Thursday, January 10, 2013

New Year's in Nicaragua

Most of my closest friends know I am a travel junkie. Give me a plane ticket and I'll go. Just about anywhere. However, I have some places I DREAM about going, places that I just can't bear the thought of not seeing before I die. Places like India, Turkey, Denmark, Greece, Lebanon, Japan, Vietnam, Thailand, Indonesia, South Africa, Tunisia, okay okay you get the point. Before I joined Peace Corps Central and South America were pretty low on my wish list. I mean I would not have turned down the opportunity to go (aka I came to PC El Sal) but those countries were never quite as intriguing to me as India or Lebanon for example. Of course, Peace Corps has changed me and my perspective quite a bit. Nicaragua?! Really...? It probably would have never made my top 100 of places to visit, but now I am already itching to go back. Even amongst the Central American countries I had it seriously underrated. Next to Guatemala, Costa Rica, and Mexico it seemed kind of meh. But those feelings were just symptoms of ignorance and my failure to truly understand that all countries around the world are beautiful. Let's see just SOME of the beauty that is wonderful Nicaragua:

On top of Cerro Negro near Leon.

Volcano boarding!

Somoto Canyon Tour

Tour of the Flor de Cana Rum Factory!
Lounging at the beach.
Popoyo Beach
Hanging in Granada
Eating tour of Granada

That is vacation in pictures. Now a little bit in words. Four members of my PC training group and I went to Nicaragua for ten days visiting Granada, Leon, Esteli, and Somoto. It was a fantastic trip that included a variety of fun activities, plenty of time to relax, and a lot of great memories. We started in Granada which is the Central American version of a European city. I arrived there and thought for a brief moment I was in Italy. It is laden with beautiful plazas, amazing restaurants, and cobble stone streets. We basically toured Grenada indulging in the food that we don't ever eat in El Salvador: iced coffee, hummus and pita bread, falafel, eggplant, bagels and cream cheese, gelato, etc. It was delicious. From Grenada we rolled into Popoyo Beach where we met up with Cory (a RPCV from our group who left last April) is currently working as a surf instructor (among his many talents). We also met up with some volunteers from PC Nicaragua!!!

We spent the next three days (including New Year's) hanging out at Cory's stunning beach and hotel. I spent my time sleeping, reading, running, sleeping, hanging in the hammock, and more relaxing. From there we ventured to Leon which is essentially a college town providing us with tons of good restaurants, fun night life, great second hand clothing stores, and NEARBY VOLCANO BOARDING. 

Volcano boarding was probably my favorite thing from the trip. Nicaragua is, I believe, the only place in the world where you can literally sled down (or snowboard down) a volcano. We carried our boards up the volcano for about 45 minutes to the top. It was a long 45 minutes mostly because I thought the wind would carry me off the side of the volcano, but we made it. After 45 minutes climbing it takes about 3 minutes to come down sledding. There is nothing quite like sledding down a volcano. I would FLY down and then have to flip myself to stop the sled from losing control. Surprisingly, it does not hurt. The terrain was rocky, but more of a soft, volcanic ash. It was thrilling, fun, dirty, and a once in a lifetime experience of pure adrenaline. I loved it.

The next day after volcano boarding we toured the Flor de Cana Rum Factory. For those of you who know me you know I am not much of a drinker. But Flor de Cana is different. It holds a special place in our hearts as the cheap rum that is ubiquitous at PC events. Therefore, when you are in Nicaragua (birthplace of Flor) you have to check out the factory. Plus, I had never seen a rum factory, nor tried the 18 year aged rum, so I HAD to go. I was quite surprised at the sophistication of the factory and just how much I could learn about rum from an hour and a half tour. Definitely worth its heavy price tag. 

The last stop on our trip Esteli/Somoto. It was a nice change of pace because of its cool climate (NICARAGUA IS HOT--it feels ways hotter than El Sal). We were happy to sleep under blankets and walk outside in sweaters and jeans for a few days. Somoto was placed on our travel list when we heard from a bunch of backpackers in El Salvador that it has a one of kind canyon tour including a long float trip down the river, jumping from high rocks, and beautiful canyon views. We were sold! It was a beautiful trip and really fun. I highly recommend it, especially if you enjoy the thrill of jumping from cliffs! 

Overall, it was a really fun trip. I am so thankful for such wonderful friends to travel with, the opportunity I have been given to travel here in Central America, and the realization that even places that you don't really think about going to have so much for you to discover. I am looking forward to discovering more.

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