Nicknamed La Gran Sultana due to it’s slightly Moorish and Andalusian appearance, Granada isn’t a bad place to spend a few days. If you’re driving and looking for somewhere to free camp the night, one option is to head to the lakeside area of Centro Turistico. Don’t be fooled by the gate keeper trying to pretend you’re a truck or bus…with only two people in our van we handed him the Q50 entrance fee which the other 4WD’s were paying and wouldn’t take no for an answer.
Whilst we’re sure you could camp here overnight without any problems, you could also camp here and run into loads of problems. The beaches gets rowdy with local families on the weekends, who mostly depart when the sun goes down and the disco’s open. It’s a little shady as we noticed when we drove through the entrance gate and came across two guys stumbling along absolutely wasted struggling between them to hold onto their sales board of sunglasses. We felt safer parked up on a quiet side street just off the main plaza, and did so for two nights without issue.
Along with being the largest freshwater lake in Central America, Lake Nicaragua also scores points for creepiness. This is one of only two freshwater lakes in the world where you can find bull sharks. Hands up who wants to guess if we swam out further than a few feet?? Ok so the floating rubbish and dirty brown colour of the water put us off first, but who wants to swim in a lake with a maximum depth of 40ft inhabited by some of the unfriendliest sharks in the world?
These beasts grow up to 11ft and have regularly killed people in the Brisbane river back home in Oz, not to mention they’ve been clocked swimming 2,600 ridiculous miles up the Amazon, so they can easily make the 120 mile trip up the San Juan River to join their mates from the salty Caribbean. All without breaking a fresh-to-salt-water sweat…well, they don’t sweat, they just pee a lot more to compensate for the change to fresh water. Great, a lake full of shark piss. Diving in we washed off for the day…ok no seriously, do you really need another reason not to swim here??
At around 4:30pm the local kids have tired of making human pyramids in the shallow waves, and we watched as an old school bus which had been parked up on the street became gradually packed with people, as did the small pickup truck next to it. We counted no less than 12 plastic chairs, 10 straw mats, a couple of folding deck chairs, 14 people and a baby cram into something the size of a Toyota Hilux. We also watched from the comfort of our kitchen as a local guy who’d stumbled up and dumbed a block of hash in Matt’s lap earlier stumbled back and tried to bang on our window asking for money…or food…or a lighter…or a tomato…we have no idea as you couldn’t understand a word he’d said. Obviously over indulged in his own wares earlier in the day.
Packing up as the sun went down, we joined the local exodus and headed back into town to Espressonista Specialty Coffee Bar, another cool venue with quaint colonial interior courtyard. The cafe culture here is nothing like that in the colonial town of Antigua in Guatemala, but if you look for it you can find funky places dotted around amongst the shops which are all fenced up with bars. The decor here is a mix of old colonial finds and wooden bric and brac mixed with modern paintings and a chessboard tiled floor. Whilst a little overpriced the service was great and the atmosphere relaxing.
We spent our last day in town riding around to find the last set of Dodge brake pads in town before getting a local mechanic to fit them for us in his front yard whilst we enjoyed huge Nicaraguan style tamales up the road. Brakes fixed, we hit the road south.
Check out Flickr for some shark free Nicaraguan photos.