The colourful colonial town of Granada is one of Nicaragua’s main tourist draws. Low buildings splashed with paint in every shade of the rainbow line cobblestone streets, people on bikes and on foot lazily ambling in the heat while active volcanoes loom in the not-so-distant background. After hiking through Mombacho volcano’s cloud forest, my travel companion and I were deposited in the historic centre of town.
The throngs of tourists the travel literature promised were nowhere to be seen. We settled into our casa, cozy rooms dotted around a courtyard with a shallow pool, reminiscent of the riads we loved so much in Morocco. We walked the sun-drenched streets without aim, settling in to the slow pace of life. On occasion we passed small squares with pretty trees and fountains at their centres. Our meanderings took us to Iglesia de Merced, a church was originally built in the 16th century, destroyed by pirates, and rebuilt in the late 1700s. It was damaged and repaired yet again in the mid-1800s. For the price of a mere dollar, we climbed the narrow stairwell to the top of the bell tower for the famous postcard views of the low-slung buildings with Mombacho to the south and Lake Nicaragua to the east. The rooftop is small and the bell is never far from your ears. As I was serenely enjoying the views, the giant bell was rung violently by men out of my sight, causing my head to spin for hours afterward.
Cloud forest – before deciding to go to Nicaragua I had never heard this enchanting term. I was immediately intrigued and knew I had to experience whatever it was. I imagined myself trekking up a lush green mountainside with perfect, fluffy white clouds languishing and floating past. Reality wasn’t that far off. Mombacho Volcano, one of Nicaragua’s 19 volcanoes, is the home to one of these rare cloud forests. Only 30km from Laguna de Apoyo and 10km from Granada, it is the perfect place for a daytrip when traveling between the two. I’ve always been intrigued by volcanoes. One of my favourite memories is hiking Italy’s Mount Vesuvius, and I would never pass up the opportunity to hike on one.
Over the course of six years, in pursuit of a personal travel goal, I traveled to 32 countries (some more than once), spent approximately 38 weeks abroad (not counting local trips), and spent thousands upon thousands of dollars. It was amazing, and exhausting, to say the least. On my 25th birthday I set a goal to travel to 30 countries before I turned 30, and on a four-week trip to Europe in September 2014, I achieved it. Yet two months after returning home, the itch was back. No matter how hard I ever try to return to a normal life, focus on saving money and relaxing, the wanderlust always comes back. So, on Boxing Day 2014, I booked a trip to Nicaragua.