Ahhh Managua! How you have come to be such a special city! It’s where I met my future travel buddies – Hi James! Hi Jorgba! And spent the night at a strip club. All things I’m sure most people do in Managua.
I headed to Managua with the idea that there is no way I could come to Nicaragua and not visit its capital city. Most people were stunned. They used Managua as a landing spot or a departure city. In fact, my Australian friends only went to Managua to get their flight home! But I ended up falling in love with the city, mostly through the friends I met.
I took a bus to Managua. Now, you are probably imagining a cute little bus stop, maybe with a bench, a sign with the bus number and schedule on it. No. The owner of my hostel simply waited outside with me, flagged down the first bus that came by and said Metro City Centre, Managua. I hopped in front, just me, my 22L backpack and a bus/van load of people. We continued our way to Managua. The driver drove and his friend stuck his head out the window calling out, ‘Managua! Managua! Managua!’ If someone wanted to get on, they simply waved them down, hopped in and away we went; sometimes the door wasn’t even closed!
Once I arrived at the Metro City Centre, I hopped into a cab to head to Managua Backpackers hostel. As I arrived, a huge group was waiting to be let in to the gate. I recognized their accents right away – Canadians by way of Montreal, Quebec. I checked in, settled my bags and took off to find something to eat. I had heard horror stories of Managua – that it was particularly dangerous; that I shouldn’t walk alone; that my organs would be harvested. I headed to the mall that was a block away from the hostel – which, in fact, turned out to be the Metro City Centre. Thank goodness my cab ride was maybe three dollars as the bus dropped you off in front of the Centre. I strolled through the grocery store, which is one of my favorite things to do when I travel. I picked up a few ingredients and LIZANO sauce!
I’m not really quite sure what this sauce is; only that people put it on EVERYTHING in Costa Rica and I started to love the taste. I had brought some home from my trip to Costa Rica before and actually found some here in Ottawa – at the Little Latin America grocery store. I made dinner in the communal kitchen and set about making friends. Which included sitting on the couch and talking to the person there. Her name was Alba and she was Spanish, studying to be a doctor and heading to Venezuela to visit family. From there, we met with Roberto, who was from El Salvador and while they spoke rapid Spanish, I tried to understand and was happy that I could catch a few words. There was James, ( I think that’s what his name was) a British guy living in San Francisco who had travelled to Nicaragua simply to surf – he had booked the trip with his girlfriend who had broken up with him just a week or two before departure date.
Finally, one of the Quebecois guys came to join us. It was there that I met James who I wound up travelling with for the remainder of my trip! He told us the most ridiculous story about strippers and an after party with a group of locals and giving away his shoes to homeless people. It was a little unbelievable. The group of us, which by now included a Finnish couple and another Quebecois made our way to the Managua strip club. And yes, we were the only ones there. And yes, it was a strange. And yes, when we walked in, the strippers, the owners of the club and the bartender all screamed out ‘JAMES!’ when we got there. So suddenly his story became a bit believable. We hung out for an hour or two before heading to the biggest club in Managua, a pyramid shaped-Aztec inspired building called Chaman, where for five dollars, it was all you-can-drink. (at least for girls – the boys paid eight) Can you tell?
Honestly, that first night in Managua was just insane. I couldn’t believe how the night ended up (swimming in the hostel pool after being pushed in) and the friendships I made just by talking to the person next to me on the couch. It was just a ridiculous evening. There are no other words for it.
The next day, we had breakfast at the little café that opens up by the pool. Coffee and pancakes. And for others, a carton of cigarettes – seriously, smoking in Central America is like breathing. I was going to leave that day to Leon, but I was persuaded to stay and check out the city. Me, James and Jorgba, and this ex-pat American, jumped into a cab and spent the day checking out museums, the waterfront and the various religious displays, a side of the city most people don’t take the time to notice. We finished the day with a super fancy meal at a nearby steak house and spent the evening chatting with guests at the hostel. More on the museums in the next post.
I stayed at the Managua Backpackers Hostel. I think it was $12 a night. Book ahead! I booked ahead one night and I had got the last spot. A girl I met had to sleep on the couch (in which case, it was only $5.) Since I wasn’t expected to stay, when I came back around 6:00 p.m, there was no more room so I paid $5 to sleep on the couch (or find someone to snuggle up with ;))