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Day 5 SJdS to Managua

Written on: Saturday July 28th, 2007

A journal entry from: Central America Road Trip 2007

I got up early and headed over to the market to catch the 5AM express bus to Managua. The seats were comfortable and the bus supposedly airconditioned but whatever cool air there was came from the open windows, however it was reasonably cool enough. Iīm not sure why they call it the express bus, since it made many stops along the way but the views along the way were very nice and I wasnīt complaining, particularly with a cost of only 65 cordobas ($4). Iīm not sure how long the later buses took or how much less they cost if at all, but it was good to get into Managua early in the day at around 8.

Having a rough idea of the city layout. I realized the final busstop was a little further away from where my planned hotel was so I got off early at a gas station stop and caught a cab to my hotel. Unfortunately, when I got there they were all booked up. Thatīs the risk you take when you shoot everything from the hip and try to be spontaneous. Unfortunately unlike other areas that I've been so far, everything in Managua seems to be pretty scattered and it was not as simple a matter as it was in little SJdS to wander around to other nearby hotels. The desk at the first place I went directed me to a little place just across the street and a little down the block. $28/nt including tax and breakfast and the room looked reasonably clean so I said okay and paid my fee. Big mistake, I go to lie down and cool off for a little while after my bus trip and when I go to get up a little while later I discover lots of little bite marks on my back from bedbugs or something. I complain to the manager, Nora and she embarassingly takes off the bedspread to clean it properly and changed the sheets. I looked at the bed warily and tried to decide what to do, but not feeling up to hunting all over the place for an equalling unknown quantity I decide to take my chances.

After a quick breakfast at the hotel, I decided to catch up for a hour or two at a local internet shop and then head over to the bank. Should have done the bank first as I lost track of time and got to the bank just as they were closing the doors at noon. Forgot about it being a Saturday. Oh well, then a quick stop at the farmacia next door for some hydrocortisone for my bites before heading back to my hotel to call up the local guide I had arranged. Brenda is a friend of a buddy of mine Jay (aka Noguera) who used to live in Managua. When I was pumping him for info on Managua and mentioned I might hire a local guide to take me around, he mentioned back that his friend Brenda would be happy to do it and could use the extra bucks since she had just lost her job as a hotel receptionist. I probably should have gone with a local big and burly taxista with broken english but who am I to turn down when a pretty girl wants to show me around. So I call when I said I would and she says she can be over in a hour. Great. I go back to my room to rest up a little while I was waiting for her. An hour or so later I head to the lobby to wait for her there, figuring if I was ready to go we could take the same taxi that brought her there. I forgot about chica time. An hour after that she shows up.

It is already growing late and I hadn"t really done anything yet today and neither of us had  eaten any lunch. So we decide to head somewhere to get something to eat first. As you know, I usually eat at the cheapo $2-5 local places. Well this girl took me to some local rustico steak place that she said was so good. It seemed alright to me but certainly nothing special and the service stunk and with drinks it came out to something like $20. I didn't mind too much though. She was cute as a button and we were hitting it off well. Her english wasn't quite as good as Jay had made out, but between her heavily accented english and my broken spanish we communicated reasonably well, discussing everything from Central American poets like Ruben Dario, a bit about politics (she detested Daniel Ortega almost as much as I hate George Bush), and personal aspects of our lives.

When we finally finish lunch we hop into another cab to catch some of the sights such as the Plaza de la Revolution in old Managua and the new modern Catedral which looked something like a cross between a nuclear reactor and a mosque. Brenda couldn't add much about what we were looking at, but I already knew some stuff from what I had read.

A BRIEF HISTORY OF MANAGUA: Managua has been around since pre-colombian times but has only grown as a large city since the mid-1800"s shortly after independence from Spain. It only became the capital then as a compromise solution between the 2 other major Nicaraguan cities that were vying for the position - liberal Leon to the west and conservative Granada to the east. So it never really had the same level of colonial architecture as those other cities. Add to that the fact that it was largely destroyed by a major earthquake around 1931, only after which did they discover that the place they'd chosen for their capital happened to lie directly on top of a major fault line, and there remains very little in the way of historical buildings. In fact, after the 1931 quake, the city center was never really rebuilt and the city expanded outward leaving large tracks of undeveloped land in the center (one major explanation for the aforementioned scattered nature of the city)

CITY LAYOUT: Like San Jose, addresses in Managua are given as distances and directions from various reference points (which may or may not still exists). Unlike SJ, the use cuadras instead of cien metros (or blocks), and often instead of compass directions they use al lago (north towards the lake), al montagne (south towards the mountains) and sometimes arriba (for east where the sun rises) and abajo (for west where the sun sets). This might help if the city was on a grid like most other places and one could tell which way the lake was or if the sky was not cloudy so one could tell by the time and the position of the sun which way was east or west. The real key seems to be to know the various autorotundas that are scattered about and how to recognize them by which monument is in its center, then even if you get lost if you can find your way to a major road and follow it you will invariably come to one of them. Thats assuming you drive yourself around, which I'll come to later. Unless you're in an area that is really close to a bunch of stuff you want to see (like the metrocentro/zona Hippo area seems to be), then walking anywhere is not a real option and cab fares of 40-80 cordobas $2-4 can quickly add up.  Of course there are also buses but given the nature of the city layout, not something I wanted to try this time around.

After driving back and forth for a while to each of these spots, the afternoon was pretty much shot. We stopped of first at her apartment (which was pretty nice, but evidently more than she could afford given her present unemployment and the packing that seemed to be going on ) and then my hotel to freshen up and then went out for dinner to a favorite place of hers called Woody's in Zona Hippo and then to a disco called Matrix that was just across the other side of the Carreta Masaya.

That was about all I have to report for the day. Sorry I have no cost estimate since a) I'd simply lost track and b) I'm well aware I've gone way off my cheapo plan. Still, its not like I don't have the money and I am having a good time.