Once in Nicaragua
we were met by towering volcanoes smouldering ominously in the near distance! We had decided to avoid Managua
as the guide books told us Leon was more interesting.
Leon is a bustling city, with a rather attractive university, cathedral which is the largest in Central America and like most cathedrals is grander than the city tit is located in. It also has a mural depicting the struggles in Nicaragua, some interesting architecture, the usual market but this one was heaving with clothes and headless manikins-pick a colour, any colour! And we visited the Museum of Legends and Traditions which was located in Prison 21, where prisoners of the civil war were held and tortured by the Nicaraguan military. On the walls were drawings of different tortures. And we were given a booklet to read describing what happened. It was very gruesome, However the museum displaying figures depicting various legends was anything but gruesome. It was quite fun, though in an odd setting.
Here's a selection,
We began our stay in a hostel called the Lazy Lizard. It had a good write-up in our guide book and most of the other places we had tried were either full or didn't have parking for Nancy. The Lazy Lizard boasted a pool as well as large rooms, with coffee and internet included in the $30. It was more pricey than other hostels but we needed somewhere to stay. We quickly cooled off in the pool before it got dark, had supper of pizza-delicious and had an early night. It is hard work riding all day! At about midnight I heard David rustling around the room. He muttered that he thought he was being bitten. We turned on the light to find he was pickled in bites which had swelled into numerous masses. He reckoned it was bed bugs and that he had already killed a few. Judging by the squashed bodies on his sheets, they and he had been busy. We hunted for more culprits, but we didn't have to look far, they were marching up the side of his mattress, in search of his juicy body! We found a few on my bed too. But I didn't seem to have had the reaction he did. In the end tiredness won out and we tried to get some sleep. He ended up having a shower at 4am to try and relieve the itching. The next morning his back, neck and thighs were a mess. So we decided to leave. I told the cleaner who said he must have had an allergic reaction! But promised to spray the beds. As we left, I also told the owner who just seemed to look through me and demanded payment of 65 Cordobas for the breakfast I'd had. With that many bed bugs this can't have been the first reporting of the problem, but because they are very difficult to eradicate once installed, it often means the whole bed has to be destroyed which of course is expensive for the owner. A day or so later it occurred to me that when we moved in to the room, I had spotted what looked like black dust/tiny droppings on my bed by my pillow. I thought it must have come from the ceiling, brushed it off, decided the pillow was too firm for me and swapped it with David's. He mentioned that he had lots of bites around his neck to begin with, so we reckon that is where they were hiding out. Sorry David!
Anyway David found Hostel Madrid on the way to the bank and booked us in. It is a relatively new hostel so not in the guide books, but should be. Owned by a lovely couple originally from Pakistan but who have Spanish citizenship and spoke excellent English, the hostel was a treat. The rooms are only $16 are clean and spacious-sleep 3, with en suite bathroom ,TV and fan. The courtyard is cosy, tea and coffee is available, as is the use of a kitchen. There is also a small dorm. And they are in the process of building secure lockers. If you are looking for a place to stay in Leon we recommend the Hostel Madrid
to the rear of the Merced in the Parque de la Merced email: firstname.lastname@example.org you can also find them on the Nicaragua tourist guide website.
So we enjoyed two nights at the Hostel Madrid. It was hot enough to fry your brains in Leon. It was about 105F during the day and at night at least 90F. There was no escape. So we decided rather than head for another city-Granada, we left for the mountains in search of lower temperatures. The journey along a good tarmacked road, brought us amazing views of volcanoes, and road works as new drains were being installed ahead of the rainy season the usual herd of cattle a very passable cena or lunch, of you guessed it pollo, rice, but this time with platanos (plantain) mashed potato (yum!!!) and beetroot salad all for 60 Cordobas. We carried on through wonderful often smouldering scenery. We were not sure if the land is being actively managed by being set alight to burn brush, or whether it is spontaneously combusting . Either way mostly nobody seems to pay the flames any attention. On we went past homes constructed of mud, wood, black polythene and corrugated iron
and of course a hillside used as a dump which trailed and blew around for hundreds of meters The landscape is stunning albeit it littered with rubbish along the roadsides.
We stopped off in Jinoteca because David wanted to taste a real Nicaraguan coffee. We also had a look around the town, visited the local church and the park yes this is a sculpture of a breast feeding woman. In fact breastfeeding was common particularly in Guatemala and El Salvador where it was commonplace the see women walking around, sitting by the side of the road or in the park with a baby or toddler latched on. In the café, David was overcome with tiredness and took a power nap. After clearing his head and a few more zeds, we wandered back to the park so he could have a lie down
still a bit groggy, he eventually perked up and we nipped into the church so David could continue his ongoing dialogue with Him. Back on the road through more wonderful scenery we arrived in Matagalpa in the late afternoon and located Hotel Fountain Pure or Fuente Pura down a short track just off the main road into the town. Having parked Nancy in reception, he quickly located a hammock before we were whisked away to watch some monkeys swinging between trees outside. Boasting spectacular views, we settled in to watch the sun set over the mountains, then headed off for supper at a local restaurant about 1Km along the main road. You definitely need a head torch for this short walk. When the sun sets it is pitch black, so like a bicycle, we walked one in front of the other, I wore my head torch on the back of my head and David wore his shining forwards. And we are still here to tell the tale!
Breakfast was included in our $25 stay so this morning we tucked into rice and beans, an egg, toast, salty cheese and a coffee. I do miss my 'superfruity pancake' at the Cafe Atitlan in San Pedro!
Then we set off to have a look around Matagalpa. First David's usual commune with Him, in the town church, which like many others we have seen is stunning and houses small figurines with small charms of various parts of the body attached, I think as part of a prayer for the part being attached to be made well. Then we visited a monument to the brave men of war Then we went in search of a real Nicaraguan frappé cappuccino and I played around taking photos Coffee for one? Coffee for two? mmmm and mmmm go on then ,coffee for two....
Back on the road we made our way alongside a lake more rubbish and we finally arrived at our next destination, that of Juigalapa which is on the road to El Rama where judging by the map, in about 180kms the road runs out at the river which empties into the Caribbean at a place called Bluefields. We thought when we get there we will empty ourselves into it too!!
But that is for tomorrow. Right now were are in a very passable hotel just off the main road, for 350 Cordobas a night-about £10. David is lying next to me reading his novel, and tucking into a bag of tortillas, naked as a jay bird, looking like a human dot to dot, 'cos it's hard to cool off once out of the mountains and onto the lowlands (it's around 105F), even with the air conditioning on full blast. Meanwhile, I am writing the Blog and resting my gut after a dodgy apple (tasted of poo-no I have never tasted poo (no comments please!) but it smelled faecal even after a good wash & peel!) followed at lunch by a very large fresh fish from that lake we drove alongside. Too much food for one day-I think maybe I am missing my pollo!