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Toto... we're not in West Wickham anymore

First few days in Nicaragua


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We've been in Nicaragua for a week now. We landed in Managua, the capital, a hot and dusty sprawling mess of concrete, the main part of the city having been destroyed in an earthquake in 1972. Everything we'd heard beforehand warned us that Managua is a dangerous city, especially for foreigners, and advised us to get out of there as soon as possible. But, arriving in the dark, we had decided to stay for one night, and make our way to Granada in the morning.

After taking a taxi through dark, sketchy streets, where groups of people hung around snack stalls at the side of the road, music blaring, we arrived at our hotel, a big yellow and blue pyramid which stood out a mile, particularly as we'd left the main city for a quiet residential area, where there were iron railings and security guards outside the other small non-descript houses.

The eccentric nature of the building matched that of Manfred, the German owner. We could barely get a word in edgeways, and before we knew it we found ourselves in his car being driven to a restaurant with no map or Spanish language skills, and having left all our belongings in our unlocked room.

Manfred assured us that the staff at the restaurant spoke English, and swiftly drove off. Fearing that we may never see daylight again, we ordered a feast, using our rudimentary Spanish and pointing as, no, the staff did not speak English. A mountain of food appeared: gallo pinto (rice and peas, a familiar staple from our Brixton days), plantain, meat, fried cheese and bottles of Toña, the local beer. Not a bad Last Supper.

When the time came to leave, we tried to remember Manfred's directions and walked back to the hotel. We succeeded, with only a few wrong turnings, and fell into bed tired and full.

The next morning, feeling pleased with ourselves for surviving the dangers of Managua, we awoke refreshed, and the oppressiveness of the city night had vanished. The neighbourhood did indeed seem safe, and we discovered a canopy of green above the rooftops.

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After more gallo pinto, this time with huevos fritos, and the best black coffee I've had in a long time, we made our way to the bus station, from where we were headed to Granada, and colonial splendour.

The station was a chaotic, ramshackle headache of stalls, buses, donkeys, carts, and people selling fruit, corn, cashew nuts and many other indiscernible things. A few men by the bus shouted at us to 'Vamos! Vamos!' and threw our bags on the roof of the tiny local bus. We clambered aboard, and prepared to sweat in the 36c heat.

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We alighted in Granada an hour later, and saw the colonial beauty of which we'd dreamt. Streets of colourful houses are set against a backdrop of Volcan Mombacho wherever you walk – which isn't far for us, as we can only manage an hour at most before we start to drown in our own sweat (you're welcome) and we need a rest. But that's okay, as there are many quaint courtyard cafes in which to wile away the hours. It's a hard life.

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Posted by Clammy Clemmies 16:27 Archived in Nicaragua

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