Viajera sola e independiente

Granada Travel Blog

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First view of the town: colonial church.
"Where do you hail from?" said the Brit in the seat next to me on the bus from the Nicaraguan border to the colonial town of Granada.

I had thought that I was going to take this solo travel experience in Central America as an opportunity to achieve one of my goals of speaking only Spanish for at least one full day. But my aspirations quickly faded, as I met Brit after American after Canadian after Aussie after Canadian after Canadian after Canadian (most of whom were on two month to two year backpacking adventures throughout Latin America and didn't speak any Spanish) in my journey to Granada. When you're backpacking and you look like you might be from the English-speaking world, I found, it's hard to avoid communicating in English. But I accepted my defeat and went on to meet many interesting people.
Horsedrawn carriages in the central park


When I set off Saturday morning from Liberia, I must admit I was a little nervous. I'd never traveled completely on my own before, and my first time was to the second poorest country in the Western Hemisphere (after Haiti). And the border crossing was definitely something to be nervous about. I arrived in Peñas Blancas, the Costa Rican border town, after the first bus ride from Liberia. There, I waited in line for about an hour until the officials stamped my passport. Then I trekked across "no man's land" to enter Nicaragua, where I had to get my passport stamped again. I had been told that I could just cross the border, get a cup of coffee and then bribe officials to stamp my passport, making me legal for another 90 days, but I wanted to see Nicaragua.
Old convent
When I arrived at the border, one of the countless men trying to "help" me so I'd give him in tip in dollars (which I didn't bring with me) tried to convince me that I should just get a cup of coffee and go back. That's when I thought "Okay, now even Nicaraguans are telling me not to enter their country... Maybe I should take a hint." But the adventurer in me pushed on anyway, anxious and excited to get to Granada.

After finally making it to Granada, I walked around with a young Brazilian couple I'd met on the bus to different hostels, and settled on the Kalala Lodge, a backpacker's haven near the center of town. And let me just say, Granada is amazing. If it's architecture you're into, Granada's got tons of colonial churches, government buildings and museums.
My new friend Lori and me!
If it's photography, you've got your work cut out for you. If it's the beach, the Lago de Nicaragua is right on the outskirts of town. If it's nature and wildlife you're after, the Laguna de Apoyo and the Masaya Volcano (with bat caves) are close by. If it's nice people you're looking for, you've got the Granadans. So, I think it's clear that I adored this city.

The first night there, I gathered up the courage to go out to eat alone. I'd found a restaurant in Lonely Planet that offered plenty of Mediterranean and other ethnic food that I'd been craving like nobody's business since arriving in Costa Rica and went out to try it. About 5 minutes after ordering a dish of coconut rice and vegetable curry, in walked a girl who looked just a bit older than me, smiling and speaking gringa-infused Spanish with the waiter.
View of the Mombacho volcano from the Laguna de Apoyo
She sat down at the table next to me and after smiling and saying "hi!" she asked, "are you traveling alone?" I said yes and she said "so am I!" And thus began my evening with Lori. About 10 years older than me, Lori taught English in Costa Rica six years ago with an organization that I applied to back when I was looking for jobs, is from Pennsylvania but now lives in Florida, and comes to back to Central America as often as she can because she fell in love with it when she backpacked through all seven countries five years ago after finishing her teaching contract. Needless to say, we had a lot in common. We talked throughout dinner and then went out for a drink, even though I was exhausted from the day's traveling. She was lovely and after trading last names and email addresses, she asked, "Are you Jewish?" Mhm.
Laguna de Apoyo
It's an even smaller world than I think sometimes.

The next day, I went on a tour that I arranged with my hostel to the Laguna de Apoyo, the Masaya Market and the Masaya Volcano. I left in the morning with the tour guide and went to pick up three people on the way who were doing the same thing. It was a boyfriend and girlfriend just a year or two older than me from northern California and the boy's mother, a hippie ex-pat who was certifiably nuts-o. I must say that if I were to retire and had lots of money, Granada would definitely be a place I would buy a house as well, but I wouldn't behave as this woman did. To say that she lacked social skills was an understatement. Her son and his girlfriend apologized and explained her quirks to me when she wasn't listening.
Did I mention I love hammocks?
But I didn't mind, really. It was entertaining and made me grateful for my own mom, to say the least.

The tour was great. We met three Canadian guys at the laguna whom I seemed to fit in with better and I got some quality time on the laguna that was formed by a huge crater that goes about 200 meters deep. The water was crystal blue and picture perfect. Next stop was to a lookout point nearby with more gorgeous views, then to the town of Masaya and the artisan market, which were nice, but not the best part. When we finally got to the Volcano, it was just before sunset. So we watched the sunset just beyond the smoke fuming up from the volcano's center and trekked up the surrounding peaks for nice views. After the sun went down, we put on hardhats and carried flashlights, following the guides down a rocky path to some caves on the property, filled with spiders and bats.
Being pensive on the shore
Given the circumstances, it was one of those things that would just never happen in the U.S. and most people I know reading this will think, "Ah! How did you do that? Yuck!" But it was really cool.

That night, I went out with the Canadian guys and a Swiss guy they'd met the day before, and had a much needed drink after spending the day traipsing up steep hills with a crazy hippie lady spouting out pleas for us to watch where we stepped, so as to not squish any precious bugs along the way. It was nice to meet new people and hear their stories, but I liked being by myself too. I must say, I'm the best travel partner I've ever had; I never disagree with myself, I have the same budget as myself, and I go with the flow. Myself and I traveled together very nicely.
Me in the town of Catarina, at the lookout onto the Laguna


Finally on Monday, I got up early, wandered around Granada for a little last-minute sight-seeing at La Iglesia la Merced (where I met two more Canadian girls), with a watchtower that boasted the best view of the city, all the way out to the lake, and to the market, where old women sat with their daughters and granddaughters, making nacatamales (Nicaraguan corn tamales) and cutting up fresh papaya, bananas and watermelon. It was authentic and the people were kind and smiley, even to the foreign girl with the huge backpack getting in everyone's way. I reluctantly got on the bus to head back to Costa Rica (where I met two Australians and yet another Canadian), and made the journey through three bus rides and two border checks back to Liberia. I met two nice men (one Nica and one Tico) on different buses that offered me both their business cards and help for the next time I travel, and one gave me his Imperial (Costa Rican beer) keychain as "un recuerdo" of his country.
Iglesia en el pueblo Masaya
I have a knack for getting all kinds of little presents from ethnic men.

I arrived home to Noemy exhausted, but feeling happy, independent and free after my first (of many) successful travels on my own.
ganku says:
Very nice. "Myself and I traveled together very nicely" loved the line.
Posted on: Nov 19, 2013
vila says:
Hi Lindsay, I just now discovered your blog, and love reading it. You're a good story teller.
Congrats on your first trip alone! I'll always remember mine, I think it's a landmark in one's life journey.
Posted on: Jan 15, 2010
mamacitapatti18 says:
great pix my love. write more!! i love hearing about your adventures. can't wait to see you. xoxox
Posted on: Nov 30, 2009
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First view of the town: colonial c…
First view of the town: colonial …
Horsedrawn carriages in the centra…
Horsedrawn carriages in the centr…
Old convent
Old convent
My new friend Lori and me!
My new friend Lori and me!
View of the Mombacho volcano from …
View of the Mombacho volcano from…
Laguna de Apoyo
Laguna de Apoyo
Did I mention I love hammocks?
Did I mention I love hammocks?
Being pensive on the shore
Being pensive on the shore
Me in the town of Catarina, at the…
Me in the town of Catarina, at th…
Iglesia en el pueblo Masaya
Iglesia en el pueblo Masaya
Parque Central de Masaya
Parque Central de Masaya
Smoke rising from the Masaya Volca…
Smoke rising from the Masaya Volc…
Me in front of el volcán
Me in front of el volcán
Humo
Humo
Bat cave after dark!
Bat cave after dark!
This guy was in our path. Yikes.
This guy was in our path. Yikes.
That hardhat came in handy in the …
That hardhat came in handy in the…
Granadas central park at night
Granada's central park at night
Pretty building
Pretty building
Granadas Iglesia La Merced from t…
Granada's Iglesia La Merced from …
Support for the liberals, Chamorro…
Support for the liberals, Chamorr…
La Pólvora Iglesia (how gorgeous …
La Pólvora Iglesia (how gorgeous…
Inside the Iglesia La Merced
Inside the Iglesia La Merced
At the top of La Merceds lookout …
At the top of La Merced's lookout…
Bell tower
Bell tower
In the market... I dont think PET…
In the market... I don't think PE…
A nice lady who let me take her pi…
A nice lady who let me take her p…
Market chaos
Market chaos
Ladies selling fish in the 90 degr…
Ladies selling fish in the 90 deg…
Granada
photo by: monoli