trip every day and they knew what they were doing (other than overloading the boat). 

When we arrived on the island, we settled into our room. Took a look around our hotel and noticed they had bikes. We hopped on and started to explore. There is a road that goes around most of the island. We started in one direction and rode up and down rolling hills along the shoreline road. It was a fun way to experience this new island. We found some beautiful beaches and a little fruit stand where we bought some little apple bananas. Very sweet yummy bananas. 

                 Casa Canada ground. This hotel is owned by a few families from Saskatawan, Canada

                             The water in Feb is usually very flat. It was windy and wavy this year.

               Casa Canada hotel infinity pool. We didn't have time to swim in it, but it looked very pretty.

                                                                 we found a cactus in bloom