DIRIOMO, Nicaragua – Most foreign touristswho visit Nicaragua spend at least one day inGranada, the hemisphere’s oldest-standing colonialcity.But history buffs and sophisticated travelers whovisit Granada without exploring the lesser-knownsurrounding towns are missing a unique opportunity.The towns of Ticuantepe,San Marcos, Niquinihomo,San Juan de Oriente andDiriomo, each within a half hourdrive of downtownGranada, all play a unique andintriguing role in Nicaragua’scolorful history.Until recently, exploringthese surrounding townsmeant renting a car and tryingto navigate roads that arepoorly marked and filled withpotholes. Touring the area bybus meant embarking on athree-day logistical nightmare.BUT now, thanks to a new day tour offered byU.S. expat Lawrence Goodlive, these towns are moreaccessible to travelers than ever before.Goodlive, an amiable and intellectually engagingpsychologist, is the owner and operator of theGranada-based Landcruiser Tours, which recentlybegan offering a one-of-a-kind loop tour of the surroundingtowns.The driving tour in Goodlive’s comfortable andoversized Landcruiser fits more into one day thanmost tourists – either national or foreign – see duringtheir entire vacation.THE tour starts off visiting the smoldering peakof Masaya Volcano and the town’s famous markets,which have been making colorful hammocks, rockingchairs and artisan crafts for generations.The trip continues through Ticuantepe’s scenicPineapple Valley, a popular weekend getaway southof the capital for well-to-do Managua folk. Roadsidepineapple stands offer a nice place to get out of thecar, breathe the cool mountain air and marvel at thepanoramic view of Managua.The tour then moves through the rustic town ofLa Concepción and up intothe quaint college town ofSan Marcos, home to AveMaría College and severalcozy coffee shops.NEARBY is the smalltown of Niquinihomo, thebirthplace of legendaryNicaraguan revolutionaryand Sandinista namesakeGeneral Augusto Sandino.The general’s home,which faces the shaded centralpark, is now a museumcomplete with old photographsfrom the 1930s and an interesting chronologyof his life. A statue of Sandino guards the entranceof the town, flanked by the flags of Nicaragua and therevolutionary red-and-black of the Sandinistas.From there, the tour climbs up to the scenic townof Catarina, famous for its nurseries, colorful craftsand incredible view of the volcanic Laguna deApoyo, Mombacho Volcano and Granada.Catarina’s restaurants, which look down on therest of the world, are a great place to stop for a drinkor lunch, while mariachis wander by playing traditionalNicaraguan folksongs.THE tour then winds down the hill into the town of Diriomo, famous for its tradition of witchcraft, non-traditional healings and card readers.Local seer William Haroldo Mena, is know internationally for his ability to read thefuture, heal with his hands and plants and perform exorcisms on possessed homes and people(see sidebar).The tour ends with a cocktail at Puerto Asese, with a view of the reflecting sunset onMombacho Volcano. The total trip covers 85 miles and lasts about 8 hours.Goodlive, a self-described political exile from the United States, sold his property inNew Mexico, quit his job and decided to leave the country after U.S. President George W.Bush won the 2000 elections. His easy-going demeanor and interest in history and currentevents make the tour very enjoyable.Goodlive, who also uses his Landcruiser to give real estate tours, said the loop tour hasbecome his most popular tour, drawing a more sophisticated and educated clientele.Goodlive offers the tour in English, Spanish or German and charges $49 per person forthe tour. The tour can be custom tailored to the client’s interest.For more info, call Lawrence Goodlive at 895-5244 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
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