Didn’t know what to expect; little vague on the travel planning this time around. Central America! continent of the green and lushish amazon, savanna and mountain tops, rivers and beaches, active volcanoes, so much diversity in one place, bordered by both the Atlantic Ocean in the east and the Pacific in the West.
Curious? Yes, I was! Eager to explore? Absolutely!
Approximately two hours out of Miami, one direct flight straight into Managua, the nations Capitolio. It can be a bit overwhelming if you’re a calm, organized and disciplined traveler. Managua, especially, is far from. Twenty minute cab-ride into the city exposes you to a very un-calmly, near chaotic, environment which is filled with numerous street vendors and sellers; rest assure, you’ll find a vendor for whatever you forgot to bring on your trip, from socks, toothbrushes to electrical cords and phone chargers. Such a tiny world with such massive undertaking and entrepreneurial drive. Nicaragua, not only to discover the diversity in nature, but the diversity in lifestyle. Suddenly the tiny world imagined, might not seem so tiny after all.
Managua, full of ‘surprises’, brace yourself to not jump up in the morning thinking there is an invasion of some sort, no, it’s just the cars honking away. Something, your eardrums will probably take a day or two to get used to. Yes, the cars and buses, they honk…constantly, for everything, for everyone. And there are a lot of them. One of the fairly appreciative pats on the back in Managua, is its public transport. You’ll be able to catch a bus from east to west for approximately $2.00, or a drive-by cab for anything between $1.00 and $3.00 for you alone to shared with others; ‘collectivo’, a very common understanding in Nica, and it may be cheaper too! it’s easy to get around with public transport, the bus system is well organized, from bus terminals private buses leave every 20 to 30 minutes. If you want to enjoy some longer rides, that take you in and around the barrios, hop on the larger buses that spell “mixto” in the window- they accept cash and pre-paid bus-passes (tarjeta). Don’t bother finding a ‘tarjeta’ anywhere in Managua. Unless you know a local that has an extra to spare, you won’t find it. One more tip: know where you need to go beforehand, the buses take different routes every time to avoid the congestion of traffic during rush hour, so know exactly where in the neighborhood you need to get off and if Spanish is not your strongest, mention the stop to the guy collecting the bus fare after you find a seat or place to stand- yes, standing in overcrowded buses is a typical normal everyday routine– get used to being squashed.
When travelling to the countryside it gets easier. From the terminal catch either a private coach or the chicken bus ; don’t be fancied, just enjoy the nostalgia of travelling to school with the yellow school bus; at least you’ll be seated for a three to four hour ride, while enjoying the sight. So worth it when you discover the countryside is almost ‘free of litter’. it’s a ‘eureka’ from when you start in Managua. Litter everywhere! filthy, nasty streets, overflowing gutters and sewage, litter…litter and some more litter…. So don’t hang around there too much of you want to enjoy a much needed ‘litter’ free trip. if it’s not the noise it will surely be the nasty streets that will drive you out of town.
But when you finally do, it’s absolutely stunning. It starts to get better, just 1.5 hours out of Managua, the small township of Masaya, home to one of the still ‘smoking volcanoes’. Parque National Volcan Masaya is a protected landmark and home to the volcano Masaya. On a clear day you can actually see the rind of the boiling lava below the cloud of smoke that is constant. If you’ve never read up on the active and non-active volcanoes or the geology of Nica be sure to stop at the Visitor’s Center to get a panoramic lesson in geology, ecology, and flora and fauna of this central american gem. You’ll get a full glimpse of the native history of the volcanoes. Stone throw away you can enjoy the spectacular view of Lake Masaya. A massive lake at the foot of the volcano, where you can enjoy some of Nica’s local foods like Gallo Pinto with fried plantain and smoked pulled pork and ribs.
Travel another 1.5 hours straight down, south on the main highway, you’ll end up in a fascinating small town ‘Mesetepe’. Mesetepe is home to hundreds of furniture makers. It’s what they do best! If you head up approximately 2.5 hours to the east you’ll end up in the very touristy and trendy town of Granada. Granada is just beautiful, the tiled streets with little colorful bars, pubs and numerous hostels are the great ambiance behind the massive colonial-styled wooden doors. Just pop in behind any and be amazed of the beautiful ambiance ‘behind closed doors’. Enjoy some wonderful locally prepared dishes or pop into the Green Garden for wonderful organic and vegetarian dishes. Visit the local market and get yourself a memorable souvenir. Unlike Managua, here you’ll find plenty of beautifully crafted artwork, hand-woven hammocks, real leather handbags and sandals.
Travel west, is the best part yet! About fours hours on the chicken-bus will take you to Rivas. One more little touristy township to stop and visit the landmarks; but even better: this is where the journey to the numerous, hidden, secluded, private, but some of the worlds best surfer’s beaches are to be found. Why not spend your days tucked away staring at the waves, glaring into the most pure sunset and wattle away under the stars with a cold beer…surfers’ heaven! What a sight! Don’t miss the opportunity for your first ‘real’ surfing lessons, you will not regret this.
All together, a week or two might not be enough to explore all of Nica. Don’t go in expecting it to be organized, fast paced, quick at your finger tips or reliable speedy internet and wifi, but adopt an attitude of go with the flow, be chilled and patient and you can rest assure your time there will be well worth it. At the end of the day Nica can best be described as a place you go to for diversity, guaranteed there is plenty of it, but what pace are you travelling at? determine that before you book your flight.
lots of love from Nica