Saturday, June 6, 2009
Friends in high places.
“So what are the Pueblos Blancos like?” I asked the Brits working at the hostel.
“Actually, we’ve never been. We started working as soon as we got here and haven’t had a chance to get out there.”
Adrian and I had consulted the things to do in Leon chart in the hostel once again and process of elimination (Markets? No too touristy. Hike to the volcano lake? Too athletic? Pueblos Blancos. Erm, um okay) had chosen to head to these small villages known for their pretty white stucco buildings. But considering we based our decision on what two folks who had never been there had written, we weren’t enthusiastic. So we decided to invite Stefania. If it’s going to be a wash out at least we’ll be in good company.
The three of us headed out to the market catch the local bus to Catarina. It was not only a Pueblo Blanco but it had a famous look out point. The ride was a long slow one as our driver couldn’t seem to (or didn’t want to) get out of first gear. But the route was a pretty one along the highway covered in a canopy of old trees. When the ayudante came to collect the fare (about 50 cents), Stefania attempted to ask about the bus back. He told her that the last bus was at 4:45. She again tried to ask how often the buses came and again he told her the last bus was at 4:45. And she spoke really great Spanish. I guess communication is more than just speaking the language.
We were let off on the side of the highway and pointed in the direction of the town. The town was cute but there was a problem – this pueblo blanco had not a single white stucco building. There were lots of garden centres and craft stores but not the namesake white buildings. Nada. Like every other Central American town they were painted in a variety of pastel colours.
So we walked up to the only other thing of note in Catarina, the Mirador. But first we had to pay to view. This had better be good. We walked by stalls of more tourist tack, waiters holding menus for their restaurants, cowboys offering their horses for rent. But we were the only gringos there. This was a tourist attraction for the Nicas and they were the ones the touts were really taking to. Finally we got to the viewing point. It was pretty spectacular (photo above). We were standing at the top of the collapsed volcano looking down on Laguna de Apoyo. There was the place we hung out at yesterday. And over there, Granada. And that under that haze of smog must be Managua.
The only problem with the view was after 20 minutes, we were done with it. And hungry. Stefania discovered a little place with reasonable prices. She ordered tostones con queso and it looked pretty tasty so I ordered a plate too. Tostones are fried plantains smashed and topped with fried queso blanco. And it was served with a simple salad dressed with lemon juice. Even meat and potatoes Adrian enjoyed it, although he would "not touch the lettuce with a ten foot barge pole". There’s wasn’t much else to do so we hung out there at the little open air comidor at the top of a collapsed crater before heading back to the highway to catch that bus (whenever the next one was).