Postcards from:Granada Nicaragua
San Salvador ElSalvador
San Pedro Sula Honduras
Copan Ruinas Honduras
La Ceiba Honduras
Utila Island Honduras
La Ceiba Honduras
San Pedro Sula Honduras
Belize City Belize
Orange Walk Belize
Lamanai Mayan Ruins
Panama City Panama
Galapagos Is. Ecuador
Puerto Ayoro Galapagos
Machu Picchu Peru
Machu Picchu Photos
Lake Titicaca Peru
Lake Titicaca Photos
La Paz Bolivia
Santiago Chile 1
Santiago Chile 2
Easter Island Chile
Santiago Chile 3
Puerto Montt Chile
Puerto Chacabuco Chile
Punta Arenas Chile
Puerto Natales Chile
Punta Arenas Chile
Puerto Williams Chile
Buenos Aires Argentina
Puerto Iguazu Argentina
Ciudad Bolivar Venezuela
Puerto Ordaz Venezuela
Cayenne French Guiana
Pointa A Pitre Guadaloupe
Back Home in California
Hello from Granada Nicaragua
the old colonial capital of Nicaragua.
Three days after arriving in Granada terrorists attacked London, a horrendous event that went all but unnoticed here in this small Nicaraguan tourist town. CNN and BBC devoted full time coverage to the atrocities. Some twenty-five years ago I conducted an open literature search for an organization developing anti-terrorism training programs for American municipalities. The cast of characters has changed and the scale of destruction has escalated, but the causes and effects are similar. Osama bin Laden and his al-Qaeda network are now our prime suspects. Lost in the outrage and calls for intensified efforts to "combat terrorism" are the root causes behind radical Islam's answer to perceived Western oppression. Bin Laden discussed his motives for launching terror attacks against the United States and its allies in a recent speech. The full English transcript of Usama bin Ladin's speech in a videotape sent to Aljazeera on 11/1/04 may be seen here. Every thinking Westerner deserves to know what he has to say about the root causes of the present conflict.
Leaving San Jose on 28 June for Playa Hermosa I expected a quiet few days by the beach in one of the many beachfront hotel listed in the websites. As the bus neared the Pacific we moved every more deeply into the jungle, finally stopping near a sign announcing we had arrive in Hermosa Beach... and the end of the road! Bewildered, I hefted my pack and began the exploration process... after confirming the bus would retrace it's route back in two hours. Down a dirt road towards the water, several resort motels offered accommodations for as little as $50. The road ended in the sand, the beach beyond. No wide tree lined boulevard with sparkling glass enclosed hotels facing the sea. Instead, I found about a dozen widely separated resort complexes nestled in their own piece of jungle, though easily walking distance to the deserted beach. The most luxurious, Villas Sol offered me a one bedroom apartment for $70, somewhat below their $98 rack rate. Perfect for families or couples wanting a lot of privacy... or someone hiding out from Interpol, it proved a bit too remote for my current preferences. However, the Gray Line reservation desk is located in the hotel's lobby and the return trips start from that hotel.
Two hours after arriving I finessed a ride back to the first town of any size, Liberia which is on the main highway to Nicaragua. A Best Western Motel sits at the junction. As rain had been pouring off and on I ran across the street to a Subway restaurant where I reluctantly ate a sandwich made with wilted vegetables and discolored meat. The lackadaisical attitude of the boy at the counter and the odd flavor of the sandwich made me wonder about the advisability of eating it. But, I'd had nothing since seven that morning and gobbled it down. Twenty hours later the first symptoms of a serious respiratory infection made its appearance; I have to wonder at a possible connection with that sandwich.
The next morning I discovered a nearby terminal for the Central Line international bus service. An hour late, the deluxe bus left heading North for Managua; only half full and a $10 fare. The on-board staff handled our payment of the Costa Rican $8 departure tax and all of the customs and immigrations details. On the Nicaraguan side we all hauled our baggage to the Nicaraguan dog sniffing room for an interesting going over by a wiry Beagle which obviously had drank too much coffee that morning. The K9 cop lingered over the day pack of another young American I had befriended, poking its nose in every crevice and sniffing loudly, finally giving a little bark and moving on to another bag. The young man told me later he had spent the previous night in a hostel where some of the other residents might have been smoking marijuana... ha. While the little circus dog entertained us with it's frenetic jumping, bobbing and sniffing, our cavernous bus received similar treatment by a team of five other hounds and a squad of American trained customs officials.
Forty minutes later the inquisition ended and our luxury behemoth continued its noiseless trek northward to Granada. Lake Nicaragua, a block to the east of our highway looked like an ocean, the far shore well below the horizon. Westward the landscape presented an endless array of pastoral shades of green, broken occasionally by an isolated structure like a punctuation mark in a line of poetry. The bus paused briefly in Rivas, but I'd already chosen Granada as my next focus.
A half hour later we arrived in an area of increasing habitation and finally stopped in what appeared to be just another street intersection in the outskirts of a small town. "Granada" our conductor called out and several people prepared to get off. Ben, the young American with his suspicious day pack and humongous Sierra backpack maneuvered himself and cargo off the bus just ahead of me. "Where are you going?" I asked.
"Centro Hostel, somewhere near a big church in the center of town... how about you?" he queried.
"I have no idea. I'll look for a good value hotel when I find the city center." I offered.
"Donde esta el centro?" I inquired of a local young lady walking in our general direction. Her response included so many Spanish words spoken so fast I could understand none of what she said. However, as is always the case in every strange land I've visited she pointed and gestured directions, turnings, even distances. When she had finished I knew we had to walk some distance East and then turn South a few blocks. Ben's Spanish is not even as broad as mine, so he gladly let me take the lead in our explorations.
During our walk I learned he expected to pay between $7 and $12 per night for his accommodations. Reluctantly, I confessed I expected to pay somewhere in the range of $50-60, a revelation which led to inquiries about each others ages and life situations. Hefting my thirty pound back pack and stepping lively at his pace, Ben a third my age expressed surprise anyone as ancient as I would voluntarily choose such a strenuous mode of travel.
Granada Centro is difficult to miss as it is marked by a Plaza park bounded on the East by a huge cathedral... but we missed it several times before spiraling in on our target. Opposite the cathedral on the other side of the park is one of the three "best hotels" in town, The Alhambra. After merely walking by the other two for a quick look at the exteriors I took a first night room in the Alhambra, tiny with noisy air conditioner, but a new modern well lit bathroom and cheap at $40 per night. The hotel's sidewalk restaurant turned out to be its best feature.
After lunch the exploration began using my "first night" room value as a benchmark. Just around the corner sits the Hotel Colonial and at $50 is a dramatically better value, so I booked a room starting the next day. By this time symptoms of my respiratory infection were beginning to make it obvious I needed to tend to my body's healing demands. For me that means lots of water, sitting in the lotus position and zoning out... meditating, interspersed with occasional periods in a horizontal orientation until pain again forces me vertical.
While far from luxurious, the simple room in the Alhambra proved fine for recuperation and I spent the next 18 hours in that tiny cell. During my time cloistered there I did not get any better; I got progressively worse. The tickle on my left bronchi grew into wild demands for explosive coughing, a retching so violent muscles in my back hurt with the effort. The next day I moved to the better Hotel Colonial to continue convalescing. 48 hours and three doxycycline capsules later I began to feel partially human again. During the intense healing period uncertain balance, neurological anomalies and the full range of severe flu-like symptoms convinced me I had contracted something beyond my body's usually amazing ability to conquer... and the closest modern medical facilities would be an hour away in Managua. Alone in this alien land where I do not speak the local language fluently, with strange physical symptoms made me wonder for a while if my foolishness had ventured one step too far. Victorious finally, I discovered all of my reserved days at the hotel had elapsed and the hotel needed my room.
So, off again I went is search of a new abode. My good fortune brought me to the obscure entrance to El Casone de los Estrada - "A Small Luxury Hostal." This little boutique hotel is a gem: six rooms, each with a unique configuration. Mine is like a Master bedroom suite and the rate including taxes and a gourmet breakfast is only $65... or about $50 before included add-ons. Polished light wood floors and an oversize heavy log king-size bed with the mattress sitting three feet off the floor create an unusual feeling, kind of like being six years old again.
I have seen no touts at all and most of the vendors have been polite. A few kids more playful than obnoxious have required several "no's" before they lost interest in the game. One kid hung around the outside the iron grill-work next to a table where I finished off a small pizza and bottle of beer. "Muy mallo," he repeated pointing at my Cerveza Premium.
"Un poco es bueno," I replied.
"No! Muy malo," he repeated.
"Para ustead," I rejoined.
"No, para ustead!" he repeated. Hey! The kid and I actually had a conversation. I suspect I mangled the Spanish, but we exchanged ideas. I may be speaking Spanish fluently by the time I return. The encounter made me wonder if the kid's father drinks a lot and then abuses family members. However, I've seen no public drunkenness.
Every morning and throughout the day the church bells sound a peculiar varying pattern: single, single, 30-50 quickly repeated, single, single, etc. No one seemed to know the significance of the strange patterns until I pressed the receptionist at my hotel to investigate. Asking one of the Catholic hotel maids she learned one pattern announces an ordinary Mass, another funerals and the third weddings. Why such a complex set of patterns has been selected is lost in history.
Most days I hear strings of firecrackers being set off... more like small bombs, actually - so loud they always trip multiple car alarms. When asked the reason for these noisy celebrations I learned they were the way devotees celebrated their favorite saint's day. "Nearly everyday?" I asked.
"There are a lot of saints!" my respondent replied. It reminds me of India where thousands of Hindu gods each have their devoted followers.
I've spoken with representatives of three medical missions to Nicaragua during the past week. All have been supported by fundamentalist Christian churches in America and/or by the participants themselves in at least one case. "Any malaria?" I asked Dr. John Warwick III, a urologist at the end of his two week mission.
"No, but we did treat several cases of Dengue Fever." he replied. I've seen only a few mosquitoes while here; all bit me. The ones I saw I could not hear! My aging sense of hearing has now made it impossible to hear the annoying high pitched whine of impending attack. That's both good and bad. In former years I can remember staying up half the night hunting down the last little beasty before feeling safe enough to sleep. Now, it is live and let live... after slathering on mosquito repellent and taking my weekly dose of Chloroquine religiously!
My wondering about the advisability of getting one of the lifetime pneumonia shots drew responses from nearly a dozen friends: consensus is that it is indeed a good idea, so I'll start looking.
Internet access costs less than a dollar an hour. Some of the cyber cafes offer international telephone service to the US for about $4/hr or about six cents a minute, somehow using the Internet for connecting the call.
Fred L Bellomy
GRANADA 2005: Base of the Statue in honor of all mothers sits in Granada's Central Park.