Thursday, March 16, 2017

Butterfly Reserve, Granada

Prior to my arrival back home, the gang went out to the Butterfly Reserve. Though, I wasn't there, I did get an earful about their visit. Essentially the reserve is a place for raising butterflies for release back into the wild. There were plenty of newly molted adults and plenty of butterfly cocoons to see. The kids enjoyed the varied colors of the butterflies and loved watching the young butterflies stretch their wings for the first time. The kids did find some time, between the butterflies, to play jump rope with a fallen vine. The kids also thought it would be neat for me to meet the nice butterfly-guy and have a BBQ with him. They said we had a lot in common and that we would get along well. What the heck, I am always open for a good steak, right? Bottom line, the Butterfly Reserve was a hit with the under 45 crowd.      

The forest jump rope

Newly molted butterflies.

La Ceiba trees grow to massive sizes.

The wings slowly stretched and straightened during a butterfly's most vulnerable time.

Family fun.

Kids were taught the correct way to hold a butterfly without harming their wings.

Handle with care.

Mom and son enjoy some quality time.

Zoe prefers for the butterflies to approach her. 

A startled look when a butterfly stumbles and struggles to fly for the first time. 

Painted Pony trail ride

Painted Pony Tours are just 5 minutes from Granada but feels like it's a world away. Sierra and Zoe take regular riding lessons here, so are somewhat experienced for their age. For Lia's younger children it was their first time alone on horse back. Once everyone mounted their horses, Lia started to worry about her kids. Soon thereafter, genuine panic set in, as a caring mother was put in an uncertain situation for her kids. I was so impressed with how the staff of Painted Pony Tours recognized the issue and tethered each of her kid's horses to a cowboy's saddle. And as quickly as the panic began, for Lia, it was over. Her kids got to ride and mommy felt at ease. Elise and I were so impressed with Lia's ability to regroup from that moment of sheer panic and to continue with the ride for her kids. As it turned out, they all enjoyed the sunset ride to the rim of Apoyo. We would easily recommend Painted Pony Tours, not only for experienced riders, but for all who wish to experience the thrill of horseback riding in paradise.  

Pre-chat prior to mounting the horses.

Mis vaqueras pequenas.

Anya moving out for the ride.

A much happier mom once her children's horses were tethered to a cowboy's saddle. 

The view from the rim of Apoyo.

Riding back at sundown.

Spring has arrived at my friend's farm

Spring usually means longer days, baby animals, and in most places, better weather. One of the best places to appreciate spring, is on a farm. We had the privilege of going to our friend's farm, just outside Granada, after their busy birthing season. The girls played with lots of chicks, pelibuey lambs, assorted fowl, horses and a very watchful and caring German Shepherd, named Dino. The German Shepherd made sure all of the chicks were protected. On several occasions, Dino literally followed stray chicks, snout to beak, making sure the chicks could find their way back again. The whole scene was so adorable considering the size difference, and Dino's absolute devotion for babies of a different species. Dino truly watched and cared for the chicks as if they were his own pups.    

Dino was making sure this couple day old chick did not veer too far from her clutch.

Pelibuey sheep with their lambs.

A bonding experience.

Lambs are cuddly, but I can do without their constant bleating for sure.

Happy wife equals a happy life.

What's there not to like?

Spring is in the air.

Homemade corn tortillas

Making handmade corn tortillas is a wonderful way to get the kid's attention focused during the afternoon hours. Lia always wanted to make handmade tortillas and what better place to learn the skill then in front of 5 kids. No pressure here, just good ole elbow grease along with Taylor Swift songs playing in the background. Funny enough, our neighbor's mom is an expert tortilla maker and could have shown us easy shortcuts. But as they say, "The journey is half the fun." Sometimes just figuring it out on the fly is the most memorable way to do things. Lia had a great idea to make handmade tortillas and watching the kids so eager to participate was awesome.

Assembly line of tortilla greatness.

Three masterpieces in the pan, and yes, that is a tube of lard near the spatula.

Laguna de Apoyo day trip

While Lia and family were in town we decided to go out to Laguna de Apoyo for one of their days. Since the crater lake is only 20 minutes from downtown Granada it makes for a nice and easy get away from the city. The kids love the placid waters for kayaking and snorkeling. There are quite a few places to stay along the lakeside so research the resorts prior to going so that you can find the perfect spot for you. Even though the water is calm the shoreline drops quickly once you're in the water. For all kayaking and inner tubes rides a life jacket is required. Playing in Laguna de Apoyo is a great way to spend a day if you are in the Granada area.

Lia getting the kids ready for the kayak ride.

Zoe demonstrating her life jacket.

Sierra and Anya preparing for their kayak adventure. 

Moment of truth.

Sierra and Timothy going out for a paddle.

Good food and great friends, what can be better?

Aguas Agrias' crystal clear waters

   The water was so clear at Aguas Agrias, that at times, it felt as if we were flying instead of swimming and I was not the only one to feel that way. The shadows on the river bottom were just as crisp and vivid as the shadows on the forest floor. The water, was as if, it was never there and everywhere all at once. Moreover, the depth and clarity were not in relation like a normal river. Thus, it was difficult to accurately judge depth and distances while under water? It is so difficult to describe how the water's clarity impacted our spacial awareness, but it did.
   While standing in the river, we all commented on how the rushing water from the aquifer was pushing up though the river bottom with immense pressure. We were equally touched by the area's scenic beauty, serenity and the forces of nature that made this place possible.
   Aguas Agrias is a rural agricultural community with an oasis, right smack in the middle of it. Visiting this gem is not only a good experience for you, but for their community as well, for this is "Fair Travel" in action. The natural springs are managed by a cooperative of local farmers working to ensure the health of the river system. Since the aquifers need the forest to recharge and the community needs the aquifer for revenue, a wonderful eco-friendly balance is achieved. For visitors who make it out this far, they can expect to see a community who wants you there and takes your safety and satisfaction seriously. The community maintains the trails, clears debris, and even has a spartan snack shop near the entrance. We were the only visitors there, with the exception of three local boys, who were quite amused by us and wanted to show off their diving skills to an audience.
   One can expect to see a troop of howler monkeys playing in the trees close to the water's edge. For us, as we were leaving the springs, high in the trees above us, the troop of monkeys decided to pee in unison and rain on our parade. Thankfully, Lia saw what they were doing and shouted, "They're peeing on us!" just in time for us to run away and miss the flying urine. We had a good laugh but probably would not have had the same reaction if they had actually hit their target. Another thing to prepare for are the mosquitoes which are both plentiful and ravenous. Bring repellent, you will not be sorry. We forgot our repellent and each of us paid the price, in blood. During dry season any car will get you Aguas Agrias. However, in rainy season, this is strictly four wheel drive country because of two arroyos, so plan accordingly.

This video shows how the water pressure from the springs push the pebbles as it rushes through the river floor. The constantly replenishing water is why this place is nearly always crystal clear.

Stunning underwater views

Zoe horsing around with the GoPro under water. 

A very special place indeed.

Playing a mermaid is fun in settings like this.

Lia and Sierra enjoyed having a chat. 

Elise liked how peaceful place was.

The boys were happy to share their Eden with us.

Hanging out in the shallower section down stream.

The water temperature was refreshing but not cold.

The main gate, with foreigner entrance costing $2 a person. 

A country traffic jam on the way back to Granada.

The path during dry season to the springs below. 

Happy peeps.

Cannon ball!

The girls had fun jumping in the water.

One of the local boys showing off his diving skills.

A beautiful lagoon on the lower end of the park.

Daddy daughter hike in the forest. 

The shadows penetrating the water's clarity played tricks on us after a while.

The southern side of Mombacho volcano during dry season.