Nicaragua is allegedly the safest Central American county. It’s capital, Managua, is home to about 1.5 million people, and that was our destination. Last I left you, we had finally boarded the Hedman Alas bus to Tegucigalpa. As always, the journey took longer than anticipated and we finally arrived at about 8pm. We jumped in a cab to Palmira Hostel, our humble abode for the night, chosen because it sold Tica Bus tickets, which we needed to go to Managua on Saturday.
The taxi ride cost us 150 lempira, which was the first time I was actually able to translate Spanish numbers! Seems our friend Carlos had been charging a bit too much for his taxis, considering this journey was longer and cost a hell of a lot less. We buzzed into the hostel and were greeted by our host speaking broken English. All we needed was a bed, which we got in a private room, again for about the same price as two dorm beds. We still felt rough and whilst our hostel was in a safe area, the nearest food place was McDonald’s, back out on the main road. Thinking we might feel sick because we were hungry, we headed there. Tegucigalpa at night is quite daunting. Especially when we got to McDonald’s, the security guard was stood in the middle of a group of about 50-60 people, just hanging out. That’s what it looked like anyways. The place to hang in Tegucigalpa, is McDonald’s. I mean even when we were inside there were people dressed up to the nines. We figured they were just grabbing a bite to eat before heading out out.
Always the only white people. Some people either haven’t seen a white person or we jut looked odd because the stares we were getting were intense. Needless to say we literally wolfed down some nuggets and took our drinks to go. It didn’t make us feel any better and we now had indigestion. The walk back to the hostel was quicker than to McDonald’s and as we got back in, the host informed us the taxi would go at 730am to take us to the Tica Bus station. Our air con consisted of two rotating desk fans which ended up just blowing the sheet off as opposed to cooling us down, as well as being incredibly noisy it was like trying to sleep on a race track.
Up at 6 on Saturday ready for another long journey down to Managua. The taxi was prompt at 730am and took us to the Tica Bus station. As soon as I got in the ticket office, the guy knew we wanted Managua. We paid, got our tickets and customs forms then waited the hour and a half to board the bus. As we got on we were asked if we wanted Leon or Managua. Managua it was. We handed over our passports, immigration/customs forms and the $15 each entrance fee to Nicaragua.
We still weren’t feeling right for some reason so the bus journey was entirely uneventful. Trying to sleep, trying to watch the TV in Spanish, good old ‘silver linings playbook’ on again, followed by some dreadful Mel Gibson film and ‘Albert Nobbs’ to finish off, a film about a female butler pretending to be a man in Ireland who ends up dying. That’s the gist I got from listening to it in Spanish. My skills don’t include translating films yet.
Customs and immigration was relatively easy as per usual. We got stamped out of Honduras, changed money successfully not getting ripped off and got back on the bus to head to Nicaraguan immigration and customs. This time we had to get all our luggage off, which we haven’t had to do so far. We went in and they took our passports and kept them. We then went to the X-ray machines and put all our luggage on the belt then tried to figure out what to do as we didn’t have our passports. In the end we figured we’d just head back to the bus. We did and weren’t allowed to board yet so we waited in the heat and got taking to an American girl called Timeka from Indianapolis, and also realised the two English party guys from our hostel in San Salvador were on the bus.
Finally the Tica Bus assistant came back out with our passports and tourist cards and we were allowed back on the bus. We dropped some people off in Leon, just at a random gas station then continued 2 hours onto Managua. This time we went into a luggage collection point and it was far smoother and far quicker than any other exits we have had. As always the next task was to find a taxi. $10 or 300 Córdoba to our hostel. The city of Managua was beautiful at night. Sadly I got no pictures but there were beautiful fountains on roundabouts and colourful trees lit up all along the highway.
We pulled up at our hostel, Maracuya Hostel, jumped out and were greeted by two barking dogs and a cat. The host showed us to our room, which had a desk fan bolted to the ceiling as air con and we then proceeded to browse the food delivery options, settling on some chicken wings and chips, from a place called Buffalo Wings. A cold shower in the heat of Managua is surprisingly refreshing. Hot water, or even water every day is considered a luxury in some Central American countries, especially Honduras. Apparently cold showers are also good for the hair and skin, relieves stress and helps with weight loss. Who’da thunk it? 🤔
Food arrived. The wings weren’t wings, they were just chunky chicken smothered in a really untasteful bbq cheese sauce, but the few chips we got were ok. It’d last us till Sunday anyway. The room was hot and stuffy. The fan was just blowing hot air round the room so it wasn’t a particularly good nights sleep. Up early Sunday morning, I managed to finish my blog about Honduras, do some laundry and eat (reluctantly) banana pancakes. That’s how hungry I was, I actually ate banana. Oh and I also tried camomile tea. Not a fan. Not. A. Fan.The plan for today would be to walk to the old cathedral, a mere 2.6 miles away according to google maps. I think google maps and the bus systems in Central America are in cahoots because it seems whenever we reach said mileage, we end up still with further to go. Still, it wasn’t too bad of a walk. It was pretty much three roads. The colourful trees lining the road that light up at night. These so called ‘trees of life,’ line La Avenida Bolivar, the main road through Managua and they cost a fortune to run. As you can imagine, this doesn’t necessarily please the local Nicaraguans, no matter how pretty they look.
There is a stark contrast in Managua in terms of wealth. As we were walking, we passed the Intercontinental Hotel as well as the Hilton Princess Hotel, followed by a huge shopping mall where everyone appeared to be dressed really nice. Then we passed thisPeoples make shift houses under an overpass on our way to Pizza Hut. Cardboard, corrugated metal, bags and duct tape/string was all that was holding these together. Immaculate conception church The view atop the overpass. We headed to Pizza Hut as it appeared there’d Ben nothing further along. And we were right. I desperately tried to speak and understand Spanish here. “Una mesa por dos por favor,” got us our table. I pointed the the cheese pizza and asked for “pollo” and “tocina” on top. I forgot that ‘ll’ is pronounced ‘y’ so no wonder the waitress couldn’t understand me, and bacon is ‘tocino.’ Still. We got there in the end. Stomachs full and some to go we continued onwards. Sandino’s silhouette in the distance next to a treeThis Parque Historico Nacional Lomas de Tiscapa was in the middle where the road forked. The lake is extremely polluted but the main part of this park is Sandino’s silhouette. This park was the site of the Casa Presidencial, where Sandino and his men were executed in 1934. Not sure if this is a new workout regime or something but we passed this site as we rounded a corner by a car wash.We passed through a not so nice part of town and reached Parque Luis Alfonso Velasquez, a park home to children’s rides, skate ramps, sport arenas and such, as well as artwork all around the outside. Where there’s a park, there are vendors gathered outside with the most delicious smelling fried chicken that we haven’t been brace enough to try yet.Their stalls were so colourful and the food smelt great. We could see the lake in the distance and knew we had nearly made it. There are so many weird and wonderful things to see as you walk through Managua including those two above. A statue of a man with a gun and a digging tool depicting the 1979 Revolution, and an obelisk in the Plaza de la Fé Juan Pablo II.All these beautiful trees and what look like flags aligned the lake front. They were so pretty and it made a change for us to be exploring when the sky was so blue.Lago de Managua. You could see over to the other side! I think the birds were cormorants but I can’t say for sure. If only there were a few deck chairs a dip in the lake would have been extremely refreshing. We turned back to head to the Santiago of Managua Cathedral.The Antigua Cathedral. A shell of its former self due to being damaged by an earthquake in 1972.Palacio de la cultura y biblioteca nacional. This hosts the national museum dating back 500 million years. As well as statues of Ruben Darío, nicaraguas most famous poet, the Plaza de la Revolucíon also hosts the Tomb of Carlos Fonseca. He was a teacher who went on to become he founder of a the Sandinista National Liberation Front, who wanted to surmount a revolution such as the one in Cuba. He died three years before his party took power.
Not feeling that great we got a taxi back to near our hostel. The driver had no idea where he was going so we told him to pull over and we walked the rest of the way. On our way back to the hostel we passedHugo Chávez rotunda. This huge bust of the former Venezuelan President sits on a roundabout in downtown Managua. It lights up at night and was donated in 2013 by Nicaragua’s First Lady following the President’s death of cancer.
We enquiries how to get to Leon on Monday and our host also told us about a trip to the Masaya Volcano at 5pm that evening. It would cost $65 and includes transportation, entrance fees and a tour of the town of Masaya. I can tell you, it was worth every cent. Our driver, who I shall call Colin, after Colin McRae, picked us up at 430pm and drove us down to the town of Masaya. This town had tight streets with buildings only about one or two storeys high, still colourful in keeping with the rest of Central America. Colin stopped at the Mercado, of market, home to 120 stalls where artisans and craftsmen can come and sell their goods. As always, the stalls were relatively similar and beautifully colourful. After ten minutes there we got back in the car and Colin took us the the central park.The park hosted a beautiful church as well as a kids playground and brightly coloured vendors. Back in the car we were now heading to Volcan Masaya. The queue was long and Colin told us we’d be allowed in at 6pm. Only half an hour wait. 6pm came and went and whilst we inched forward slowly, by the time we actually got in it was 715pm. Colin did get out and buy us some water though! The heavens decided to open whilst we were waiting too. It cost $10 each to get in, (included in our price) and once you get let through, it’s a windy road to the top of the crater.
Colin’s driving was insane. He was up the arse of the car infront, braking at the last minute, attempting to overtake on corners, I mean he may as well have hand braked turned into the parking spot at the top. We got out the car and headed over the the crater. As we were driving up you could see the bright orange plume of smoke rising from it against the pitch black sky. It was amazing staring down into the bright orange, swirling lava pot of the caldera. Bizarrely, it was actually a lot cooler at the top. Masaya became Nicaragua’s first national park in 1979 and the park hosts two volcanoes, five craters and covers an area of 54 squared kilometres. There’s is a video on my Instagram of the volcano.
Back in the car for the thrilling ride down to the bottom and back to our hostel. Needless to say we arrived in no time…Despite the fact that Managua was 90% destroyed by the 1972 earthquake, it is still a city full of history, architecture and the weird and wonderful.
Until next time…