After almost four wonderful weeks at Casa Xalteva and with our host Thelma in Granada, it is time to say goodbye to this great city.The last two weeks were intense, especially for me, as I took private Spanish classes in the afternoon and therefore had time in the morning to help with the kids. Together with Chris, I helped with the homework and we also worked out another activity for them: two days of practicing what it means to be a journalist. The results were great: The kids managed to interview some of the foreign students at the school (including me) and then wrote small articles about their chosen country.
Chris was however even more involved (he didn’t skip the outdoors break with baseball or football tennis daily, as I did) and also joined Casa Xalteva’s walk to a farm in the countryside where the kids were shown how beans, yucca, avocado, corn and bananas are grown. 80-year old Don Julio showed them how he still manages his farm, without the use of machinery or additional workers. The work with the kids was really great and rewarding and the fact that we know them know and have created a connection did not make it easier to leave.
Before leaving for good though, we did a weekend visit to the volcano island Ometepe. The island is located in Lago de Nicaragua and supposedly not too far away from Granada (if the buses leave on time).
After a bumpy bus ride, we took the ferry for an hour and got a first great impression of the “perfect volcano”. In another blog, I have read that the island supposedly was the inspiration for Lummerland in Michael Ende’s book “Jim Knopf”. It could very well be true!
We stayed on Ometepe for one night and did a really exhausting mountain bike tour, swam in the lake and unfortunately missed the best part of sunset. No, there are no train connections that could have brought us there on time. Instead, we could visit a local art fair, partly sponsored by the European Union, as the trashcans informed us..
We came back to Granada on Sunday and really enjoyed the last few days, especially knowing that it would be our last with three fixed meals a day which were just served to us like that. A post with a visual summary of that will follow soon.
The last stop in Nicaragua for us was San Juan del Sur, surfer town at the Pacific beachfront. The trip there took us three hours from Granada and on the first day, we enjoyed swimming, had great ice-cream and watched the amazing sunset on the beach.
Day 2 began with a decision: We decided that Nicaragua should be the place where we would try out surfing. The 30 Dollar deal for gear, instructor and transport to the beach is really good compared to prices in the countries to come. So we signed up for our very first surfing experience ever. The way to the beach began with mixed feelings. I was excited but also a bit disappointed, as we had just heard that the turtle tour at night at the nearby nature reserve (the reason we actually came to town) was not going to take place because there were no turtles. “Ok, whatever, instead we are learning how to surf”, I said to myself. And there we were, on beautiful Maderas beach. Some impressions:
Our instructor told us the theory of surfing in an English-Spanish mix and let us paddle and jump lying on a drawn surfboard in the sand. Then we went into the ocean. Woooow… Surfing is really hard but it is also really amazing. The adrenaline was rushing through me. We only stayed in the whitewash this first time, the place to start for newcomers. There we learned to look for waves, turn the board, start paddling and then stand up. And it actually worked several times. I would say that among the two of us, my advantage is balance and Chris advantage is force and condition, he is just way fitter than me. Especially force in the shoulders and arms is helpful, so I have got to work on that before the next time. There will definitely be a next time! Both of us liked it really much and could not get enough of it. Only our limited body power (my case) and injuries from the board on knees, thighs, hands, and feet (both of us) kept us from going on longer. This was for sure a great experience!
We went back to the other beach at exactly the right time. When we walked out to the shore of the next bay, a small crowd with cameras had formed. They were taking photos of……
Instead of going on the night tour to the reserve, we just got to see one of the turtles in bright daylight! This is a very rare thing, we learned. It was defintely breathtaking.
Low season here defintely comes in handy.. Less people, cheaper rates, more animals. On the next beach, we saw loads of small crabs in their little shells (“Einsiedlerkrebse”), which looked as if the beach was moving.
This was really a perfect last day in this country. Tomorrow we are off to Costa Rica.
To say goodbye to Nicaragua, this gem of a country which surprised and amazed us in so many ways, here our very own perfect travel-brochure-advertisement-picture (please photoshop out the cables):
Flor de Caña is the local rum brand, by the way. And this picture was not taken at any beach but just while walking on the streets in busstop-town Rivas (located between Ometepe, San Juan del Sur and Granada). Makes it all the more amazing.
So to all you guys out there, if you consider learning Spanish somewhere for a little while and travel in a nice country with beautiful landscapes, friendly people, and good food, walk in our footsteps. We recommend Nicaragua (and Casa Xalteva) with all our heart.