march 3, 2007


in search of a beach, any beach, we followed the first set of signs we saw that might possibly lead us there. the entire afternoon was spent on the backroads of nicaragua, where we passed from one shanty town to the next. some of the houses were constructed from scraps of wood with highway signs and other miscellaneous items that were likely salvaged from the roadside. the road itself in such disrepair that it took us an hour to drive twenty miles. the dust from the road covered the emaciated children, who stood on the side with their arms extended out, hoping for a cordoba or two. seeing for the first time in our lives what poverty actually is weighed heavy in our hearts. a million cordoba could not right the wrongs here, let alone the change we dispersed throughout the day. despite the seriousness of their situation, the people still smile, music still plays in the streets, and if you were ever in need of help, you wouldn't have to ask. we never made it to the beach because all the beachfront property was fenced off by the fruit companies for farming acreage, armed guards protecting the perimeters.

finding a map out here has proven to be impossible, so we've been going off of the gps computer. so far, so good. we picked a bit bigger of a dot on the gps, in hopes that it would be a big enough town to be able to offer us a hotel or hostel. the auto hotels out here cater to a specific crowd, mostly prostitutes and their customers... we passed several on the way into town, praying that we would find better accomodation. i have invented a rating system for each town we enter, deeming it's worthiness of a night's stay. if the town has a town square, it's okay. if there is a church at the end of the town square, then it's good. finally, if there's a soccer pitch close by, then it's damn near perfect, and you should definitely stay. chinandega had a town square and a church, so that was good enough. we found one of the two hotels in town, the kind that caters to families, and checked in. brian and i walked down to the town square, where they were having a carnival. you can never trust the integrity of a carnival ride in the first place, let alone a nicaraguan carnival ride. in the half hour it took for us to eat our dinner, they had to stop one ride twice because the kids were falling out of their seats. needless to say, we did not partake in any of the rides. brian has a soft spot for the ninos, he bought one little boy a hamburger, and in return, the boy kept stray dogs from coming to our table. we explored the town a little more, then turned in.

the hotel had no windows to the outside, i awoke to the sounds of gunshots ringing up the hotel hall. they went off in random blasts, and it went on for about fifteen minutes before brian woke to hear them. i laid in bed, and my imagination ran wild as i hid my head beneath the blankets. i was certain that the hotel was under seige, and that victor, the armed hotel parking security man, was in a gunfight with banditos looking to rob the guests in the hotel. brian got up, sneaked down the hotel hall and peeked outside to find that the noise was coming from fireworks going off. the sun was just coming up, and in the distance, he could see the fireworks rising into the sky. i was relieved to hear the news, and especially glad that no harm had come to victor, but puzzled about why they would be setting off fireworks at the crack of dawn. the absence of cable television will likely do me good, i think it has a lot to do with my overactive imagination.

saturday morning in chinandega is chaos wrapped in mayhem, vendors set up their booths in front of the stores, and cars and rickshaws drive by with little or no regard to the pedestrians that walk whereever they can because the sidewalk is too congested. it was snowing in denver when we packed our clothing, so i couldn't pack enough warm clothes for our trip. over the past few weeks, i have been cutting my pants into shorts, and have packed away my walking shoes for flip flops. every scrap of clothing we have has been in heavy rotation, and my flip flops are pretty close to retirement, so it was time to go clothes shopping. it was hard to find something that would be functional and halfway aesthetically pleasing. most of the clothing consisted of outdated american leftovers. while brian and dremel waited on the busy curbside, i settled on a fuschia skirt and a couple of light weight shirts. i found some seaworthy flip flops at the grocery store, along with a couple of coca colas, and we bolted for the nearest place without people.


on the way out of chinandega, we happened upon a barbeque restaurant that claimed to have the best bbq in all of texas. there's probably not a lot of nicaraguans who can attest to this, but we felt we'd eaten enough texas bbq to be able to make an accurate judgement. much to our surprise, it was pretty darn good. i wouldn't say it was the best in texas, but probably the best bbq nicaragua has to offer. bellies full, we finally made it to ca 1, the only regularly maintained road in all of central america. on average, we're only able to drive about one hunred and fifty miles a day down here, and it's all due to the ill suited roadways. potholes deep enough to crack an oil pan, speed bumps in the middle of nowhere, some painted, some not. every bridge is completely blown out from flooding, and while most are under repair, the construction also causes delay. homemade speedbumps made by the locals in an effort to slow down passersby so that they might purchase the fruit or water or whatever they're selling. donkeys, turkeys, cattle, bicyclists, rikshaws, pedestrians, car parts, you get the idea... ca 1 is a glass smooth dream road, which probably only exists because of the economy that drug trafficing provides. once we found it, it was mostly smooth sailing to granada, it was just the last twenty kilometers that proved to be the longest in our lives. it was more of the usual pedestrians, bikes, etc., but at night. it took both of us concentrating intently on what was going on beside the road in order to not hit anyone or anything. the one thing we found a little disturbing about nicaragua was the extensive deforestation. rolling hillsides that used to be covered in trees only had sparse patches of forest remaining. smog and pollution hung low in the valleys, and what was once probably rich soil has turned into dust, which covers everything. the damage was irrepairable, and i don't think it's number one on the nicaraguan agenda of things to do.

grenada itself is one of the only spanish colonial cities left intact, and it's quite beautiful. the only problem with places that are beautiful is that everyone else already knows about them, and they have all become resort towns by the time we arrive. the streets of granada were filled with other gringos, which makes for higher prices, but sometimes it's a necessary evil if you want to see some of the more famous attratctions. we laid low for the rest of the night, woke up late, then procrastinated the border crossing into costa rica by gazing at the lake and making phone calls. there were many options for some pretty heavy tourism in grenada, canopy tours, volcano tours, bird watching, and so on, but there's only so much of that kind of thing that you can take. we've already seen jungles and volcanoes and birds, so we opted to head towards costa rica.

our residence for the night overlooked lake nicaragua, a massive body of fresh water with volcanoes rising up from the middle. .

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