Note: I wrote some, not all, of this while I was actually in Nicaragua, which is why there may be some discrepancies. Just roll with it – it’ll be okay.
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I’m sick of hearing myself say how fast the time goes.
So instead of mentioning it outright, I hid it away in a secondary clause where it was less offensive. You’re welcome.
So it’s the 19th of November, and my fourth-last weekend in Central America is off to a fantastic start with gorgeous weather and an even more gorgeous hostel. It’s called Bigfoot, it’s like Galileo only better, and right now Purple Rain is wafting through from the Pure Earth vegetarian café to the poolside seating – where I’m currently melting into a little pool of my own.
Oh yeah – Nicaragua is HOT. And I’m saying this coming from my recent home of Costa Rica. But that’s the only reason it seems inappropriate to use the word ‘cool’ to describe León. There are murals everywhere, a bunch of museums, and it has a rich history of Sandinistas, poets and important figures from Nicaragua. I’ll leave you to peruse the Wikipedia article if and when you please – I’m here to tell you how I liked it. Which was quite a bit, really.
I won’t talk about the Tica Bus ride from San Ramón, Costa Rica to Nicaraguan capital Managua; because it was nine hours long and the only way I’d really be able to tell you anything about it would be to recite the songs my iPod shuffled through as I sat there and ate a LOT of gallo pinto. However, let me say something about the connecting ride to León: there is, quite simply, no such thing as personal space when it comes to Nicaraguan public transport. If there’s a square inch of space to be made for yet another passenger, you will end up with your face in a Nica armpit. If there is no square inch to be made, you will end up with your face in a Nica armpit, and said passenger will just have to cling to the metal pole at the door and hang out into the motorway as you speed bumpily along. And while I was among the lucky few to find a place to sit (and not even on the dashboard like many others); I still ended up with approximately 35% of my field of vision being occupied by a stranger’s pot belly for 2+ hours. What can you do, though? You just have to take in the odd mix of loud music which seems to accompany these tin-can rides, ignore the fact that you feel like you’re being thoroughly flossed between the ears by someone’s screechy ringtone, and enjoy the ride. You are young, rich (by these standards) and in Nicaragua, after all.
So, we finally shuddered into León, my vision cleared to reveal that my luggage was still up on the rails where I’d left it, and we hopped straight off the bus and into a taxi to that gorgeous hostel I told you about. It was strange to be surrounded by English speakers, especially as my companion was Costa Rican; it was equally strange to see a man in a kilt after all this time. But that’s backpacking for you, so we paid our dues, settled in, and went out to see what León had in store for us.
This, for me, amounted to the bar across the road, Via Via, along with its odd and original murals, an elaborate breakfast menu we never did try, and a man playing the xylophone with three beaters (two in his right hand). There were also several Nicaraguan guys who struck up a conversation with us: they seemed nice enough, but I was feeling unwell and wary of strangers, and retired to my bed, allowing Ixqui to take my camera back out with her as she returned to the bar and ended up getting a free night-tour of the city from those same guys. The pics that came back on my camera would suggest she had an ace time.
That was all Friday, though. The Saturday in question, we spent a nice relaxing morning in the hostel and booked our volcano boarding trip for the next day, before setting off to the beach for an afternoon stroll. A short taxi ride and a loooong wait on the bus later, we found ourselves in a beach bar with salt, tequila, lime, about a gallon of smoothie and Marisol from Barcelona, who shared my taste for ceviche, and even went so far as to share with me her ceviche. (Ceviche is a dish made with very finely chopped fish which is ‘cooked’ without heat in the acid from lemon juice).
We spent a pleasant late-afternoon in the cool breeze and tepid waters of Las Penitas, and enjoyed an interesting conversation with a drunk local who didn’t seem to understand that a) We all understood Spanish and b) He did not speak English. After about a half hour we took our leave in order to catch the bumpy bus back home to León amidst an incredible sunset. Don’t be fooled, though – the night was still young!
The cool breeze on the coast was quickly lost upon returning to the city, and I think the intense heat was the main culprit for the complete lack of hunger both Ixqui and I felt. (Wait, did someone say it’s November?) However, we knew better than to let it trick us into skipping dinner, and grabbed some chips ‘n’ cheese from the market square as we awaited the return of the highly popular local pastime: ‘the bus that drives around’. This bus lived up to its name whilst simultaneously sporting Christmas lights and playing music – and all this for only ten córdobas! (50¢).
That adventure over, we headed to one of the bars Ixqui had visited on the previous night’s tour, named El Camaleón. It was a hip place, with Mayan-style murals and UV lighting. We hung out for a bit, had a couple of drinks and then swiftly left when my white middle-class vigilance led me to catch a pickpocket in the act of attempting to rob me. We managed to fit in a quick glimpse of a bar fight before the night was through: I probably wouldn’t even have noticed the sound of smashing bottles if Ixqui hadn’t grabbed my arm and steered me hastily around the corner.
Now, if you’re a regular reader you may have noticed that the word ‘volcano’ has only just now come up. The word ‘boarding’, too, has gone hitherto unmentioned. [EDIT: This statement is false. See if you can spot the deliberate mistake :P] But as you’ll also have noticed, that’s not the only thing we were in Nicaragua for! So, instead of trying to cram all 72 hours of not-being-in-Costa-Rica into one blog post, I’ll let you anticipate my volcano-boarding account for a little longer while I mark my students‘ marketing essays and try to negotiate passage to the Río Celeste.
Please do leave me a wee comment if you felt any sort of intellectual or emotional reaction to the words I spent so long writing for you; and I hope all of my Thanksgiving-celebrating readers enjoy Thanksgiving, and that my non-Thanksgiving-celebrating readers enjoy the 24th of November!