This feels better… pausing in the U.S. was nice for a bit. I loved seeing my parents, my sister and my amazing friends… but it felt a tad weird to be there, especially in San Francisco, without a job or a place to live. I was actually staying in my old room in my old apartment (now my sister’s room, oddly enough)! I don’t know what it is about traveling that just gives me a certain piece of mind. Like my soul feels good, like everything in my life somehow falls into place or maybe just doesn’t need to exactly while I’m onboard a bus to a random city. Immediately upon entering Nicaragua, I felt a kind of calmness in the air that I don’t think I’ve felt since probably San Pedro la Laguna, Guatemala. The people here (or at least the people in the places I’ve been so far), seem a lot more laid back, and don’t even seem to notice you very much. I can definitely see why they say it’s the safest place to visit in Central America. Everyone just seems to be doing their own thing (with the exception of random guys whistling at you from their motorcycles as they go past you). The people I wouldn’t say are extremely friendly – again, they just seem to be going about their business, not caring too much what others are doing around them. I really like Nicaragua so far! Anyway… to start my part 2 of travels… which Ali and I are calling the Proyecto de Felicidad(Project/Pursuit of Happiness, roughly translated). J
After a bit of a crazy itinerary – San Francisco to Dallas to Fort Lauderdale to Managua, Nicaragua – about 15 hours in all, including layovers… I was in Managua, Nicaragua with the lovely Ali Dugaw! We met up in Fort Lauderdale(her from Phoenix, myself from SF) and landed in Nicaragua at about 2:00 am, but had a ride already waiting for us from the Big Foot hostel in Leon, Nicaragua! It was about a 2 hour ride to Leon and Ali and I passed it quickly, talking about life, love and the pursuit of happiness. J
Upon arrival at our hostel in Leon at 4:00 am, we had the option of staying in a dorm (sweltering, dark and $6/person) or sleeping on the couch (for free)… we opted for the couch and passed 5 or so sleepy hours snuggling with our suitcases while we waited for sunrise. The owner of the hostel woke us up at around 9:00 am and let us into our room (which was then available) where we proceeded to sleep until 2:00 pm under the watchful eye of the Bob Marley mural over the bed. We woke up and groggily stumbled around the city, looking for an ATM to get some cordoba’s(local currency) and ate lunch at ViaVia(a neighboring hostel to the one Alexi and I stayed at in Copan, Honduras). We then walked around the city, stopping by the market, the many cathedrals of Leon(Church of the Recollection, Church la Merced and the Cathedral of Leon(largest cathedral in Central America!) ), and saw some of the murals in town. Later that night, we ate dinner at the hostel and then headed to ViaVia café (again!) across the street for some live music and beers. After that, we returned to the hostel and played mini Scrabble and a few other games and then headed to bed!
Saturday, we woke up fairly early and trekked around town for a bit – finally finding the rooftop of the Cathedral of Leon(it’s a bit hidden) that has amazing views of the entire city. After that, we walked around Leon a bit more, then decided to head to Las Penitas beach for some sun and sand! Las Penitas is only about a 20 mile drive or so, so we had the hostel call ahead for a taxi. We thought that they had told us that it was about $7 each roundtrip for the ride to the beach, so we had a lovely fight with the taxicab driver upon getting to the beach, who told us it was $7 one-way… I’m still not sure who was right, but it was highly likely that we were! We then walked around the beach for a bit, taking pictures and then grabbed a drink at a local bar/restaurant. As I am a vegetarian and Ali is gluten-free, we often have some different options on menus – so that day, I ate at one restaurant and then she had some fish at another restaurant while I lay on the beach and soaked up some rays! We then laid on the beach for a few hours and afterwards headed to the Oasis for some Nica Libres(rum and cokes here) and talked to some locals that worked at the bar.
Feeling a bit tipsy(but not too much, of course), we headed towards where we were told the bus station was and chatted with a few more people to ensure we were in the right place(we didn’t want to chance getting cheated by another sketchy cabbie). After about 30 minutes of waiting, we hopped on a bus that took us on the 45-ish minute trip back to Leon for about $0.50! We met some nice travelers from Costa Rica and asked them about potential places to see in Costa Rica, when we make it down that far. We then freshened up and headed out for some pupusas(not as good as in El Salvador) and walked around town. Leon is a happening, beautiful city at night, with a pretty bustling night life! We walked past discos, bars, and some karaoke, finally just deciding to grab a beer before heading back home.
Sunday, we woke up relatively early, ready to head to Laguna de Apoyo, Nicaragua. Our options for transportation were a $70 USD taxi ride or a $3 local bus route… so we opted for the $3 option. We had to take a taxi to the bus station in Leon, where we connected with a 14 passenger-ish van to Managua. We were pretty cramped and claustrophobic but felt quite safe and happy with our cheap decision. About 3 hours later, we made a transfer to another bus, then shared a cab with a couple from Holland… and we were in Laguna de Apoyo about $4 USD later! We first grabbed some lunch at a hotel/restaurant called The Monkey Hut, that didn’t have availability but had cheap lunch and some nice locals to chat with about different places to visit in Nicaragua. After that, we set out with our backpacks on to find a place called Hotel Paradiso, where we hoped we could find a room. Luckily it was about 3 lots down the road and they had availability, so we were set! We walked into Hotel Paradiso and immediately felt the calm vibe of the place. There are about 3 levels – the main area where people sleep with a giant outside patio overlooking the lake, a second area with a café and the reception area, and a third area with a beach and a hut with hammocks and chairs right on the water – seriously, this place is paradise! For about $12/night, we decided to stay for 2 nights. We spent the rest of Sunday relaxing, laying about on couches/hammocks by the water, sipping smoothies and looking at our Spanish books.
Monday, I woke up at about 9:00(while Ali slept in a bit), grabbed a free cup of coffee from the café and then headed out in my bathing suit to lay in the sun down on the lower level. Ali joined me about an hour or so later, and after a bit of lying out, we decided to take advantage of the free kayaks at the hotel! A side note… right before heading out in the kayaks, I was leaning over to pick up my water bottle, when the clasp of my bathing suit top decided to break into 3 pieces, causing it to fall off! I quickly wrapped myself in a towel and fixed the situation… hoping no one that was out there (about 10 people) saw… a tad bit embarrassing, but I recovered quickly! After that, Ali and I hopped in the kayak and paddled around the lake, enjoying the beautiful scenery and getting whistled at by some young Nicaraguan boys – oh dear. The water was a bit choppy, so we got a tad wet, but all in all, enjoyed our free kayak ride! We headed back to the shore for a few more hours of R&R and then decided to walk around “town” (there isn’t really one here). We headed out on a dirt road and passed some gorgeous green scenery overlooking the lake.
After walking for a bit, we decided to head to a hotel/restaurant we had heard about called La Abuela, which ended up being a bit farther than we thought. As we were walking, we heard some dogs barking up ahead. As Lex and I had had a bad encounter with a wild dog in Guatemala, I decided to pick up a stick (as the locals told us standing tall and holding out your stick shows your largeness/dominance and can frighten them away). We did indeed walk past about 3 dogs that were ferociously guarding their territory off the side of the road. One of the dogs started barking and heading towards Ali and I spread out my arms and my stick and the dog ran away! After that we headed to La Abuela, which ended up being a beautiful green paradise and gorgeous restaurant overlooking the laguna. We had some snacks and cocktails and eventually had to head home to avoid walking back in the complete dark with the scary dogs. Today, we are headed via shuttle to check out Granada – stoked!