Showering here could be a shocking experience

By Vicki Barnes

Of the things we’ve done without on our trek – television, air conditioning, telephones, washing machines – there is one thing that Steve says he misses one thing more than any of those: a hot shower.

Frankly, with temperatures in the upper 90s most days, I find a cool shower feels far more refreshing.image

It is rare in a hostel to find hot water. A shower here is a place to wash off the grime you have collected during the day. It is not a place to luxuriate under a cascade of warmth.

It is not just hostels where hot water is difficult to find, most of the residents in Central America can not afford a water heater for their home, much less the electricity necessary to heat that cylinder of water and to maintain it at a high temperature. Continue reading

Top 10 things I learned in Leon today

By Vicki Barnes

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Supervising repairs on your sidewalk

1. If the sidewalk in front of your residence is broken, you are responsible for fixing it – or hiring someone else to do it. And, you had better supervise their work to be sure it gets done. This 3 by 5 foot project has been going on for the four days we have been here. It was still unfinished  as of this evening. You don’t have to fix the walk, but you can’t make a call to the city to have the work done.

2. If you are riding a motorcycle with a pair of propane tanks strapped to the back, you need only honk your horn and everyone else in the  intersection will come to a grinding halt and you can pass though without even slowing down. Continue reading

Nothing to fear, but the volcano itself…

By Vicki Barnes

The crew of intrepid volcano boarders assembles at the foot of Cerro Negro

The crew of intrepid volcano boarders assembles at the foot of Cerro Negro

There, before us, is a half a mile tall pile of rubble and ash, a place where the earth rumbled and cracked open and spit out fire from its core. Fire and molten rock shot from this place and when it cooled, it left this beautiful thing we call a volcano. Continue reading

Don’t look up

By Vicki Barnes

It’s amazing that I have seen anything in Nicaragua.

Walking through town, one hops from sidewalk to street and back, depending on traffic, the placement of impromptu stores or where a group has gathered for a chat. Cars are sometimes parked on the sidewalk while the streets are clear.

A walk becomes a dance…a precarious one. Moving both forward and sideways simultaneously. Jumping while moving ahead. Stopping and going to the side…all at once.

All the while, there are hazards like this three foot deep hole, unmarked and without warning. You have to be prepared for these extra dancers on the way while still keeping an eye on the world around you.

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Getting high in Granada

By Vicki Barnes

One of the best ways to experience the city of Granada in Nicaragua is to get high.

High, that is, above the city in the bell tower of the Iglesia La Merced.

The view of the cathedral from the bell tower at Iglesia La Merced

The view of the cathedral from the bell tower at Iglesia La Merced

The iconic church, just a few blocks from the central park, is a beautiful spot to see at ground level, but when you change your perspective, it becomes an even more amazing trip.

Only about six stories high, the observation platform is high enough in a city where only the churches rise above two stories. From the vantage point near the top of the bell tower, you can see the surrounding volcanoes, the central square and cathedral, Lake Nicaragua and every red tiled roof in the city. (It’s fun to try to guess under which roof you are sleeping that night as they are identical.) Continue reading

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Parking is no problemo in Granada

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Swimming in a volcano

imageBy Vicki Barnes

When someone asks if you want to go swimming in the crater of a volcano, you’ll probably think they’ve lost their mind.

If the volcano is Apayo, a half an hour car ride from Granada, Nicaragua, you should immediately take them up on their offer. This volcano is practically extinct.

The last time it erupted was well before the current age, though there is still an active fumarole (an opening in the earth that emits steam and gas) on the western side of the crater, which means it is only sleeping – sleeping very deeply. Continue reading

Final farewell on a crowded highway


This funeral procession passed in front of our hostel on the Pan American Highway. The horse-drawn carriage is the typical way to bring the deceased to his final resting place. Those who can afford the much more expensive trip, can make their final trip in an automobile.
Behind the carriage, the mourners walked slowly just before sunset, while rush hour traffic zipped by, ignoring the procession on their way home for the evening.
Some commuters on foot rushed across the street and walked heads down on the opposite side of the street. Bicyclists and motorcyclist evacuated the area as quickly as possible. Occasionally, someone crossed themself before moving on.
We’re told the funerals draw little attention because horse-drawn carts are common in Granada. A slow-moving group, walking behind a cart is mostly a nuisance rather than a moment of respect.

Anything you want, in one chaotic place

By Vicki Barnes

The kids used to tell me that I was missing the “shopping gene”. Unlike most women, I hate shoppimg.

I usually lack the time, the financial resources and the patience to go to the mall or the box store and wander through neat rows in tidy stores looking for who-knows-what. Continue reading

Eating cheap in an unusual place

By Vicki Barnes

Dining in the museum is a sweet experience

Dining in the museum is a sweet experience

A chocolate museum is something bound to catch the eye of any woman…and most men.

A few blocks off the central square in Granada, Nicaragua the Choco Museo (chocolate museum) is a shrine to the favorite sweet of most of the world. It is a place to learn and a place to indulge. Continue reading