The Road Not Taken

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

- Robert Frost

the 1 less traveled by

A move to Nicaragua

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Areas of Nicaragua

Monday Photo Dump – Trip to Santa Cruz, California

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Monday Photo Dump – When Life Gives You Lemons

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Monday Photo Dump – This Beautiful Country

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Went to see the active Volcano Masaya last night.

A Trip to Masaya Volcano

About a month ago we heard that the Masaya Volcano was not only active as we had seen before, but now bubbling lava. We visit Masaya Volcano regularly when friends come into town because unlike anything in the States, you can actually drive up to the lip of this active volcano. It is part of our “Volcano Day” when we take our guests to see an active and the imploded volcano of Laguana de Apoyo.  When we heard that it was now flowing lava we knew it was a bucket list moment we could not miss.

We were told to get there at 5pm because 300 people were showing up each night, but time only allowed for about 100 to view. We made the turn off the main road at 5:02pm and there were parked cars already filling the front area before the gate. A lot of people were out of their cars and waiting at the gate, so I got out of the car to investigate.

Cars all waiting for the gates at Masaya Volcano to open.
Cars all waiting for the gates at Masaya Volcano to open.

Turns out it was mostly Nicaraguans who were mad that the park had temporarily closed the gate until 5:30pm at which time they would begin charging the Night Tour fee of $10 per person (fee for kids 4 and under). This may not sound like a lot to you, but the average daily income in Nicaragua is about $6, so this was a lot of money. It was also significantly more than the C$30 (about $1) that Nicaraguans usually pay before 5:30pm.

Filling time waiting for the big event
Filling time waiting for the big event

It appeared that the angry mob had convinced the park attendants that they should be allowed to go up for the lesser price because suddenly there was a stampede of people rushing for their cars & motorcycles. I had to pick up Azalea to make sure she didn’t get trampled over. Once our car finally made its way to the gate we told the attendant that we wanted to do the Night Tour and would wait until 5:30pm to pay our $10 each. The attendant had been shouting something about being allowed 5 minutes at the top and after our 2 hour drive, I wanted to spend more time than that. I also assumed by the word “tour” it meant that we would get a bit more hand holding once at the top.

It wasn’t until 6:30pm that we were able to pay and proceed up the mountain. We think the staff needed the people who paid the lesser fee to leave before we could be allowed to enter, but we are not really sure why the long wait. Finally at the top, we were met with an immense red glow coming out of the cavern like a large witches brew. Instantly, it was worth the wait. The parking attendant had us park backwards in case there was an eruption and we needed to escape quickly.

It was pretty amazing to see the lava bubbling far below. It turned black at the top and then back to fire orange with each bubble. Azalea zoomed around in the dark too close the edge of the crater and so I held tight to her shirt so she couldn’t accidentally hurl herself over the edge. The park only lets a set number of cars up at a time, but it was still pretty busy with everyone trying to capture a photo that did the scene justice.

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It is very hard to get a good picture or video of the lava. Not only is at night, so everything around it is dark, but the movement of the lava called for a steady hand and a fast shutter speed. I forgot to take my good camera, so we had to make do with my phone camera. I have included in this post some pictures and video off the internet so you can better see what we were looking at.

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We left Titus with Juanita for the night because we knew he would be unimpressed with the lava we would be getting home late. It was a great little night excursion for us. We left the volcano at around 7:20pm and had a nice dinner before driving home.

Monday Photo Dump – Taking Advantage of Nicaragua has to offer

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Damages to my mom's rental car

Hit and Run in Nicaragua

While attending a baby shower the car we were driving was victim to a hit & run. Unfortunately, the car was one my mom had rented for her two month stay in Nicaragua. We had heard that you need to make a police report before moving the car. Regrettably, this happened on a Sunday when the Nicaraguan’s enjoy a leisure day and move at an even slower than usual.

We discovered our car at about 7:15pm. Soon after, we had the restaurant we were at call the police for us. They finally arrived at 8:30pm. They wanted a copy of my license, Circulation, and Seguro (insurance). Of course, they couldn’t make the copies they needed themselves, so they drove me to a cyber cafe in a tuk tuk to make the copies. Once back at the car with the copies and after some confusion and questioning, they told me to drive the car to the police station. When we showed up, the police at the station wondered why we were there, so apparently we were not expected and no one made a call to alert them to our arrival or any of the information we’d already given. I mistakenly didn’t make copies of all cards front & back, so my husband and I had to go get more copies and come back to the station. Finally the police officer made the report, repeatedly asking a lot of the same questions. For some reason the fact that we were in a restaurant and didn’t see or hear the car when it got hit was very confusing to the police. After the report was made I signed it and was able to take the car. He told me that the report would be available 2 days later in Rivas for me to get a copy. I would need to pay the bank $C100 and then take the receipt to the police station in Rivas.

The next day we told the guy we use for all of our miscellaneous car needs what had happened. We explained that we needed our police report to submit to my mom’s credit card so the insurance would cover the damages. He mistakenly thought we needed a forged police report and we were all confused when he said it would cost $50. Once we got that figured out he said he’d make some calls and get us our report. Weeks went by and many confusing stories before we had the police report in hand. We ended up paying $C400 total, but from the sound of it, it wasn’t just a quick trip to the bank and then a nearby police station…but it never is.

Now the battle begins with my mom’s credit card insurance. A word of warning – when you opt not to use the rental car company insurance because your credit card says it will cover, make sure you read the fine print. My mom’s fine print says that it won’t cover if the car is rented for over 31 days. Unfortunately this accident happened after my mom was in Nicaragua 32 days.

Azalea & I enoying the view from the top of Fortaleza De Coyotepe

Things to do in Masaya

Day Trip to Masaya

My husband, Kharron, works for an American company, which means he gets American holidays off work. We try to use these days to our advantage and spend the day sight seeing parts of Nicaragua.

I purchased a Lonely Planet’s guide to Central America and referenced for ideas on what we should see in Masaya. I had only 3 things on my list because we are learning that in Nicaragua you don’t want to plan too much or you end up disappointed or driving home after dark, which is never recommended.

One of the lookout towers of the fortress
View of one of the lookout towers of the fort

First stop was the Fortaleza De Coyotepe. This fortress was constructed in 1893 by president Zelaya. Built so his troops could easily see enemies approaching and to protect Masaya from the US Marines. During the Somoza family regime, a dungeon was constructed underground below the fortress. The dungeon was used as a political prison and torture chamber. The prisons were very dark and sometimes held more than 800 people. The Sandinistas also used the fortress as a prison before giving it to the Boy Scouts who opened it to visitors.

Kharron & the kids inside a lookout tower.
Kharron & the kids inside a lookout tower.

For $2 per adult, you can walk around the top and get a great view of Masaya and tour the dungeons. There is also a small museum. I hear there are tours, but we were not offered so we did not get one.

 

 

 

 

IMG_1244Next stop was to see the active volcano at Parque Nacional Volcan Masaya. Named by the Spaniards as the gates to hell, this is the most heavily venting volcano in Nicaragua. For some reason you are allowed to drive right up to it, which also makes it the most accessible.

IMG_1246For $4 you can spend a few minutes at the rim of the volcano, named Plaza de Oviedo, after the 16th-century Spanish monk who descended into the crater to collect lava which he suspected was liquid gold, and came back alive. For between C$10 and C$20 more, you can take a guided walking tour along the trails that lead to some other great views, other craters, and to the Tzinaconostoc Cave where hundreds of bats live. There are horse tours offered for an additional $4 as well. IMG_1248

 

 

 

 

 

 

Last stop was to see the Masaya Artisan Market. IMG_1241We weren’t too impressed with the crafts there, seemed like a lot of the same thing, but worth a trip. We had lunch at one of the restaurants.

 

 

 

 

On our way home we went by the Masatepe to see the wood furniture stores. We thought we needed to go into town to see all of them, but really they are all off the main road on the way into town. The furniture is really beautiful and a lot of choices of type of wood and styles. Great place to go if you’re furnishing a house here in Nicaragua and are interested in shipping large items back to your home country.

The visiting crew

First Visit from Friends

I’m writing this post the afternoon of the morning my friends departed…perhaps not enough time to reflect on their trip, but with events still fresh I’m going to give it a go.

First off, I must mention the overwhelming emotion that invaded my body at first sight of my friend Carly and her youngest daughter, Willow, skipping towards me outside their hotel.  I knew I missed my friends, but it wasn’t until the echos of my sobs rang through my ears and I felt my body involuntarily convulsing with each out take of breath, that I realized how much I need my friends. Our daughters too ran for each other and embraced in a heartfelt, tender hug.

The first afternoon my husband and I decided we’d take them to lunch at a beautiful restaurant, El Timón, on the bay. Its a great restaurant to showcase the beauty of San Juan del Sur.  Azalea was a great hostess and after lunch showed the girls just how we do it in Nicaragua.

After skipping naps we ended the evening by ordering pizza from Don Mochis for delivery and enjoying their air conditioned hotel.  Azalea was already comfortable again with old friends so she got to have her first friend sleep over.  I’m so proud of her for sleeping through the night and not crying for “Mommy” in the morning. She’s growing up so fast!

The next day was Friday and Kharron had to work, so after a relaxing morning I packed everyone into our car and headed to the beach.  I decided Romanzo would be a good choice since it is fairly close to my house. I had asked Juanita to cook arroz con pollo for lunch, a cheap, but delicious dish that the whole family enjoys. We had a great time enjoying the beach, but the waves weren’t big enough to try surfing. After lunch it was nap time for all!

Our friend, Sean, has a home up on the hill overlooking the bay so we decided to watch the sunset from there while introducing street food to our friends.  We got a selection of meat: chicken, pork, and beef with sides of fried plantains, frijoles molida (mashed black beans), and gallo pinto (beans and rice).  Sean also has a pool of course, so the kids did some more swimming.

On Saturday my husband, Kharron, was off work, so after a traditional breakfast in the mercardo, we all got to enjoy the pool at Villas de Palermo, where our friends were staying. That night we had arranged for two nannies to come and babysit the kids while the adults enjoyed full-sentenced conversations. We barely made it to sunset at HulaKai Hotel, but as usual were stunned by the beauty of Nicaragua. Next we took them to a restaurant we recently discovered called El Jardin.  The food and wine selection is fabulous there.  It is not traditional Nicaraguan food, but the change of menu is welcomed. Of course we ended the night in town at Republika Bar for one last night cap.  I hope our friends enjoyed the evening together as much as we did!

Date night with the Anderson's
Date night with the Anderson’s

On Monday Willow went to school with Azalea at San Juan del Sur Day School for the morning and the rest of their family had fun zip lining at Parque de Aventuras.  Then after naps that afternoon we all went to Surf Ranch for a swim, drinks, and a snack.

Tuesday was Nicaragua’s Father’s Day and Kharron took the day off work. We decided to be a little more adventurous and go see Laguna de Apoyo.  It’s an imploded volcano that created a crater and has filled with water.  The pictures are breathtaking and we’ve been wanting to go. The men used this opportunity to go on a motorcycle ride and the women & kids followed in our car. Unfortunately we made the mistake of inputting “Laguna de Apoyo” in Google Maps instead of one of the hotels along one section of the shore.  We ended up over shooting our turn off the highway and caravaning through the busy streets of Granada‘s mercado.  We asked locals how to get to “Laguna de Apoyo” and found ourselves at its edge on the opposite side of the hotels.  Foolishly, we took the dirt roads around the lake to finally reach our destination tired, dirty, & grumpy. The kids were starving, moms were fed up with wining, and the dad’s bottoms hurt. BUT the views were striking!

On the last full day of their trip we went to what I think is the most beautiful beach in San Juan del Sur, Playa Hermosa.  It costs US $3 to enter, but once through the long dirt road there are bathrooms, fresh water showers, palapas with hammocks, and a restaurant that doesn’t completely gouge you on prices. It is always very tranquil at Playa Hermosa.  It was a great day spent relaxing, collecting shells, and enjoying the warm ocean water.  We also rented a couple boogie boards for $8 each for the kids to try.  We got home that late afternoon and cleaned off in Villas de Palermo pool (shhh…) Kharron met us after work and we spent the evening ordering room service and letting the kids play.

Willow & Char on Playa Hermosa
Willow & Char on Playa Hermosa

It was great having our friends here and we feel so lucky to have friends willing to make the long trek just to see us.  I know Nicaragua was never on their radar of places to visit, but I hope they found it as beautiful and interesting as we do.

Char asked me while driving someplace, “Before you moved, did you know people wouldn’t have doors and stuff?”  I tried to explain to her that yes, I did.  That Kharron and I had chosen to move here because America was very expensive and in this country I didn’t have to work to afford to live.

I think travel is so important (obviously) for everyone and especially as children.  If nothing else, a “first world” country kid can get a glimpse of how other people live.  Maybe they see the smile on kid’s face as he peaks through the doorway while standing on a dirt floor or hears the roar of laughter coming out of a group of children playing with sticks, a little girls giggle of delight while dressed up in a torn and dirty princess dress, or a little boy’s confidence as he herds a pack of sheep down the road, the laughter from a family sitting outside their shack of a home as they enjoy the evening and each other. Maybe that child just for a second can see that life is not about all the gadgets and screen time, it’s about the love we have for each other and this one life we have to live.  I am glad our friends are among the parents that get the importance of these lessons.