“I hate to say it, but I think you will really regret not going to the volcano.”
K. seemed genuinely concrened, as if the fate of my soul was in question.
I looked at the looped video showing the mesmerising infernal depths of Massaya on the hostel’s TV. For a moment I felt sinful for even doubting the majesty of the night tour of a rare active volcano, the one that is merely a short drive and $20 away from me.
“I’ll have a think”, I replied meekly and followed him to the tour shop where he was going to enroll himself of the full day tour of Laguna de Apoyo (“a crater lake with the cleanest water in Nicaragua”) and the volcano. My fall-back was to bum around Granada, Nicaragua’s wonderful colonial city, and take photos.
Once we got to the tour agent, I asked about the latest I can sign up.
“You don’t see lava every day”, the agent droned, bored from persuading hundreds of tourists to do exactly the same stuff day after day.
“I definitely hope not to ever have to”, I thought and thanked the tour agent saying I will come back later.
I waved K. goodbye and after a brief thought about the trip: the crystaline lake followed by the dramatic inferno, all with a good helping of other tourists, of course, and realised I really had no will to do it. It felt very liberating, and this little win against the otherwise oppresive “shoulds” and FOMO that tend to drive a lot of my choices, made me happy, as if I were skipping a school day.
Ever since my insaly amazing stroll around Shahjahanabad in Delhi on a particularly busy Friday afternoon in 2016, I made an effort to visit markets in every city I visit. They give me a sense of the local life: the food and the customs, and admittedly they make for the best photos.
The crumbling sky-blue fin-de-siecle market in Granada did not disappoint. It seemed to me that ever of its many shaded nooks, revaled a wonderful scenes born from the dalliance between light flitering from the aged roof and the peppery, humid tropical air.
In one courtyard, there were countless food stalls operated by local women making basic but tempting dish of yucca, and fried pork skin (chicharron), wrapped in palm leaves. Felling a rush from all the heat and life around me, I was sure that the women’s twisting limbs in chiaroscuro would have defintely caught Caravaggio’s eye. In a another part there was meat everywhere, recalling Rembrant. Countless empty cavernous shops, painted in dirty pastels looked like undiscovered Hoppers. There were dogs and roosters playing on the dirty streets, tailors fixing clothes on old sewing machines and countless men carrying huge plastic bags.
I was making my way between all these tableaux, snapping away, only managing to capture a sliver of their beauty. I entered that pleasant tourist frenzy, which coats everything you see in beauty, meaning or pure excitement.
To rest from the hutsle and bustle of the market I made way to the Granada’s cemetery though seemingly endless streets of colourful one-storey houses. The cemetry was beautiful. There were endless snow-white angels, spires and colums, all hurtling towards the azure skies. This was the only places to without the tropical rythms in the city, but the silence was soon broken by a horse-drawn cart, and a snap of a whip on the horse’s back.
Hungry from the thoughts of all the nice food I saw in the market, I found a stall selling the plam-leaf packets I hungered for since I left the market and dug into it in shade of a yolk-coloured Church. Although, I got my strength back after a good esspresso from the nearby stylish Esspresionista shop, I decided to reward myslef with a nap in my air-conditoned room. This break broke a deeply ingrained taboo I imposed on myslef from the years of hard-core toursiting (“why not walk around Granada a bit more – it’s not as if you’ll be here again!”) and that made it even more appealing.
Refreshed, I continued up the bell tower of La Merced, and ended up in a stylish colonial hotel, Dario, tempted by the two-for-one cocktail offer. Sitting in a white wicker chair in the elegant courtyard, I felt like Hemingway and even tried to write to contniue the illusion, byt I gave it up to read a bit of Geoff Dyer’s “Jeff in Venice, Death in Varanasi”.
I decided to finish my day by smoking a local cigar in Granada’s central square, and watching the merchants gathering thier goods and teenagers and families lounging about and chatting. I smoked the cigar with all the eagerness of a 15-year-old and ended up feeling queezy but rather than leave I stayed a bit longer to look a bit more around the square which looked like wonderful stage: its twisting colonial building shaded by plam trees, and bright white lights spot-lighting all the little action around it.
“How was your day?”