Nicaragua - Managua and Pochomil

Trip Start Feb 05, 2008
Trip End Apr 24, 2008

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Where I stayed
Hotel Jardin de Italia

Flag of Nicaragua  ,
Wednesday, February 27, 2008

ĄHola! Charlotte here:

The trip to Managua from Honduras had been long (8hours) and hot (the bus driver refused to put on the aircon and the windows didnīt open) and smelly (a kid threw up in the aisle and on a few passengers) - not a great combination! Anyhow, we decided that we needed a rest day with no travelling, and although the capital of Nicaragua, Managua, isnīt internationally known for itīs charm or beauty we decided to stay for a day.

Managua itself is super congested, smoggy, hot as an oven and dangerous so we decided that the best way to spend the day there would be to take taxis everywhere, and go check out a few museums and main sights (the lack of which means that this is easily done in a few hours!). First stop of the day was Loma de Tiscapa, a hill in the centre of town which offers great views over Lake Managua to one side, and a beatiful emerald green volcano crater lagoon to the other. The hill is also home to the ruins of the Somoza familyīs presidential palaca. I canīt remember the exact details but the Somoza family was a bit of a political dynasty in Nicaragua (read: dictatorship!), and the country has had three presidents from the Somoza family (father and two sons) and even when a Somoza wasn't in power, they apparently greatly influenced the president at the time. A revolution in the ī70s led to the Somoza dynasty to finally be overthrown and the leftist Sandinista party took power. I think itīs generally agreed that the only reason they were in power for so long, is because of backing from the US. The US brought the cold war to Central America and were willing to support anything, if the alternative was a communist Sandinista government. But that seems to be a reoccuring theme throughout history in the whole of Central America! Anyway...

Next stop was Huellas de Acahualinca which is this cool little "museum" in the dodgiest part of town! Itīs so dodgy that youīre told to take a taxi straight to the door and back, and the museum itself is barricaded behind a huge iron fence and locked gate. So, you might wonder, why did they decide to put a museum there!? Well, thatīs because the museumīs main (actually itīs only!) attraction was found there and canīt be moved! The museum showcases 7,000-year-old traces of civilization - a long line of footprints made by humans, and animals in a flow of volcanic lava. The prehistoric footprints were found in the last century, four meters below the ground surface and currently the debate rages as to whether they represent humans fleeing a volcanic eruption or just heading to the lake to fish. At first sight the footprints could seem as a bit of an anticlimax, but when you think about it, itīs actually pretty damn amazing to be looking directly at the original footprints of a few chicas and chicos from 7,000 years ago! Itīs almost incomprehensible. $2 well spent!

Third and final stop was the Old Quarter and the Natural History Museum which houses a small art gallery and LOTS of displays of local artists and collections of pre-Columbian pottery and sculptures. The Old Quarter was pretty much completely destroyed in the 1972 earthquake and since money is tight, nothing has been done to restore it since then. Itīs a weird ghost-town sort of place on the shore of Lake Managua with lots of derilict buildings. The most touching of it all is perhaps the skeleton of the old Catheral which outershell still stands almost intact, but the windows and everything inside it was completely destroyed in the quake. To add to the spookiness of it all, the large clock on the tower is stuck on the time when the earthquake hit at 12:30am! Eerie. Right next to the old Cathedral is the National History Museum and we decided to pay a short visit! Itīs an incredible building with large rooms surrounding two beautiful courtyards. Inlcuded in the price was an optional guide in English, and we decided to take advantage of this offer! We had planned a short trip of the museum, but it turned into a mammoth cultural session as the very knowledgable and super sweet lady decided to tell us EVERYTHING about every single clay pot and artifact in the entire museum. After almost three hours I was so hungry and thirsty that we had to be a bit rude and usher her on! It was, however, a very informative afternoon, and she did have a lot of interesting stories and anecdotes to tell about Nicaragua. She was clearly proud of her country and itīs history, and it was interesting to get a face-to-face account, rather than depend on the guide book for this kind of information.

Anyways, spending one day in Managua I think is enough for most people, and the next day we were on our way. We spent a night by the beach in Pochomil on the Pacific Coast which USED TO BE a popular place for Nicaraguan tourists to spend the weekends. However, as it turns out this place is now a complete ghost town and tourist trap. The place is deserted, the accomodation very, very basic and prices high. After a few weeks of travelling weīve become quick to determine whether a place has something to offer, or whether itīs better to cut our losses and make a quick exit. Pochomil required a quick exit. The next morning we caught a taxi to Granada - as you can read next, it turned out to be the right decision.
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mnalfon8 on

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