Tuesday, August 23, 2016

[Day 08] Volcano Hiking in Nicaragua

This morning, we woke up in the port of San Juan Del Sur, Nicaragua - another unique port that we'd yet to visit!

Since it was our first time, we opted for one of Princess's cruise excursions - "Masaya and Mombacho Volcanoes, Vistas & Lunch" (SJ1-340), "a rigorous full-day guided photo experience via air-conditioned transportation". The activity level was rated "strenuous".

San Juan Del Sur is a tender port, which lets guests off at a very narrow floating pontoon with steep steps. The message in the Patter was very specific - Due to the size of the pontoon, no assistance is available to our passengers and therefore all passengers going ashore today need to be able to walk unaided (there is no room for wheelchairs and not wide enough for walking frames) along a narrow, moving pontoon and negotiate approximately 8 very steep steps.

They really packed us onto the tender boat tightly. I was in a very uncomfortable position near a window leak, and it kept dripping repeatedly on my shoulder, water torture all the way to the dock.

Nicaragua



Nicaragua

The pontoon, like they said, was tight. And despite the very realistic warning of the amount of physical fitness it would take to get off the pontoon, there were a lot of passengers struggling. I think that maybe they thought that while they couldn't have the assistance of crew members, their family members could assist them... but it was just too narrow to be able to walk up side-by-side. Needless to say, it took a long time to get off of that crowded, steamy tender boat.

Since we were so patient in getting off of the tender boat, we were the last on and seated in the back of the bus. I was cool with it because it was elevated, so we got a great view. Also, all four of us could sit in the row, so it was a pretty good deal. It just became annoying because it took so long for everyone else to get on and off the bus, so we were always waiting forever.

Now, remember how I said that this tour was rated strenuous? Maybe people looked over that little detail, didn't take it too seriously, or don't have an accurate current assessment of their physical capabilities. Because there were a lot of people on the tour who were definitely not fit for (my definition of) the "strenuous" activity level.

Nicaragua

Lake Nicaragua

Our first stop was Lake Nicaragua, one of the world's largest lakes. It's home to the only freshwater shark on the planet.

Here's a freshwater shark out of water, coming to eat me.

Fins to the left...

Lake Nicaragua

Fins to the right...

Lake Nicaragua

And I'm the only bait in town!!!

Lake Nicaragua

Oh wait, there's some more bait...

Lake Nicaragua

And now that I've been eaten by a shark, my parents only have one child, their favorite child.

Lake Nicaragua

Just kidding, I'm alive, bitches!

Lake Nicaragua

Horses out and about, minding their own business.

Nicaragua

Nicaragua

Nicaragua

Nicaragua

Back on the bus!!!!!

Our guide purchased some fruit and had us pass it around on the bus.

Rachel will probably be angry at me for posting these photos, but I need her for a scale figure. Believe it or not, Rachel actually reads what I write. But the only feedback I receive from her is, "OMG YOU POSTED THAT PHOTO OF ME???"

Sorry, Rach.

(To be fair, I always think Rachel looks beautiful which is why I don't understand why she doesn't like all of my photos. )

Nicaragua

Nicaragua

Our guide was pretty great. I liked him a lot. I don't remember his name.

Nicaragua

Nicaragua

Nicaragua

We stopped at Catarina Overlook next, which had a restroom. $10 just to pee!

Nicaragua

Just kidding, that's 10 Cordobas which is a little more than a quarter. And it got all four of us in the restroom. Also, I had to pay for it because I was the only one with small bills, so I made some ridiculous deal in which I would trade my $5 for a $20. Dad told me that was absurd, but my mom was desperate, so sold!!

Catarina Overlook

The view from Catarina Overlook of Apoyo Lagoon, formed when hot springs filled the crater of a dormant volcano -

Catarina Overlook

It was so windy!

Catarina Overlook

Catarina Overlook

I think this is what the cool kids do these days...

Catarina Overlook

Masaya Volcano

Next stop - Masaya Volcano!

Masaya Volcano

Masaya Volcano

Masaya Volcano

Masaya Volcano

Masaya Volcano

Masaya Volcano

RULES??? Mom doesn't follow rules!!!

Masaya Volcano

Masaya Volcano

Masaya Volcano

Masaya Volcano

Since we signed up for a strenuous tour, we ventured as far as we could in our allotted 20 minutes at Masaya Volcano National Park.

Masaya Volcano

Masaya Volcano

Masaya Volcano

Masaya Volcano

Masaya Volcano

Masaya Volcano

Masaya Volcano

Masaya Volcano

Hotel Granada

We stopped for lunch at Hotel Granada.

Nicaragua

Nicaragua

It was buffet-style, but not all you can eat. We got a choice of meat, and I went with my typical choice of carne asada. Also, made a good choice with the Mexican Coke. Don't choose the red Fanta like Rachel unless you like the taste of cough syrup (hey - my college roommate loved that stuff!).

Nicaragua

Don't let my sloppy self-serving fool you - Oh my goodness, I think this might've been the best meal I ate the entire cruise. Really, I was so pleased. The rice and beans were perfection, and the carne asada was really good.

I wasn't really digging the raisins in the horchata, though -

Nicaragua

"Should we drink the water?" "Just go for it."

Nicaragua

There was a long line for a small two-stall ladies room right by the dining room, but I'm not one to wait in line. I ventured around the resort a little and found a huge, empty bathroom right by the swimming pool.... and that is the largest swimming pool in Granada.

Nicaragua

It's one of those resorts that definitely feels nice enough. It tries, but doesn't quite make it. Like the water feature... with that white pvc water pump. Like... almost there, kinda tried, but overlooked the details.

Nicaragua

While we were standing outside of the resort waiting for the last of the people who were waiting in that super long bathroom line, I was snapping photos, and a little boy approached me, begging in Spanish. Now way back when in undergrad, I was actually kind of fluent in Spanish. I took a summer immersion course in which I could only speak Spanish - no English - as well as three years of Spanish courses in college. But I don't practice, anymore, so most of it escapes me (don't mention it to Dad who funded my summer studies). I can understand a lot, but am super shy about speaking. The only phrases that I can rattle off with confidence are insults and profanities that I exchange with my buddies. So I can't really communicate with this kid. The only words coming to my mind are horrible insults and I'm not sure if he would find them as funny as my friends do.

Wait.... I can do this. "No. No tenga.... no tenga... no tenga..." "Please?" "Nada! No tenga nada." He starts pointing to my camera, and I'm not sure if he wants to take a picture... if he wants to see a picture... if he's offering a photo of himself in exchange for money. I start playing the can't-see-you-can't-hear-you game, but this kid is not giving up.

And then I remember... I have change from the bathroom! I'm never going to use that change! So I gave it all to him. "Thank you! Best friend! Best friend!"

So there we go. I bought a best friend in Nicaragua, and I did not swear at him. Or take his picture.

Plaza de la Catedral

The next part of our tour involved us walking from Hotel Granada to Plaza de la Catedral where the bus was waiting for us. The distance was about half a mile - certainly covered under the classification of "strenuous".

Man, some of the passengers were very angry about this walk. Did not want to do it. "Have the bus come to us," one very vocal lady griped at our guide. Once they realized that they had no choice but to walk, so better get started so we can stay on schedule, they complained at the rate that the guide was walking. Also, I understand why some were so adamant about not walking - a few guests were really struggling, like seriously making me nervous struggling.

Our guide stopped us about halfway at a liquor store where we could buy Flor de Cana which is the Nicaraguan rum. We went inside to check it out, but that stish wasn't cheap, so no buy for us.

Somehow, we made it to the plaza... behind schedule, of course.

Nicaragua

Nicaragua

Catedral de Granada

Parque Central

Parque Central

And then it was time for a long bus ride back to the ship (about an hour and forty-five minutes).

For the most part, I was pretty pleased with this tour. I wish that we could've spent a little more time actually at Masaya Volcano National Park. And then another downside was that it was a lot of time spent riding on a bus. That's really just the breaks with these smaller ports in which you need to go more inland to actually get to the attractions. And of course, it would have been nice if our fellow passengers wouldn't have complained so much about the "strenuous" parts of a tour that they knowingly signed up for. Our guide got a lot of attitude from some of the guests which was completely uncalled for. The description written in the Princess tour order form was very thorough and accurate (I know because I used it as a guide as I wrote this review), so if they didn't understand the level of activity that it would require, then it was due to their own ignorance.

San Juan del Sur

San Juan Del Sur

San Juan Del Sur

San Juan Del Sur

San Juan Del Sur

San Juan Del Sur

San Juan Del Sur

San Juan Del Sur

San Juan Del Sur

San Juan Del Sur

San Juan Del Sur

Full Moon San Juan del Sur

Tonight was Christmas Eve!

Christmas Eve

Christmas Eve

Growing up, Christmas Eve was always the fancy dinner for my family, but it seems like most people wait to celebrate until Christmas Day.

For an appetizer, Bay Scallop Cocktail with Pancetta & Sage Vinaigrette -

Bay Scallop Cocktail with Pancetta & Sage Vinaigrette

Tossed Greens with Cucumber and Toasted Pumpkin Seeds -

Dinner

My entree, I'm sure you won't be surprised by now, Santa Fe Chicken Chili with White Beans and Corn -

Santa Fe Chicken Chili with White Beans and Corn

Skipped on dessert tonight, but were treated back in the stateroom to candy canes and chocolate.

Christmas Eve