Well, it was time for the 'ol annual fishing trip and, after pondering over the locations and fishing value of the inaugural Tamarindo and sophomore Mazatlan trips of the last two years, and after consultation with Engelsman, I decided that we needed to let fishing take a back seat to a little RR&D (Rest, Relaxation and Drinking). This year, it would be San Juan del Sur.
It was the usual suspects, minus Trent, Giovanni, Doug and Arrigo. This year, we had three new expedition members, Gary Perkins, Steve Whitlow and my father, E.J. Miller, Jr. All but Jay and Whitlow flew out of Alexandria. Steve met the Alexandria crew in Houston and Jay flew directly to Managua, via Miami, arriving several hours ahead of everyone else. In case you were wondering, the movie on the way down was "Elektra" starring Jennifer Garner. It was, hands down, the stupidest movie that I have ever seen.
My aunt and uncle, Roger and Lorena Miranda, met us at the airport in Managua and after renting what Nicaruaguans consider to be a full-size van, with the words "TOURISTS" written in large letters all over it (it actually said "DOLLAR," which may actually be worse), and enduring the dutiful flyspecking of the vehicle before the Thrifty guy would let me check it out, we were on our way to Masaya, via Tipitapa, a route I had never traveled before, and it showed.
Ah, there's nothing like traveling in an inconspicuous vehicle.
We wanted to get something to eat at a restaurant in Masaya but we arrived there at night, I got lost, and while looking for the restaurant, everything closed down except for the Esso station. So we grabbed a few snacks and headed to my aunt's and uncle's home on the Apoyo crater lake.
The house at Apoyo (referred to hereinafter simply as "Apoyo") sits on the rim of a caldera, an extinct volcanic crater that has filled with rain water. I first visited this home for my cousin Roger's wedding in 2000. Shortly after Roger got married, the priest died, his boss was defeated in the presidential election and an earthquake caused severe damage to the Apoyo house. After all the wedding aftershocks settled and Roger moved to Belgium, my aunt and uncle remodeled and it is truly beautiful place. Having a drink on the balcony of that house and taking a dip in the small pool that my cousin recently built there as penance for all the damage he caused is something everyone should get to do when they visit Nicaragua.
Steve striking a pose at Apoyo
Apoyo is at a relatively high elevation and so there is really little need for air conditioning. When you don't need airconditioning, you realize that glass windows are largely unnecessary and this logic finally gets you to a house that is mostly open to the outside air. The rain can't get in, but that's about all. After we arrived, we had a few beers and went to bed.
The rooster's in Nicaragua are so glad to be there that they start crowing about their good fortune around 4:30 in the morning. Remember that "open to the outside air" stuff? Well, you can't ignore it anymore at 4:30 when you have the beginnings of a pretty good hangover. Luckily no-one drank too much and almost everyone got to see the sunrise, that is unless they were still in denial about how many roosters are in the middle of nowhere of Nicaragua.
Once everyone took in the view, explored a little and ate breakfast, we packed up and headed for Catarina to see the Mirador (Lookout) there. From Catarina, you get a very good look at the Apoyo "Lagoon." After the short stop there we headed for Mombacho. However, before getting out of town I got pulled over by the local policia for the "infraccion" of making a U-turn. Apparently that is illegal in Nicaragua. At first, the officer let me know that I could retrieve my license in 15 days in Managua, which I translated to mean in 7 days at the DMV in Alexandria (I kept this to myself of course). But, after radioing in, the officer decided to have pity on us tourists and let me go with a warning. It was actually very nice of him and he was professional throughout, refusing our offer to "pay the fine" on the spot.
After that we were headed to either the jungle canopy tour or the tour of the crater at the top of Mombacho.
Mombacho, an extinct volcano south of Managua