Monday, 29 September 2014

0107 Esteli to Masaya Volcano

I am pleased to tell you that the loud band stopped playing soon after 9.30 pm last night, and we had a peaceful night !  Bit damp underfoot after lots of rain overnight, but all good.  Can strongly recommend this camp site if you can get in.

We then wound our way on pretty good roads all the way down to a place called Sebaco, where we found ourselves in a traffic jam – Nothing was moving, and people were starting to do U turns etc.  We thought we might try a different route, but when we asked a policeman he said “No problem” and sent us back into the traffic jam ! So I parked the car in a side street, left Janet in the car, and set off down the road to find out what the deal was.  I asked various bus and truck drivers whether it was an accident or what, and after about 4 people speaking very rapid Spanish thought I understood something about Police, and Guns !  My next question was to two well-dressed young guys in their almost new car, and they spoke perfect English and told me that the local towns people had “seized” the bridge and blocked off the road, and that the police were trying to resolve the situation, but it might take several hours !

The driver of the car, Federico, asked what kind of vehicle we had, and when I told him it was a big 4WD that could go anywhere, he asked if we were interested in following him round a big loop on country roads, as he would like to have another car with him “in case”.  He also said he had someone who was going to show him the way.  Federico was a local who worked in Sebaco during the week, but lived in Managua, so knew the area quite well.  So rather than sitting in a traffic jam for an indeterminate period of time, we set off back the way we had come, following XXXX and another car who was presumably the guide.  About 10 kms back up the road, we turned west on another smaller, but still good, road, and I was starting to wonder why Federico wanted a second vehicle with him.   Then after about another 15 kms we turned back to the east, crossed a weir and kind of dam area (with lots of FLSN / Sandanista logos on the walls (the current government)), and then the road deteriorated rather quickly, and we found out why he wanted a second
vehicle !!  Suddenly we were on a dirt country road, where horses and bicycles outnumbered cars by a considerable margin, and for an hour or so we went through some incredible countryside, right out in the middle of no where !!  What an adventure !!  We could see where we were on Google Maps, but when it started raining when we were still several kms from getting back on the main road about 20 kms south of Sebaco, we started to be pleased we had some good 4 WD capability !!  When we were nearly at the end, we came into the little village of Dario, and suddenly there were not only cars but also trucks and chicken buses coming the other way on these narrow roads !  I am pleased to say that in a head to head confrontation with a chicken bus, I made him back down and reverse by creeping forward slowly until he realised I was NOT going to give way !!  These buses push everyone around on the roads, so I really enjoyed this little battle and “victory” !!

Finally back on the main road, Federico set off home to Managua after we bid farewell, and we continued on towards Granada.  We don’t know how long it took to resolve the bridge hijack in Sebaco, but we were not affected any more so not a problem !!

By now it was about 2 pm and we were getting peckish, so we stopped beside a lake for a sandwich.  In the lake were 6 people fishing – 3 in a small wooden boat, one standing on a log, and two actually in the water, fully dressed, with the water up to their armpits !!   Must have been good fishing !!  As we were about to leave, a group of about 7 women / girls, two young boys and a
baby came along the road past us.  We said “Buenas Dias” to them as they passed and they giggled and kept walking, but about 30 yards up the road the hesitated – You could see them laughing and egging each other on, obviously saying things like “I wonder who those people are and where they are from, lets go back and talk to them” and so on. Eventually one girl obviously said she would go back, so then they all did, and they shyly approached us and started asking us questions and reading the writing and stickers and map on the car, and were fascinated by everything. We gave them all some boiled sweets we keep for that purpose, and ended up taking their photos, for which they all posed and laughed, and even handed Janet the baby to hold while I took the photos !  A very pleasant and unexpected interlude once again – Although I have to say we have found the people all through Central America to be just SO friendly and happy and helpful, so we were not surprised by the girl’s coming over for a chat. 

Talking of the stickers on the car, we have now visited all the places on the first side, so they are now all crossed out, and Tegucigalpa in Honduras was the first place on the second side, so we really feel as though we are making progress !  I took a few pics of the sides to show you all how crowded the car is getting !!  As expected, the stickers really get people coming up for a chat, so it is a good conversation starter that, if I just had a plain car, people would just walk past and not pay any notice nor come up and chat to us.

As we continued down the road towards Granada, we passed several people holding something up dangling on a stick, for sale – At first we couldn’t work out what they were – Then we realised they were live armadillos, trussed up, but alive.  Presumably they were offering them to eat, but needless to say we didn’t stop to buy one !  In the same area, there were also lots of wooden flamingo statues for sale (?!), and then we saw a couple of boys with something small on sticks – And realised they were small parrots for sale !!    You really can buy anything round here !!

As we dropped down towards Managua, we could see the big lake Managua to the west, and the absolutely enormous Lake Nicaragua to the East.  Lake Nicaragua is the largest body of fresh water in Central America, and is so big it even has its own tidal system.  Additionally it houses the world’s only fresh water sharks !!  Anyway as we approached Managua and the roads became busier, we saw some interesting sights – Like chickens loose in the back of a pick up in front of us that stuck their heads up for a look around occasionally, and then lay back down again !!  We decided not to go to Managua as all the books said it really was a busy mess of a city and that Granada was much nicer, so we were actually heading towards Masaya in between the two, where they is a National Park with several active volcanos, and we understood we could camp in the park.  It was only about 3.30 pm, but the skies were getting VERY black, and a big storm was obviously imminent, with lots of lightening and thunder. Before we could get to the National Park, the heavens opened, and we arrived amidst a torrential downpour.  We climbed up the hill to the visitors centre car park, and then
sat in the car for half an hour or so waiting for the rain to subside !!  Eventually we were able to get out, pay our camping fee, and have a quick look at the displays in the visitor centre before they closed and went home, leaving us locked on a mountain with an active volcano or two.  I might add that just before they left, a bunch of the rangers came down from the volcano crater saying there were some big explosions happening and rocks being thrown up !  Yup, this is a live volcano !  they also said that unless the weather improved and the volcano settled down, we wouldn’t be able to go up to the crater in the morning. 

We met Leif in the visitor’s centre, a girl from Turkey who started in Florida a couple of years ago and is cycling on her own down to Tierra del Fuego.  She also was camping in the park, so after supper we sat around chatting about our respective adventures and experiences, and had a very pleasant evening chatting with her.  Finally we turned in for the night, hoping we would be able to go up to the crater in the morning.

Pics are here :-

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