When I worked out that the best transit point for this trip was Mexico City, I was so excited. Melodious organ grinders would be serenading me as I strolled paved paths under the shadow of glorious old buildings in the fading light of day. Nah! Flight from Sydney was delayed so was bumped onto a later flight down to Mexico City. Barely had time for a quick feed and local beer before needing to crash for an early morning flight to Managua. Room I was given was next to the ‘nightclub’ which had sprung up at the hostel since I was there last and pounded earthquake level vibrations throughout the building. Hence, little sleep was achieved and it was a bleary-eyed senora that emerged to the waiting taxi the next morning.
The three hour flight to Managua flew over spectacular countryside and provided vistas of more than one active volcano. Going through customs at Managua, I remembered I needed to have US10 for entry. They wouldn’t accept the Mexican pesos I had and I was forced to exchange them for half the going rate and for US20 in total as they didn’t have anything smaller. Not a great start, but I found my pack and cashed up on local Cordoba at an ATM before catching a taxi to a hostel I had picked out of the guidebook.
It appears that Nicaragua operates on a duel currency system – US Dollars and Nicaraguan Cordoba. I got directions to an ATM to get out US Dollars and then decided to wander downtown to the malecon at the edge of Lago de Nicaragua. The entire main street was lined on both sides with nativity scene displays sponsored by Nicaraguan companies, organisations and government departments. The glitz and glamour of the displays vied for bystander attention; each trying to out do each other in terms of design, dios and decibels in the form of gigantic speakers blaring out festive tunes.
The malecon was buzzing with families out for a Sunday afternoon and enjoying the festive displays. I had a very average local meal from a street vendor nearby, then wandered back to the hostel via the ‘Avenue of Christ’s Arrival’. I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many baby Jesuses in one place. Ever. Some were quite noteworthy though; there was baby Jesus in the shadow of active volcanoes (some may say not so historically correct…), baby Jesus in the equivalent of a Vegas style Nicaraguan Casino (there was just too much glitz for it to be anything else!), and my personal favourite – baby Jesus being slowly lowered into his cradle from above heralded by bone-crushingly loud trumpeting angels whilst Ma and Pa looked on adoringly. Ave Maria!
All that religious fervour took its toll and I was greatly in want of a refreshing ale back at the hostel. I met up with a Scottish girl and spent the evening in congenial conversation and icing up my buggered knees which were getting their own back at me for making them spend so long cramped up in a steel budgie.