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What Makes Managua’s Airport Unique?

airportsouvenirs
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Nicaragua has been deemed the next “it destination” in Central America. While the purpose of many travelers’ visits to Central America’s largest country is to experience the volcanoes, lakes, beaches, wildlife, and culture–the first and last impressions of the country may be the most important. And where do those impressions take place? Unless you’re coming by foot or boat, Augusto C. Sandino International Airport. Here are three unforgettable features of Nicaragua’s main airport located in Managua.

Handmade, Not Hudson News: The backdrop of the hustle and bustle of black suits, is a colorful sea of handmade souvenirs. No chain stores or shops here, just stalls featuring authentic Nicaraguan handicrafts that will leave you wanting to shop for even your extended family members! And a wallet in the airport is $8–the same price you’ll pay in a local market. Same price as outside the airport? That’s unheard of.

High-Quality Chocolate at a Low Price: After getting your fill of free samples, a specialty chocolate bar made with Nicaraguan cacao will only set you back $1.76.  We can’t think of any other airports that offer artisanal chocolate for less than $2. And you can feel good about supporting a local company–Momotombo is founded by a Nicaraguan who is using the same cacao his grandfather used!



 

 

More Breakfast Bang for Your Buck: Sure they smell good, but how filling is a Cinnabon roll? At MGA, you can get a huge and hearty Nicaraguan breakfast including eggs, plantains, beans, rice, cheese, sausage, orange juice and coffee for only $3!

 

Note: A version of this piece was published at Stuck At The Airport.  

 


 

 

Exclusive Interview: Esteban Tells All!

Esteban before he gets his beauty sleep.
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If there was a cutest animal competition in Costa Rica or Nicaragua, we’d bet our colones or cordobas on the sloth. That face. Those eyes. That button nose. Claws down, the white-faced monkey will have to settle for runner up. Here at Morgan’s Rock Eco-Lodge in Nicaragua, we’ve had the pleasure of getting to know Esteban, a sloth that sleeps in a tree just outside the lobby.

Esteban before he gets his beauty sleep.

After months of nagging, today we finally landed an exclusive interview with Esteban! Here’s what went down:

Irene respects Esteban’s need for rest. Sloths sleep between 15-20 hours a day!

GS: Hola Esteban, thanks for agreeing to hang out & talk to us today. We can’t help but notice your heavy coat. Aren’t you hot? It’s 90 degrees here in San Juan Del Sur! 

Esteban: Hola GreenSpot. If I’m going to do an interview, it’s going to be for GreenSpot travelers. ‘Nuff said. And this old thing? Well it’s not exactly “my coat.” In rainy season it’s home to a whole ecosystem. In fact, one of my buddies had 950 beetles living on him once! It’s because we have algae growing on us. I had to evict a few moths today. Yes. I’m hot which is why I asked that we do this in the shade of my favorite tree. 

 GS: Seriously? That’s wild. You seem so motionless all the time.  We‘re actually surprised to see you’re not napping! What’s the occasion?

Esteban: (Asks if he can say this off the record. GS says no.) I’m just getting ready to take my weekly trip to the bathroom.

GS: Wow, you only go to the bathroom once a week?

Esteban: Yes. We’re not the fastest of creatures and spending time on ground is dangerous especially in the jungle where predators can be found. So we spend most of our time in trees and only go to the bathroom once a week. It also has to do with our diet.

GS: Oh, that’s interesting. Do you mind telling us what’s in your diet?

Esteban: Not at all. We eat leaves, fruit, and Twigs.

GS: You still eat Twigs? We thought Nabisco discontinued them years ago.

Esteban: (eyeroll)

GS: Before you go back to sleep for another 18 hours, is there anything about your species that you want to share with GreenSpot travelers?

Esteban: Sure. We weren’t always small. Our ancestors were huge and some as big as elephants. Back then, thousands of years ago, we even lived on the ground. And not just in Latin America. We also were known to chill in North America. Go Yankees!

GS: That’s fascinating. And you like baseball? 

Hang on a second! And just where do you think you’re going?

Esteban: Love it. It’s the national sport here in Nicaragua.

GS: That’s right. The national sport of Costa Rica is soccer, but you folks prefer baseball. Is it also true you follow the sport of swimming?

Esteban: That rumor IS true. Sloths are no good on the ground, but we’re great swimmers. Well, maybe not as great as Phelps & Lochte…

GS: Haha. Well, look we won’t keep you any longer from your weekly bathroom break, so thanks a bunch for sharing with GreenSpot travelers today. We hope to introduce many of them to you in person one day.

Esteban: That would be cool. Can’t wait. You know where to find me. Well, except that one day a week…

 GS: True! And you know where to find us if you need anything. Twitter @GreenSpotTravel  

 

El Sano Banano: Home of the Mocha Chiller

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Two words describe my favorite thing to consume in Costa Rica, and they’re not “gallo” and “pinto.” Rather, “mocha” and “chiller.” I first read about the Mocha Chiller in a Costa Rican guide book, but by no means did I plan my first trip around trying one. After the first taste, I now plan my trips to Costa Rica around this delightful drink served at El Sano Banano in the small beach town of Montezuma. El Sano Banano translates into the healthy banana, and much of their food is healthy. I’m going to consider the Mocha Chiller to be a healthy alternative to a shake since it’s made with homemade frozen yogurt. I’m not yet privy to the exact recipe, but I’m told the other ingredients are espresso and homemade chocolate syrup.

 

In addition to their drinks El Sano Banano serves incredible food, and their menu is like nothing I’ve seen elsewhere in Costa Rica. In addition to the typical Costa Rican fare, they serve sushi, sandwiches made with fresh-baked brown bread, colorful salads, and desserts showcasing their homemade frozen yogurt and baked goods.

 

At El Sano Banano vegetarians can mingle with meat lovers while watching a free movie on their projector. Every night they play a movie, often new releases in English, but you’d better show up early if you want a seat. Otherwise, they have outdoor seating on their front and back decks where you can people-watch. Actually, you’re far more likely to be plate-watched as people passing by will do double takes at the sight of your food. For dessert, indulge in the Mocha Chiller or another one of their specialty drinks. In my dreams El Sano Banano has free refills…

 Photos: A collage of a FEW of the MC photos in my extensive collection. The chicken sandwich served on homemade brown bread with homemade honey dijon mustard and homemade pickles! If you choose to sit on the back balcony, you’ll share the ocean view with the birds who like to help with breakfast service. Speaking of birds, the early bird gets a good seat at movie night to watch Argo. 


Our Ladies of Chachagua

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Chachagua. It sounds like the name of Chewbaca’s sister, but it’s actually a town in Costa Rica.  Despite its proximity to Arenal volcano, it’s a pass-through place and tourists seldom stop here. However, GreenSpot knows it’s a must-see for travelers looking to experience an authentic Costa Rican community.

When I found out I would be visiting Irene’s mother, Dona Mara, who lives in Chachagua, I was intrigued despite not being able to find it on any maps. Upon arriving late at night by bus, I was worried since I had no idea where Dona Mara lived or even her last name. But, perhaps the best thing about small towns is that everybody knows everybody. My worries disappeared after I asked four different people where Dona Mara lived, and each of them gave me the same directions. Across from the school and next to the yucca plant.

The best way to get to know a new place is to walk it, and that’s why I took Dona Mara up on her offer to join her and her lady friends on their morning walk around Chachagua. None of them speak English, but with my basic Spanish, I was able to find out that they walk every day of the week at 7am for ninety minutes.

No sooner then after we had turned down the old dirt road, Dona Mara began rambling. Five minutes later, it seemed she was still in the middle of a monologue. Naturally, I thought this was odd. Especially since there was little inflection in her voice, and the story she seemed to be telling was far from animated or interesting. Why didn’t the other ladies interrupt her and change the subject? Of course, I didn’t know what she was saying because it was in rapid Spanish. About the time she passed some beads to one of the other ladies who immediately launched into her own monologue, I realized that they were saying the rosary. Richard had told me to expect small town gossip during the walk, which admittedly I was looking forward to, but instead, the walk began with prayer.

 

It was a surreal sanctification of sorts—to be speedwalking in the Costa Rican countryside while praying in another language with three local women. It’s normal for them as they do this every day, but for this traveler, it was an honor and the highlight of my trip to tag along. While you won’t find the Rambling Mara in any guidebooks (yet), we would be happy to set you up with this enlightening experience/exercise on your next trip to Costa Rica.

 

 

 

 

(Photos: The Catholic church in Chachagua. Dona Mara has the keys & gave me a private tour. She was in charge of decorating the church for Lent. Bottom, the papaya plantation we passed on our walk. No surprise that our post-walk snack was very refreshing fruit!)

 

 

 

Greenland – The Land Of ???

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Perhaps, ice, halibut, sled dogs, boat rides, cold days? One thing I was sure about was that I was going to see some icebergs** and glaciers – indeed I did. Didn’t really know what else to expect, really.

Whenever I have the opportunity to go someplace new, I always want to interact with the locals and learn more about them more than anything.  Maybe it is nosiness (yes I’m nosy… but prefer to call it curious). But for some reason here in Greenland, I just didn’t feel the need to do so. Maybe because that activity is self-explanatory and my sub-consciousness understood that before I even tried to get into it. I guess that having your home located 69 degrees north the equator just makes you a bit conservative and distant, but at the same time interesting enough to have people from all over the world come and visit you. While overlooking the sun setting on the horizon of the partially frozen Atlantic, we were discussing what interested us most about coming to Greenland – for me it was the remoteness of the place. The scenery is just beautiful, and open.

No obstruction, no trees, no mountains, just low vegetation and a contrast of
colors (fall colors) which blend with the solid rock that works as the base, for housing and walking trails.

Our new operator friends in the area took us around for a few days – evening boat rides, local community visits, and an overnight at an ice camp. To be more specific, the Eqi Ice Camp, located 5 hours by boat from Ilulissat. Eqi Glacier is more than 3.4 km wide and the average height from the bed to the top is about 200 meters, of which 30 to 80 meters are above the water’s surface. The views from the very comfortable and well-equipped ‘huts’ are unreal. When the glacier is calving, that powerful noise and performance just makes you stop whatever you are doing. In fact, the last morning while we here hiking around by ourselves (and when I say by ourselves, I mean nobody else around for miles and miles, except the other guests back at the camp) that glacier was so active and noisy that I was stopping every 5 minutes trying to convince myself that the thing wasn’t coming down completely. I guess it is its natural cycle, but definitely it seems that man is hurrying the process more than needed. As I took my last breathtaking views of such a giant piece of ice, I felt overwhelmed with happiness thinking that when I was a kid, playing around barefoot with my sisters in our muddy backyard, we took our dolls on imaginary trips to the land where there was just snow and big chunks of ice, but never pictured ourselves going there. And here I was sitting on top of a huge rock looking at that big chunk of ice. Then sadness came, as I wished everybody could have the opportunity to sit right here and see the beauty of the glacier, and understand that we have to take better care of our natural resources (sigh).

** English is not my first language, but I have managed to learn it. Although, this doesn’t mean that I still don’t make mistakes. And it seems that my family really enjoys when I create my own pronunciation for some words, especially when I come up with new words in English. As we were exploring one of the trails, I said “Husband – I really liked seeing all of those iceburgers” and that was enough to have him describe to me more than an hour his different versions of what he thought an iceburger would look like. Laughs took over the sounds of the ice calving.

Now, I’ll let you create your own version of an iceburger…

More pictures and updates on GreenSpot’s Facebook page “travelMemoirs”

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