Laguna de Apoyo is a crater lake located a short distance away from Granada, and was one of the hot spots that was mentioned to us over and over again. A friend from home had even messaged me and told me I absolutely had to go there as it was her favorite place in all of Nicaragua, so I was pretty excited to get there. We took a short 45 minute shuttle ride; our bus meandered up the hills to climb the old volcano and then winded back down to reach the lake that filled the old crater. Our hostel was called Paradiso and was a sister hostel to Oasis so I knew to expect good things, but I was totally blown away. We got a dorm room for our first night and had to move to a private the second night, but I can’t recommend enough staying in the dorm. It was a huge open concept room with 6 sets of bunk beds all against the back and side wall, leaving a large open space on the front wall- which wasn’t a wall at all, but rather sections of thick wire mesh that created a see-through wall which you could lay in bed and look out towards the lake and mountains beyond; the effect was breathtaking!
We settled in and wandered around the grounds. The hostel was well kept with lovely grounds-keeping and reminded me more of a small fancy resort than a hostel. And the bonus? They had a batch of three fresh kitties that I couldn’t drag myself away from! The hostel had their own little beach with a nice tiki style bar restaurant area right next to it, and another up top with a great view of the lake. You could take the kayaks out for free whenever you wanted, and lounge in their beach chairs while ordering delicious fresh fruit batidos (smoothies). There were ping pong tables, a pool table, lawn bowling, kayaks, great music (lots of reggae!), wifi, and the most appetizing food I’ve had at a hostel to date. The menu was decently priced, meals ranged from 2-8$ American. There was blue cheese linguini, lemon and sugar crepes with fresh fruit, huge delectable veggie burgers, pancakes, mozzarella stick salad, Greek salad and a heavenly granola, fresh fruit and yogurt breakfast- to name a few of the gastronomical meals I indulged in. The menu had loads of options and every single thing we tried was tantalizingly delicious.
We spent two beautiful days at the Laguna. The weather was perfect, the days hot and dry, with a stunning blue green lake at our fingertips to dip into to cool off. Shade could be found on the beach when the heat got to be too much. The temperature of the water was perfect, just brisk enough to cool you down, but not so cool you couldn’t stay in it for hours playing around. The days and nights were spent eating everything we could fit in our stomachs from their tasty menu, reading books on the beach, swimming in the crater lake and kayaking around. I felt so perfectly content at the lake: laying back on a fabric beach chair, papaya smoothie in hand, headphones in playing newly discovered music (current song obsession). Watching the waves crash against the shore of the crater lake. The lush green crater sides of the long dead volcano climbing up around us on all sides. The hot sun beating down, cooking the sand, making it too hot to walk on without flinching and bolting for shade. Watching white puffs of white clouds float by like lost balloons. Life was good.
Sarah and I decided we would be ambitious the next afternoon and kayak across the entire lake. It was a huge undertaking and took us 3 hours of hard paddling, as we had to cross the lake into the wind and waves, which were not exactly small! But we made it all the way across without tipping once and counted down those last ten strokes with a loud sense of accomplishment, screaming with elation as our kayak slid into the sandy shore across the lake. We threw a stick in the ground, claiming it as our own and then Sarah made her way up to ask the locals if they could drive us back, because damned if we wanted to do that again all the way back! They weren’t too friendly in telling her that they didn’t have a car, so we grudgingly made our way back out in the kayak- it would be dark soon and we needed to get back across before the sun went down. Luckily we were with the wind and the journey back was much easier, but our arms were aching, and our hands cramping and blistering. At one point, Sarah fell out of the kayak (she may have had all the rums before we set out) and I had a moment of anxiety mixed with bemusement as I felt her head bump into the bottom of the kayak, and she surfaced behind me moments later. I back-paddled and stretched out my paddle to her to bring her in and get her back on board and we had a good laugh. Miraculously she still had her sunglasses in hand and hadn’t lost them in the plunge.
As the sun set behind the mountainside, we finally had sight of shore and our hostel and gave the final push to make it in, as our stomachs growled in protest at the excessive expenditure of energy, after having been stretched so much at this haven of palatable food. We jumped out of the kayak close to shore and swam the rest of the way screaming to Richard and Kajsa, wondering why they hadn’t sent out the search party to rescue us. It turns out they had attempted a rescue mission of their own, but because Richard had also drank all the rums all afternoon, Kajsa ended up having to rescue Richard – both from his attempt at putting his life vest on slightly askew (head through the arm holes) and then from drowning as he fell off the kayak repeatedly. Us three girls headed up to satiate those angry starving tummies, and Richard decided he needed a brief nap in a beach chair in the dark. With his sunglasses on. Us girls swapped stories of our adventures and laughed deep into the night over a delicious dinner of mozzarella salads, French fries and Caesar salads, paired with papaya smoothies.
After a while we went to wake Richard up from his beachside slumber and found him wearing Sarah’s dress around his neck. I guess he had gotten a little cool during nap time. He stumbled around and put the dress on properly, adjusted his sunglasses to keep the glare of the hostel lights out of his eyes and asked us, in his northern London accent if we thought he ‘looked Prit-ee”. We spent the rest of the night howling with laughter at Richard and his antics. At bed time, Richard locked himself out of our dorm, and we could hear him through the wire mesh wall trying to get in. Fearing he had broken his key off in the lock, he went to get help, but only made it a step or so before taking a tumble into the bushes. I don’t think he quite had the energy to get up, so he just hung out there until one of the workers happened by with a flashlight. Imagine his surprise when his light shines upon Richard, a full grown British bloke, in the bushes, in a dress. As the light reflects off Richard’s sunglasses, and the man asks if he is okay, all Richard says is “Do you think I look Prit-ee?” and a cascade of laughter explodes from our dorm room. And all this, before 9pm.
The Laguna is paradise- there is no other word. It’s the prefect place to relax, read some books beachside, fill your belly over and over with scrumptious food, cool down in the refreshing lake and take in the beautiful views.
And the sunrises? Spectacular doesn’t even come close.
I awoke the next morning on my own around 5am and saw from the incredible view that our room offered through the giant mesh wall that the sky was slowly beginning to lighten with the impending sunrise. I quietly crept from my bed, grabbed my note pad and camera, and went down to the beach to watch the sunrise. There is something so enchanting about a sunrise, something more intimate and more hopeful than a sunset. The setting sun signals the end of the day, a closure of sorts. The rising of the sun always brings about a feeling of hope- a new day is just beginning, a whole day filled with opportunity awaiting a fresh start.
I sat on the bamboo bench; my scarf wrapped around my legs and I patiently waited, looking out over the crater surrounding the lake. The only sounds are the small waves gently kissing the shoreline over and over, the intermittent call of the ever impatient rooster, the steady rhythmic chirp song of the crickets; and the only movement, the hypnotizing ripple of the waves. Slowly the sky begins to change at last, as night surrenders to the imminent arrival of the sun. The navy blue-grey melts away until it remains only at the furthest edges of the sky. The palest stroke of orange paints the sky, then slowly morphs into steaks of grapefruit pink. Those first colours are only a tease, as the sky shifts back into a fiery apricot hue, illuminating the tree line with little spikes of silhouettes, turning the trees inky black. In only moments the sky brightens to a nearly neon orange, as if a fire blazed behind the crater ridge. A butterfly dances across my vision, her wings silently flitting. As if the sky were tied to her brittle wings , she seems the brings the change of colour to the sky with her as she flutters past.
The neon softens and baby blue takes the stage, backlighting the clouds in soft pink. The water reflection changes to a metallic grey with hints of warm coral. The bulbous clouds push away from the horizon as if by order of the sun and the coming of his glory. The inky black hillside silhouette begins to soften, a haze shrouding it, dulling the sharpness.
A hawk circles high above, lazily flapping her wings as she floats effortlessly with the sunrise as her back drop. Hers must be the most glorious of mornings, to soar high above the rest of us and enjoy the suns majesty from such great heights. She circles lower and lower and suddenly dives down above the barely rippling waters, crashing through the surface, rising up again with one strong pump of her wings, a small fish clasped between her beak, the hunt for breakfast a success. All the while the sky is ever-changing; peach, rose, violet, tangerine, butter yellow and mauve all take their turns on stage, bowing their head before melting with another colour, creating new colours, staining the clouds with their hues.
The jungle abides by the call of the rising sun and happily obliges. She slowly begins to awaken from her nocturnal slumber, beginning with the birds. At first you hear only a few chirps and trills, singing as if in reverence to the rising sun. But with each passing minute a new call is added to the song that is slowly rising out of the jungle. The common black Gackle joins in with his cackling warble. I gleefully recognize the Montezuma oropendola as she joins her unique and enchanting serenade to the building chorus. In only moments the jungle is alive with an entire symphony of birds each attempting to reach their call above the others. An owl-esque hoot peeps out from some unknown bird. The dark and terrifying howl of the howler monkey joins the chaos of sounds. The deep strange screams, miles away, penetrate through the thick jungle foliage, becoming an incessant hum in the background, as if cursing the sun for waking them from their slumber. The apex of the chorus crests as the roosters double their efforts as the sun begins to peak his glorious head above the horizon at last.
It never fails to amaze me at how quickly the sun rises. In mere moments, his full magnificent sphere appears and the lake dazzles and dances with his perfect reflection, amber sparkling off the rippling surface. The full symphony of the jungle has heeded the call of their king and awoken to praise him with their song that is at once both melodic and cacophonous.
I feel so humbled in these moments, to be witness as the utterly dark and silent world slowly awakens. From no sound, no light, and no movement, to a sudden and perfectly orchestrated pandemonium of life. To be alone on the lake, with the sun kissing my skin and the jungle kissing my ears- I feel like I’m the only one in all the world that they put this beautiful display on for. How blessed I feel in moments like these. To talk now seems blasphemous, and so, humbly, I write.