Watching white throated magpie jays eating papayas off of a tree; a baby howler monkey hanging on the back of it's mother; a skeptical crocodile slithering into the river; a hummmingbird guarding an egg in its nest next to a pristine waterfall; the flight of a blue morhpo floating through the cloud forest; spotting the illusive guardabarranco - national bird of Nicaragua; pondering for hours over the identity of a mysterious looking emerald toucannette we could only see lying on our backs; eating lunch with a kingfisher; bird-nerding by the pool at Hotel Las Mercedes; or, enamoring the beautiful trogons - family of the quetzal…wildlife-watching was definitely a theme on our recent travels through Nicaragua with my Dad and Mary Therese. (My dad likes to pick out themes for our trips. His visit with me and Brad in New Jersey last January focused on George Washington. We followed a trail of sites in New Jersey commemorating the revolutionary war and Washington's presence in the area. Although we had been living in the area for many years (of course Brad is a native) these sites had slipped from our imagination of places to see. But seeing these parts of New Jersey with a history enthusiast only added to my appreciation of NJ). Similarly, my Dad and Mary Therese's time here opened up a whole new excitement about being in Nicaragua. They are tirelessly enthusiastic about all things, from coffee tasting at SOLCAFE to the magnificence of a young waiter's slick-back hair at the Italian Restaurant; melon-watermelon fruit drinks to the volcanoes. Aside from the bounty of having time together, their visit was the prefect blend of heavy duty exploration and much needed relaxation.
We began the journey locally, in the mountainous coffee region (learning about coffee from plant to cup from Bradley and company), and hiked out to a remote indigenous community with a local guide who runs the tourism project where I teach English. While in San Ramon we had a steady stream of friends stopping by to meet my Dad and Mary Terese; they stayed in our house for three nights. After our Northern stay we headed West to Leon where we contemplated murals and international art, and studied the life of Rubin Dario and other poets. We slipped away for two days to a quiet beach-side hotel. We enjoyed the beach and the surf, Dad and Brad had a great time swimming among the waves. One afternoon we took a tour of a wildlife refuge ajoining the beach town of Las Penitas where we saw abundant wild-life including some crocodiles. Zipping along in a small boat among the mangroves was a super experience. Next we went further south - guarding the luggage in the back of our truck with certain vigilance - to the pristine crater lake of Laguna de Apoyo. Apoyo is 200 meters deep - the deepest point in Central America - and its water is chock full of minerals. We stayed for a night in a hotel, went for a hike and swam in the lake. After our Apoyo outing we made the final trip to Granada where we stayed in an old colonial home and ate both one of the best and the worst meals on the trip (or as my dad would cheerly say, "the best paella I've ever had in Granada"). Our last day was very relaxing...first we stared into depths of a live, fuming volcano and then sat by the pool in the hotel. Up to the last minute dad was bird watching, and by the end of the trip we were all converts. Despite it being incredibly sad to say goodbye, I am glad we shared this adventure together.