Monday, April 2, 2012

The Return to Granada

So from León (in the last post), I caught a bus northbound to Estelí, which is in the central highlands of Nicaragua. The area is full of hills and coffee plantations, with far more favorable weather in the night. I spent a good three days up there and met some more cool people. I´ve also aqcuired a new pair of leather riding boots, seeing as the city is not only a college town, but a ¨gaucho¨ type town filled with cowboys and leathercrafts of all sorts.

Wandering about, I took a tour of a local tabacalera, in which the entire cigar-making process is explained and shown. Nicaragua is well-known for it´s world-class cigars, on par with the Cuban cohibas, but not embargoed by ridiculous, antiquated laws against the Commies. Not that I like Communists, by any means, because I´m 100% American, goddammit. Nonetheless, it was an interesting process to watch as (mostly) women rolled perfect cigars.

NOTE: I´ll upload photos onto this blog post when I return home. I don´t want to sit around sorting, uploading, and waiting today.

The tradition of Semana Santa started on Saturday, March 30th, and is a holy week of partying, Central American style. Six to eight dollars for litterally all-you-can-drink nights (which, oddly enough, I opted out of), fireworks being let off in the street at all hours of the day, and a ramp up of promotions street-side. When I say promotions, I really mean pickup trucks and cars with enormous speakers strapped atop the roof or truck bed, blasting away at mega-high volumes well exceeding 130dB or so (you can hear them coming for blocks). So ridiculously annoying, I kept having thoughts of flipping over cars. Anyway, the locals get plastered all week long, since this is their main vacation from everyday living and working. Because many of them spend their whole time working 11-12 hour days for shite wages.

I had a good time in Estelí finishing up my book, The Hot Zone, acquired through the worldwide book exchange program that travellers use. The Hot Zone is about the history and spread of the flesh-liquidifying Ebola virus and it´s horrendous effects on humans. It broke out of Zaire and Sudan through the 80´s, and decimated entire populations of Africa. It also, ironically enough, broke out in Washington. The book is a really good read and was at one point a New York Times best-seller. The process of catching this 90% deadly virus is literally one of the worst ways to die imaginable. I´m good, thanks.

I caught a standard chicken bus from Estelí back to Managua, and from Managua, back to Granada, where I had a lot of fun a month prior. You can read that blog post here. I arrived back in The Bearded Monkey hostel, and yet again have met some cool people and re-encountered some of the same people from the month prior, which was refreshing and really enjoyable a time. We went out for some drinks, and I indulged myself in some Guinness. But alas, it was only of the canned variety and not tirado del siphóne (from a keg), and therefore not that great. I chased that with a couple Nica Libres and had a better time. It´s actually the first time I went out to drink in Granada, even after some 8 or 9 days living in the city.

We also went into the bell tower of a really old cathedral, and I took a chance against my better judgement (and deathly fear of heights) and went one step further. There´s a ladder that goes EVEN HIGHER up the tower, which wouldn´t be an issue normally, except that it´s hanging over the railing on the outside tower wall, and the fall would either impale me on the iron fence, or plunge me down some 60 feet onto the cathedral roof below. So I climbed the ladder from the inside and reached the maximum height by flipping to the outside of it to check over the jutting wall design. The ladder only led to a really narrow ledge that winds its way around the tower to the two clocks, which occasionally must break and therefore, need to be fixed. I decided I´d seen what I wanted to see and carefully descended, a proud man for punching my fear in its ethereal face.

Otherwise, I am winding down my journey with some acquirement of unique, handcrafted souvenirs for the trip back home, and will head Tuesday or Wednesday for Masaya, to the cheap market there. Wednesday night or evening I´ll need to get to the airport in Managua, to catch my 7am flight from MGA to MIA, clearing customs onward to LAX. I believe I arrive back in L.A. at 4:30-ish and will make the return ride home with my dad (and probably mom), straight to a Mexican restaurant for my desperately necessary post-trip burrito fix.

How I crave Mexican food, which on the whole uses better spices and far more vegetables than Nica food. Sorry Nicas, but your utter absence of any decent vegetables other than cabbage, carrots, yucca and potatoes sickens me a little. There´s also a lot of fried food and sugar-laden (albeit fresh and real) fruit juices here. What I will give Nicas (and perhaps Latin America on the whole) credit for is how fresh the food is, and therefore how flavorful, real, and healthy much of it is. This is compared to the chemical-laden, processed food of the U.S., which I´ve also tried avoiding pre-trip. I´ve also decided from here on out to only buy the best quality meat possible when market perusing. There´re just so many good reasons to splurge on high-quality meat, mainly in that it´s in every way a better idea than the super-available, super-processed cheaper meat we´re so accustomed to. The animals here taste so GOOD! They´re all from single farms and of quality breeding standards that are traditional for hundreds of years. Way to go. I will say, however, that the Nicas really hate dogs, constantly beating them and kicking them out of the way and nearly hitting them with their cars all the time. What a crazy world we live in.

Oh man, I almost forgot! Today is my 24th anniversary of birth. Not a bad place to be in my life right now. Got a lot of plans for the future, and specifically, of travelling more this year and next year. About 20 countries are on my must-do list for the next 5 years.

This is all for now, more for later. Until then, this is Drew Peters.