Wednesday, October 18, 2006


October 2, 2006

Mark and I began our adventure in Nicaragua today with a volcano andCanopy tour. I appreciated both getting out of Nicaragua and lettingourselves be led about by professionals. It was the kind of slower pace and care I needed after my nasty incident on Friday night. My black eye is shining nicely today, but there are plenty more compelling things tolook at in this area.

A canopy tour is a series of ziplines and platforms set up in thetropical forest. The first one, which is the one we visited, was setup by a Canadian. The idea came from the man featured in the movie,The Medicine Man. Tired of going up and down trees, looking for theplants that could cure illnesses, he set up some ziplines that wouldallow him to glide among them. And now tourists can enjoy the fun.

We lumbered up an extremely rough and rocky road, past coffeeplantations and farms that raised peliguey – a funny lookingcombination of a sheep and a goat, made in Cuba, and supposedlydelicious barbequed.

The staff at Mombotours was very professional and safety cautious.We had four guides for only four tourists and they basically dideverything for us – outfitted us in harnesses and chains, gave us ashort explanation, and then hooked us and unhooked us at each stage ofthe journey.

All we had to do was let go of fear and slide along the cables, ourfeet brushing through the tropical leaves, our yells sounding like thehowler monkeys we saw upon arrival. It was great fun to slide overdense greenery, to move through it as the animals might, and to viewit from a different angle. Many of the trees we landed on were giant, majestic species - guyavon, ceiba and royal cedar.

We travelled a total of 600 meters on the course, then had a nicerappel at the end. Walking back to the lodge, which looked out overLake Nicaragua (also called Cocibalca), we passed coffee bushes,avocado and grapefruit trees, banana and cocoa plants. We picked red coffee beans and sucked on the sweet seeds. Our guide, Jay, took acocoa pod. At the lodge, he opened it and instructed us to suck onthe sweet white covering on the cocoa beans, which tasted like alittle red spiky fruit I´ve had here.

From there, we drove to the Mombacho volcano, my first volcano visitin Nicaragua. We entered the park and drove up the steep road to theedge of a crater. In the 1980s, this area had been a military base.But funding from the U.S., Britain and France helped turn it into atourist area, which according to Jay, has been very successful.

At 1150 meters, the air was fresh and clean, a light breeze blowing,the cloud forest greenery covered by dew. Jay led us along a patharound the crater, pointing out various plant life. We saw manybromedias, the candlestick-like plants that can hold up to three orfour liters of water. Salamanders sit inside of them waiting to catchtheir prey. Its because of these plants that the forest stays wetcontinually. We saw sleeping plants, that fold up upon touch, the colaliyo, whose leaves are used for hats, and the orange bird ofparadise, on which hummingbirds feed.

We visited the smoke holes, where hot steam continued to rise, eventhough the last eruption was in 1575. And we enjoyed a wonderful viewof Granada, Lake Nicaragua, the isletas (a series of small islands inthe lake) and the nearby volcanic lake, warmed by the underground steam.
In town, I tried the Granada specialty, yucca, fried pig skins andvinegared cabbage served on the leaf of a plant we saw on the Mombachovolcano.

Yellow, pink, ivory and blue colonial buildings fill the town, wherehorse-drawn carriages roll by, as well as a tacky train, filled with local tourists. On the central square, I watched a vendor scoop ahomemade chocolate drink into a plastic bag, put in a straw, tie itinto a knot, and hand it to two little girls, who bent their heads together to eagerly suck.

No comments: