Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Nicaragua Girls Trip 2018

Months ago a few of my friends started dreaming about a girls trip to Nicaragua. In our day dreams we pulled out all the stops and imagined a week together just us girls, no kids or husbands along, relaxing, laughing, soaking up the sun at a white sand beach while Utah is frozen over. It was such a nice little dream that we decided to make it real! Six wonderful women made arrangements for their kids, jobs and families so they could come spend a week with me in Nicaragua!! Between us 7 women we have 21 kids so it was no simple task! The trip was even better than we dreamed, it was perfect!

Group1: Tianna, Natalie, Alyssa, and Katrina arrived Monday evening


Our first day was amazing! First thing in the morning we had waffles at my house. My kids were really excited to get to see my friends (their friends moms) and have breakfast with us before we left for our trip. After breakfast the Nicaragua Girls Trip 2018 officially started and we left for León.

First stop: Volcano boarding at Cerro Negro. When we got close to the volcano I pointed out the tiny people in red jumpsuits at the top of the volcano waiting to slide down. Tianna's eyes got huge and she began to hyperventilate. Apparently she hadn't understood that volcano boarding started at the summit of the volcano. There may have been some nervous tears but also a lot of resolve to conquer! The hike up the hill is steep but not too far. About halfway up we took a detour on a side trail to explore the crater of the most active volcano in Nicaragua! It seemed like another planet with the red rocks, white and yellow mineral deposits and of course, the steaming sulfur vents. At the top we admired the larger crater then suited up for the ride! I went down first and decided to bail off my board a little over halfway down so I could get some good videos. I'm glad I did! These girls nailed it and it was totally fun to cheer them on as they whizzed past me! We all enjoyed the volcano boarding adventure. 

Those tiny dots coming down the mountain are people!

Let's do this!


Mineral deposits on the rock from the volcanic gases. The white crystals are calcium and the yellow are sulfur.


Yoga pose on a volcano!

We made it to the top!

That's an impressive crater on the most active volcano in Nicaragua

Suiting up waiting for our turn to slide down

We are covered in black ash but smiling from the adrenaline and for having done it!

Somehow Kat was way more covered in ash than the rest of us by the end! She was a trooper all day because we didn't have time for showers until long after sunset. 

We finished just in time to drive over to Las Peñitas. At Las Peñitas we chartered a motorboat to give us a tour of the estuary. We saw lots of birds and crabs and looked hard for crocodiles. As we were boarding our boat another boat's motor gave out and the captain asked if we would mind if his passenger, another tourist, joined us on our tour. Of course we didn't mind so Eric joined us. He was from Paris and had been touring Central America for 2 weeks and still had 3 weeks to go. 

After the bird watching we arrived at our much anticipated destination! The sea turtle sanctuary! We got to release a large bucket full of just-hatched Olive Ridley sea turtles into the ocean to begin their marine life. It was absolutely magical! The sun set over the Pacific Ocean, we had our feet in the white sand, and placed baby sea turtles in the shallow surf. Not much tops that experience! 



We really were this excited after an amazing first day!

By the time the sun was down and our boat delivered us back to Las Peñitas we were starved! We hadn't had a meal since waffles that morning! We sat down at a local restaurant and were about to order. However, the bathrooms were horrible and no one else was eating there. 2 red flags! We decided it seemed risky and found another restaurant advertising Taco Tuesday. Much better! It was a full, magical, amazing, and really fun day! We crashed for the night at a hostel in León to rest up for another set of adventures on Wednesday.

Yum. Tacos.


For breakfast we went to a french bakery and ate all the things! Ham quiche, handmade croissants, salami and cheese, fruit bowls, a baguette, and fresh juices. After breakfast we walked around the streets a while and found an art museum. It was pretty big and had lots of variety in styles. We must have seemed kind of shady because the gallery guards watched us like hawks! Our next stop was the cathedral in the center of León. The interior of the cathedral was quiet and ornate. We also climbed up to the rooftop and it was a spectacular view! It was an unusually clear day and we could see all of León plus the entire lineup of all the volcanos! That is one of my favorite views in Nicaragua! After not enough time we had to bid farewell to León and drive back to Managua to pick up the rest of our group from the airport. In Managua we met José, our chauffer for the week. We loaded up our stuff and ourselves into a 15 passenger van and made way for the airport!

Pepe Cabezon and La Gigantona. These are prominent characters in Nicaraguan folklore. They stem from how the indigenous people viewed themselves and the Spanish colonists. In local parades a dance is performed in which Pepe Cabezon bumbles around while La Gigantona gracefully sweeps her long arms around and her ruffled skirt flows around her. 

This is what happens when you ask a stranger to take the only picture of the day in front of the largest cathedral in Central America. Haha! It will have to do.

The turrets on the rooftop

This is Nicaraguan graffiti. "Jesus is the way!"
The anticipation of waiting for our friends at the airport was very fun! We looked out the windows and cheered when Tina and Violet came around the corner into the baggage claim area.

Kat and Alyssa got competitive for the best spot at the window!

José took us all to Laguna de Apoyo and after navigating a very long and narrow dirt road very late at night we arrived at our Airbnb. We looked around at the rooms and kitchen and someone noticed a VERY LARGE SPIDER on the wall! At first we hoped it was a fake tarantula but quickly realized it had to be real. It was almost midnight and we huddled together panicking about what to do about the spider! Violet bravely volunteered to swat it off the wall and stomp it, not all of us agreed on this but no one wanted it just hanging there either! She swatted with a seat cushion and instead of falling to the ground it ran up the wall into an alcove between the wall and the ceiling! The screams of 7 grown women scared of a giant spider were heard echoing far and wide that night at midnight. We named our terrifying pet Horace and no one was at all happy that he disappeared. With the adrenaline rush of our introduction to Horace we were pretty wide awake and no one wanted to go to bed alone, or anywhere alone! Hahaha! We stayed up until 2:00am playing cards and chatting.

Meet Horace. We wished we hadn't met him but he became our lurking mascot for the 2 days we were there.


At 5:15am I woke up to the sound of howler monkeys calling really loudly! I got up to check it out, also thinking that if the other girls didn't know what the sound actually was it could be a scary sound. We were all still on edge about Horace. By 5:30am we were all awake marveling at the sight of at least 15 howler monkeys swinging through the branches of the tree directly above our house! Even though we all only got 3 hours of sleep we were so excited about the visit from the monkeys! Then we turned around and really saw the view of the lagoon and our jaws dropped at what a beautiful place we were in! At 6:00am we changed into swim suits and hopped in the clear glassy water. 

How many monkeys do you see in this tree? I see at least 12.

This was our amazing home for 2 days!

Our sweet chef, Esmerelda, made us a delicious breakfast of rice and beans, fresh fruit salad, fresh orange juice and eggs.
Lots of laughs and shenanigans were enjoyed by all. By 7:30 we needed to get out of the water because the chef (yes, we had a chef) was serving breakfast. At 8:15 our chauffeur came to pick us up to take us into Granada. We caught a boat out on Lake Nicaragua to the isletas for a tour of the tiny islands and then we spent the day at an island resort called Pico de Garza.

Our chauffeur, Jose, arrived in the morning with a bouquet of fresh picked mandarin oranges that he had lashed to a branch. It was beautiful and so thoughtful! 

We saw some monkeys in the trees on our way to the island! 

It was an incredibly relaxing, enjoyable day. We ordered a few appetizers and fresh squeezed orange juice when we got there. Katrina, Alyssa and I took some kayaks out on the lake to explore. We found a cool little cove with hanging vines and branches that felt just like the Kiss the Girl scene in the Little Mermaid. We paddled around checking out birds, trees and the homes built on some other islands. By the time we got back to our island the hammocks were calling! At some point during the day every one of us took a leisurely nap in a hammock. Ahhhhh. After lunch we sat in the shade talking, playing a card game and laughing a lot! All day we relaxed and had fun and it was a wonderful time together. On our way back to the treehouse we stopped off at the grocery store for dinner ingredients and snacks. We didn't play games until 2:00am again but we did sit around talking and bonding for a while before bed. 

Our view of Volcan Mombacho for the day




We knew we had to take advantage of this paradise while we were there so we didn't have our chauffeur pick us up until noon on Friday. In the morning we admired the monkeys again and swam in the lagoon. All too quickly it was noon and we were packed up and ready to check out of paradise. We spent the rest of the day in Granada. We went straight to the Chocolate Museum and our fun guide Alejandro taught us about how cacao is grown and the process of turning the beans into delicious chocolate. We had a conundrum; the cacao pods were all growing on the upper branches of the tree but we wanted to try some fresh cacao! It was no problem at all, Violet shimmied right up the chocolate tree and triumphantly brought down a fresh cacao pod! That was the beginning of the giggles and they just kept on coming! We learned that the Aztecs would sacrifice young girls to use their blood in cacao drinks. Frightening! Even still, we offered up the baby of our group, Alyssa, who performed a valiant sacrificial dance while grinding the fermented cacao beans into cacao paste.

Uh this is chocolate? You're sure it's not the dirt the tree grows in? Oh, 100% cacao, right...

Cacao tea! Mmmmmm!
Of course we had to take advantage of the chocolate spa too! After too much confusion with scheduling we all got our massages and pedicures. 

Chocolate pedicure! Nice!

The spa experiences were definitely memorable and kind of hilarious in their own right. Natalie, Violet and Alyssa got chocolate massages. They sounded nice and fun and they were game for a new experience.Oh, little did they know what they were in for! They all went back and found that the rooms, though adequately private, didn't have full doors, they were swinging saloon style doors. They weren't given a sheet to cover with so it was a bit more...erm, exposed than other massages, to say the least! Natalie's massage therapist was a blind man who didn't speak English but she was ready for the communication challenge. The massages were nice and they were literally covered in warm liquid chocolate from their faces to their feet. Once they were totally covered the therapists just walked out of the room! After several minutes alone, covered in chocolate, behind saloon doors, Natalie called her husband on the phone. He speaks Spanish so she put him on speaker phone and then shouted for someone to come tell her what she was supposed to do next. Hahaha! I couldn't make this story up if I tried! Finally, she was able to ascertain that they were supposed to rest and let the oils and nutrients in the chocolate soak into their skin. After about 10 minutes their massage therapists returned, handed each of them a towel and gave them directions to the showers. Down the walkway, past the hotel pool and around the corner! Laughing at the craziness of it all they wrapped up in towels and, encrusted in chocolate from head to toe, scurried from one end of the hotel to the other! They were good humored about it all and we laughed all week about it!

Yummy, massage chocolate.

Yikes! What did we sign up for!?! Haha!

In Granada we saw the beautiful cathedral there, did some shopping and sightseeing. Once it got dark we returned to our party van. We made a brief stop at the grocery store to load up on fresh ingredients to make giant batches of pico de gallo and lots of fresh fruit then José drove us safely to our beach house in San Juan del Sur. 

In Granada we spotted a traditional funeral procession. The horse-drawn carriage is the hearse and behind it was a procession of family members, friends, and members of the community walking along to the cemetery. 


First thing in the morning Natalie taught a sunrise yoga class right out on the sand. What a marvelous way to start the day! 

This was our swimming pool! Incredible!

We all had breakfast together then 6 of us left for some adventuring. Tianna wasn't excited about the activities we had planned that morning and opted to stay home. She had a lovely couple of hours to relax, take a nap, shower, and write in her journal. She didn't feel at all bad about her solo morning. The rest of us went in to San Juan del Sur and enjoyed a 2 hour horseback ride out on the beach. We first rode up and down the large curved bay directly below the Christus statue on the bluff. Then we rode up the hill, through the forested area up to a beautiful view point where we could see the bay and the rolling hills surrounding San Juan del Sur. After the serene trail ride on the horses, we geared up and jumped in a truck ready for our high adventure zip line tour!

What a view!!

The zip line started at the same view point that we visited on horseback. We zipped along 17 lines winding through the dry jungle feeling the adrenaline and enjoying the beautiful views! Our guides were having fun too, and why wouldn't they with a bunch of lovely, giggling American girls!?! They started doing "tricks" and would bounce the cable as we were coming down. They also changed our harnesses and had each of us fly down the line totally upside-down! The zip line is so much fun! By the time we made it back to the solid ground Tianna was there waiting for us. It's handy to have a driver. José had dropped us off in SJDS earlier that morning then he went back to the beach house and took a nap himself. He and Tianna returned a few hours later just in time to join up with the rest of the group for a late lunch. We went to a restaurant that Mitchell and I have been going to almost every time we visit SJDS. Unfortunately, the service that day was terrible and we wished we had eaten elsewhere. Oh well, it was a great day in every other way! Back at the beach house we all walked out along the beach until it was too dark to see. There is just something so rejuvenating and calming about the ocean! It would be really amazing to live right on the beach someday. 


This was so cool! Alyssa was flying across the tops of the trees and suddenly a howler monkey leaped from one tree to another right in front of her! So awesome that Violet caught it on video!

And After! So fun!
When your dinner kisses back! Yum.

Sometimes the beach is just calling for a yoga pose at sunset


Sunday was intentionally a low key relaxed day. As we prepared breakfast the beach house caretaker popped her head in the kitchen to alert us that there was a momma turtle on the beach! We dropped our knives and mixing bowls and ran to the sand! We learned that she had come up on the beach, dug a nest, and layed her eggs there. We watched her exerting a lot to get back to the water. Laying between 50-150 eggs must be exhausting! Just as she swam back out to sea we saw another momma swimming out of the water and on to the beach too! There was a small crowd gathering around her so we stood off a bit to watch. She must not have felt it was a safe time to nest because she ended up turning around and going back to to ocean. We definitely felt sad about that but have since learned that momma turtles may make several attempts at nesting in order to find a safe time and place to lay their eggs. Most of the turtles lay their eggs after dark to avoid predators (and curious humans), it seems like the wisest choice. 

Meet Fred and George (Georgina?) They appeared to be either fighting or mating. Probably mating, and it was fascinating!

We went back home and enjoyed fried eggs, rice and fruit for breakfast and then we all relaxed and chatted with each other all morning. We had some really nice discussions about our families, our faiths and our ideas. 

How many Mormons does it take to make a single cup of coffee?! Haha! Apparently more than 3. 

The pajamas are deceiving, this was probably around 1:00pm. A luxury we moms don't often get!
We tried some new fruits! Passion fruit on the left and Granadilla on the right. The passion fruit has a thick and tough outer shell, inside is a fragrant goop with large, flat black seeds. Typically it is sweetened and made into a drink. We went to Google for information about the granadilla and it listed a bunch of side effects and said don't eat it without consulting a Dr first! What??! We had a few slivers for taste but didn't dare eat too much. It tastes like honeydew melon.

About 3:00 in the afternoon we finally decided to get out for a bit and we visited the local cemetery. Odd as it may sound to visit a cemetery on vacation, it was beautiful and peaceful. A perfect Sabbath Day activity.
The cemeteries here are so colorful!

After the cemetery we walked up the hill to the Christus statue overlooking the beach. There was a cruise ship in the bay that had spent the day docked. Just before sunset the wind really picked up! It was gusting so hard that it knocked Alyssa right over! We watched as the sun ducked under the horizon and the sky streaked with oranges and pinks. As we were getting ready to leave I happened to be gazing out at the ocean and saw a whale breach, rotate, and land on its back! It was AMAZING!!! The look on my face must have been delighted shock because I didn't say anything at first but everyone turned around just in time to see the splash! We stayed patiently, or not so patiently, watching for another sighting. We saw a couple of splashes then nothing. By then the sun had long since gone down and it was getting dark. We walked back down the hill to the van and returned, starving!, to the beach house. 


We were a well oiled machine when we arrived at home! 7 hungry moms got right to work in the kitchen! It was an awesome sight. All of us worked simultaneously in a great rhythm and got an impressive dinner served in record time!! We all agreed that only a bunch of moms could have pulled it off so expertly. We ate ham fried rice, steak, marinated cucumbers, chips and pico, banana bread, and a local vegetable called chayote.

A very pleasant place to sit and chat at night, listening to the waves crash.


Our last morning at the beach house, we knew we had to swim and play in the waves! After breakfast we all walked out to the beach. It wasn't hard since it was literally in our backyard! It was so fun riding the waves and swimming together. Some of us got pummeled a few times and out of the 7 of us we generously donated 2 pairs of sunglasses to the ocean gods. It was so much fun. Before leaving we took one last walk out on the beach and got some fun pictures in our matching girls trip shirts. Thank goodness our chauffer, Jose, humored us by snapping tons of photos and redoing some when they didn't quite achieve the vision we were going for! 

It was a group effort to put these shirts together. They surprised me with them and I absolutely love it!!

It was a bit of a long haul back to Masaya but we had a great time shopping at the artisan market. We only had 2 hours to shop and it flew by! Natalie managed to snag herself a personal shopper who took her all over the market finding all the things she was interested in and negotiating the best deals. The rest of us browsed and chose souvenirs to take home to husbands, kids, and to help us remember such a fun trip!

We tried star fruit! It is crunchy and very tart.

Our next stop was Volcan Masaya. The entire basin of the 2,000+ year old Volcan Masaya is enormous! Within the large sunken caldera (basin) there are several craters; the Santiago crater is currently active. In December 2015 the lava broke through the surface and revealed a boiling lake of molten lava down below. Since that time tourists have been able to drive right to the edge of the crater and admire the churning lava in the pit. It is so neat! On the day we were there we, unfortunately, couldn't see any of the lava because the sulfuric smoke was too dense. We could hear the churning, angry sounds of a lake of melted earth though. It sounds like roaring traffic off in the distance. 

YUM!! Pupusas are one of our favorite foods!

Well, the wallet is empty, guess it's time to go home!

We spent our last night together in a small but comfortable house near the airport. Violet led a wonderful scriptural discussion about Unity and Love. It was the perfect way to sum up such a special and incredible week of bonding together.

My dear friends, Thank you so much for making the long journey to visit me! I feel so loved! We had a wonderful time. I sincerely hope this isn't the first and last opportunity we have to 'gather' and enjoy the recharge of girl time.

At the airport about to say goodbye. Girls, you are the best!