So I arrived in Grenada on...Saturday? That sounds about right, it's Wednesday already (though I probably won't finish writing this till tomorrow or later) so I have been here for near a week.
When I first arrived in Grenada, all I had was the name of a hostel recommended by a girl I met back in Ometepe, Hostal Entre Amigos. It was not mentioned in my guide book at all, nor Kim's Lonely Planet (which I pawned off of him for $10, he's back in Swiss by now btw) but I had just bought a Nicaraguan Sim card back in Rivas, and it happened to have come with 30 days free 3G. I googled it, and found a page on Trip Advisor. There was no address or directions that I could find, and google maps stink down here anyway, but it gave the street name and the fact that it was half a block from a firehouse. I set off asking little ladies where the street was, some said this way, some said that way. One said it was in Managa..I remembered hearing Paddy at the last hostel chatting with the girl who recommended Entre Amigos, and hearing them discuss how it was close to his hostel, The Bearded Monkey. I looked for that and found my hostel tucked behind a hand made gifts shop right next to Entre Amigos.
I checked in to this new little hostel, to find a layout not unlike my old Villa in Antigua. A brightly colored little courtyard, two covered couch areas, cable tv and tons of DVDs, lockers, free water, coffee, a decent kitchen, and full size bunk beds. All for $6 a night. No breakfast included, no restaurant/bar, and no Hammocks. That last one's a killer.
Anyway, I've been quite happy here. It's very very clean, cool, sunny/shady, and I have had good luck making friends with other guests. Cesar, the owner (?) is great, very helpful and friendly.
The folks at this hostel have been pretty great. I've made friends with two Italian girls (Gulia and Zosi), a Panamanian guy (Chris), an older Canadian (Michael), a German (Lucas), an English chef (Sean), a Portuguese guy (Joao), and a Colombian (Pipe). The European guys and I hung out together pretty much from they arrived until the time they left (which was a sad tender moment), the Colombian guy as well.
The first day they were here we went out in a big hostel pack to the mega-touristy part of town, some of us went home earlier (it was to be my first day of Spanish class), while the three European guys found a bar with a C$150 cover and an open bar. That's a good deal, but I didn't have any money after my wallet was taken. Anyway, the next day I got up at 8am and went to Spanish class until 1230pm. When I got back, they were just getting up and moving after sleeping off the previous night's party. We had a market day, and bought the necessaries for a giant vat of spaghetti bolognese. It was great all cooking together, everyone taking a job and eager to contribute. And it was cool cooking with professional chef---I have been doing some serious pondering about my own chefly desires lately...maybe on a boat?
We also all split tons of refreshments for the evening, and played cards till the early morning. Durac. Its a Russian game of some kind that the German taught us. Similar to A$$hole, but also like war, and a bit like poker, but not really like any of those, it was a great way to spent the evening...so we repeated that again the following night. And the one after that, and the next afternoon.
The second day, I made a desayuno tipico for the guys. Huevos, frijoles, plátanos maduros, and arroz. Then we cratered Volcan Masaya, a giant crater filled with secondary craters within, as well as an entire lake. The whole volcano sits within a preservation area. It was a cool view from the top too, we could see the other volcanoes all across the country, as well as Lago de Apoyo by Managua. Unfortunately, we couldn't climb the volcano, for the most part. We had to pay an entrance fee (tourist price C$150, locals C$30) that included bus transport to the lot at the top. We could, however, climb to the rim of the crater, which provided superior views. It's a very active site, so they made us wear helmets...I guess to throw at the lava if it erupted.
The bus wasn't coming, so we hitched to the town of Masaya, and got on the camionetta back to Grenada from there. That night we made a huge vat of beef stew, like the English make it: beef, potatoes, more potatoes, onions, mir poix (sp?), in a red wine reduction, plus yucca and we found a curry/cumin spice. Very heavy and very good. We drank Bravah and Flor de Caña.
Day three together, I got back from Spanish classes around 1230pm and we reheated the vat of leftover stew, reduced it and dropped in some eggs to poach in the reduction. Then Cesar, our dueño, hooked us up with an afternoon bike rental. We rode down the calzada to the lake, then south to a peninsula in Lago Nicaragua. Aas we went further and further down, it went from touristy waterfront, to country farms, until it was totally a planet apart from Grenada. We arrived at the tip to find a community centered around a covered area, encircled by cinderblock and tin structures, docks all around. Little kids peered out at us from behind trees and walls. I asked a man about renting a boat and purchasing some refreshments, and he took out his phone right away to call up a boat. For C$300, we got a nice large launcha and a driver for an hour. He piloted us around the lake and las islettas while we enjoyed some Toñas, the sun, and the company of an 11 year old local kid who was along for the ride.
Afterwards, we rode the bikes around the peninsula some more and then made our way back to the hostel. Perhaps we were riding the rental bikes a bit harder than advised; upon return we had one tangled chain, one broken seat, a destroyed rear gear set, and a broken chain lock. Instead of paying for the damage, he apologized and gave us a discount :)
That night we made a giant vat of mashed potatoes, another giant vat of crispy home fried potatoes, chicken cutlets, and stir-fried peppers and onions. I learned how to deglaze a pan to make an excellent gravy. We drank more Bravah and more Flor de Caña, and played more cards.
Day four, everyone but me left. I don't remember where the Italian girls went, but Pipe went to San Juan del Sur, and the European guys went to Leon. It would be great to hang out again in this trip, but it's always a pain to try to plan it and it never works out. Lets hope the universe has plans for us again. Meanwhile, we made one more meal together, chicken sofrito with penne, played cards until they couldn't afford to miss any other buses, then said our farewells.
I took a nap and awoke to find a new crop of dormers, however they have mostly all moved on again, after just one night.
I spent last night hanging out with a Dutch girl, raised in Spain, living in California. We went to the market this afternoon, I took care of finding some money and are about to make dinner now.
Ps. Ma, thanks for helping me out with the Western Union!