|Its official, I am completely sold on Nicaragua! It is an awesome country. I would say out of everywhere I have ever traveled it is the least touristy experience I have had and I love it....iloveit iloveit iloveit! Since it isnt a very developed country they havent formed tourist trap markets and culture shows like in most countries you visit. As such everywhere we go seems to be so REAL. Its just the type of authentic cultural experience that you look for (...or at least I look for) when traveling.
Today 6 of us ventured out on a tour around the area that surrounds Granada. First we headed up to an active volcano. I remember learning about volcanoes in 5th grade, but must admitt that I have not thought about them much since...until now! I am so intrigued by the whole phenomenon that surrounds the eruption of a volcano and all of the aftermath it leaves behind. The particular volcano we went to is currently active, its last eruption being April 23, 2001! Right now, you cannot see any lava, just sulfurus smoke fuming out of the top. One amazing thing about these volcanoes is that they are the home of vibrant green parrots (who live INSIDE the crater)! I cant fathom how they survive in there, as it was hard for me to even breathe when we were standing nearby.
We visited a couple of other volcanoes in the area as well. One hadnt erupted since the 1700s and the crater was absolutely beautiful. It was lush and green with a full forrest and deers prancing around inside. Amazing how the earth can renew itself in such a way! One of the other dormant volcano craters from centuries ago has now become a HUGE lake. My favorite part of the day was when we ventured down to the lake and went for a swim. It was ALL locals and... us.
Nicaraguan culture seems to be so celebratory and laid back all at once. While at the lake (which looked more like a beach setting than anything else) there were people dancing, hanging out in rocking chairs, families swimming (fully clothed, mind you...im not sure why, but would venture to say that they cant afford swimsuits and its probably a good way to multi task and get some laundry done while having fun). It was a great picture of finding pleasure in simple things and I was loving it!
The last place we visited was very cool and haunting all at once...it was the underground prison that was used to house (and torture) prisoners during their recent revolution in the 80s. It was a large fortress up on a hill and from the outside it just looked like a fortress but once you entered the fortress grounds, there were stairways leading underground into pitch black cement tunnels where they would exile prisoners from the opposing side. I learned SOO much about their history today (too much to type out now) but it is quite fascinating, especially to think that this was happening so recently (in the 80s)!
For some reason, over the past year I have had a fascination with Nicaragua and have really been wanting to come here. It is definitely best suited for a rugged type traveler, but I am loving it and it has more than exceeded my expectations!