Nicaragua, 2013 (part 1)

We were sitting at a bar with Eugene and Anastasiia, this was my third event that day so I was already happy.  Eugene was talking to me about this trip he wanted to take to someplace called Nicaragua.  I have never been there.  Matter of fact, I’ve always wanted to go to Africa.  Of course I agreed.  In a few minutes I found out that Nika is nowhere near Africa; but why change my mind?  Let’s go!

Bottom line, let me tell you, I was nothing short of pleasantly surprised.


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Stuck between Honduras and Costa Rica, Nika is just a bit below Mexico.  We flew into Managua airport and traveled from there on a rented 4×4 high-clearance jeep.  Where to?  Well, we had a basic idea but went wherever we felt like, hitting up León, Esteli, San Juan del Sur, Granada, and the Isla de Ometepe, among others.

Nicaragua is clean and reasonably safe country.  Let me tell you, I feel much much safer there than I do walking around in North Philadelphia.  One small issue is that nobody really speaks English [or Russian for that matter].  No worries!  Eugene speaks Spanish quite well so we survived.  I do not, however, recommend going without someone who can speak Spanish.  No, you will not run into any issues; I just don’t think you’d have as much fun and/or find as many cool places.

Between the three of us we took over 2,000 photos and lots of video clips.  Nastia’s cam was off a bit with time/date so the photos are a bit unsorted, sorry.

First, here are the videos from the trip. Sorry, no subtitles and I’m speaking in Russian most of the time. The videos don’t really need translations though; I think they can stand well on their own.

Apr 15 On the way to Leon, Leon

Apr 16 On the way to Esteli, Miraflor, Esteli

Apr 17 On the way to Masaya, Granada

Apr 18 On the way to San Juan

Apr 19 On the way to Ometepe

Apr 20 On the way out

Now let’s see the photos.  I am posting mostly photos that interested me for some reason, trying to share my experience with you and the view of what the country looks like.  Feel free to email me (gregfridman@gmail.com) if you have any specific questions.  Again, in general, the place is fun and safe.

April 15th, On the way to Leon, Leon

We flew Spirit Air.  This was my first time with them and, let me tell ya, they are nothing short of terrible.  Well, they are very cheap, which is great, but slow and unreliable.  While they do have many interesting destinations I think I will try to stick to bigger airlines for my regular travel.  On a good note, parking in the Atlantic City Airport is very nice and you are right next to the gates.  The gates are a breeze, too — it’s a small airport and everything takes only a few minutes.

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Even though I had my pocket camera with me I didn’t take any photos in the various airports we’ve been in.  This was not a terribly pleasant flight but we survived; that’s the important part.

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We’re here!!

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Rented a big giant truck, 4×4, Mahindra!  I suppose it’s an Indian automotive company but I’m not too sure.  All I know is that, for Nicaragua, this was a head-turner.  They love this car here and it certainly proved itself quite useful — the roads here are pretty terrible at times.

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Our hotel.  Looks like someone’s back yard.  Matter of fact, all hotels we’ve stayed at look more like homes than USA-style sterile hotels.  I liked it here very much.

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Electricity is kind of rare here.  While we are in the big city we have it but the moment we go outside, cell reception drops and electricity seems non-existent.

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Everything is under construction.  Always.  The difference between advanced and not-so-much countries is their attitude and abilities with construction: underdeveloped countries are fixing the roads same as USA or Germany are fixing the roads.  The key difference is in the amount of time the fix takes: here could be forever.

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Many of the photos I took out of the window of the car.  Watch the changing landscapes as we climb higher into the mountains.

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Old Russian cars, US school busses modded for regular transportation, some cheap Indian and Asian cars — this country is a hodgepodge of everything.

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My first feeling about this place was: “We’re in a village!”.  The whole country looks like the Ukrainian village where part of my family is from and where I spent a few summers, growing up.

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This is how people live here — in huts.  Except since the weather is flawless the huts are… well… they are beach shacks, nothing more.

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One of the few Coke signs that I’ve seen here.  Usually it’s Pepsi.

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Near bigger cities I saw a few for-sale “stores” on the side of the road but never any people in or near them.  I’ve also never seen these items actually in use.  Who buys this?

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Oh here is the typical Nicaragua.  Great nature and awesome views.  The locals are…. Bleh.  The local girls that is.  No, I did not come here for sex or whatever; but still it is nice to see pretty people dressed well rather than what we see here.

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Locals at the beach.  Just chillin’.

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This is Day 1: almost zero tan.  FYI, the sun here is constant.  It’s breezy and not too humid so I rarely feel hot — danger of burning and not even feeling it.

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Animals just roam around free all over the place.  We have to stop kind of often to let a cow or a horse cross the road, leisurely.  Keep in mind, we are quite close to a bit city.

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And they sure love colors.  Everything is painted in bright pastels.  Lovely, and adds character.

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Notice how very clean the streets are?  I peer into their houses and it seems that streets are cleaner than many of their own abodes.

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Very similar license plates to US.

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Local market.  Looking at the products, I think this is targeted towards locals, not tourists.

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I wonder how long it would take for them to finish construction here…

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Inside of a random church on a sunday afternoon.  Looks good, clean, but not terribly rich.  The place is simpler and feels humbler than a typical European church.

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Very clean.

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Not the buildings though.  I suppose this is rot/fungus left from the rain season.  Today is not humid-enough for such mold to develop so I suppose it’s from another time.

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Local graffiti.  I see surprisingly little of it.  I think they prefer to paint their houses rather than write garbage on the walls.

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Most of the signage, except for very official, looks hand-made.

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Here is a rare trash can.  Only a few of these in the city.

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Looks like they park their cars right inside their homes.  There is a lift-railing leading inside.

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And flowers are everywhere!  I think we simply got very lucky, picking this time of the year for a visit; or perhaps it is always like this.

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Here’s a university.

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Most roads in the cities are stone.  Sure beats dirt roads outside :)

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I think this is superbly clean for a downtown market back alley parking lot.

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I rarely see people carry bags in their hands.  Most of the time they just pile things on their head and walk around; both, men and women.

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Just a table we were sitting at.  I took a pic since I was born in 1978.

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A typical bathroom in a fancy restaurant we went to.  I can only imagine non-fancy places.

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University.  I feel great respect locals have for education and their country.  They might not be rich but they value life, perhaps more than we do in the US.  We all have something to learn from the local Nicaraguans.

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Went to the beach.  Here’s a local beach for the locals by the locals.  I didn’t see any tourists here.  Matter of fact, I rarely see tourists.  We are head-turners and everyone stares.  But they are polite and never annoy us or interfere.  I highly recommend Nicaragua for a visit.  I feel completely safe around a few hundred locals on the beach.

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A hotel.  Single room :-)

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Deep flyer: pan with near-boiling oil on top of real wood fire.  No wonder all the food tastes better here.

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This is the one “beer store” serving the few local restaurants.  Owners are so very nice to us.  Non-obtrusive and nice.

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To the left is the best restaurant in town, right on the beach.  In front is the dirt road leading us to downtown.

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Lifeguards? Meh!

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Saleslady and her daughter.

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Beggar-bird.  So many of them here!

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Family picnic.

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Pimped-out car.

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Oh, my, from Florida?!

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Made it back to the hotel.  By the way, this is our hotel.  It’s a house with three rooms, right on the beach.  We are occupying one of the rooms.  Their fridge is our fridge.  Family.

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My beer, their cola.

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Didn’t I say “right on the beach”?

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Oh, yeah, the sunsets are like this pretty much daily.

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Here.  Finally I see some tourists.  Surprisingly many Canadians here.  I run into more Canadians than pilgrims from the US.  I wonder why.

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Found a fish.  I don’t really know why it’s cut-up like that.  Oh, no lights anywhere — no electricity.  We have to walk around with a flashlight.  Make sure to bring one if you ever come here.

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Local currency.  Dollars are accepted nearly everywhere and the exchange rate is roughly 25 cords [córdoba is the actual name].

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Even the bums seem more humble and content with their life than in the US.  Well, clearly, weather and accommodations are far superior here.

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So many bicycle-based transporters.  Very dangerous to ride next to them.

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Hitchhikers ride in the trunk.  We’ve picked up a few as well.  We never asked for money and they never offered.  Perhaps it is because we look too touristy.  We were not afraid to pick them up at all.  Even the completely drunk couple.

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Flowers everywhere.

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School zones are marked and frequently policed.  I don’t know if this is tradition or this is some government movement but there is so much attention around school zones that I am left with a feeling that this country has a marvelous education system.  Perhaps that is, indeed, the case.

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This, on the right, is, too, someone’s house.  The were just sitting around in the mud inside.

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The one rare phone booth that I saw.  See, looks like accepts cards and everything.

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Vote!  We only have one candidate :-)

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First day was a success.  I am in love with this country and will definitely try to come back one day.

April 16th, On the way to Esteli, Miraflor, Esteli

Waking up with the sun, we are out bright and early, driving towards volcanoes.  Since it’s dry season here now, seems like the whole country is on fire: they are burning the dry grass to control the fires rather than have them spring up randomly.

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This is about the last of the nice road.  Now my butt is going to really get it! :-)

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The nature is also changing quite a bit.

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We’ve arrived at Miraflor.  Beautiful flowers everywhere.

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This is the kind of view I can get used to.  When I said I don’t want to move to the burbs I did not mean a place like this.

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Our chefs :-)

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The farm we are staying at also breeds dogs.  Want a puppy?  $200 for a pure breed.

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Oh, a mechanic.

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That, on top of the hill, is where we are staying.  Nice, right?

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This is a climable tree.  You can get inside and climb up some 8-10 meters.

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Oh!  California plates.  How do they get here?!

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Jungle!

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This natural small waterfall is claimed to be 5 meters deep.  Jump in?  Well, but of course!

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Dirt roads covered in rocks?  Please!

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I love people here!  We ask for directions and get a full map drawn for us.  This guy spent literally 20 minutes drawing.

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Here’s me climbing inside of that tree :)

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Well-deserved beer :)

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Yum yum.  The pig is fresh AND there is a flower in my cheese.  What could be better?!

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Fog in the morning.  Gorgeous!  I’m starting to fall in love with Nicaragua at this point :)

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This photo is the closest I could get to the real thing.  The coffee is grey-green.  I think it’s boiled, not drip, and it’s from uncooked beans, it seems.  Very strange taste but not bad, just something I’m not used to.

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Breakfast is about the same as dinner.  Matter of fact, all meals here are about the same.

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Love this bathroom tutorial.

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Our horses are being prepared.  Nicaragua is about as bad as Italy time-wise.  We ask for horses at 8am and get roll out around 11am :-)

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This is my horse.  I named her “pain in the butt” :-)

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Just a shack in the middle of nowhere on top of a hill.  Yep.

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Oh, here’s a shot of some hitchhikers in the back of our truck.  We’ve had many.  I just didn’t take their photos.

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Water!

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My bamboo bed.  See the holes in the wall?  Never gets cold here.

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Is this dinner any different from the rest?  Well, but of course!  They tie the napkin differently around the bottle.  Every place is different.

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