Monday in Nicaragua
Another new country for us!
Three new and interesting countries in as many days, it’s interesting to see similarities and contrasts between them.
Our first glimpse of land was a little rocky outcrop at the entrance to the harbour.
Our parking space for the day was in the container port, alongside the Los Angeles, which was loading as we ate breakfast on deck.
We always admire the precision and speed with which these containers are moved around. Whilst I muse on what might be inside them, my Hero is looking at those workers, sitting on the framework, swinging about high above the ground.
Though it looks like he’s wearing a harness and helmet, it doesn’t look like the kind of job either of us would care for.
Anyway, welcome to Nicaragua!
Our first impressions are that it’s a good deal poorer than Guatemala. In the area around the port, there are few private cars and the main means of transport is pedal-powered.
It’s flat and there’s a watery landscape in this part of the country.
Soon, however, we are on the open road and driving through an increasingly hilly countryside. Occasionally, I put my camera above my head and take a photograph of the road in front of us. Quite what we were doing on the wrong side of the road at this point, I have no idea! But these, Japanese funded highways are well maintained and in somewhat of a contrast to the rest of the infrastructure, which is pretty simple and more in keeping with the way of life here.
We slowed down at one point to allow a few cows to cross the road. It felt a little like home!
For a couple of hours, we drove along such roads, passing mostly commercial vehicles and small agricultural carts.
And the view? Volcanoes! Some active, some dormant.
Our first stop was Old Leon, the original capital city, abandoned in the 16th century because of the volcanic activity nearby. Though in a similar situation to Pompeii, here the inhabitants took action before there was a major disaster and rebuilt the city some miles away.
First curiosity: what’s that fruit hanging from the tree up there?
One was retrieved for our inspection. It’s a gourd, has an incredibly hard shell and is used to make bowls and cups and of course, to make maracas.
We began by the map of the ruins. Though this is a UNESCO World Heritage site, the funding covers only maintenance and not development and as a result, the interpretation of the site was poor.
Though we walked through the remains like this, it took a while to register that the main structures are 3m below us. The layout and what the city might have looked like was not well explained and even though many details of the original city are held in museums and university archives, nothing was available for us to see.
The only excavation which had taken place was in one of the churches, where a couple of bodies had been found. I think they were of greater significance than I credit here, but by this time I was losing the plot.
It was a good job that our next stop was to look over Lake Managua at the Momotombo Volcano where there was a cool breeze and a fine view.
I almost missed the smaller, ?Momotombito? volcano, there in the distance, so closely was I watching some activity on the largest and closest one…
Time to return, I think.
It was a 30km drive to the new city of Leon, along similarly well maintained roads, overtaking the local traffic from time to time.
The city’s entrance is guarded by a terrace of stone figures.
Here too, were the low-rise streets of a colonial city painted in colourful designs but looking rather less prosperous than Antigua Guatemala yesterday.
The city centre was a busy place though and crossing the road a little perilous!
We had lunch in a former convent, now a pretty hotel with the most beautiful gardens.
Some aspects of the convent had been preserved and this gave a cool, peaceful atmosphere.
Walking off our lunch, we strolled through the bustling streets, watching this young woman deftly peel what looked like green mangoes using a huge knife.
The marketplace around the Zocalo was selling mostly fruit snacks and drinks, though business was slow. The cellphone shops and stalls seemed to be faring rather better, with a brisk trade going on in most. I was keeping my eye open for a bottle of Kola Shaler to try but it appears that the big boys have succeeded in overshadowing the local brew.
The local souvenirs were pretty much like local souvenirs the world over, though the subject of the “art works” were of questionable taste! Anyone fancy a picture of a woman in the loo on their wall? Strange…
I apologise for the poor picture of the Cathedral, which stands on one side of the square and is most easily the grandest, most attractive building in town. Freshly painted, it shone in the sunshine and the simple interior was a cool haven of peace amidst the noise and bustle outside.
I’m sorry, I didn’t catch the significance of the huge figure in the Square.
It was far more interesting to watch three small boys bang a drum, tumble and clamour for attention!
For one small boy, it was all too much. A siesta under his mother’s market stall was needed.
No, we really didn’t need any souvenirs, but it’s always fun to see what’s on offer, isn’t it?
Driving back, later in the afternoon, we passed a funeral. It seemed discourteous to take photographs, but I thought the crowd following the cortege gave a good impression of the people we encountered today. Far from prosperous, there’s nevertheless an optimism here bound with a real sense of traditional values. It had been an interesting visit although we’d hardly scratched the surface.
We made it back to the ship just in time for another lifeboat drill!