12.16.08 and 12.17.08 Esteli to Volcano Masaya
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12.16.08 and 12.17.08 Esteli to Volcano Masaya
Yesterday we spent all day at
I spent a long time into the night researching our multiple sources of notes, finding on my computer the “99 Days to Panama” Updates of 50 pages in a Word document that I had not yet printed out (and could have used, trust me!) for camping locations. There is so much information on camping in
Gene and Lee are just fearless and so resourceful. When I mentioned to Lee our need to empty the tanks, she suggested we ask the vigilante (who we tipped both nights), and he took us out to the field beside the Club, lifted a cement square off a concrete sewer dump! Taa-daa! I tipped him again. I need to become more resourceful. They are an inspiration and we so enjoyed them!
We’re so excited about getting Ned tomorrow! We are camped about 30 minutes up nice, country roads from the
Instead, tomorrow we plan to head on the road we followed today to the airport, and then take Ned to Masaya, an arts and crafts center for
Let me tell you about today:
We drove slowly on great roads (I cannot get over how terrific the roads in
We stopped at a wonderful outdoor food market in
We tried to buy from different vendors and paid whatever they wanted, which generally was 20 Cordoba (or about $1) for a pound of potatoes, tomatoes, or carrots. A nice head of broccoli was 15 C and a fresh pineapple was 10 C (Gene told us how to cut one!). We managed to spend nearly all of our 100 C note, which everyone knew we had because we had to cash it on the first purchase while about 20 people observed. We were happy to purchase directly from the suppliers.
In addition to Mr. Pester Us (who I had to tell “no tocar!” to a few times), several kids were yelling out, “I love you” and Jazy said she has no desire to ever be a celebrity! We left there laughing. Most of all, we were proud of ourselves for being stronger in managing those experiences without getting wigged out.
Next, we stopped in a small town so Jazy and I could go to an ATM- we still need Cordobas. We missed the ATM’s glass door because 3 heavily armed guards at the bank door (absolutely every place has a heavily armed guard, including for the Coke truck and the road surveyor!) were holding it open for us. One asked in Spanish about a camera and I acted confused (since I did have a little one in my purse, but he wasn’t getting it). Instead, I asked about the bank automatica or whatever it said on the sign out front and we were directed to the back of the bank. There were tellers back there in the bank. Three tellers were working very hard, but it still seemed to take a tremendous amount of time to process each person. We were going to see if my Visa debit card would work there. While waiting for them to process the same 3 people, we finally learned from a guy in line that the ATM was located out front. Jazy went to check and with the help of the front guards, found it. So we returned to the sidewalk, went into the correct door, and got our Cordobas! They even had an option for English on the ATM (that’s a first). Success!!
Thankfully, I could pay with American Express at a Texaco this morning. There are many American franchises in
Finally, we used GPS coordinates to find the fabulous Masaya Volcano National Park. We are camping here overnight- there’s also a tenter staying here beside the Visitor’s Center. Our exact location is N12’ 0.183 / W 86’ 8.914.
This National Park is amazing! It is an easy drive here, you turn into the gated park where the kind guard spoke admirable English. We paid 225 C for the 4 of us (about $11 total) and then drove the 1 km to the Visitor’s Center, where we had the place essentially to ourselves.
The Visitor’s Center is really pretty with multiple rooms covering the origin and eruption history of the 5 volcanoes of the park (Lago Masaya is formed from ground sinking after an eruption), the geology, animals, plants, and other National Parks in
Then we drove Ciao the 4 KM up the nice park road to a large parking lot at the top of the volcano. We had laughed when the Guide told us we could park our vehicle at the top, pointing toward the exit, but he was not kidding! Each parking spot says to do so in both Spanish and English! And everyone does so we can make a quick getaway if the volcano erupts. Two years ago, it apparently erupted enough to cause an internal (and now visible) rock slide and to cover the no-longer-visible molten lava!
We looked over the stone wall into the enormous crater, which was belching huge swirls of hot gases! It was so far down and so much steam coming from the enormous caldera that we could not see the bottom!
We also took a staircase to the top of a nearby dormant volcano where that a Franciscan Friar placed a cross to scare away the evil volcano deity hundreds of years before. The views were stunning and the weather a perfect, balmy temperature.
We made dinner in the rig there at the top, as a local told us that about 4:30 pm, the amazing little green parrots that lives in the toxic fumes of the volcano, come back to roost. They live there because their predators can’t and they have become acclimated to the inhospitable (toxic) conditions. But later another visitor told me that they only can be seen at that time in January and February, and we didn’t see any. Theyoffer here at the Park a $10 per person night tour to see the wildlife in this park, and you might be able to see the green parrots then. That sounds like great fun for Ned and me on a later trip.
So Ciao crawled down the steep hill in first gear with much braking (full water and gas). Then we parked for the night in a nice spot beside the Visitor’s Center.
There was a wee bit of confusion on the camping fee, as when we parked tonight, a park officer collected our 30 C per person (120 Cordoba= $6 US) and our name, saying our camping fee receipt would be forthcoming by the night officer. Then ten minutes later our vigilante (with the gun slung over his shoulder as part of the uniform) came over to collect our camping fee. I tipped him, but he thought that we thought that the park admission fee was our camping fee, even though I’d told him we’d already paid for both admission and camping, and that it was a propina (tip) for him.
I was considering just paying the camping fee again to fix the problem, when he trundled off to talk to an officer and returned apologetically. I felt bad for him - obviously it’s his job to collect the camping fee, but an intervening officer confused things. The vigilante then thanked me for his tip. A few minutes after he left, the night officer brought our receipt. All is well. Every park worker today has been very nice and helpful.
Lesson learned: Get the name of the person who takes my money (a picture might help too) if we don’t get an immediate receipt. It would have saved a lot of effort, but then we enjoyed practicing our Spanish.
That is part of the joy of RVing. It forces us, in spite of being uncomfortable at times, to interact in real ways with local people: grocery shopping, banking, getting gas, camping. It is like a daily field trip for us just waking up and getting moving!
Everyone we’ve met so far in
On the downside, we have heard two recent reports of people who had their license taken by Nicaraguan police officers, who insisted on a bribe before their licenses were returned.
The first people had done nothing wrong when they were stopped by the police. They gave the officer only a b&w copy of their license and would only show the original to him thru the window. When he demanded a bribe, they just laughed and drove off, leaving him holding the copy. I guess they weren’t too worried that he’d follow and arrest them!
The second family were stopped for a seatbelt infraction, but knew not to hand over their license (earlier in the trip they’d learned that from a 40-minute ordeal!). This traveler refused to let go of his license, which he showed the officer through his clear wallet window. However, the officer got really angry and started yelling at them and whipped out his handcuffs which he waved in the air. They were a bit scared by the experience and smartly pretended to not know Spanish. Finally, after a long time (45 min?) they were allowed to leave after paying a $60
Both of these experiences happened around Masaya, near where we are now. Our golden notes also say that police at a certain T-intersection watch for drivers running over the yellow line when turning left. We were at the “T” in the road today during lunch time and saw the officers were to the left of the turn, sitting on their booth near the road, swinging their legs. We happily turned right to go to Masaya Volcano, but they fortunately didn’t look too intimidating.
I hope that when we pass them twice tomorrow - going to and from the airport- all will go well. I admit to losing sleep over this police concern last night.
So this morning, I made sure the color replica of my license (front and back) looks very real because I plan to hand it over when required. As the only driver (usually) with kids, I just cannot afford to be in a compromising position. Since nothing is altered on it, I consider it my safest bet.
Fellow travelers, who see my laminated license copy, think the police will never know the difference between the two.
However, one friend had a Mexican officer recognize her license as a copy because he had previously lived in her
So there are risks both ways with the license and I struggle with my decision. But since Rosie, the owner of our very first RV park in
It is just hard to reconcile these stories and resulting fears with the nice people we meet on a daily basis. Tioga George (love his blog!) says that fear is a state of mind and he refuses to let it ruin his joy in his fulltiming life in
We are grateful that the police checkpoints are not nearly as prevalent here as they were in both
Culturally: On another note, we need to buy longer pants or skirts. Women in the interior just don’t wear shorts, but it is too hot to wear jeans. Capris would be perfect.
Jazy and I also have decided not to wave to men. They are already quite forward with the beeping, sounding sirens on their scooters, and whistling, which is well-known local Machismo. One book instructs us to not even make eye contact, which is hard for egalitarians. We’ve decided to not wave, but it’s okay to smile if they are not being obnoxious, so that we’re more culturally aligned.
Travel Speed: We have been running too fast to get here. We’re really looking forward to taking our time now and enjoying the journey more. Having to get through
Travel Options: I really envied Gene and Lee, fulltimers until next August, who really know how to enjoy every ounce of travel. They rented an apartment for 3.5 months on Baja. During that time, Lee flew home for a few weeks, friends and relatives came to visit, and their daughter enjoyed preschool there- what a great time! Also, in the terrific book, “One Year Off,” the family spent 6 months at the end of their travel year in an Australian apartment. They even enrolled their 3 kids in a local school!
Travel Goals: Travelers really have to determine what their goals are and what is right for their family. We’ve know we have an aggressive schedule with many sights to see, but we also recognize this as a once in a lifetime opportunity to travel with the kids during their formative years. We want them to see the world, broaden their horizons, learn about others, and we know that such experiences will change their lives. It’s certainly been a learning adventure for us all so far!
Lia said tonight, as she ate chocolate from her advent calendar, that she was surprised Christmas is in a week. She said that kids around here seem to have other things to focus on at Christmas than presents, like we used to. I asked her what things they focus on and she said, “Food, clothes, a house, their work like carrying things on their head and at the topes, and helping their Mom work.” It’s definitely been a humbling, learning experience. We’re looking forward to celebrating the joy of Christmas simply.