I LOVE Nicaragua!

I’ve been in Nicaragua now for just over a week and already, I absolutely lovelovelove it here! So much less expensive than Panama, feels extremely safe (outside of Managua) and beautiful nature and cities. A big YES for Nicaragua!

I started out in El Castillo, a sleepy little town on the mighty Rio San Juan in the very south near the Costa Rican border – no cars, no vehicles of any kind except bicycles and big-wheeled carts that they haul around to carry their stuff. The old “chop wood and carry water” way of being came to my mind many times in my days there. My days which were simple, Internet-free, spent walking, writing, reading and talking with a lovely young man in town, Yamil. Within minutes of meeting him, he announced to him that he was gay, although I didn’t really need the announcement; although he might have – it seems he really appreciated the warm reception he received from me. He runs a restaurant/coffee house there (Borders Coffee) and it just so happens he’s the son of the woman I’m staying with. Of course they are family – it’s a small town, so everyone is related or at least knows one another, it seems.

Staying with I say because I was the only tourist there in their little inn, so it felt more like I was living with the family. The family lives downstairs and the guest rooms are upstairs with a huge veranda, hammock-filled, with a view over the river and plenty of lovely breezes. I had the entire area to myself!  I was the only tourist in the entire town – there are some advantages to traveling off-season, although trying to take tours can be difficult without enough people to make them happen.

Anyway, back to Yamil. We hit it off immediately – he speaks little English, but my Spanish (especially comprehension) is improving rapidly and I make myself understood. He made some lovely vegetarian meals for me and we laughed, had lovely conversations and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves together. What is it with me and gay men, I mean, really – ?! No matter where I am, we connect, often so very intimately and have the best damn time together!! Oh, what would my life be like without my dear gay brothers – I cannot even imagine!

From El Castillo, I thought I was going to Isla Ometepe, only to find out that my one-day delay out of Costa Rica made that impossible because of the limited ferry schedule. Now I had to go to Managua, then onto Granada and then further transport from there. That shifted my entire itinerary around, so I decided to take the bus to Managua and then go to Granada and stay there for a bit and then rethink onward travel from there. And Granada is where I still am!

My travel through Managua was quite unpleasant, I must say. A Nicaraguan man befriended me on the long, boiling hot bus trip over several hours and while he ‘seemed’ nice enough, there was something I couldn’t quite get that was just a little off about him. He was showing off, it seemed like, and striking poses for my benefit. Not in a flirtatious way, there was none of that kind of energy, just that puffing up kind of thing that straight men sometimes like to do (sorry for the sexist generalization, but sometimes, it’s just what is so).

So I was friendly in return but cautious too. Then I just happened to open my guide book which I’ve hardly referred to for most of the trip and thought of letting go earlier along the way just to reduce my weight. But in this moment, something interesting happened. I ready a highlighted box of “Caution” related to Managua. As an aside, I generally avoid the capital cities and had planned to do exactly that with Managua, hearing that it had pretty much nothing to offer. But sometimes the capital city is the transport hub, so there’s no getting around it and here I was in that exact situation.

So, the Caution Box speaks to a scam happening frequently on the long-haul buses into Managua where a local befriends a tourist and starts warning them about the dangers of Managua and how they should share a taxi so that the tourist doesn’t get themselves into harm’s way from some local person. Then, in cahoots with the taxi driver, the local on the bus drives the tourist to several banks at knifepoint and demands that they withdraw money and then they drop them off at some lonely place on the outskirts of the city – YIKES! I’m not making this shit up and yes, it happens, which is another reason I avoid the big cities. Anyway, I got chicken skin just reading this thing. It felt like it was describing exactly what was coming down with this guy. He had already called a taxi and said we would take one together (didn’t ask me, told me) which I initially thought was muy amable (very friendly), but then I wasn’t so sure.

I didn’t know, of course, whether this was what was happening, and even at the chance that I would offend him, I decided offending him was a chance worth taking more than the other chance that I thought I might be facing. I was not taking a taxi with this guy. Period. When we approached Managua, I told him so and he looked very surprised and taken aback. Now, to find a taxi on my own – not easy in Managua because all taxis are collectivos and I must be very careful who I choose to get in the taxi with, because this situation can occur with anyone. I see a full taxi of women and children and that’s the one I decide to take. When in doubt, go toward the women, go toward the children! It doesn’t always work, but I thought it was my best chance.  We drove all over the city, it seemed, driving out of the busy part of town. I was in the front seat with my hand gripping the door handle, imagining how I would roll out of cab with my backpack and my shoulder bag if I had to. I must say, it was one of the scariest times I’ve ever experienced in my traveling life. Deep breathing helped. Feeling solid and grounded in my body helped. Declaring that I was safe and well helped. And fortunately, all was well. He delivered me to the other bus station where I immediately boarded a mini-van to Granada.

And since I’ve been here, I’ve heard more about the nightmare of the Managua taxis – it seems this is quite ordinary fare in that city and many tourists have the awful experience. I don’t know if I would have, had I gone with guy on the bus, but I am so very grateful I opened my guide book and paid attention to my intuition!

Now here in Granada, all is well. I love this city! Unfortunately, the original little hotel I planned to stay at was closed for repairs on these now earlier dates that I arrived. But I went there, dropped off my pack and went hunting for a place. Most were full and this was not looking good. I found one hostel with only one room left for $10 and while it was awful, I figured I could just spend the night and find another place the next day. But awful it really was and I was disappointed to have a cell of a room in this lovely city.

But that didn’t last long. As I strolled around the gorgeous colonial city, all around Parque Central with the grand cathedral in the midst of it, I came along a sign, “Room for Rent” and the man just happened to be walking by inside. We spoke and I asked to see a room and couldn’t believe what I had stumbled upon. A private old colonial home with a gorgeous inside courtyard (typical of most all the buildings here) and yes, a few rooms available at $15 each. Gorgeous! Fantastic! At $15, I told him I would return first thing in the morning! I went back to the Hostel from Hell, told them I found another place and while I would honor my agreement to stay the night if they insisted, I would really prefer to leave right now! They were fine with it, I packed up my pack in about 30 seconds and hauled ass over to Guillermo’s place! He was surprised to see me, but welcomed me in and tonight will be night #5! It feels like my Nicaraguan home and it’s 1/2 block from Parque Central with everything, everything I need! A great strolling city, wonderful restaurants and warm Nicaraguan people! And Guillermo is great – speaks plenty of English so we’ve enjoyed some colorful conversations, and shared plenty of laughs and listened to great Nicaraguan music together!

AND, I’m thinking, in a pretty solid way in this moment, of returning this winter for 1-2 months and being here for the holidays! Horray! Donna is open to the idea of Christmas in Granada, so we are pretty excited about the possibility! Guillermo gives discounts for longer stays, of course and doesn’t even raise his prices during High Season or the holidays. Both of us could stay here for $400 per month – you got it, $400 for both of us!

I think I’m a bit spoiled here at the moment because it’s low season and there’s not a lot of tourists around and I understand it can get pretty crazy busy with tourists. but from what I’m seeing, there are also plenty of local people here living their lives and are friendly and welcoming, not terribly jaded by all that tourism.

Ohmigod, and it is bloody HOT – the hottest month of the year here before the rainy season arrives very soon and while that wasn’t the best planning on my part, this was the time I could come, so it is. There’s no doing nothing outside in the middle of the day, so the whole Siesta concept has become crystal clear to me. I’ve enjoyed having a base here, a place that feels homey and safe and comfortable. Guillermo doesn’t advertise at all – just his sign out front of the place and that gets him the business he wants. Most people stay here for months at a time and I’m hoping I’ll be one of them before the year is out!

Although I feel like I can stay here and just sink into Granada life, I also do want to see some more of the country. So, I’m off tomorrow afternoon to Isla Ometepe for several days where I’ll be Internet-unplugged again and then to a town known especially for its artesans and dance and then back here to Guillermo’s place and then onto Leon, another ancient colonial city. I actually changed my itinerary and am not going to a place I really wanted to, because the only way to do it was to spend the night in Managua and have to deal with more taxis there. I simply don’t want to have to face that experience again. So I’m not.

From Leon, my Nicaragua time is complete, and I will head on a fancy bus for the overland trip to Honduras. But that’s not for awhile and no sense getting ahead of myself here – plans are bound to change again, because, well, because they do!

I can’t say it’s been an easy trip, what with starting off on the end of a terrible cold I got in SF, to spraining my ankle, to losing my backpack and to feeling like I got close to getting robbed. No, it hasn’t been easy, really. But I am putting one foot in front of the other and in this moment, all is well, all is very well and I am grateful to be in good spirits, good health and open to more experiences and adventures as they unfold!

Sorry, no photos right now – they take lots of time to upload and I’ve got to get to my Online Writing Group assignments! They’ve been deeply engaging with awesome writing prompts from the Master Joshua!

Ciao from Nicaragua, a country I highly recommend for a visit!

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5 Responses to I LOVE Nicaragua!

  1. Richard Powers says:

    Thanks for the terrific post, Christina–great that you are loving the life in Nicaragua! Here are some lines from “Zero Hour” and “Prayer for Marilyn Monroe” from Ernesto Cardenal, and of course, Ruben Dario’s “The Swan”–
    http://www.poetryfoundation.org/poem/180094
    http://www.festivaldepoesiademedellin.org/pub.php/en/Revista/ultimas_ediciones/71_72/cardenal.htmlhttp://www.damisela.com/literatura/pais/nicaragua/autores/dario/profanas/cisne_p3.htm

    Lots of continued light, strong ankles and finding paradise–glints are always waiting, and keep that intuition going!!

    Love,
    Richard

    • Christina says:

      Oh, darlin’ Richard, just like you to know Ruben Dario, who is so beloved here, of course!

      Thanks for all your lovely input and for all of who you are!

      Much love to you!
      xoxo

  2. Jon Arterton says:

    Wow – it all sounds wonderful!!! So glad you escaped Managua!
    xox

  3. James says:

    wow! How exciting, it sounds like an amazing time you’re having…and thank the goddess for travel books!

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