Apoyo Lagoon – Crater Lake Near Catarina Nicaragua

On the road to Catarina, Nicaragua.

It’s a rule of the tour guide. Introduce the bus driver as we begin the tour. Invariably, he just got his license and it’s his first day or week on the job. Everyone laughs. As we left Masaya National Park, we had a 40-minute or so drive to the small town of Catarina. These drivers earn their wages when it comes to navigating the narrow streets of older towns and villages. Such was the case at Catarina when this giant tour bus had to navigate a tight corner with a poorly parked vehicle at precisely the wrong place taking up part of the roadway. After some deft maneuvering, we continued on and the driver got a busload of applause.

A few days earlier, at Acapulco, our driver encountered more poorly parked vehicles and low hanging trees in the center island of a particularly narrow street. We brushed a tree close enough to break a branch as the driver worked to maneuver around the vehicle that shouldn’t have been parked where it was. Fortunately, the driver showed up and drove his car up on the sidewalk far enough so that the bus could get by.

Bus windows aren’t the best places to take photographs with the danger of motion blur in the foreground objects, strange perspectives, and the ever present dirty bus window. But you take what you get when you sit down. Along the way, you might find some interesting subjects like the artwork we passed as we went through a small town on our drive. As I imply with my blog title, sometimes it’s truly the journey, not the destination.

I don’t know if the guy beside the truck is an officer writing a ticket or if he’s just someone who is working a job with the trucker. I saw no police vehicles around, but I thought the scene to be a colorful snapshot of life in Nicaragua. Next week, I will share with you some bus window photos of the event that kept us waiting in stopped traffic for over 30 minutes.

Narrow bridges and other obstacles seem to be commonplace. Sometimes the tour guide points out something of importance and I take a photo confident in the fact that i will remember why I took the photo. Well, with this image, not so much. I do think it’s related to the nearby volcano, but it doesn’t look like lava flow, just a dry river bed. I share the photo here because I like it… not because I can tell you what it is about.

You may recall in the opening paragraph, we were on our way to the small town of Catarina. Therein lives about 9000 residents, many of whom are quite happy when the cruise buses come to town as their livelihood depends upon the tourist money injected into their economy each week. As the bus parked, we were given instructions. Viewpoint that way, shopping there, the bus will be waiting at…, etc. We were given a little time to eat and take in the view of the nearby Apoyo Lagoon. Of course, we were dropped off in a shopping area where we could knock ourselves out buying souvenirs. For a closer view of the lake, we could rent a horse and check out the countryside. Well, we couldn’t, our tour stop there didn’t last long enough for that horseback ride.

We opted to skip lunch noting the size of the crowd and the little time assigned to the stop considering the lateness of our arrival here. Besides, we knew there would be plenty to eat on the ship when we returned. We didn’t know then that it would be just in time for dinner. Lynn and I headed immediately toward the viewpoint to check out the lagoon. A viewing area with bleachers is a permanent fixture there and as you can see by the opening photo, it’s a prime spot to check out the lake that has filled the volcanic crater.

In the distance, directly across the lake, I could see what appeared to be a fairly large city. Not knowing what city it might be, I used my 300 mm zoom lens to get as close as possible to capture the image. Google Maps would tell me later that this city is Granada, the largest city in Nicaragua and one of the most important historically and economically. On our one day tour, we would not make a visit to this city, but if I ever get back to Nicaragua, it sounds like an interesting place to visit. The Wikipedia post about Granada notes the population is over 120,000 as of their 2012 census.

San Juan del Sur is a shallow harbor and the ship has to anchor some distance off shore. Like Cabo San Lucas, we had to use tenders to transport to the dock. The photo above was captured through the open window of the tender we boarded on our way to the dock. The harbor town is on the far left and tucked behind that large hill on the nearest point of land in the photo. On our return, we arrived at the dock over an hour late and after the ship should have already been sailing toward our next stop in Costa Rica. No matter. We were on an NCL excursion. They guaranteed not to leave us behind. There were two tenders waiting, one for our busload of guests, the other for ship’s crew who were waiting at the dock to escort us from the bus to the dock and to pack up their gear. It wasn’t long after we boarded the ship that we were underway and on our way to Puntarenas, Costa Rica.

John Steiner

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