Folk dancing and Mombacho

So far, it had been two days at school and we had seen: the museum; San Fransisco cathedral; the cemetery where there are many Sandinistas (and you’re reminded how recent the war is… some of those kids only died in the early eighties); the railway station that has only one two trains because the rest were sold to other countries; an old hospital that couldn’t afford to run anymore and was consequently destroyed by gangs, complete with two rotting ambulances with grass growing though them; the lake (lake. HAH! You can’t even see the other side!); some forts… a cultural extravaganza! On the evening of our third day at school, we took an excursion to the thursday night Masaya markets, which has the reputation of the shopping centre of Nicaragua. The markets are set up in an old fort, and the stalls sell ridiculously cheap nicknacks and what nots and souveniery stuff. Want a machette? A bottle of local rum? A single cigarette or a whole carton? Some local art? It’s all there. Then at about nine o’clock the stage lights up (and down, and up again… the power supply here isn’t exactly seamless!) the music comes on (and off, and on…) and the folk dancers flourish onto the stage looking for all the world like peacocks in sequins, wearing hats, and shawls, and huge skirts, and massive sparkly head dresses, and combining colours that should NEVER be seen (picture magenta silk lined with toothpaste green… yeah.). The music is the most bizarre stuff - it starts with a bang and then just goes furiously for ages with no apparent verses or choruses or any climax, and then just suddenly ends. Very weird. Anyway, that was super fun.

On our FORTH day at school (that’s right, we had only been at school for FOUR DAYS! And you have to remember that all of these outings SOUND fun, but they also involve primarily communicating in Spanish to people. It’s pretty exhausing!) our afternoon excursion was formed when Brian decided he would quite like to see the volcano that towers two kilometres above Granada, called Mombacho. Obviously, Dave and I were keen for a Volcano, so we all hopped in the school bus at the appointed time armed with our mozzie repellent, walking shoes, and woeful knowledge of Spanish words about the natural world. When we got to the national park bit, we had to switch to a 4wheel drive ute. And the reason was obvious pretty quickly… the roads were paved, narrow, and on an insanely steep incline. Why circle round the mountain when you can just drive straight up it, I say? On the way up the volcano there were coffee plantations, and little houses for the people who worked on them. The dust and scrub transformed into bright green jungle full of birds and butterflies and moss and orchids. At the top are some cell towers and an ecological centre established by the English and the Irish. We arrived too late to take the four hour ‘puma’ track around the crater, but we did take the two hour track to see the fumeroles. They say the volcano is extinct, but the massive steaming holes in the ground that go for fifty odd metres that spew hot air tell different…

We were very slow, and our guide kept urging us on with threats of missing the last bus down the volcano. David and Brian kept sneaking off the path to take photos and were labelled ‘banditos’ by Veronica. We stopped to watch the volunteers tag the tiny birds from the mountain - some of which were no bigger than my thumb. And running up and down dirt tracks at 2 kms altitude is no joke! When we finished the track, all the other people were on the 4wheel drive ‘bus’ (picture an old army truck that seats about 25) were waiting for us, staring balefully. Although we really don’t mind irritating Americans (present company excluded).

Oh, we are such little adventurers!