After my overnight in Honduras, I continued on to Nicaragua. The last few countries I’ve travelled in are relatively small so it was almost a border crossing per day for the last week. Today is Thursday so it must be Nicaragua!
The border crossing was very easy compared to the high drama in the last few countries. Nothing to report really, just the usual paperwork and standing in line.
I wasn’t sure what to expect of Nicaragua. All I knew about the country was its civil war of decades ago and somehow assumed it would be a backward and broken place, still war-scarred. Well, my preconceived notions were quickly corrected during this visit.
It’s the second poorest country in the hemisphere, but to my mind it didn’t look all that much poorer than other Central American countries. While cold war era jalopies were common enough on the roads, there were plenty of new card and luxury SUVs sharing the road as well. The towns were a little bit ragged around the edges but felt safe and prosperous for the most part, with some American chains like KFC and Radio Shack being not uncommon.
Also surprising was the excellent state of the roads. No potholes, no washed out bridges, and proper signposting for a change. While I still had to keep an eye out for livestock on the side of the road, driving habits were near first world standards. Nobody sped too much, and the traffic laws seemed to be religiously adhered to. What a change after the last couple of weeks. For the first time in a long time I was able to travel at a steady sixty MPH without tensing up over what mayhem could be lying in wait around the next bend. In fact traffic was so orderly that my recently acquired bad riding habits got me in hot water for the first time in the six thousand miles I’ve done on the trip so far. In Managua, I got pulled over by a motorcycle cop for making a lane where one didn’t exist to overtake a truck . No big deal though. He let me go with a warning so it was a good wake up call to start driving “western style” again. On that note I’d like to point out that in all my interactions with the police on the trip so far, not a single time have I been shaken down for a bribe. They have all been friendly and professional. Lets hope it continues that way.
City navigation became more difficult though. Here the larger towns and cities had a very complex one way system that I haven’t seen elsewhere. Even in smaller cities like Leon and Granada I would spend a good hour navigating in and out. And I only had to ask for directions about twenty seven times going through the capital, Managua. It really is high time I schooled my self on how to the use the GPS that’s gathering dust deep somewhere deep in my luggage.
I wish I could have stayed longer here and explored more, but I only spent two nights here. One in Leon, and one in Granada. Both of them are really nice colonial towns and would be high on my list to visit again someday.
I didn’t see the best scenery of Nicaragua either. Mostly I cruised through farm country, around the base of volcanoes, and along the edge of Lake Nicaragua. It was nice enough, but not too spectacular. I missed all the rain forests and the beaches, but hope to see more of them in Costa Rica, the next country on my itinerary.
In truth I didn’t give the country the time it deserves to explore properly. There’s a lot more to see there, but all in all, my time in Nicaragua was surprisingly orderly if a little boring. Although that’s not a bad thing after the excitement of the last few weeks!