The ship arrived off San Juan Del Sur under a cloudy sky and a wind registering "Gale Force". Despite this ominous start the tenders are launched and all tours proceeded on schedule. Our tour required us to rendezvous in the Theatre at 06:50 so a very early start. While waiting we were reminded to have our 'health declaration" required by the Nicaraguan Health Authorities. On arrival at the pier we had our temperature taken and we handed in our forms. On the way over in the tender we discussed this health form and a number of passengers had obviously been less than truthful. The general health aboard the ship is not improving, people admit that they are self-medicating rather than risk insolation as a result of visiting the doctor. Donald and Mary spent two hours waiting to see the doctor. They say the line was out the door.
By 07:30 we have boarded the coach and set off on a long drive to our first stop. Our guide starts off with an enthusiastic welcome in Spanish and appears surprised at our lack of reaction. With a dead serious face he asks "This is the Spanish language tour isn't it? His English was almost impeccable and his sense of humour was wicked. As an example he explained that it was considered good practise to make a sacrifice to the volcano God. Traditionally this would be a virgin female but as there were none available, wives could nominate their husbands. This thread continued for the duration of the tour.
Our first stop was the markets of Masaya. The market stalls are housed in a massive stone-walled enclosure that occupies an entire block. We were a bit early and stalls were still being set up. An amazing array of handicrafts mostly in various rain-forest timbers. A speciality was hammocks in a range of colours, sizes and materials. As with most stops there was a delay as we waited for a single person who appeared to have forgotten the 'back by' time or got lost.
From the market to the crater. We drove into the Masaya Volcano National Park and right up to the rim of the active volcano. The crater was huge and filled with a cloud of sulphurous gas which fortunately was blown away from the viewing area. There were copious warning signs directing the evacuation route and advising that vehicles should be parked facing the direction of the exit. The crater of the Nindiri volcano has three smaller craters within it but none of that was visible. Looking out from the side of this volcano we could make out the huge area surrounded by a crater rim, the outer crater forms the boundary of the National Park, it must have been many kilometres in diameter.
The bus drove us back through the park and pulled into a local restaurant, I think the name was El Filete - a local steak house. Here we enjoyed a 'local' meal of salad, rice, beans, chicken and beef. A complementary cold drink, coffee and fruit rounded out the lunch. We were also entertained by a local mariachi band. The meal was interesting but lacked the spices I'd have expected. Our guide told us that the rice and beans in various combinations constitutes the basis for almost every meal.
Back on the bus and off to the historic city of Granada established in 1524 by the Spanish. Set amongst volcanoes on the shore of Lake Nicaragua the city has suffered many earthquakes and was burned to the ground by pirates who had found their way into the lake from the Caribbean Sea. The central park was surrounded by beautifully restored colonial buildings and appeared a popular place for local people. Our bus-load of foreign tourists attracted a horde of hawkers trying to sell their wares. From colourful earthenware pots to sunglasses and cashew nuts. We walked a short distance to the Convent of San Francisco a massive structure that has served many purposes in its long life and is now a museum of pre-Columbian statues carved from volcanic rock.
Back on the coach for our return trip to the port. Our guide had the good sense to take a break and we were left to view the bleak countryside. The country has had a number of devastating droughts and it is the end of the dry season so there's a lot of dust about. There was also a lot of litter in the form of plastic bags, drink containers and general refuse. The guise said that they were trying to clean the place up but they've along way to go. The people are poor, the country is fertile but dry and infrastructure is lacking. In many communities water is delivered daily in tanker trucks. They've endured years of political upheaval and there is rampant corruption. I think our guide was genuinely grateful that we had visited and helped the economy. As a place to visit, Costa Rica wins my vote hands down.
Back to the ship on the very efficient tender service with just half an hour to diner. Once again the dining room was almost deserted and Don and Mary failed to put in an appearance. I checked on them after diner, they were both unwell and had stayed in their cabin for most of the day after spending some hours in the medical centre. We went to the Theatre to see a "Comedy Variety Show" by Steve Carte. We didn't last to the start, blasted out of the place by overly loud harsh noises purporting to be music.
Back in the cabin I started to compose this text and couldn't find the energy to go past the second paragraph. I'm finishing this on Sunday morning.
Three sea days to the next port and less than a week to the end of the cruise.
If you want to look at what I've been up to you can view my latest photo by following this link to the image for Today
Wishing you good health and safe travel.
Have a great day and stay well.
Cheers .. Tony