Saturday, January 21, 2017

Nicaragua Part 3: Sightseeing & Travel

After our clinic time was over we had one full day left in Nicaragua to explore. We decided to leave early that day but weren't really set on a time.  Lee told me about 6:45 that the a bus left for ?...can't remember, Managua? at 7am. We got our breakfast of granola, fruit and yogurt "to go" (we had to pay for the to-go containers) and rushed out to make the bus on time.  After over an hour ride we got off at an intersection and there were some moto-taxis there.  One took us to Granada.  We walked around Granada and spent too much time in this "gift" shop.  In a way it was good because it helped us know what to buy later on that day.  We knew we'd see lots of tourist stuff and hadn't really decided what we wanted to buy and bring back. We revisited many sites that Lee and I saw back in 2010.  Check out that old post here.
Jan 13 2017 (2)

Clark wanted us to buy a knife.  No way son.  But then he had fun taking pictures for Uncle Daniel of the different knives.  These are for you, Daniel.
Jan 13 2017 (3)

Not this knife, but another knife had a big knife and then a mini one on top of it in its own sheath.  I can't find the picture.  But as far as knives go, it was cute.
Jan 13 2017 (4)

We paid to go to the top of this church, built in the early 1500s.
Jan 13 2017 (5)

The climb up in a tight, winding staircase.
Jan 13 2017 (6)

Jan 13 2017 (7)

A fun view from the top.  See in the background?  Another yellow church!
Jan 13 2017 (8)

Jan 13 2017 (9)

Jan 13 2017 (10)

Jan 13 2017 (11)

Granada is definitely more urban that San Juan, and bigger than Rivas.  Just walking downtown you couldn't get away from the car exhaust smell.  We wanted to go to the mini-islands in Lake Nicaragua while in Granada.  That morning we ran into a tour guide a few times that wanted us to use his services.  Once Lee found out the price to go to the islands, taxi ride there and all, we decided to do it.  I think for all three of us it was around $25.  I tried to find out how much it was last time Lee and I were here, and it seems like it was more expensive.
Jan 13 2017 (12)

It was nice that we got our own private boat again.  And thankful they have life jackets.  Lake Nicaragua is the only fresh water lake in the world that has sharks.  I'm not sure how many sharks live there, but I did not want to find out.  Not that life jackets will keep sharks away though...
Jan 13 2017 (13)

This time on our ride we had a driver and a tour guide.  The tour guide was this 13 year-old.  He did a nice job.  He pulled this off of a tree.  It's called a magic banana.
Jan 13 2017 (15)

Pretty cool what's inside, right?!
Jan 13 2017 (16)

Jan 13 2017 (17)

I think Clark really liked the boat ride.
Jan 13 2017 (18)

Jan 13 2017 (19)

Once again we saw the mini-island owned by the beer company people-- Flora de Cana.
Jan 13 2017 (20)

Jan 13 2017 (21)

Lots of fun little islands all over.  They are all really expensive.  Millions of dollars.  It's nice because in Nicaragua they will take their currency of cordabas, or US dollars.
Jan 13 2017 (22)

Jan 13 2017 (23)

Jan 13 2017 (24)

In the background a dormant volcano.  Apparently thousands of years ago when it erupted it's top blew off and created all these small islands in Lake Nicaragua. At the top of this volcano is a lake, which we visited next.
Jan 13 2017 (25)

Jan 13 2017 (26)

Jan 13 2017 (27)

Jan 13 2017 (29)

Our last destination for the boat ride: Monkey Island.  The tour guide that was finally got us to do the trip through him suggested we buy some bananas to feed to the monkeys.
Jan 13 2017 (30)

It worked!
Jan 13 2017 (31)

Jan 13 2017 (32)

Jan 13 2017 (33)

Lee dropped his banana and couldn't find it right away, so never fed his to the monkey.  One of the monkeys hopped on someone else's boat ride.
Jan 13 2017 (35)

Jan 13 2017 (36)

Jan 13 2017 (37)

Jan 13 2017 (38)

Jan 13 2017 (39)

Jan 13 2017 (40)

Jan 13 2017 (41)

After we docked and took a quick bathroom break we headed back to town.  Some of the bathrooms were pretty, um, ghetto?  I wish I would have had my phone with me when I used the bathroom in Granada.  I had to pay too, about $0.13. It was creepy.  Not sure if I mentioned this in a prior post, but every time we would get cordaba coins we gave them to Clark.  Well, we needed them to pay for the bathroom, mainly because it was easier to pay with coins than mess with a bill.  We were laughing of our joke of flushing Clark's money down the toilet, almost literally. 
Jan 13 2017 (42)

Jan 13 2017 (43)

We walked back to Granada with hopes that a taxi would pick us up.  One eventually did.  Clark lucked out.  Last time we were there we walked A TON in and around Granada.  And it was raining that last time too.
Jan 13 2017 (44)

For lunch we stopped at a chain restaurant The Taco Stop.  If Taco Bell could be like this place, that would be dangerous for me. It was so yummy, and like homemade yummy "Mexican" food, USA style if you know what I mean.  It was good!  Though their tortilla chips are a little thick, still good.
Jan 13 2017 (45)

More bathroom stuff that you want I'm sure, but I couldn't find the women's restroom at The Taco Stop.  We asked someone where it was and she said that it was for both genders.  Lee guarded the door for me.  Anyway, when I was washing my hands I told him to snap a picture of the faucet.  Pretty fun, right?
Jan 13 2017 (46)

On our way out of Granada via a personal taxi, we spotted a cemetery that we never saw last time.  Pretty cool.  We'll have to explore here someday.
Jan 13 2017 (47)

Jan 13 2017 (48)

Jan 13 2017 (50)

The taxi ride to Caratrina wasn't that great as some type of exhaust was leaking out by the stick shift area.  Poor guy has to drive with that all the time!  A lady stopped us about a block from the lake and made us pay a fee.  Lee questioned this and the taxi guy just shrugged his shoulders.  We didn't have to pay last time.  Granted it was only $1.  BUT while we were walking around we saw some Nicaraguans get in and didn't have to pay.  Figures.

Right when we stepped out of the taxi we saw the directors of VOSH and their friend there shopping.  Crazy, huh?  There are lots of tourist shops in Catarina, and good prices too.  We walked up to see the lake at the top of the volcano.  Pretty fun. 
Jan 13 2017 (52)

Jan 13 2017 (53)

Jan 13 2017 (54)

In addition to lots of fun tourist "stuff" there are a lot of garden stores in Catarina.  So pretty. 
Jan 13 2017 (55)

Next up, Masaya.  We took another taxi there to the main tourist marketplace.  It's surrounded by a fortress type structure.
Jan 13 2017 (56)

This place is FILLED with shops.  It's kind of overwhelming and you can get lost in there, sort of.  We finally decided that we wanted to get something useful for the kids.  I'm not super sentimental and don't like little trinkets and do-dads around.  We decided to get them a little note book--a composition book fits inside, and a fun pen.  The pens we bought in Catarina.  We also bought Roger and Brittany some Christmas presents.  If anyone wants something in Nicaragua.  Let me know!
Jan 13 2016 Nicaragua Trip

A cozy place to let your young guy sleep!  All the kids were on winter break.  I guess it's their "summer" break.  That is why the school was available for the clinic.  These boys followed us around trying to get us to buy a hammock.  They kept lowering their price.  It's not a super nice one, but it was only $3.  They started at $7. Not sure where we'll put it or if we'll give it to someone.
Jan 13 2017 (57)

The last taxi ride for the day.  This guy took us to a bus stop of sorts to head back to San Juan.
Jan 13 2017 (58)

So we get off at the "bus stop" and immediately this young guy comes up and starts talking to us about going to San Juan Del Sur. I asked Lee, how did he know we were going there?  We were about 2 hours away from San Juan.  Lee said it's because we are tourists and it's a common place for them to go.  This guy convinces us to take a certain bus back to San Jaun.  He said it was a coach bus and goes straight there.  He also told me to put my phone away as it wasn't a safe place to have one out.  We were on a busy highway right across the street from a Cargill plant.  We actually drove right past this spot on the way to the airport the next day. We decided to take his recommendation and take the bus.  It was PACKED.  Like as in I never even got up all of the steps to get into the bus.
Jan 13 2017 (60)

And Clark sat on the floor next to the driver.  Lee took these pictures.  See the arm to the left of Clark?  That was a lady sitting at Lee's feet. 
Jan 13 2017 (59)

After about an hour we got to move to the sitting area of the bus and sit on stools.  In the isle.  It's crazy, but kind of fun to experience their way of travel.  One good thing, to make you feel better, Lee has NEVER seen an accident in Nicaragua.  It's so crazy there, and the drivers are so interactive, that they don't get in accidents.  Now I am sure accidents have happened, but they aren't distracted drivers like we have in the US.  Plus they don't drive as fast as us.  Only a couple of times did someone go 60 MPH in their taxi with us.
Jan 13 2017 (61)

Two hours later, and getting to sit in a seat a little later, we arrived in San Juan. We ate out at The Taco Stop and The Taco that night (just to compare them) and then had gelato again. We packed up  a little bit, bought some snacks at a chain pulperia and went to bed.  I woke up at 5:30 the next morning so we could be on time for the bus departure back to the airport.  Lee went to a coffee shop to get us bagels for lunch, and Clark and I walked to the bus pickup area.  No one was there.  Except a guard and a driver.  No one.  Lee even took a taxi a couple of blocks because he thought he was late.  Apparently at 12:30 in the morning one of the directors emailed everyone and said the bus to the airport would leave at a later time.  Ugh.  I guess there could be worse things.  But I can't sleep well on planes and would have much preferred a later wake-up time.  We walked down and hung out a another hotel that most of the other adult volunteers stayed at. 
Jan 14 2017

It tool 2 1/2 hours to get to the airport.  Like I mentioned in the first Nicaragua post, we are going to get our own transportation next time.  We could have left much later!  After a bathroom break and ice cream, Lee checked his suitcase, we went through customs and security, and waited two hours for the plane departure.  Lee read, Clark wanted to hang out with the students, and I talked to some of the students and a couple of the volunteers too.  Most of us were on the same flight. 
Jan 14 2017 (2)

Leaving Nicaragua! Thankfully we got to ride on the really nice plane again.  Lee and I watched Pete's Dragon.  I like the old one MUCH better.  The story line for the new one is pretty pathetic. 
Jan 14 2017 (3)

Unfortunately we were in the back of the plane on this flight, but we made up for time by hustling once we got off.  Our flight was delayed an hour, so that gave us 2 hours to catch our next flight.  I am glad we hurried because it took 1 hour and 45 minutes to make it to the next gate.  First we had to get on a tram/train to a passport check-in area.  We were cracking up about Lee's photo.  
Jan 14 2017 (4)

After we went through customs Lee had to pull his suitcase and then recheck it.  Then we had to go through security again.  Security was a joke. There was a huge line and they didn't even want us to take off our shoes...which was fine with me.  But it seemed that they weren't really doing anything.  They did have a drug dog walking around with a security guy.  We were in Miami.
Jan 14 2017 (5)

We barely made it, we felt like.  They were doing the last call for boarding on this plane.  We didn't have enough time to eat dinner. I was glad we had something to munch on.
Jan 14 2017 (6)

We called Lois when we landed and she met us at the airport, with pizza too!  Thank you!!!  I was worried about our trip home as it was supposed to snow and be icy that weekend.  AND we were planning on going to Raleigh to drop off Ila Sunday morning.  Thankfully the weather changed and we had no issues at all.  After stopping briefly at Lois' we took off.  We arrived home around 2:30 and got to bed at 3:00am or so.  We woke back up at 6:00 am and headed to Raleigh.  Ila had the kids get all of their church clothes ready, which was awesome.  I wasn't sure what to bring for breakfast, but I found some rolls, string cheese and gogurts. We stopped at a rest area about an hour and a half away from church.  We all changed clothes there.

We arrived at church about 10 minutes before sacrament meeting started! We got Ila home safe.  And the drive down went well, despite our lack of sleep.
Jan 15 2017 (2)

We also got to be there to celebrate Anthon's belated birthday and see him be ordained to a teacher.
Jan 15 2017 (3)

Jan 15 2017 (4)

Anthon is now about an inch taller than Clark!
Jan 15 2017 (5)

Lois and I got him some fun junk food for his birthday.
Jan 15 2017 (6)

Haley and me in our weird after-church outfits.
Jan 15 2017 (7)

My kids wanted to stay longer, and so did I, but Lee had to go back to work.  We love going down and visiting Daniel and Amy and family.  Church was great that day too.  Daniel and Amy and kids were all out front and we did a quick family photo.
Jan 15 2017

And if that wasn't enough, Lois told me that she and Darrell were meeting in DC since there was no school Monday. I got a good night's rest Sunday night and decided to take the kids up. It was fun seeing the National Mall being set up for the Inauguration.
Jan 16 2017 (2)

Jan 16 2017 (3)

We went to the American Indian Museum.
Jan 16 2017 (4)

Darrell's kids didn't know we were coming and were so surprised to know we were in the hallway.  It was super cute.  Us after meeting up.
Jan 16 2017 (5)

Jan 16 2017 (6)

Jan 16 2017 (7)

Jan 16 2017 (8)

Jan 16 2017 (9)

Jan 16 2017 (10)

Jan 16 2017 (11)

Then the Museum of Natural History
Jan 16 2017 (12)

Jan 16 2017 (13)

Jan 16 2017 (14)

Jan 16 2017 (15)

Then a quick stop at the Air & Space Museum....I am sure I butchered all of the correct museum names!
Jan 16 2017 (16)

Jan 16 2017 (17)

Jan 16 2017 (18)

Jan 16 2017 (19)

After we all went to Lois' for a yummy dinner, then dessert. We made it home around 10pm.  And not at all ready for school to start the next day.
Jan 16 2017 (20)

A picture from earlier that day. Thankfully the weather wasn't too bad in DC!  Too bad we didn't get there earlier as parking was free.  We ended up parking in the Ronald Reagan parking garage...something like that, and had to walk quite a ways before we met up with everyone. 
Jan 16 2017

I took Haley into the dentist to get her teeth fixed.
Jan 17 2017

All better!  Now, hopefully they'll stay like this for awhile.....and she won't have to get a crown or a fake tooth anytime soon....
Jan 17 2017 (3)

Haley was looking at a picture from a book and drew this freehand. I thought it was quite good!
Jan 17 2017 (4)

And more randoms: the whole elementary school is reading The Mouse and the Motorcycle.  The students were challenged to make a vehicle for Ralph.  Shanna's on the left, Haley on the left.  So cute and creative.
Jan 17 2017 (5)

Clark tried out for the middle school basketball team, but didn't get in.  He signed up for a local recreation league and has played 2 games thus far. 
Jan 17 2017 (6)

Shanna enjoying a date with Lee.
Jan 19 2017

So fun cups I bought in Nicaragua.
Jan 16 2017 (21)

Pretty sweet, right?  He he......
Jan 16 2017 (22)

We had a good trip to Nicaragua and I'm so grateful we made it home safely (from Raleigh and DC too!).  I'm glad all went well with Ila and the kids!