Why are those monkeys there?
06/08/2010 - 06/10/2010 80 °F
It was only about a half hour from La Cruz to the Nicaraguan border. The Costa Rican side of the border was pretty easy, although I stood in the wrong line at immigration just to make things difficult on myself. A two hundred yard walk to the Nicaraguan side of the border. Bags searched. Some kid offered to help me navigate Nicaraguan immigration. He was holding a stack of the little immigration sheets you have to fill out when you cross a border. I said no thanks but he followed me anyway. Immigration wanted two dollars. I didn’t have dollars. I had to leave my passport there while I hunted down a currency exchanger guy. It took awhile to find someone who would change Costa Rican Colones for dollars even though there are a bunch of these guys running around but it got done. I got my passport back and found another currency exchanger guy so I could get some cordobas. The ‘border crossing helper’ guy was still following me around telling me the obvious (helping me) so I gave him a dollar to get lost. I had to cough up another dollar to pass through a gate to where the local busses and taxis were. I think they called this a tourism tax. Whatever. I was all the way across the border now. Just need to find the bus. I wandered over to a bus ... it was an old school bus painted up like it was headed for Woodstock. Very quickly I was surrounded by fifteen taxi drivers wanting to drive me to Rivas for anywhere from ten to thirty dollars. It was a melee ... like a seen from the New York Stock Exchange. Some guy making juice told me to go stand somewhere else because all the taxi drivers and commotion swarming around me was getting in his way. I was the only Gringo in sight so I attracted everyone with anything to sell. It reminded me of my first day in New Delhi. The guy who drove the Woodstock bus said he would take me to Rivas for a dollar. He wasn’t leaving for forty-five minutes though and I was still looking for the real public bus. Rather than waiting around for the bus and being harassed by desperate taxi drivers I started walking down the road. The taxi prices dropped for each step I took and pretty soon there where only two drivers tagging along. I made a deal with the least obnoxious of the two and was at the Rivas bus station in a half hour or so.
At the Rivas bus station I realized that the Woodstock bus at the border was actually one of the normal local busses. None of the busses at the station matched. It cost me a little over a dollar for the ride further North to Granada. By the way, Nicaraguan currency (cordoba) is the coolest currency I’ve run across in my travels. The bills are small, colorful, and made of some kind of plastic concoction, like the government expects everyone and their money to be soaking wet most of the time. A five minute taxi ride to the hostel and then I was out on the street for some aimless wandering and more cordobas. Granada is a nice town, lots of older colonial architecture. It seemed to me like a lot of the buildings hid courtyards (my hostel did) and I wondered about what was inside a lot of the places I walked by. There were lots of horse/mule drawn carts on the streets, some white horse drawn fancy carts carrying tourists and some mule drawn rickety carts carrying various goods. I got some cordobas and a pretty good haircut. Everything (beer) in Nicaragua was cheaper than Costa Rica by about half. After a few hours of walking around town I went back to the hostel for some food and what turned out to be a six hour nap. I woke up just in time to see everything closing up for the night. Oh well. I had my Camel-Bak full of pure Nicaraguan tap water to get me through the night. The water is probably good in Nicaragua. What could possibly go wrong?
I was up early the next morning, not surprisingly, and hit the streets again. I walked around the central square taking pictures, looking like a tourist. I was approached by a guy who wanted to take me on a tour of the islands near town. Normally I don’t go for the tours sold by some clown on the street but at this point I had no idea what there was to do in Granada and no plan for finding out. I had no guide book. I’m not even sure why I went to Granada. Maybe a friend suggested it. I went on the tour and was glad I did. There’s something about riding around in a boat that makes everything OK. We wound around through tiny little islands. This or that island was owned by some famous person I had never heard of and had a vacation home built on it. One island was owned by monkeys and had a few monkeys on it. I’m not really sure how the monkeys got there. I think someone put them there so I could ride around in a boat and see the monkey island. The monkey island was pretty small. I’m not sure if the monkeys were commuting to work or if they had food delivered or what but they were nice monkeys on a nice little island. One of the monkeys (they were spider monkeys by the way) came onto the boat so I could take a picture of him. He looked at me like he wanted a tip or something. People that really know me know that I don’t tip monkeys ... ever. We stopped at a little fort that was used to protect Granada from pirates. There was a stuffed Cayman and some shark jaws there. Lake Nicaragua has sharks in it ... and it’s the second largest lake in the Americas ... oh and I forgot to mention ... that’s the name of the lake I was in.
I returned to the hostel and had another monster nap. I think my body was fighting off the Nicaraguan tap water. I decided I would head for Ometepe in the morning.