I gave you some stuff out of order. Before we did the Granada tour, there was the Masaya volcano tour. This is an active volcano, one of 19 in Nicaragua (many, many more inactive --I asked my guide once in a moment of tactlessness if he wasn't a little afraid to live here..). We wanted to do the night tour, to maybe be able to see glowy lava stuff, but there was a national holiday, and the park closed at noon (more on that in a minute). Our guide told us that the lava wasn't visible anyway with all of the smoke even at night no matter what the website told us. The other reason for the night tour was a bat cave. Oh my goodness I love bats. We've been talking about a family road trip for two years now to Carlsbad Caverns, NM mainly to see all of the bats fly out at sunset. These guys at Masaya have a similar phenomena, but too bad for us, we went in the morning.
Our guide has connections though, and got us a private tour of the bat cave (all evening before, I randomly turned to Jeff and shouted "TO THE BAT CAVE!"). The park supplied hard hats and flashlights, which we supplemented with our own headlamps. We came to Nicaragua prepared for adventure!
Do you know what's hard to take a picture of? Black bats in a black cave. I had about 15 pictures of nothing on my camera when I got out, and yes I had a flash.
Our park ranger took us way back into the cave, where indigenous peoples used to sacrifice their children to the volcano gods. Back in what he called the temple, there were so many bats whipping and spinning through the air, zooming past our heads, squealing, flapping. It was awesome. I kept saying "my mom would love this!". I should say that none of us are scared of bats, although sometimes when one swooped by I'd say "CHUPACABRA!" Sometimes I crack my own self up.
Looking at the ceiling and floor of the cave, we would see what looked like moisture on stalactites. In reality, the cave was created by the volcano, and the cooling lava stayed shiny and rippled. Kind of neat. It didn't look like any cave we'd been in before.
Spelunkers extraordinaire. Notice Tia and I are wearing skirts? I know it looks impractical, but we are all about staying cool in the heat and skirts are the best for that.
Just outside of the cave was the tiny entrance to a second tunnel. The ranger asked us if we wanted to go through it. Our guide said he'd meet us on the other side, that he wouldn't do it.
But after Jeff, then Kai, then the rest of us went down, he was shamed into following us.
It opened up later on.
Next up was the active crater. The whole area was called Masaya, the active crater was Santiago.
This was another huge crater next to it,
and climbing to the top of this rise we overlook a third.
The smoke smelled a lot like sulfur, which made sense, because the Spaniards called this "The mouth of Hell" and erected a giant cross next to it. Isn't Hell supposed to smell of rotten eggs (and sound like dentist drills)?
The city of Masaya is home to the largest craft bazaar in the country --called the Mercado de Artesanias.
I'll spare you, but took picture after picture of colorful hammocks, purses, clothing, pottery, and shoes. I wished I had a million dollars, and unlimited luggage space. I wanted one of everything.
This place also boasted the best smoothie booth we've ever come across. We tried some of these little yellow fruits --I think they are Nance? and I had Mamey Sapote in my smoothie, along with papaya, and one other green fruit I had never seen before and can't remember. Between the kids' smoothies I know there was fresh star fruit, dragon fruit, pineapple, mango, and orange. It was the bomb.
After agonizing for an hour or two, Tia and I finally picked out purses, and Ari a blouse. Kai really wanted a machete, but Jeff was a party pooper (and if he hadn't been, I would have been).
This mercado was huge. We never saw more than half of it.
I don't know if you can read this sign, but it says "We can make anything out of crocodile, toad, snake, or iguana." Is that legal? I'm pretty sure croc isn't ok...
Toad head wallet anyone?
OK. National holiday. On our way back to Granada, we started to see the traffic building up. On this day they celebrate the day 35 years ago when the Sandinistas kicked the old dictator Somoza out of power. It actually was kind of a bloody war, where they forced most able bodied men to fight on one side or the other. Now the Sandinistas (notice the red and black flag) are still in power, led by Daniel Ortega. He is the democratically elected president (kind of), but has changed the constitution so he could do term after term, and the elections are probably rigged. Each year on this day, everybody employed by the government MUST show up in the main square of Managua for his address or they lose their job. Many others go too to celebrate.
The bus system closes down, because all buses go to Managua. People pack the buses inside and out. It was pretty crazy. Our guide was NOT pro-Sandinista, although he was grateful for what the group originally did for his country. He's pretty sad about how the old freedom fighters are the new dictators. We heard a lot about politics during our tours. I have been very grateful that although America and Americans have been Nicaragua's enemies for over 100 years in one sense or another (marine occupation for 20 years in the early 1900's, the CIA's contra support during the Reagan admin. etc.), everyone has been nothing but kind to us.