Just a tiny bit of the bumpy ride!
It never fails that when I travel I run into angels. No, not the kind with wings and white robes, but those people who do something nice, something that you really needed, often without even knowing it. Today I ran into a couple.
I’ve come to the conclusion that the first few days of travel are often the hardest. It’s hard to get your bearings in a new place. You often get ripped off while you figure out how things work and that always makes a place feel less than welcoming. For me it also takes a bit before I realize that I can do whatever I want that day and that ideas of what I “should” do are someone else’s agenda not my own.
Rather than heading to Ometepe I decided to take today to get some cash, walk around and just explore, even though that meant exploring Rivas, a place not high on the list of excellent places to see according to most of the books. The 3 mile walk there was interesting and fairly nice and gave me plenty of time to hone my “ignore” practice when dealing with guys yelling “hey baby” at me. It’s good to have that down since 8 out of every 10 guys yell… frankly the rates may be higher than that. Such a odd change from Seattle and something I never got when riding Bob in Baja. In Seattle Bob’s a dude magnet, in foreign countries a deterrent. Funny that.
I eventually found the cash machine and while waiting outside (you don’t go in to the little booth to wait, each person goes in alone) an older woman came by and asked where I was from. Surprised at how much easier it is to talk to people already, and especially out of the tourist areas where people are happy to see you we chatted for a few seconds and she shook my hand and welcomed me to Nicaragua. While she didn’t know it, she was my first angel. Just having that positive interaction was so helpful and indeed so welcoming.
My next angel came just after telling me the cash machine was broken. I asked if there were other options in town and he pointed towards down several blocks to what was apparently another machine. He told me it only took visa cards and I told him I had one. He headed that direction and I followed behind, thinking that we both were going to get cash. When he got there I realized that his card was not visa, he was simply taking me to the other machine. It’s incredible how meaningful these little interactions are. Compassion is truly a universal language.
Around the market
Buoyed up by my recent success I walked around the market, asking if I could take pictures and just enjoying the weird world that is an open market in Nicaragua. I eventually passed a store selling many things, mattresses, furniture and of course motorcycles. Again I went in and asked if I could take a picture (I WANT one of these!) and the salesman said yes. I pulled out my iPhone after taking the picture and showed him a picture of Bob. He asked about the engine size and I told him. Yes, that’s right, I had a conversation about motorcycle engine size in a small town in Nicaragua in a language I don’t speak. Win!
I can has?
I had planned on taking a cab back to the Hotel California but knew I’d have to argue about a price for quite some time to pay what I should and it just didn’t seem worth it so I walked back, getting a bit lost once I got to San Jorge and increasing my walk by at least a mile. After a brief nap I headed down to the dock to the restaurant from last night and snapped a few more pictures. It’s rained ever so slightly all day and the wind on the lake was intense. Hopefully it’ll calm down a bit before I hop on a boat tomorrow!
Not sure who if anyone is following this blog but yet again I’m hijacking the topic. For the next month or so I’ll be using this blog to report on my travels in Nicaragua.
Many people ask me why Nicaragua and frankly the story is likely weirder than they expect. Not work related, no friends here and no strong desire to see the country but with some serious vacation time to burn I needed a place to go and had some requirements that Nicaragua fit.
The fully story is that I used Fare Compare’s Where to Go Getaway Map with the slider feature to find cheap airfares. With a free trip to a major hub thanks to some frequent flier miles my options were primarily Central America, Iceland and either Peru or Columbia with Central America being the least expensive. I toyed with the idea of Iceland but the actual cost in the country made it not possible for this particular trip.
Once I settled in to Central America I asked around about cheap countries for travel within Central America. The overwhelming consensus was that the cheapest country for day-to-day expenses was either Nicaragua or Honduras. A good friend of mine had recently rode his motorcycle from Seattle to Tierra del Fuego and knew both countries relatively well. I sent him a simple text “Honduras or Nicaragua?” and he responded “Nic”. I booked the flight a few days later.
At the time two back to back red-eye flights didn’t sound so horrible and frankly they wouldn’t have been had it not been for the fact that I arrived in Nicaragua at about 2am. I’d booked a private hostel room for the first three nights and had some issues the day I was to arrive but fortunately it was all worked out and a private room was mine. I wish I could say it was awesome but frankly it was a crappy room at best. Serves me right for counting on Lonely Planet and other backpackers’ recommendations. I didn’t think to check so I wound up with no hot water and a room directly next to the outside courtyard… aka the smoking area and drinking area. The windows here are slats that open so there’s no closing out the sound. The first night I slept for about 5 hours and last night not much more. While none of this would be a big deal the place wasn’t cheap and that’s the real bummer. I don’t mind getting a crappy room for cheap or a nice room for a decent chunk of change, but paying more for a gross place… not so much. I was glad to learn the little mouse turds on the sink were really just termite droppings of some sort. Still, it turns out I like my luxury more than I’d care to admit.
Christmas here already
The days in Managua were interesting. Managua has no downtown and most importantly no street names so getting around was less fun than it could be. When I say no street names I don’t mean they aren’t posted, I mean there are none. At all. You can probably imagine how much fun it is to get around a spread out city with no street names when you don’t speak the language. I was very thankful for a fairly good memory and sense of direction. Since I do app reviews I also had a good app in my pocket for just such an occasion. While I don’t normally post these things here my GPS loving friends will love that this app actually tells you the GPS coordinates of wherever you are. It won’t show you a map but points you in the general direction of the marked location you want to find. That’s often good enough for me.
As I walked back to the hostel the first evening I came across a huge election celebration. Turns out these have been going on since the election complete with fireworks and all night celebrations. Fortunately the one I heard was fairly tame. It’s still interesting to see people still celebrating many days later. A fellow traveler commented that you could tell how much people had going on in a particular country based on how long they celebrated these types of things. Considering that there wasn’t some big political change happening it seems like there must not be a lot for the youth of the country to do here.
Today’s travels took me to the Hotel California. I was hoping that the English-speaking owner would be here as a friend of his sent me this way but sadly he is somewhere else. I got quite a bit out of my interaction with the desk worker here but the part about where the owner was I couldn’t understand. The bus ride to get here was interesting. Two hours crammed in a bus literally packed full. I was lucky enough to have a seat and really couldn’t complain but it was more than interesting to be the only non local person on the bus.
These little bikes are everywhere. I can has?
In all thus far Nicaragua has been good but difficult. I keep wishing I had Bob with me as everything would have been considerably easier with him here. That said, the traffic here is crazy so I’m guessing it’d been stressful in its own unique way.
I’m now on my way to Ometepe though I may stay one more day at the Hotel California… there is plenty of room after all.