Sunday, December 18, 2016

León, Nicaragua, el dieciocho de diciembre, 2016

Yesterday was a travel day:  Leaving beautiful Xela-

fresh sausage for sale at a roadside stand-

to Antigua Guatemala where I managed another ceviche.  This time the beer came complete with chopped onions and spices and was wrapped in a bag to allow for street drinking-

to Guatemala City which is the largest ciudad in Latino America at about 4 million.  My hotel was basic but clean and I had my own bathroom with super hot water in the shower.  A few blocks square, the area was gated and a 5 minute walk to departures at the airport - something I wish I'd have realized last night.  Naturally I didn't sleep well - constantly waking up to make sure I didn't miss my 4 a.m. alarm and anxious about traffic: there was none at 4:20 in the morning - surprise! surprise!  The whole airport thing makes me nervous: lineups at check in: there were none, lineups through security: there were none!  Things were going super well until a cop called me into a little room with other cops and went through my small backpack.  He was asking about dinero which rhymes with inero (January) so I just played dumb and said yes I was coming back to Guatemala en inero.  Finally he gave up. The other guy having his stuff looked through had all of his money out on the table but I wasn't doing that unless it was absolutely necessary.  As he was leading me away from everybody else, I was thinking: so is this where the Gringo has to 'bribe' the police??  It turns out it wasn't!

Today starts 9 weeks of travel: the first 2 I am in Nicaragua - San Juan Del Sur and Laguna Apoyo with Minishes, my friends from Rosetown.  (That is of course if they can stand me that long!  If not, I'll be off!)  The next 7 weeks are me alone, and then my sister Carolyn comes February 17 for 3 weeks until I start my nanny job in Roatan.  I love doing the research: looking into what to do, transportation and hotels but it takes days and I'm not exagerating.  I've got all my hotels booked until March 14th when I start my job.  I know that's kind of weird, but I just feel better with a plan and knowing where I'm going to sleep.  The only bad thing is that if there appears to be a better hotel, too bad for me. 

I've gotten pretty settled in and complacent the last few trips with transportation, hotels and itineraries booked by others.  The only decision I had to make these last 2 years was what to eat and that was only when we weren't camping.  However, it wasn't all roses.  I did travel for 3 weeks coming home from Bali in 2015 and there were a few terrifying moments like when my scuba gear disintegrated underwater in Gizo, Solomon Islands and when I rented that car, with a manual transmission no less, in South Africa and I had to drive on the 'wrong' side of the road, up and down hills, in the dark with mucho trafico, not knowing where I was going with a GPS that had just disappeared!  

So, sitting in the airport this morning, I'm feeling excited - awaiting the next adventure and knowing that no matter what happens, it will turn out okay.  I mean, really, what is the worst that could happen?  A situation could cost me a lot of money but that would be the worst it could be.  So, I'm looking forward to the next 9 weeks!  

The flight was an hour late leaving but there were only 12 of us in a 100 seater plane!  There were lots of dead volcanoes along the way-

On arrival, I bartered with a 'blue shirt taxi driver" because from everything I've read, they are cheaper than the 'yellow shirt' men.  This young man followed me around and around and finally agreed to $12 U.S.  Apparently he's just the gopher because once we reached the real taxi drivers, there was no way in hell they were taking me to the bus station for $12.  It was either $14 or nothing and so they argued amongst themselves until a 'yellow shirt' came along and said he'd take me for $12, no problem.  He's been driving for 26 years and got me to the shuttle/bus terminal in 25 minutes.  (Another time, I think I would walk to the very close street and hop on a city bus for pennies).  Anyway, a shuttle was just closing its doors: it's a size between a mini van and a 15 passenger.  Damn I thought, now how long will I have to wait?  Immediately, another shuttle pulled in to take its place and in 10 minutes, all 19 of us were on our way.  Lucky for me, I got the spot right behind the driver so I could keep my maleta at my feet so I didn't have to worry about it for the 1.5 hours it took to get to León.  It's 100 km and cost C$54 (Córdoba) or $2.53.  

The country side reminds me of Africa.  There are few homes but lots of trees growing in light red dirt.  What fields there are have been harvested.  Lots is fenced but I saw few cows.   Once at el terminal in León, taxis and bicycle style tuk tuks fight for your money.  My hotel was 2.4 km away so I didn't want to walk in the hot sun.  Yes, after freezing Xela, I am in warm country and it feels great!  So, they started at 100 Cordobas, almost double the fare from Managua.  No, no, no!  I started walking and a bicycle driver smarter than me said $2 (U.S.).  I jumped at it and hopped on.  Then I started laughing.  Me and math aren't exactly friends because $2 (U.S.) means I paid C$58.50, more than my 100 km ride.  Oh well I thought.  I had a nice breeze blowing in my face as he peddled along through the market.  It was quite a ways and in the end I didn't mind giving him the money.  

My hotel is nice.  I have a great room opening onto the garden.  I just hope it's not too much of a party place.  There is no hot water in the shower but I'm thinking it's probably not required!

Navidad is in full swing with many nativity scenes in the nearby park-

And a large Christmas woman-

León is an old Colonial town dating from 1524.  The CathedraI was built between 1747 and 1814.  It's the largest and oldest diocese in the Americas-

Being in Nicaragua means new beer-

Navidad means all sorts of toys for sale at the markets-

There aren't stores like at home so on the street is where shopping happens.

La Merced was built in the 18th century-

I bought a few groceries to try to cook supper but I'm not sure.  The kitchen isn't very well equipped so we'll see!  Not sure what I'll do tomorrow, maybe just wander!

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