Wednesday, 4 June 2014

Granada, Granada-nada-nada!

The two buses need to get us from Leon to Granada are local chicken buses, so naturally drive along at a snails pace while the drivers buddy leans out the bus screaming the title of this blog in a bid to fill up with more passengers than a reasonable person would think possible. But we made it, and checked into the Oasis hostel just in time to see that the Champions League final between Atletico and Real Madrid has gone to extra time - yes! Grabbing a much needed cold drink we set up in front of the TV to enjoy what turned out to be the best part of the game - which for CP was probably the sight of a shirtless Ronaldo flexing his freshly waxed self directly into the camera.

The key thing about this hostel is that it has a pool. It's no a big pool, but it's still unbelievably refreshing and a great way to rest our tired limbs. Carly is supposed to meet me there so I'm waiting... and waiting... eventually I've had enough and go looking for her - apparently the first room we were given had a bad feng shui so she's been negotiating a move. In fairness the new room is nicer, and a happy Carly makes my life easier, even though whenever we leave the room for anything more than 5 minutes it develops an aroma that suggests a whole school lay-by of smokers is sneaking in to polish off an entire pack of the very harshest local cigarettes.

The hostel also has hammocks everywhere, although one in particular is perma-occupied by what becomes our equivalent of "ugly naked guy" - an oversized, shirtless, very much unwaxed guy, who spends his days and nights extravagantly swinging his hammock to the extent that it's a gauntlet run just to get past, while internet-ing like his life depends on it, pausing only to receive food that has been delivered directly to him. We weren't quite sly enough to get a good photo but it's probably for the best that we don't force that image on anyone.

Having learnt in Leon that it's cheaper to get an entire bottle of rum + mixers than it is to buy 2 beers, we made the smart choice, before quickly realising that this little bottle wouldn't suffice between us, Michelle and Sabine, and Rich is sent out on a late run to get more before the shops close. The rest of the evening was spent lounging around in the pool chatting with the girls and a cool American crew until we finally got kicked out at 11.30PM and head off looking for the "hole in the wall" to grab a midnight snack, only to find it sadly depleted of any menu choices but overpriced tacos, so we end up on tourist alley near an irish pub for some late night burritos. If CP is allowed to comment on pretty ladies then so am I - one of the Americans was a pretty tidy pro-skier from the Blizzard-something team... trim. And in retaliation, CP comments that the American guy we were chatting to, a former pro lacrosse player is also pretty buff. As a side note, Michelle spent a bit of time avoiding the advances of a 50-something French guy, who made his move with the immortal line "I am ze barracuda" complete with appropriate fish swimming hand gestures...

Breakfast the next day was the now standard hostel offering of pancakes, fruit, and bad coffee, before RD had to suffer in the sauna-like toilet. OMG. We then tracked down the bus station for our chicken bus trip to the handcraft markets at Masaya. 

This was an adventure in itself - before the bus leaves a guy gets on and claims to be collecting for charity (yaya...), then after we politely decline he decides to tell us how "nice" it Is that we have come to his country but don't speak Spanish. Well I understood that amigo, so any chanced there was of us throwing you a few coins just disappeared. When we set off, the bus crawls through the streets at 1mph looking for more passengers for what seems like a very long time, then the "copilot" jumps out, pops the hood of the bus (really?!), plays with something and we set off again at 2mph. We can't really complain though as this journey is costing us about 25p vs the $25 that the tourist shuttles want to charge.

This was one of the first images we saw when we arrived at the fruit and vegetable markets...yummy!

Then we found these!!

We arrive at Masaya, walk towards the markets via some interesting park ornaments...see above and below...

...and stop for a coffee to prepare us to do battle with the stall holders. Coffee means an amaretto latte for RD which is still way cheaper than CPs fancypants frappucino - it's good but the presentation is the best bit, a glass of foamed milk served with an espresso on the side and a large shot of the desired alcohol to allow you to blend to taste. Which obviously meant that everything went in.

Refreshed and ready to face the world, we blunder our way though the outrageously overpriced shite that is apparently required at the famous handcraft markets. Haggling is expected but when the stallholder begins at $78 for a murky canvas painting I'm not even going to bother wasting my time. So let's buy some fruit instead...

Finally we find a painting that we both like, and after some lengthly negotiations in Spanish including my attempts to get a fridge magnet for mum thrown in to sweeten the deal (unsuccessful), followed by the vendors warbled explanation that the painter is a famous local man and it's much better quality than the others stalls and it's his very best price and other assorted Spanish sales fluff, we hand over $28 and wonder how we will go about posting this home (one week later and after 2 failed attempts, it's still with us).

We've been told that the cemetery in Masaya is particularly beautiful so we make a little detour there before our bus home. It is impressive, though slightly awkward when we notice a burial ceremony is in progress and the eccentric singing and guitar playing as a celebration of the life now passed is punctuated by the distressed wailings of the deceased ladies daughter. Undeterred, we sneak in a quick selfie with the coffin (joking...) and then repeat the lengthly bus process back to Granada.

It's been a long day, and when we return to the hostel to find that our cool American friends from the night before are leaving and have been replaced by some loud, irritating and distinctly uncool Americans, so there's only time for a quick dip in the pool before dinner and then we retire to our rooms - not before speculating that the large half naked guy that is still in situ swinging crazily in "his" hammock must be on the run from the law... it's the only reasonable explanation.

Our final morning in Granada begins with the shock that that hammock is empty when we head for breakfast - but normal service is resumed as the FBI's most wanted has returned to his hiding place by the time we're finished our pancakes. This morning also sees us bid a fond farewell to our German travelling buddies Michelle and Sabine, with only one "fuhrer" related joke (they said it, not us!) in 4 days.

In the morning we embark on a two hour cycle tour of Granada with the very excellent Leo Tours (noting that they don't need one of our precious £1 notes for their map as a fellow Guern has already been there before us). The tour takes us to a few of the places slightly further afield than we had made it so far, including the old hospital which had just been left desolated sfted a new one was built 10 years ago and all the locals nicked all the windows, doors and anything moveable, some epic churches (there are about 7 noteworthy churches in Granada, which considering its size, is pretty impressive), the former weapons storage facility during the civil war, the old train station which is no loner needed because the former president sold all the trains and the tracks to El Salvador and Honduras when she came to power 20 years ago and now Nicaragua has no train system, before returning home down the nicest street in Granada - it's not exactly the Champs-Élysées but it's a pretty good effort in what is otherwise quite a dry and arid country. The tour finishes up with awesome city views over Granada before a lunch stop at a local cafe where we get to try the local drinks Triste, Cacao, and some little cheese filled tortillas (please, no more corn tortillas!).

Following a time consuming but ultimately fruitless attempt to post our canvas home, and CP unsuccessfully negotiating a good price for a dress at the markets, there's barely time to check that the semi-naked fugitive is still in his hammock (he was - if he ever leaves they'll have to burn that thing for sanitary reasons) before we leave what we consider to be a pretty little city and hustle on down to the port for our boat ride to Ometepe...

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