After a slow start, I headed off with my new Scottish friend to seek out the sights of downtown Managua. First stop on the agenda was the highly commended Parque Histórico Nacional Loma de Tiscapa with its spectacular vistas of Lago de Nicaragua and beyond. Passing the Monumento Roosevelt, Michele and I immediately started climbing the steps to its summit before we were stopped by an armed soldier over the road. Despite no signage, we were firmly informed that we were not permitted to scale the stairs and hence had to come back down. I have a personal theory that if a man with a gun tells you to do something, it is usually best to do as he says. No problem, we’ll just continue on to the lookout at the lip of the volcano which is where the better views were anyway. No such luck, another armed soldier advised that the parque was closed. Bugger.
Undeterred we struck the first two ‘places of interest’ off the list and continued to ‘spot no. 3’ on the list, the National Assembly Pedestrian Walk. We got a block before we were informed by yet another armed soldier that we were not allowed to go any further. There are not a lot of places of interest in Managua and we were rapidly being denied access to what little there was. Back down the ‘Avenue of Christ’s Arrival’, we encountered a particularly lacklustre parque consisting primarily of concrete and the occasional bit of vegetation. Managua was not doing its best to recommend itself to either of us by this stage and we decided to hotfoot it to the nearest bar for a refreshing ale.
Down at the Malecon we found the cheesiest of tourist centres, consisting of several large restaurants resplendent with Mexican Mariachi bands for your not-so-authentic Nicaraguan experience. Michele and I chose one overlooking Lago de Nicaragua and ordered our ceverzas. It was lovely sitting there in the wafting breeze, gazing at the polluted lake and our spirits were soon restored. Michele decided to head back to the hostel whereas I wanted to explore a little further as I was determined to find something that would yet recommend Managua.
A somewhat nicer parque led to Managua’s old cathedral which was severely damaged in a 1972 earthquake and to date has not been restored. It is off limits to visitors which suited me just fine. One look at the wonky towers was enough to make me happy to just view it from a safe distance. Still, it was impressive and I enjoyed strolling around its perimeter.
At last I had found what used to be the ‘heart’ of Managua before the earthquake crushed the life out of it. On its southern edge lay the beautifully ornate Palacio de la Cultura and to the north was another historic building now used as a government office. Opposite the cathedral was the tomb of revolutionary figure and founder of the Sandinista National Liberation Front, Carlos Fonseca. A pretty parque lay beyond complete with rotunda, statues to national icons and paved paths winding through lovely gardens.
By this stage it had started to drizzle, bringing welcome relief from a muggy Managua Monday. Back at the hostel, I caught back up with Michele and sampled some of the local rum we bought dirt cheap from the local supermarket. Despite a day of ups and downs, it was interesting and at least we got to see some of Managua before moving further afield.