As it always turns out, nothing is ever simple!
As the guys took off the rear wheel to weld, I made a note to check the arm while it was easy to see. Kikki had mentioned that our camber looked off, and she was right. I wanted to check what was going on. In the end, it wasn’t necessary, when the two guys called us over to show us how the rear axle tube was now no longer attached to the chassis – that’ll do it.
We waited for a while for Freddy to locate a welder. We drove to the first shop but he wouldn’t do it, due to concerns about the close proximity of the fuel tank. With the second one we had more luck. It being a structural part, it needed some pretty heavy duty work. We spent the whole day at the garage while ruby was patched up yet again. No hope of doing the visa today. The best thing was that after three rather more expensive countries, Nicaragua was cheap again. For nearly a whole day of his time, our welder charged us about £17.
Back at Casa Inti, we had arranged to meet Nahúm and his wife Vanessa. They also had a kombi and had found us through social media and wanted to meet up. We invited them around and we had some beers and pizza they had kindly bought and a nice chat. We got some good recommendations for places to visit and hoped to see each other later at Lago Apoyo. Once again, the people of Nicaragua went out of their way to welcome us.
The next morning we got ready to retry the visa, we were now running out of time. We decided to move the camper and leave it on charge so that cats didn’t have to come and sit in the roasting van for hours, while we took a taxi. At the immigration office the process was fairly straightforward, if we hadn’t had to leave for a cash point half way through it would have taken just over an hour. However, the new ‘covid pricing’ meant that the visa was now nearly double to price. Still, in two hours it was sorted which was a load off our minds, considering that it expired the next day. We debated whether to join Hanno and Kikki on the coast, but instead decided to spend one more night here and this time relax and enjoy the pool. The last two nights it had already been dark by the time we were back.
Our quick one night stay qickly turned into three, but we left with the van in a better state and with our visas sorted, we now had three weeks to explore the rest of the country. Our next stop, Volcano Masaya.
The drive from the Nicaragua’s capital Managua, to Volcano Masaya is a short one. What should have been a meagre 15 minutes, trebled as we drove up and down in search of water. Finally sorted, we arrived at the gates just before 4.30pm, when you are allowed to enter. This is an activity for the evening.
Bruno was already parked up inside when we paid for our tickets at the entrance. Shortly after, we were allowed to drive on, up to the crater itself. The reason to visit this particular volcano is not so much for the views or the hiking, but for the lava. At night time, Masaya lights up the sky red as the lava boils in the crater below, before dark it is possible to see the lava, but to a lesser extent.
Having missed all the lava at Pacaya in Guatmela, we were excited to see this unusual sight. We arrived an hour or so before dark, and while we waited for the sun to set a local guide came and recommended that we could hike to another crater just behind.
It was only a short walk to the extinct crater of this volcano which hadn’t erupted for hundreds of years. In contrast to the stark slopes and crater of Masaya, her sister was covered in a forest.
From here we were rewarded with views over to Lago Apoyo, our next destination and the lights of Granada twinkling in the distance. As the sun set around us we looked down into the smokey depths of Masaya, from high above and imagined what it would have looked like with lava and rocks flying from the crater, when it erupted and took everyone in the car park by surprise back in 2001.
We retraced our final steps in the darkness, and made our way over to peer into the crater at last. The sides of the volcano drop steeply down what must be several hundred metres to the lava below. Now in the dark we could appreciate the red glow the lit up the smoke that billowed from the crater. In between, it was possible to view the lava boiling below. Needless to say, it was a pretty hard thing to get any kind of photograph off, so you’ll have to take our word for it that it was definitely impressive.
Apparently, there used to be quite a strict time limit for remaining at this upper parking lot. Initially I thought it would be great if we were allowed to camp here, so much further from the busy road. However after standing in the acrid smoke from the crater for 10 minutes, I no longer had any desire to be there. The smoke filled your lungs making you cough and covered your skin so that it was a bit sticky to the touch afterwards. No doubt this was doing wonders for our health and it wasn’t long before we headed back down to the bottom.
Hanno and Kikki planned to stay here in the bottom car park, but it was directly on the main road and that meant we couldn’t let the cats out. It was also pretty noisy. With Lago Apoyo being only half an hour away, we decided to head there for a more peaceful night.
We were only a matter of minutes from the free spot. We pulled up to a t–junction and waited for the car coming to go past us. Unfortunately for us, that didn’t quite happen. We watched as in slow motion, it drove straight into the front of us. As we had been stationary, and they had been turning it was a very slow accident, but still enough to smash our indicator and dent in the front panel.
Everyone piled out. Lee reckoned the driver had been drinking as he was spied hastily chugging some water in the background and they didn’t want to call the police. They tried a few excuses, saying they thought we were a motorbike because one of the side lights was out, despite the fact it was a well lit street. I stupidly didn’t think that while the sidelight was indeed out, the headlights both were working fine. Eventually, they admitted it was their fault anyway and agreed to meet up tomorrow and take us to a garage to have it fixed.
We were glad they had been reasonable about it, but still annoyed it had even happened. It would have been so easily avoidable. We exchanged numbers and headed off to our free spot, not having quite the restful night we had pictured as it then occurred to us that we had been rather trusting in simply swapping numbers and driving off.
Finally, we set up camp. After checking out the first free spot and watching one of the restaurant dogs bite Lee, we decided to head further down a much rougher track to a quiet place. While there were a couple of points that were hard not to bash parts of the camper on, it was worth it. Down here we were away from nasty bitey dogs and in a quiet spot to ourselves.
In the morning, they did in fact message us and we met up and drove into the town together. They took us to a garage and paid for the work to be done, before heading off. It was a shame really, as they seemed like nice people and had been pretty honest about the whole thing, that the body shop person was terrible. He was very keen for us to leave, telling us to come back at 5pm. We went for a wander around the market before returning to collect the cats out of what was turning into an oven and dropping off Lee’s latest purchase that there definitely wasn’t space for.
The body shop guy told us that he hadn’t been able to pull out the dent because the heater channelling was in the way, yes we knew that. You would hope a body shop might have actually had some tools but what they had done was slap a load of filler on it. Then we pointed out that he hadn’t done anything about the other dent, caused when the spare wheel had been hit. He agreed to take the wheel off and fix that too and we headed to a nearby restaurant with a garden for our melting cats.
We were enjoying a nice hummus appetizer when Lee got a message. Apparently the workshop were now saying that we had authorized a different repair for additional money. Lee went back to sort it out, the family just agreeing to pay as it was pretty clear it was all done at the same time, just that the nasty little body shop guy was trying to take everyone for a ride. When we returned at the end of the day, he was adamant that he hadn’t stolen anything from the van. We kind of hoped that was a given. He showed us the new front. It was very shiny and newly painted, but a terrible job! Ruby’s still looked a bit like someone had punched her in the face, but as we had some rust on the panel that would need attention soon… we left it at that.
It was irritating to deal with someone who cared only about the money and nothing about the quality. I still look at the front months later and get the urge to grab some sandpaper and sort it out properly.
At least it would prevent rust for the meantime, and so we headed back to our free spot. The family had kindly invited us to a barbeque and so we decided to make some veggies options to take with us. When we arrived outside it appeared there had been an error in communication and they meant tomorrow. We wound back down the rather steep hill to the lakeside once more.
Our free spot was nice, a little bit of trash around, but pretty level and pretty quiet. It was a matter of metres away from the shore of the lake, whose bright clear blue waters were perfect for a swim. The only problem with it was that it was in the shade. While we had left Managua with fully charged batteries, a few days in the shade meant that we were soon running on empty and we resorted to the generator. Hanno and Kiki stayed nearby on a paid site while we attempted to save some money remaining where we were.
After puffing my way up Cerro Negro, I decided that it would be a shame to loose the slight fitness we had acquired with the hiking we had been doing. We needed to buy data in town, having been told the night before that you could only buy Claro packages in the morning. Instead of driving the van up the hill, I decided we should hike. It was not a particularly long route, but it was uphill all the way. We were rewarded with some rather nice views through the trees as we ascended a small footpath in the forest.
Luckily, we were mostly in the shade but that didn’t stop Lee being able to wring his t-shirt out at the end. At least this time we managed to buy some data, it’s pretty frustrating to not have access to the internet when you need a map or to check up on something. Having said that, the other things that out lake spot lacked as well as sun was signal.
That evening we turned up for the barbecue. We spent a pleasant couple of hours chatting to the family and enjoying the killer view they had over the lake.
We learnt that buying a property like this was surprisingly affordable too, we could have swapped our house in England for this one. As our hosts were all heading back to their home in Miami the following morning, we left before too long and decided to spend one last night at our spot before heading to Granada the next morning.