I am cycling to raise money for the fantastic UK based chaity Macmillan Cancer Support. Big thanks to everyone who has sponsored me so far! Justgiving is a quick, easy and secure way to donate online. See my other fundraising page, specific to the Macmillan organized part of the trip

Thursday, 18 February 2010


Have been living it up in Granada this past week as I´ve gradually made the transition from being one of a group of 50 odd to going solo... a strange experience!

We were out celebrtating the end of the Macmillan challenge in style Monday night, followed by the inevitable lazy hangover morning, playing (or more watching Steph invent?!) crab wars in the pool of the Hotel Colonial .. mosaic bar stools in the last bit of luxury I´ll see for a good few months no doubt!

I couldn´t keep up with the stay-awake-til-the-bus-leaves drinking efforts of Terry, Jen, Doug, John, and the rest of that crew on Tuesday night, though I gave it my best shot, until Mark Georgie and I waved everyone off in the small hours... really emotional, and oddly reminiscent of a wedding handshake line! Serioiusly though, it was such a delight spending the last two weeks with all of you guys, wish it could have been longer. Maybe some of you fancy coming back out in the year for a cheeky
little stint of cycling further north?!

In a lucky coincidence the bar we spent that night in, Imagine, was run by a guy called Kevin, who Gareth got chatting to, only to find out Kevin´s big into mountain biking and has a campground just out of town that he offered us for free. So I´ve spent the last couple of nights camping in Kev´s back garden, with a shower and toilet all to myself as the guinea pig first guest... his surrogate family are working on the garden at the minute, laying paths among the mango trees. Wicked! And surprisingly quiet considering its on Calle Palmira which seems like a busy street when you walk up it, but no need for earplugs there!

It´s been crazy lucky timing being in Granada at this time of year, slap bang in the middle of the Poets of the World festival, Nicaragua´s cultural festival, which meant we heard impassioned recitals and live music in the square, and while learning mosaics from Mirna in a local cafe, were drawn out into the street by Latin rythyms to find a procession of dancers in a myriad of costumes, representing different regions of Nicaragua. The scythe-wielding reapers that chased kids down side streets were pretty freaky, I stayed safely on my stoop when they came near! Georgie took some stunnig photos that I´m hoping to nick to put on here when she emails me some!

After saying a final goodbye to Mark, Georgie and Alan at vairious times on Thursday, spent Friday pottering about, doing laundry (thanks to coming second in the pub quiz at the Irish bar Wed night), skyping, finishing my mosaic, and buying random bits of food in the hectic local market & generally getting used to being on my own. Its a strange transition, especially being suddenly so aware of the limitaions of my Spanish, before there was always someone to have an easy converstation with in English, now its stilted small talk, but that´s one of the reasons I came here, to be dropped in the deep end language wise, hopefully I´ll come out less pigeon-tongue-like! Decided to move on from Granada now that everyone´s off think I need to get started on my own, I have Kevin´s indirect but apparently pretty route to follow, towards Managua via Catarina and El Chocoyero.

So it´s goodbye Granada. Its been relaxing and chilled, but at the same time I think this is the first time I could say I´ve felt ´culture shock´, I´ve never really understood it before, and even though there were a lot of street kids selling finger puppets in Peru when I was there in 2005, and the school in Chichubama was very poor, I don´t think I have ever experienced such an aggressively close juxtaposition between the rich ostentation of tourism and hunger, poverty and substance abuse of locals. The tourist restraunt strip at night is teeming with very small children, kids, teens and adults, either selling sweets, cigs and gum, or performing (saw some stunning break dancing that was more body contortion, and some wicked fire spinning) or just outright begging or trying to scavenge food. A couple of times a gropp of kids would move on and a lone body would be left asleep on the pavement. Troughout the day and night you´ll pass kids and adults with glazed eyes, apparntly glue sniffing is a major problem, and the local gutrot brew, we were told after a local came up trying to sell a kitten, it looked like a bundle of feathers in his jacket. It is a very uncomfortable contrast between rich and poor, sitting enjoying a coffee on the veranda of old Colonial Alhambra Hotel, thinknig that most Central Americans never get to taste decent coffee beans as most of it is exported.

But still, it is a beautiful city, with the crumbling peeling Spanish colonial architenture, and all the Nicaraguans I have spoken with have been warm and helpful, especially the folk I´ve met during the mosaics classes at Mirna´s cafe, who seemed really interested in and impressed by our Macmillan cycle. I can see how a visit to Granada might relax you into settling permanently...there certainly seem to be a fair number of gringos settled here.

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