Pura Vida Travels - A Guide To Travel In Latin America

I had Fernando drop me off at the mall because I wanted to walk back to the hotel from there and take some pictures along the way. I should add that my “blend in with the locals” plan had been working flawlessly to that point. I have dark hair and can pass for a latino if I dress the part. I do that by wearing jeans and soccer jerseys and I fit right in as long as I don’t have to talk much. That is until you pull a $300 digital camera out of your pocket with people around and start taking pictures. I was halfway between the mall and my hotel, kind of in “no-man’s” land when I took the picture below of the Che Guevara sculpture. There was a pack of people across the street and the minute they saw the camera they came bolting across the street. As they got closer they appeared to be an entire family from babies to grandparents. I kept moving and they kept pestering me in Spanish. I kept saying I didn’t understand what they wanted and finally they surrounded me and one of them just said, “we want money” in English. I reached into my pocket and I had a bunch of coins and I gave them what I had. It was probably only a $2 or $3 but it made them happy and they let me go on my way. Thankfully, I got off cheap because I also had about $80 cash, my bankcard, and my camera on me at the time. I honestly believe that if I hadn’t have pulled out the camera they never would have bothered me. I’ll definitely keep a lower profile from now on because that incident was a little scary.

Che Guevara Sculpture

Cheap Gas Courtesy Of Hugo Chavez

Emergency Lighting In Hotel

Funky Artwork

Hotel Neighborhood

Hotel Neighborhood

I rose bright and early on Sunday because I wanted to do a lot and I didn’t have much time. I had a 3:30 flight to Costa Rica and I wanted to get to the airport early because President Accchmadenawhatever from Iran was coming to Nicaragua to congratulate Daniel Ortega on his Presidential victory and I figured the airport might be a bit crazy. Anyway, I ate a quick breakfast and decided to explore some of the back streets around my hotel. It’s a pretty nice neighborhood but after walking for about a half hour I suddenly realized I was in the middle of the woods in a third world country and this probably wasn’t the safest thing to be doing because God only knows what lives in these woods. Managua is a very odd city in that in a lot of areas it has a very rural feel to it. I came back to the hotel and cooled off in the pool for a bit then I packed up my things so I would be ready when it was time to leave.

One thing I haven't mentioned to this point is the 1972 Managua earthquake. Why would I mention something that happened 35 years ago? Well, the '72 quake was one of the worst on record in modern history. The entire city of Managua was flattened and it's estimated that 30,000 people were killed. (no one knows the exact number) Even though it happened 35 years ago a lot of the shells of buildings remain as they have never been completely torn down or repaired. Parts of the city feel very much like being in a war zone.

I walked over to the mall so I could find a cab and figured I would do a little more sightseeing before I went to the airport. By stroke of luck I met "Johnny" the cabbie. (His real name is Juan) He doesn't speak any English but his Spanish is easy to understand.

Earthquake Damage

Another Rotunda

Another Rotunda

Daniel's Watching...

Central American University

Workout Jesus

Another Horse Drawn Cart


Chow Time

Colorful Plaza


Yet Another Rotonda

I know you're wondering why I took photos of all of the rotundas. Well, the reason is simple, just about everyone gives directions in relation to rotundas or other landmarks. The directions to my hotel, for example, were De la Rotonda Rubén Darío (Metrocentro) 2 cuadras al Oeste y 1/2 cuadra al Sur. This translates to "from the Rotonda Rubén Dario, 2 blocks to the west and 1/2 block to the south. These are not only the directions it's their address as well. That's right, if you want to mail them a letter you have to write all of that on the envelope. If you need to go east (este) you can't say east in Managua since you will be greeted with a blank stare. The word simply doesn't exist there. You have to say "al lago" or towards the lake to be understood.

Drag Racing, Managua Style

Random Billboard

Random Billboard

Road To The Airport

School Busses Are Actually Public Busses

Pharoh's Casino

I got to the airport about 2 hours before my flight and it was practically empty. I paid Johnny and made arrangements for him to meet me at the airport when I returned the following week. He was a super guy and one of those people you feel really safe with. It took all of about 5 minutes to check-in and they actually had to go find someone to run the x-ray machine so I could go to the gate. The departure tax is included in your ticket price if you are flying on Copa so you don’t have to stand in another line like you do in SJO. I ate some lunch and walked around checking out the stores and I found something amazing. They sell fake Cuban cigars right in the stores at the airport in Managua, well, I can’t guarantee they are fake but I’ve never seen cellophane 20-packs of Cohibas, Montecristos, etc. before. Add to that the fact that they were selling them for between $30 and $40 a 20-pack and that pretty much removes all doubt they are fake. They have a Cuban tax stamp on them and all the “documentation” but my guess is these are where the DelRay guys in CR get their “genuine” Cuban cigars. I will say there are some good deals on cigars there though on Nicaraguan brands that probably are real. These were in the $40 to $50/box range for good brands that sell for twice that at home. I’ll probably buy some next week when I go through the airport again. I should add that there are 2 sets of stores in the airport. There are ones before you go through security and there are ones after security. I believe the duty free stores after you go through security do have real Cuban cigars as the prices, boxes, etc. seemed more authentic. These are still some of the best prices I’ve ever seen on Cuban cigars. (5 Cohibas for $35 for example or about half what they go for elsewhere)

Managua Airport

Managua Airport

Managua Airport

Managua From The Air

Managua From The Air

Granada, Nicaragua

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