Nicaragua Trip: Days 4 & 5

The last two days of my trip were non-stop busy.  There were a million things to do, and I tried to cram in as much as I possibly could while staying under budget and on time.  I managed…mostly. I rode in the back of a truck, visited a coffee plantation, hiked two volcanoes, stuck my hand in fumaroles, stared into the sulfury mouth of the mountain, visited more rainforest, ate great food, learned to make chocolate from the beans up, shopped a bit, toured the isletasof lake Nicaragua, watched a sunset, and made a bunch of new friends.  I won’t even try to tell you the stories; I’ll just let the photos say it for me.

On a clear day, you can see all the way to the pacific from the main house of this cofee plantation.

Volcanic activity leaves some incredible changes to the world around it, like this narrow cut in the rock at Volcan Mombacho National Park.

Called 'humming bird orchids' these orchids grow in the sunny, open, mineral rich fields of fumaroles along the sides of volcanic mountains.

From the side of Mombacho you can see the curiving edge of Lake Nicaragua, the city of Granada, and the sweeping tail of islets that make it special.

The steam coming from these fumaroes is wet, sulfury, and just short of scalding hot. We all got a chance to enjoy the sauna-like air to be found where several dozen such fumaroles are centered.

After the day of hiking, I went back to the chocolate museum, where we started by roasting 9-day-aged beansover an open fire.

After peeling the husks from our hot, roasted beans (and sampling a few) we ground them by hand, the traditional way.

After chocolate making, I gathered with my new friends from the volcano tour, and a new friend from the chocolate class for an amazing dinner and lots of sangria. Perfect.

On the approach to Volcan Masaya is a broad, broken field of volcanic rock, left from one of the last major erruptions.

The gases rising from the pit are deadly, and signs everywhere warn visitors to stay no more than 30 minutes.

Behind me you can see one of the deep, hot crevices inside the still-active crater of the volcano. There's no lava visible during the day, but at night the caldera glows.

To the south of the active crater is an older, quieter one. There are fumaroles here, but both the bowl and the rim of this caldera can be walked in relative safety. Our hike took us around the rim.

Housed inside this amazing edifice is the largest handicrafts market I've ever seen.

For our late lunch, we drove to the rim of Apoyo, where we had an incredible view of la Laguna where I spent the first day of my explorations.

As the day drew to a close, we loaded onto one of these boats for a tour of the isletas.

The islets are surrounded by narrow channels and wide waterways, all teeming with vegetation, birdlife, fish, and boats.

Most of the islands are privately owned. Some belong to the indigenous people and will never be sold, others have houses of either local families or foreign buyers, and still others are completely bare of any human habitation.

While many of the islands are inhabited by the native population of the lake and hold rough, thatched-roof homes and businesses, many others are lushly gardened and offer privacy for the kind of people who build mansions with private heli-pads on their own islands.

Volcan Mombacho, as usual, wreathed in clouds.

This fort takes up the entirety of one of the islets. It was used to protect Granada from Spain's British enemies and the privateers who worked for them. Lake Nicaragua has deep river access to both the Carribean and the Pacific, which allowed pirates to sneak into Granada.

Sunset over Granada, with a view of Volcan Masaya in the distance.