Out of Tico Land into Panama

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The Domincal office; Hipster Jungle cafe Mono Congo 

When it comes to beach bum towns in Costa Rica, it seemed a case of fourth time lucky, although in Dominical too, it was still low season. The hostel I stayed at was pleasant enough, yet, with a few exceptions, my roomies weren’t terrible social. After I connected with my dear friend Rick in Lowlands Country via Skype, as it was his birthday, I started to notice I missed a sense of community or at least more in-depth social interaction. I’m living my desired lifestyle, for which I’m very grateful, yet, like any other lifestyle, it’s not without its challenges.

Finding a Tribe

Despite these challenges and the occasional rain, I really connected with Dominical’s laid-back vibes. I had set up office in what I could call a jungle hipster cafe, with fantastic hippy food and views over the river mouth of rio Barú and the jungles beyond. My calls for more interaction were answered when two Spanish chicas came to stay in the dorm and another Spaniard had checked in sleeping in another dorm. In general, I’m very fond of Iberians, as they tend to be chilled, social and always up for a party. The four of us hit the sleepy town, where night action on low-season weekdays seizes at 10 pm. We talked about Spain’s latest constitutional crisis and the monarchy, us chicas being rather staunch republicans and the only male more ‘moderate’ and in favour of the royal family. The next morning I found male Spaniard Carlos at the soda next door – a soda is the Tico equivalent of the British caff- and we talked travel and location independent lifestyle.

Travelling on

I planned to travel to Puerto Viejo at the Pacific coast to get some more Caribbean vibes, but after my latest public transportation frustration, I decided I really couldn’t be bothered to spend ‘half my life’ travelling to the other side of the country via the capital San Jose and back again. When entering Costa Rica one needs to produce a ticket out of the country. For that purpose I bought a ticket from San Jose to Panama City in San Juan del Sur, which was expensive enough not the waste it. Puerto Viejo is close to the border with Panama and if it wasn’t for the bus to Panama, that departs from San Jose, I might have considered travelling to Puerto Viejo and from there to Panama. I left Domincal for San Jose, which, besides the hostel I stayed at, located in a beautiful colonial building and chats with a couple of interesting people, I found terribly uninspiring.

After two days of San Jose, I boarded a bus to Panama, only to do the exact same route back down south past Dominical. I arrived at Panama’s City’s main bus terminal at four in the morning, which is never an ideal time for a solo travelling woman, but besides being at the mercy of the taxi driver and especially the price he sets, three times the usual day rate for a local, nothing dramatic happened.

Casco Viejo de Panama: old versus antique

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Plaza de la Independencia, Casco Viejo de Panama

I had booked a dorm bed in an establishment that is a hotel offering highly overpriced rooms and very affordable dorm beds in the neighbourhood of Casco Viejo or Casco Antigua as it prefers to be called. Casco literally means helmet and could also be translated as shell. The neighbourhood prefers to be labelled as classic or antique, rather than old ‘cause ‘old’ is just dusty and smells of decay and ‘classic’ has an air of timelessness. Interestingly enough, the neighbourhood has bits of both. There is both a lot of dilapidated as well as beautifully renovated building in bright and less bright colours. It is Panama city’s  historical district, and like so many old neighbourhoods in cities across the world, the place is gentrifying at a scary pace. Not that long ago the neighbourhood was considered a no-go area. Now there is a large military and police presence, making the prettiest parts of the neighbourhood safe, yet there are still parts of the hood, where traveller- tourists are advised not to go, even during the day. A certain degree of gentrification can be great to bring life and money to poorer and dilapidated neighbourhoods. Yet, there always seems to come a moment in that process, where the scales tip and the place becomes too expensive and too hipster and the residents, who lived in the hood in the early days get pushed out. This happens across the world. Just like Costa Rica, Panama and Panama City and the neighbourhood of Casco Viejo in particular, is popular with gringos and especially those with money. To my great astonishment, a fair amount of Americans that have been living in Panama for years and own businesses, speak very dodgy Spanish, if any Spanish at all. As a follower of the Yogic Path, I shouldn’t judge, but it’s work in progress and I do judge. Sure, in my native Lowlands Country they have been- and still are people- who came from southern Europe, North Africa and other places. They have been in the country for decades and owned or still own businesses like shops and restaurants and their Dutch is very poor. Yet, Dutch is a far more difficult language to learn and Dutch society seems far less open to non-western foreigners, especially since the early noughties. At the turn of the century it came fashionable ‘om te zeggen wat je denkt’ or speak your mind about those bloody ‘foreigners’, including the ones, who were born in the country or have lived in the Netherlands all their lives, so are not foreigners. But I’m digressing.

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Casco Viejo street art

Panama City is considered Central America’s most forward-looking city and with a bunch of shiny high-rise buildings, and a strong presence of ‘expats’ and gringo pensioners, one can see why. There is a yoga studio a stone-throw away from my hostel- hotel and I have been indulging in a more vigorous style of yoga almost every day for a week and a half. There are some very interesting aspects to Panama City, including that engineering wonder that is the Panama Canal. Yet, I’m still not feeling the Central American urban vibes, which is okay, as the beach is calling.

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View on Panama City (rain is coming)

 

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Costa Rica: Beach-Bumness for a Price

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Playa Hermosa near Santa Teresa, Costa Rica

After my stay in the fancy dorm with beach view in Tamarindo, I had made my way to Santa Teresa. I had been told that place would be a far more laid-back and less gringo-dominated affair. It’s still low season in Costa Rica and in Santa Teresa it clearly showed, as a lot of establishments were closed for the season and the place I stayed at for a week was dead quiet and I was the only guest for the majority of my stay. Surf and yoga and yoga and surf are big in Costa Rica. Santa Teresa is another surfer town, where one can have plenty of yoga action too and to be a true original, surf and yoga and yoga and surf was the purpose of my stay.

Santa Teresa; Rain, Mud and Good Vibes

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Funky Hipster Cafe and Gallery Zwart, Santa Teresa

Santa Teresa is a town along a stretch of dirt road, that runs parallel to the beach. There is a very good vibe of surfistas and yogi(ni)s from all over the world. Santa Teresa is connected to playa Cocal and playa Hermosa to the north and playa Carmen to the south, by a stretch of road of about 8 km in total, lined with hotels, hostels, resorts, restaurants, bars, shops and jungle. Because of the distance, ‘greater Santa Teresa’ is not very walkable and one needs some sort of vehicle. Many residents use quad bikes to get around. Because it is low and rainy season, life in Santa Teresa was pretty dull and roads rather muddy, but I had some excellent food and managed to improve my action on the waves and on the mat.

To Dominical: another ‘Monster Journey’

The plan was to move on to Dominical, yet another surfers’ beach-bum town at the Pacific Coast, but on the mainland,  rather than on the Nicoya Peninsula, a bit more than 200 km south of the capital San Jose by road. This time I wanted to do it the cheapskate way and take public transport. The distance between the two beach-bum towns is about 260 km and despite having left at 6 in the morning, I got stuck half way. The bus from Santa Teresa to Paquera, where I took the ferry was a straightforward 2 hour ride. In Paquera we waited 40 minutes before the ferry departed, which took us across to Puntarenas in an hour and 15, if I remember correctly. In Puntarenas I had a good connection to Jacó, where I thought I was able to take a bus to Dominical. After a cloudy, but dry morning, it had started to rain when I arrived in Jacó. When I asked around where to get a bus to Dominical no one really knew what the score was and as I had already been travelling for almost 7 hours, I decided to set up shop. Yet another storm was to pass the region and although Jacó is also a beach town and surfer destination, I didn’t want to spend my time in more laid-back beach bum town Dominical in the rain.

Tico Gringo Land

Jacó is like Tamarindo, only considerably smaller. The main town revolves around a stretch of road parallel to the beach and is full of a certain type of Americans: The males all wear the same outfit- shorts, tank top and flip flops or sneakers as if it’s a uniform- and either gender speaks little to no Spanish, even the ones who live there. I was recommended a hostel by a cool British- Brazilian surfer couple I met in Santa Teresa. The hostel was pleasant and everything, beach, supermarket, hippy cafe, was close by. While I waited for the storm to pass, I did some work, some yoga and indulged in hippy food, which cost an absolute mint in Costa Rica (I’m talking at least double European prices).

Tico Public Transport; Another Lesson in Patience

After more than a couple of days, I got a bit fed up with Jacó and after the weather cleared, I took a bus to Quepos, an hour and a bit further south, from where I had to take a bus to Dominical. Once I arrived in Quepos,  I was to find out that my connection to the destination of the day was two and a half hours away. Then it started to rain and I got rather annoyed. Travelling by public transport was no longer and adventure on the cheap; it was a bloody hassle and I wondered why straight-forward and better connected public transport wasn’t the country’s idea of ‘pura vida’, as the country is both expensive and educated enough to justify a decent network. Despite being annoyed, the hours passed by pretty quickly, as I kept myself entertained by Maya Angelou’s words. When I arrived in Dominical, again taking me an afternoon to travel a piss- distance, it rained, obviously. As Dominical is all dirt roads, I hid into the hostel until the follow morning.

top image: hotelroomsearch.net
middle images; hollylovespaul.com

Costa Rica: Pura Vida for a Price

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View from de San Juan del Sur residency

I initially had planned to stay in Nicaragua for six weeks or so, for the main reason that it’s cheap if you can live of a decent western European salary. Sure, there are some tourist traps, especially in places like Granada, where a drink or a meal would cost the same as in Europe, but in general, the country is most affordable.

Living and Leaving Nicaragua

When I had just arrived in Nicaragua and was on my way from the airport to Granada, I admired the stamp in my passport and checked the tourist visa, that was a small loose paper. I noticed, that the border person at the airport had given me a 30-day visa, rather than the standard 90 days, so I had to reconsider my plans. Quite a few people, after giving me the same weary look, when I told them about my 30-day visa, suggested I do a visa run. Yet, when my visa was about to expire, I felt I was done with Nicaragua. Although I had a good time and had met lovely people, I  just wasn’t quite that captured by the Nica vibes and felt ready to move on.

I had spent the last week of my month in Nicaragua in surfer town San Juan del Sur, which is only 30km or so from the Costa Rican border. The plan was to go to another surfer town across the border, very popular with a certain type of American tourist and affluent pensioners, officially called Tamarindo and mockingly named Tamagringo. The town is not that far from the border, but I spent the whole day travelling, queuing and waiting nevertheless. Travelling all day to cover a short distance seems to have been a theme for me in Costa Rica, but more about that in future posts.

Making the Journey into Costa Rica

After a pleasant taxi ride from San Juan del Sur to the border and some formalities at the Nicaraguan side that were dealt with swiftly, I had to queue for an hour and a half to enter Costa Rica. The Costa Rican border formalities were dealt with by a female official. Not always, but in many cases, dealing with ‘sisters’ on these occasions is even worse, when it comes to unfriendliness and exercise of perceived power, than being at the ‘mercy’ of their male counterparts. So much for ‘pura vida’, which is the county’s catchphrase and literally means ‘pure life’. Like any cliche, there is a sense of truth, but a big fat cliche it is nevertheless. Female border official was by no means representative for the general population, as Ticos, as Costa Rican folks are called, are incredible friendly, easy-going and on most occasions always up for a chat. They are also a very mixed people when it comes to shades, from white folk with light brown or even dark blond hair, to morenos with Dark-Fairy shades. Because of that and because Ticos are so used to Americans and other gringos of all shades, I was considered far less exotic than in Nicaragua and there was no need for stares or cat calls.

After the Border Bollocks

After I got my stamp I was able to board a bus to the town of Liberia, that left pretty much straight away. For most bus journeys in Costa Rica, you don’t need to buy a ticket at a window, but you pay the bus driver directly. After a journey of an hour or so, we arrived at Liberia’s main bus station. I had missed the connection to Tamarindo by 10 minutes and had to wait two hours for the next bus. A taxi driver was really selling himself and his vehicle, starting at $40, lowering to $35 after several of my ‘nos’ and not accepting the $32 I offered. An hour later, when he had found trade in the form of two traveller-tourists, he lowered it to $15, as I would be sharing with the couple. But I was in stingy mode and I reasoned it was worth to wait another hour to pay a fraction of the price. While I was waiting, I struck up conversation with a young mother and tried a local snack called rosquillas (say rosKEEyahs, rosKEELyahs, or rosKEEshahs, depending on the accent (Tico, Spain- Spanish or Argentinian-Spanish). It is a corn snack with cheese flavour in the form of a square framework made up of several small circles with holes, like dry mini donuts. The woman I was chatting to told me, that people tend to have the snack in the afternoon with coffee. I thought it was bit dry, but quite tasty.

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Coffee with rosquillas (different types and shapes)

En Route

After the bus had finally arrived, it took another two hours to get to Tamarindo, where I arrived at 18.30, having left San Juan del Sur in Nicaragua at 10 in the morning and only having covered about 200km. The bus stopped right in front of the hotel/ B&B, where I had booked a dorm bed, which was a bonus. The dorm had fancy B&B standards and was one of the best dorms I ever stayed at. Well designed, balcony with sea view, large ensuite bedroom and comfy beds with quality bed linen. Breakfast was amazing too. I only spent two nights in town, which came down to one full day. Besides a fantastic beach, with good swell, a view on howler monkeys swinging through the trees from the garden and some decent eateries, charging western prices, I really didn’t think the place was that special. It’s full of Americans and other gringos, many of them actually living in town and for that reason English is far more widely spoken then in Nicaragua or Mexico and even if a Tico speaks little English, most are willing to make the effort, with the little vocab they have.

My next stop after Tamarindo was Santa Teresa, further south on the Nicoya peninsula, where I was to indulge in some yoga and surf. I initially planned to take public transport, as tourist shuttles are quite pricey, but decided against it after getting some advice. It would have taken me several busses and the whole day, if I was lucky, that is. At a certain stretch on the route there wasn’t even public transport available, so I was happy to have chosen the comfort of the shuttle travelling with foreign wanders and Ticos alike, which made it an entertaining journey.

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the Beach garden at Casa Aura, Tamarindo

top image: sanjuandelsurbackpackers.com
middle image: pinterest
bottom image: tripadvisor

Catalonia and a Farce called Democracy

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Catalan flagsAs a former news junkie and politics geek I don’t seem to concern myself much with the news nowadays. I’m too busy deciding what my next destination is going to be, which hostel to stay at and where to set up my office for the day. I do scan the headlines of the British left-leaning ‘quality’ press, that flog us just as much bollocks as other outlets with whichever inclination or paymaster and I’m not quite sure why I actually bother. One recent news story I got rather worked up about is the faux-democratic shenanigans around Catalonia’s independence  referendum.

The faux- Democratic Diet

We folks in ‘western democracies’ are being force-fed so-called liberal democratic ideas and ideals pretty much from when we are able to read and write. We learn about the French Revolution, nationalism, the emancipation of the working classes and how political rule has transferred from the few to the many. Besides that we, the people, apparently rule ourselves, we also have so-called freedom of speech, freedom of press, the rule of law and all those other wonderful aspects a ‘free-society’ should have. Then we have the EU, which has been in the making since the 1950s. What started out as a small economic association grew out to a political union, in which the perceived rule of the many was transferred back to the rule of an unelected few. We get to freely move, study and work within the EU prison, which seems a bone juicy enough for most to pliantly accept the EU dictatorship, but I’m digressing slightly.

It must now be quite obvious, that not only when it comes to countries with brown and black people and plenty of natural resources, the so-called beacons of the free world turn a blind eye to non-democratic aspects and (in)action. Even in Europe, the will of the people can be forcefully denied if it’s not to the liking of the state. In the case of the Catalonia independence referendum, Spain might as well still be lingering in Franco- fascist- dictatorship times.

Democratic Terror State Spain

A bit less than a month ago, the Spanish autonomous region of Catalonia held a referendum on its independence, which was approved by the Catalan parliament, yet declared illegal by the Spanish state with the argument that it was in breach of the Spanish constitution. The referendum was held nevertheless and voters were forcefully removed by the National police and the Guardia Civil. If this had happened in Russia or any other’shady’ state, this action would have been universally condemned. With a voter turnout of 43 per cent, 92 per cent of the votes were cast in favour of independence. Now you might think, that if less than half of the electorate could be bothered to vote, could one consider that a mandate? In the first place, many voters were forcefully prevented to cast their vote, so we don’t know what the turn out would have been if the brute that is the Spanish state would have allowed and actually encouraged a truly democratic process. In the second place, in American presidential elections, on average 25 per cent of registered voters- so not 25 per cent of all the people, not even 25 per cent of the electorate, but 25 per cent of the registered voters– get to decide via an electoral college who the country’s president is going to be. That is considered a free and fair democratic process. In the UK about 30 per cent of the votes decide, which party gets to rule the country. That too is considered a legit process in a liberal democracy.

Instead of declaring independence straight away, Catalonia has been dragging its feet and wanted to negotiate with a state that displays terrorist tendencies. Then, yesterday, the Spanish terror state dissolved the democratically elected Catalan parliament and calls new elections, with the argument of ‘restoring democracy’. Opposing the will of the people to restore people’s rule, is a case of double speak not even George Orwell could make up. A Facebook friend made the analogy of an abusive relationship; while Catalonia wants a divorce, the Spanish state uses violence and abuse to maintain the union and at the same time claims how much respect it has for the autonomous region. Meanwhile, leaders of the ‘free world’, US, UK and the EU super state, force-feeding ‘democracy’ abroad, have stated they won’t acknowledge the democratic will of the Catalan people. In case I was still hanging on with a pinky finger, I got off the fake-democracy band wagon for good.

Democracy is a farce. There is no such thing as people’s rule, only the appearance of it. Let the walls of prison dissolve.

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top image: dw.com
bottom image: sceptical scot.com

Leon; Revolutionary Vibes and more colonial Shabbiness

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Signs of a Revolution, Leon

After spending a week in Granada I took a shuttle, which basically is a small van transporting tourists, to the city of Leon, which is another colonial town in Nicaragua. Lonely Planet describes it as an off-beat, political town and a more left-leaning and quirky rival to Granada. The distance between the two cities is no more than 120 kilometres, yet it took us half the day to reach our destination. Upon arrival, I was yet again underwhelmed, as Leon even looks shabbier than Granada. Despite it not being love at first, or even second, sight, I stayed in the city for more than a week and the place did start to grow on me.

 

Dutchies Galore

I was taken by surprise by how many Dutchies I met in town as both residents and traveller- tourists. In the almost three months I spent in southern and eastern Mexico, I could count the Dutchies I had come across on the fingers of one hand and wondered where they were all hiding. “In Nicaragua” might have been the answer, as on average I met a bit less than a handful of fellow and sister Lowlands People everyday. Norwegian travellers, in my experience a rather invisible travelling force, were also well presented in town. Like Granada, Leon has a shed load of churches to find salvation or refuge from the rain or heat and pleasant cafes and eateries to set up office.

Leon and its Place in History

The city was founded in 1525 about 33 km to the east of its current location. In 1620 the city was damaged by  earthquakes caused by seismic activity from nearby volcanos and the Spanish invaders, who lived in the city decided to relocate the settlement to its present location. The old city was slowly covered by ash and other volcanic sediment from several volcanic eruptions and was only discovered in the late 1960s.

Leon had been the capital of Nicaragua since the arrival of Spanish greedy bastards and remained  the capital when Nicaragua became an independent nation in 1839. In the first decade after independence the capital shifted between Leon and Granada with more conservative administrations favouring the latter and liberal rulers giving the preference to Leon.  As a compromise, neutral Managua was chosen as the capital of the young nation in 1852.

When I was growing up Nicaragua was synonymous with dictatorship, revolutions and civil war. Besides that, air travel and therefore travel outside Europe was considered terribly exotic and a rather distant dream for most and the only people, who would consider travelling to Nicaragua, were war journalists. Nowadays, tourists numbers in the country have been increasing year by year and for most travellers, the civil war is just a history lesson, if the awareness is there at all.  For decades Leon has been the epicentre of political left-winged activity and a fair amount of, mainly mature, travellers, are interested in the city, because of its prominent role in the revolution.  Because of its left-leaning inclination, Leon always had strong links to the Sandinista movement, that formed the main opposition to the Somoza dictatorship in the 1960s and 1970s, which led to the toppling of the regime in 1979. If the revolution to overthrow the dictatorship wasn’t bloody enough, the Contra war, that followed, brought extended suffering to Nicaragua, claiming tens of thousands of lives. This Contra war was waged by Sandinistas and by US-sponsored right-winged opposition groups and made Nicaragua a major proxy war battleground during the Cold War.

Leon; the Verdict

Leon still carries its revolutionary colours with pride and the city has a museum dedicated to this turbulent episode in history. Besides political, the city is also very intellectual and is, as one can imagine, a major student town. Alongside the politics and the intellectualism, the city does literature quite well too, as it has been home to the country’s most well-known poets Rubén Dario, Salamón de Selva and Alfonso Cortéz, and still houses a great number of bookshops.

Although, as stated earlier, the city grew on me in the course of the days, despite a rich culture and plenty of good and very affordable eateries, I just wasn’t able to catch the vibe. Would I recommend visiting Leon? If you are interested in churches, Nicaraguan recent history and the revolution in particular, then yes, definitely; go. Would you like an urban base to visit the many volcanoes in the region and the nearby beaches, whether you go for the deserted beach of Salinas Grandes or the closer by playas las Peñitas and Poneloya, then yes, consider it. If you are expecting a ‘cool’ Latin city like Medellin or Panama City, which are both considerably bigger, or even Xela in Guatemala, which is more or less the same size, than just forget it. Although I will report on Panama City’s in a few weeks’ time, perhaps Central America is just not so much about cool ondas urbanas.

In the Name of Fire: Masaya Volcano

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Cauldron of Fire; Masaya Volcano

 

After my Lake Apoyo jungle hike and the frustration it gave me- see previous post- I arrived at base camp at the back of the motor bike, that had delivered some much needed sugars. At base camp, which was a jungle lodge with a terrace overlooking the lake, I ordered some food to go and ate it in the taxi. It wasn’t the greatest of food for a too high a price, but as they say; beggars can’t be choosers. It had already gone dark before we arrived back in Granada. I had asked Swiss Guy, my hiking partner on the trek, whether he had enjoyed the hike and he said he did, but he found it way too long, which it was.

Nature Excursions and Lessons in Life

When I got to my room in a popular hostel in town, I felt the day had been a valuable lesson on multiple levels. On a practical level I could have prepared better for the trek by having a decent breakfast and bringing along some food. At least I had brought an extra litre of water, as the litre and half provided at the beginning of the track, were gone by 1-ish. On another level it taught me something about vulnerability; I’m practising being okay with being vulnerable and not in my strength. This might sound random to some, but I’m sure any independent, solo travelling female, who also might be quite strong physically, can relate. Despite wanting to be in my strength, as the world is full of whiners and people celebrating their victimhood, it’s okay that I felt weak. It was okay that I needed to depend on the kindness and perhaps the patience of others. It’s okay that I didn’t really enjoy myself for most of the day. Not everything in life is fun, although we want it to be and besides all that, I didn’t pay for the excursion. Not that I was deliberately dodging payment. When I got back to the hostel I realised that no one had asked me for funds and I wasn’t chased down later, so I considered it a life lesson that hadn’t cost me any money.

After the Lake Apoyo expedition, I didn’t engage in any more nature outings until the end of my stay in Granada and most of the time I just wandered around town in search of chilled places, where they had good food and reliable wifi. An excursion I didn’t want to give a miss was a visit to the active Masaya volcano, as I only know lava lakes from National Geographics and other nature documentaries.

Masaya Volcano; Portal to the Fire Dimension

The Masaya volcano is part of a national park with the same name, which can be visited at day time to enjoy the views and visit the exhibition at the Visitors Centre. The park has hiking trails, but these are currently closed to the public. One can visit the park after dark as well until around 8 o’clock in the evening to stare into the lava lake of the Masaya volcano crater, which is quite a magical experience. Once you reach the look-out, or rather look-down, point you are at safe distance of the crater and you need to stand at a certain angle to get a good view of the glowing lava. You’re allowed to stare into the caldera for about 15 minutes after which I would think it becomes too dangerous to continue inhaling the volcanic fumes.

Throughout the ages people have been attracted to the element of fire. Besides giving light and warmth, it also seems to mesmerise, as most people can stare into a fire for eons. Fire can also be destructive as can be experienced during and after a wildfire or volcano eruption. Yet, a little fire can make the earth fertile again and the flanks of volcanoes provide very fertile soil, so despite the danger, rumbling mountains continue to attract human settlement and activity. There are many myths from all corners of the world about volcanoes. Some tell tales of fiery gods, others of volcanoes as portals to the underworld or the Christian concept of hell. The indigenous people of the Masaya region believed the volcano of the same name, which means ‘fire’ in the indigenous Chorotega language, was a god and home to a sorceress. Spanish bastards arrived in the region in the 16th century to rob and fuck up the land and they brought with them, besides death and destruction, the idea that the Masaya volcano was a source of diabolic activity. Spanish friar Francisco de Bobadilla dragged a cross up the volcano to exorcise what he believed was the month of hell. Another brother who went by the name of Blas del Castillo seemed far less considered with ‘heavenly’ matters and far more greedy, as he descended into the crater believing the lava lake was made up of liquid gold.

Tales of the Fire Element

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In many esoteric traditions the element of fire is considered a portal to a different world or dimension. In both Islamic and pre- Islamic traditions of the Arab world, the jinn, super natural creatures also known as genies, are made of smokeless fired opposed to humans, who are considered to be made of clay. Some Christian traditions believe that demons manifest themselves in this reality through the element of fire. In the yogic and other tradition fire is associated with will and determination. In ancient Greek mythology the god Prometheus, one of the Titans, who wasn’t condemned to the Tartarus after the great battle, stole fire fire from mount Olympus to give it to mankind. (It was really mankind rather than humankind, as women weren’t considered quite human in ancient Greek times). As punishment for this Titanic crime, Zeus tied Prometheus to a cliff in the Caucasus for his liver to be picked out of his body by an eagle every day only for it to grow back during the night. As ancient Greek gods were considered immortal, but could feel pain like humans, Prometheus was to suffer until the end of time. Prometheus is considered a hero to humanists and luciferians of both past and present.

What’s in a Volcano

Modern day volcanologists don’t do folk tales, as conventional science and mythology don’t mix. According to them volcanoes just gives us a scientific inside into the inner workings of our planet, yet the fascination and the longing for an unearthly link with igneous rumbling mountains remain.

top image: Welcome to Nicaragua.net
middle image: jewelexi.com

 

Nica Vibes: Colonial Shabbiness and Hiking Frustration

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Lake Apoyo

On my third attempt to get to Nicaragua from Miami I succeeded. The first time my flight was cancelled, as Miami International Airport was suffering delays and cancellations in the aftermath of a certain hurricane, that prevented me from travelling to the Bahamas. The second time I was still living on Cancun-time, which is an hour behind Miami-time. This meant that instead of arriving a bit under two hours ahead of departure time, I arrived a bit less than one hour ahead of take-off and I wasn’t allowed to check in my luggage. Important note to the traveller-self; ALWAYS check the local time when arriving at a new destination.

So, on the third attempt the next day I managed to make it to Nicaragua. As I wanted to avoid the capital Managua, as I’ve been told it’s ugly on many levels and there doesn’t seem to be much of interest, I headed straight for the colonial city of Granada. After having spent almost four months in North America and especially having disembarked from Miami, the first thing I noticed about Nicaragua, besides its lushness, because it’s winter and therefor rainy season, is its underdevelopment.

Granada; on every Corner a church

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Street Corner in Granada

Granada, like the colonial city Antigua Guatemala, is a major tourist attraction in Central America and like with the old capital of Guatemala, I was rather underwhelmed by it. It’s by no means the Disney Land that is Antigua and Granada is a great base to venture to nearby attractions like, volcanoes, crater lakes and jungle landscapes with great biodiversity. Due to Nicaragua’s general underdevelopment the centre of Granada is not as well maintained as a colonial city like San Cristobal de las Casas in Mexico. The city does have many churches, none of which I visited. To my surprise Dark Fairies are considered rather exotic, although, like other Central American countries, Nicaragua has a black population predominately living at the Caribbean cost. Many people felt the need to make a little proverbial song and dance about me in the form of looks and comments and I experienced more catcalls then anywhere else during my trip. Despite that, I think Nicaraguans, or Nicas for short, are very friendly and kind people.

Apoyo Crater Lake; the Hike

Lago Apoyo, lago meaning lake in Spanish, is a body of water in a volcanic cater in the vicinity of Granada, that is sourced by subterranean rivers. I had booked myself a hiking tour around the lake and was looking forward to getting some physical exercise. Besides, I had been dragging my hiking boots along for several months without having used them. Lunch would be included in what was presented as a picnic and there would be the possibility to swim in the lake. I don’t have much hiking experience, but I thoroughly enjoyed my trekking in Peru and Colombia. This hike, however was a different matter.

Besides having a few pieces of dried mango I bought at a local hippy centre, I didn’t have breakfast. I wasn’t hungry and I was picked up by taxi before the hostel breakfast was served. It was just another guy from Switzerland, me and the guide. At the beginning of the track we we’re given a litre and a half of water and our lunch, which consisted of a small bag of fresh fruit and a hamburger. Since I don’t eat meat or wheat, lunch was not going to be very substantial, but I wasn’t bothered. When we started our hike, the guide took out a machete, which made me giggle as it looked rather dramatic and gung-ho. I wasn’t giggling or remotely amused a few hours later.

The Rise of Hiking Frustration

Lago Apoyo is surrounded by jungle. There are no paths and any paths created by means of traffic and machete-action get overgrown within days, especially now in rainy season. So the guide’s machete was a necessity rather than a gung-ho accessory. Trekking through the jungle like that is cute for a few hours. After that I got rather annoyed.

We broke for lunch and had our ‘picnic’ at the bank of the lake. After having been sweating like a pig, dipping into the lake was refreshing and soothing as the surroundings are so tranquil. Yet, as if we were on a break from our office jobs, we only rested for half an hour, which was just way too short in my opinion and I hadn’t even been eating. After lunch the guide picked up the pace considerably. Although I had been a bit out of shape in terms of exercise- extreme hatha yoga doesn’t count in my book- I was by no means unfit. Yet, walking with two men, who are experienced hikers and at least a decade younger then me, I was struggling to keep up with the set pace.

Somewhere in the afternoon the Dark Fairy system started to react to barely having had any food in the last 20 hours. I started to feel shaky and a strong need for sugars. As lunch was included and I expected there to be some pulpería, a shop-shack, along the trek, like I had experienced along the trails in Peru and Colombia, I hadn’t brought any edibles with me.  At some point the guide checked my pulse, told me it was rather low and that I should visit a doctor to get a check up on my constitution, which I found rather dramatic. As I REALLY needed food, the guide contacted base camp, explained the situation and arranged a food delivery further along the track. After hiking for another 50 minutes or so, we met a guy on a motorcycle, who had brought bananas and chocolate bars. Like a junkie in need of her fix, I munched on the delivered goodies and immediately felt better. Despite more balanced sugar levels, it had been decided that I would do the last bit of the track on the back of the motorcycle. I actually wanted to walk, but it was probably better to give myself a break and not keep the guys up any longer.

It was after 6 and dark when we got back to Granada.

top image: nicaragua-community.com
middle image; vagrants of the world.com