Updated: Dec 7, 2020
I didn't sleep well due to the heat of the city. I'd booked a hotel based on it having AC, but I discovered after checking in that the AC didn't actually work. I was told it was a power problem by the local utility, but I got the feeling the AC never really worked and realized I needed to add an additional question to my repertoire... so you have AC, but does it work?
After a leisurely breakfast I wandered the streets. Granada has a good feeling. Overall it's as if I'm on some sleepy Caribbean island, forgotten in a corner of the world. This place feels further from the U.S. than any country so far, which makes sense, as it is on my trip, but miles different than Guatemala or Honduras. It's hot, humid, lazy and slow. As with each country I've been in, the people look distinctive to their nation.
Though definitely a tourist sanctuary, the Centro is in process of refurbishing, the main church being freshly painted and in process of becoming a Sistine Chapel with murals underway. Being a tourist city, it's not real but it's relaxing after being on your toes in the other communities. One can't escape the warnings of solo travel danger, as the hotel owner again drilled into me this morning, not to mention the hotel manager as well and three travelers who were volunteering work in a village. They said they traveled with armed guards anytime they drove the roads. Since I can't afford secret service protection, I just have to trust my life to God and go on.
I spent a couple of hours wandering in the midday heat and humidity, draining me of any desire to do much, like the locals who sit in the shade and sleep. It's hard to explain, but Granada feels differently than anywhere else. It feels much like what I would expect Cuba to be like.
Back at my hotel, I took my third shower of the day in cool water and for a first, was happy the hot water didn't work. It seems rain knocked out one of the phases of power in certain neighborhoods, so only 110v is working. The AC and hot water heaters are 220 so they don't work. The sweet girl at reception said they were very upset at the mayor who insists every day that the power will be restored but isn't... Their competitor hotels don't seem to suffer this same outage of course. All I know is that the floor fan they gave me is my best friend since the AC is out.
When the direct sun dissipated as the day ended, I walked back to the lakeside where the nightly drum band was warming up. They practice for hours each evening by the water. As I stood enjoying the breeze in my face I heard someone saying "sail the bike from Panama on a German sailboat" and turned to see three guys talking and sidled to join the conversation.
Bas (center) was from Holland and is riding his MotoGuzzi from NY to Ushuaia. We're on the same sail date on the German sailing ship "Stahlratte". The other two guys, Brian, an advertising photographer from Kansas City, and the other whose name I've forgotten, a banker from Managua, had rented bikes and ridden the mountains around the area doing some mission work. The two were also working on a documentary about a man made famous in an iconic Susan Meiselas photo during the revolution. Rumors had always been that the man tossing the molotov cocktail had been killed, however they tracked him down and spent several hours filming his story.
The image was used extensively, much the same way as Che Guevarra's previously, as a symbol of the Sandinista revolt.
© Susan Meiselas 1979
We had a good discussion and some fun, then the two guys said a prayer for Bas and I and our journey.
Walking into the quiet downtown, people sat simmering in silence on the street, chairs and tables outside in the evening air to try and cool off. The stillness did little but the evening ritual continues every night. Houses and families spill out on the street, lounging in chairs or laying on mats.
The central area of the city is undergoing the classic tourist refurb, with pedestrian only areas replete with the street cafes and shops. I finally picked a place for some limonada and fish tacos. In short order I was engulfed in the ever present peddlers, as happened when I sat down for a smoothie to cool off hours earlier. It's a constant stream of people to whom "no" is not an answer and you can't take a bite of food without having to say "no gracias" the entire time you sit there. After doing this daily for the entire trip, I'd decided to make an example of the next vendor, but unfortunately no more children came by, only those capable of hitting back, so my plan was thwarted.
Two persistent and charming ladies were trying to sell trinkets and such to my constant "no's" then changed tactics. She kept saying something I didn't understand then moved around and began massaging my shoulders. Suddenly I understood the word "massage", but her friend's look and smile indicated it would be a bit more than that. "NO gracias!" and they finally walked away, only to pass back by a little later, smiling and calling me "friend". Chuckled about it as I wandered back to the hotel, stopping to watch two women and their husbands dancing to the mariachi's playing by their table, then walked into silence and darkness for the hotel, people sleeping and dozing in the heat of the night on the sidewalks.
I'd finally heard from the Moto Diablos, Charlie, Christine and Jules, as they'd been without internet for 2-3 days. My phone data wasn't working so we hadn't been able to coordinate meeting up, but this morning a message got through and they were on the way to Granada. I decided to take a boat ride through the islands or "isletas" - there are 300 or more tiny ones off the coast of Granada, many of which are single home dwellings. As it turned out, a group of 5 people from Arizona who were doing some volunteer work in the countryside were at my hotel and we shared the boat trip.
Despite being on a tour, it was a good excuse to get a fresh breeze in the heat. We passed some kayakers and stopped at a couple of tiny islands that had a few monkeys waiting to be fed. There were several capuchin (capuccinos?) on an island with a home, plus a few wild spider monkeys on another. The tour then deposited us on a restaurant island for a wallet reduction.
A few of the almost 400 islands were for sale
The massive, cloud covered volcano Mombacho miles away in the background was responsible for the myriad islands, which are actually massive volcanic rocks tossed into the lake and area during a massive volcanic explosion
A couple of hours later back at the hotel, I dreadfully suited up in my gear and packed the bike to rendezvous with the gang at a house we'd rented online. My texts and data still weren't working so I hung out at a wifi cafe and called T-Mobile who reset something and my data came back online, however the ability to send texts did not.
Sitting. It's what you do here.
Charlie finally connected with me on WhatsApp that they'd arrived, so I rode in the sweltering heat to the house. They were all waiting outside and it was great to hook up again. We shared our border crossing stories and waited for the house to cool down, eventually wandering out late at night to the square and the lake, where we watched the drum band and dancers practicing in the darkness.
Now starving, we found a street vendor selling huge slabs of fresh grilled chicken and gallo pinto, the delicious bean and rice dish they have here. Our "to go" or "para llevar" was wrapped in banana leaves and we walked back to the casa, drenched in sweat in the heat of the night. The grilled chicken and rice/bean combo never tasted so good!
By 9 we were all nodding off except Charlie, who was up late working on his blog.