Nica 2017 Week 1 Recap….

Well, so much for writing something everyday. The week kinda flew by. So very glad we have another week here in sunny, sometimes thunderous Gran Pacifica, Nicaragua.

Today started with coffee on our patio taking in the ocean scene out our back door.

Oh to have the funds to make this a daily occurrence. Thanks to Erin at the new OBR store for providing a great hand grinder and beans to use with my aero press. Eating out is ok, but sometimes you just need to prep your own. Haven’t done a full out grocery run yet. Asked the good people here to have a few items in the fridge upon our arrival. At least we could make our own breakfast in the morning…

Sun is up around 5:30 am every morning. Goes down at 5:30 every day as well. Might fluctuate a bit between rainy and dry seasons, but it’s pretty much a twelve hour daylight kind of day here. 

Took a couple of mornings to get into the 5:30 swing. Means going to bed earlier as well. Humidity has swung from oppressive to comfortable in the time we’ve been here. This morning was a comfy one. Early morning gives those of us that prefer cooler temps an opportunity to get out before the heat hits. 

This morning we’ve been invited by Patrick to join him and a couple we met at supper last night, Bobbi and Buddy Decker, on a tour of Leon and the Flor de Caña distillery. 
Bonnie and Buddy are real estate agents from California. And if I’m understanding correctly, they will be helping Patrick promote the sale of lots here at Gran Pacifica. We’ve noticed more houses are either up or in the process of getting built since we were here last year. 

They do a radio show which you can see/hear at this link: 
Very nice people. After this trip they were off to check out the properties Patrick’s company owns in Belize. 
Around 9ish am, Nica time is more or less an estimate, we loaded up and headed out.

I think I’ve mentioned before that the road coming directly to the resort has a rough patch. It’s much shorter than it used to be. The road is 11 km long and when we first arrived in 2014 most of it was unpaved. With rains, it gets pretty dicey. Which can really slow you down. I think there’s only a couple of kms left to pave. It’s an interesting sight to see at night. You’d almost think you’re being taken out to the middle of the Nica jungle for who knows what, but then you arrive at this gem of a place and all the bouncing around is worth it.

Along this road is a suspension bridge built of the locals so they could cross the river it crosses as a short cut. I have yet to make it across this thing in four attempts. I don’t like heights. Being 6’4″ I live in constant fear. But shove me out on a swingy bridge that looks like this…

and my courage fades in a hurry. 

It’s become a bit of a thing to see if Merle can get across. I usually get half way before my senses come back to me and I turn around. A team of student engineers from a university in the US built it. And as you can see the boards need to be replaced quite often. The locals will ride motorcycles, bicycles and herd cattle across this thing. Much much braver souls than I. 

We’ve been to Leon before, but never has it taken as long as it did on this trip. For whatever reason, there was a lot of traffic…slow traffic going both ways so it was difficult to pass.
These are just some of the unique things you’ll see on the road here.

Needless to say, our stay in Leon had to be cut short because we had to be at Flor de Caña at a specific time for a tour.
We were hoping to get to the roof of the Cathedral, but that will have to wait for another day. Mañana as they say…

Patrick arranged for lunch at what’s become our usual place in Leon. Can’t remember the name of the place for the life of me, but the food is good and the people are great! Two full plates and 3 beers later was a total of $16 between Arlene and I! 

Caught this young entrepreneur taking a break from selling. Everyone’s a salesman here. Not obnoxious though. They take no thank-you very well. 

It’s hard work in hot and humid conditions. Most kids don’t get past elementary even with a major push for education from the Ortega govt. Leon is a university town. So you do see older students here. But most in the rural areas go to work after learning some basics. 

One of the things we’ve noticed is the level of English the Gran Pacifica staff have has improved greatly. It’s a win/win for promoting more tourism to the resort from our neck of the woods. But I digress…

After lunch and a quick swing through the market we loaded up and headed off to the distillery. 

Pretty cool place this rum factory. They take you through the process from scratch. We learned that due to the amount of times the rum is distilled, it’s basically sugar free. They even had us put a few drops in our hands, which seems like a waste of good rum, but when you rub your palms together, there is no stickiness. 

Here’s Patrick soaking in the info that his favourite rum is sugar free and contemplating how to relay that to his girlfriend who has him eating less sugar, which is not a bad thing to do mind you. We said we’d back him up on this one…

Some of the bourbon barrels, Jack Daniels, from the US used to let the rum age.

They’re all taken apart and put back together by hand. Why? Because they seal them with plantain leaves to give the rum a unique tropical flavour. Sugar cane is plentiful here and the rich volcanic soil also adds to the uniqueness of this elegant rum. 

Of course there were samples at the end of the tour and a gift shop. Let me tell you, it’s a lot less money to load up on Flor de Caña here than at home 😉

You can read more about the process here:
Got back to Gran Pacifica too late to take in another magnificent sunset, but had a lovely dinner around the pool of the Sea Salt Restaurant nonetheless. We dined with Patrick and the Deckers as Buddy and Bobbi were off to Belize in the morning. 

We met another gentleman at supper by the name of John. He was wearing a hat with “The Man” on it. I think it had something to do with being able to eat 22 oz steaks. Anyway, he and his wife are designing and building a house here at Gran Pacifica as well. Both at retirement age and wanting to get in before prices take off. Gran Pacifica is putting a concerted effort into marketing Nicaragua as a “go to” vacation/retirement option. And by the sounds of things, it is gaining traction.

Back to the task at hand…
The next day, not sure what day that was, you kinda lose track on vacation, we booked a ride into Managua to get groceries. There is a very good restaurant at the resort called the Sea Salt Restaurant only steps away from the condos, but I love to cook. 
So off we went, loaded up in a Toyota Prada. Very nice SUV. Not sure I’ve ever seen one in Canada, but it would be perfect for our climate. And for some of the roads here. As I mentioned, there is a short stretch left that gets beat up after rains. The rest of the roads are very very nice. Much better than the roads we have in southern Manitoba. The more rural roads are paving stones, which must’ve been hugely labor intensive to put down. The nice part is, if you get a pothole, you just add more stone. 
The main highways we’ve been on are very smooth concrete. Makes for a nice easy drive.

There’s some construction happening down the road from us and we happened to meet a string of these guys. As you can see, there’s not a lot of room to pass so we had to pull over as far as we could to let them by. There was also a string of traffic behind these guys. Some of the motorcycles will pass, but vehicles can’t.

You really never know what you’ll meet…defensive driving is a must here 😉

Managua is the capital of Nicaragua with  approximately 2.2 million people living here according to google. There’s such a variety of old meets new wherever you look. From old sheet metal shops on the side of the road to modern office buildings and shopping malls, it’s a study in the evolution of a country that has experienced good economic growth in spite of what you may hear from US sources. 

Above you see an assortment of gas burner stove tops. Very portable. There are a bunch of small family setups along the way, preparing and selling food/meals. We noticed they were usually setup in the evening, which starts as early as 5:30 pm when the sun goes down and things get a touch cooler. They seem to be meeting spots as we noticed groups of locals gathered around on chairs just visiting the night away. 

The pictures above give you a bit of an idea of the contrast in shops here. La Colonia is a modern grocery outlet much like a Sobeys or Superstore. You can find most everything we have in North America at these places. 

The pictures above are of the market our friend Osman took us to. It’s a maze of aisles with what looks like a million little shops under one roof. Fruits and veggies were picked up here. There’s a wide variety of goods here and all very reasonable. The people here are hard workers and don’t make near the kind of money we do so I don’t like to haggle on the prices. 

For example, here we are getting local sim cards for our iPhones. Cards and all the minutes we’ll ever need while here came to $10 each. Cell service is everywhere. The kind of pricing we really should have in Canada eh?

Another example of old and new here in Central America. I did get a kick out of the guy in the Bobcat keeping an eye out for traffic. I guess there was no room in the truck for him?

Water is a precious commodity here as it can get pretty dry when rainy season ends usually by the end of December. Not sure if this is the one, but there’s a water supply like this that is fenced off and guarded. No one is allowed in so as not to contaminate the supply. I don’t have a picture here, but there is a large processing plant we saw for purifying the water before distribution. 

This is the gate we must pass through coming and going from the property. We’ve never had a problem in or out. It’s just a bit of comfort to know the property is guarded and patrolled at night. 

The last few days have been mostly chillin’ on our patio or near the pool. We had a nice visit with an expat couple that live here permanently, Gordon and Pita. Always nice to see them and catch up. Taking two weeks this time will allow for another visit for sure. 

Today, we’re hoping to get to a nice stretch of beach with miles of sand and surf and no buildings to be found anywhere. We were invited to go yesterday, but I had just found the Bomber game online. That’s right, I’m that big of a fan I gave up a beach day for a football game. Wifi is great in our condo so no problem streaming. 

Asuchillo is a favourite for surfers to visit. We had the opportunity to see it on the last day of our visit with our kids back in Jan 2016. Definitely one of our favourite places to chill here. 

Our goal for the week is to get to a volcano named Masaya. Still active, so in the evening you can see the red glow of the lava down below. Other than that, no plans…the way vaca should be right?

The link to all of this year’s pix so far can found by clicking here.


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