Nicaragua, a hidden gem


And so I got my first puncture after almost 2,500km cycling out of Managua yesterday! Another ‘natural disaster’ in a country with a history of them, and a touch of reality after what has been ten days of wonderful people, sights and flavours in Nicaragua, a country that was for me prior to my visit here, best known for earthquakes, volcanoes, revolutionary politics and where my friend Noel lived. This is all true but it is so much more ….

On the road to Managua

We left Leon early last Monday morning bound for Managua where we had arranged to stay with Noel, an Irish friend of mine from my American Airlines days and his Nicaraguan wife Carmen. It was an easy cycle distance wise but again the heat of the midday sun forced us to stop in a quaint little village for an extended lunch. Even lunch stops bring their surprises … we were perched in a park eating when two of the local policemen decided to befriend us. They were straight out of a scene from the Irish comedy sketch ‘Killinaskully’ , apart from the fact that these guys had fully loaded shot guns straddled across their middle (pictured below)! They fed us salted fruit, indigenous to Nicaragua, talked about their work, discussed Ireland and we were on our merry way arriving in Managua before night fall. Sweet!  

Days in Managua and friends reunited

Noel and his family were a welcome sight and it was great to see Noel after all these years and to meet his family. Staying with them for a week was like ‘coming home’. We had luxuries like we had not had for 2 months and it was a real ‘culture shock’ for us following weeks on the road. Paddy’s Day was spent eating Irish stew cooked by Carmen, meeting her family and we made Bailey’s coffee to top off a wonderful night. The Flor de Cana rum flowed. During our week in Managua, there were many highlights which included a boat trip on Lago de Managua, looking over the crater of a volcano, a visit to one of the most stunningly beautiful sights of the trip so far at Mirador Caterina looking down on Lago de Apoyo, a trip to the municipal market and of course La Curva restaurant where we listened to some classic hits of the 60’s and 70’s and talked into the early hours with Susie, a Geordie and her Iraqi husband Jamal. Carmen’s dad even played the drums for one Beatles number, not bad for a member of the current government. Then again, he was a hippy turned revolutionary and has seen a lot in his lifetime. For most of the week we simply enjoyed the shade and the run of their house, and had lots of fun with their two kids, Matthew and Nicole. Thanks Carmen and Noel, and to your family for making us so welcome and teaching us a lot about the character of this country.

And so to the mystery that is Managua … it is a city devoid of a real centre and many of the streets still have no name, as a result of the 1972 earthquake. It is a shell of its former self. Following a visit by Bono to Nicaragua in the 80’s in an effort to raise awareness about Central American war refugees, he penned the U2 tune ‘Where the streets have no name’. Like the clock on the old cathedral, time has stood still since the last earthquake. Daniel Ortega who was leader of the Sandinista Revolution of 1978-79 is back in power. There is much potential here for positive change … time will tell.

Colonial cities – Leon and Granada

Leon and Granada, two beautiful colonial cities and tourist hubs are bursting with character and, Granada in particular, with colour. Tourism hasn’t yet overrun Nicaragua and maybe it is this aspect that allows you to truely enjoy the tranquility and friendliness that is evident everywhere.

Ometepe awaits ..

And so tomorrow we are off to San Jorge to catch a ferry to Isla Ometepe in Lago Nicaragua, the largest fresh water Island in the world. The island was formed by two volcanoes rising from Lake Nicaragua. The volcano has been rumbling recently so I don’t think we will be climbing it.

Nicaragua has more than exceeded our expectations so far in every way, in particular the people have made it special for us.

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