Viajera sola e independiente
Granada Travel Blog› entry 15 of 33 › view all entries
November 24th, 2009 – by: lindsaypo
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
I arrived home to Noemy exhausted, but feeling happy, independent and free after my first (of many) successful travels on my own.
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