Hola from Managua:

Assuming David and I survive the flight tomorrow on COPA Airlines,

I'll have many positive things to say about Nicaragua, little of which

is reflected in this email. Of course, if you've no interest in our

adventures, feel free to discard this thrilling travelogue post haste.

So, David and I first arrived into the main city, Managua, late last

week, which, while an aesthetic shithole, has some excellent cuisine.

Especially good was El Segundo, a Nica-American hybrid run by a lovely

American expat, and La Cocina de Dona Haydee, which serves the best

Chicha ( this side of Amazonia.

The typical Nicaraguan breakfast is also delightful, consisting of

rice and beans, fried cheese, plantain chips, a salad, scrambled eggs,

and some sort of weird (but delicious) creamy substance. On the minus

side, Managua's must-see, ParqueTiscapa, pretty much consists of a

dumpy-looking hill, a headless statute of Lady Justice (ha ha!), and a

bizarre, huge silhouette of the first Sandinista (this guy:

with a rundown

museum dedicated to said Sandinista's every action. More interesting

was a nearby mall, where David and I played skee ball. The skee ball

was fun, although, after realizing the only people present were us and

many gleeful Nicaraguan children, I felt it time to depart. Our final

Managuan attraction was Plaza de Revolucion, which has some beautiful

buildings/churches and a giant square that hosts Socialist rallies.

While no vocal Socialists were (unfortunately) around on our watch,

they apparently came out in droves following the death of Commandante

Hugo Chavez. Chavez was apparently good compadres with Daniel Ortega,

whose mustachioed visage is plastered on nearly every lamppost in


We departed Managua for Grenada, which was apparently the conservative

hub during Nicaragua's civil war. Overall, the city is beautiful, full

of old colonial architecture and a bustling central square. The people

were also quite friendly, and unlike in Managua, we felt no fear for

our wallets at every waking hour. Besides some excellent (nearly

Argentina-level) steak, the best part of Grenada was Volcano Masaya.

Masaya is awesome for two reasons: one, it has some truly creepy bat

caves (which David did not dig, especially when the bats swarmed

around us), and two, you can actually drive up to the volcano peak,

which is active, and look inside the crater. (Somehow that last part

reads really dirty.) Before learning that the gas was poisonous, we

spent a good half an hour engulfed in volcanic ash while attempting to

see the lava below (ultimately, all we saw was a burning red light).

Making Masaya even cooler (than the bats and poisonous gas) is that

children and female virgins were once thrown into the volcano as

sacrificial offerings to the dark gods above. While this practice

seems simple, I'd imagine throwing someone into a volcano could

actually be quite difficult. (Does the sacrifice count if the person

gets stuck in rocks and therefore doesn't hit lava? If not, surely

having an adolescent or fully grown female clear the rocks must take

some real strength.) The biggest minus regarding Grenada was its gym,

which (1) was outside and therefore blisteringly warm, (2) consisted

of a weird Virginian who kept telling me he was on a "secret mission"

in Nicaragua, (3) had only one working exercise machine, which sparked

and turned off at annoyingly inconsistent intervals, and (4) contained

a giant snapping turtle that kept waddling near me. Incredibly, this

gym was superior to the one in San Juan del Sur (see below), where a

rusty screw may have given me tetanus. Oh, David and I were also

accosted by a fellow with one working eye and playing with a power

cord, but managed to escape unscathed.

After wishing Grenada a warm goodbye, David and I departed for the

island of Ometepe, situated in the humongous Lake Nicaragua. (Yes, I

know, they're quite creative with their names here.) Ometepe has two

volcanoes, one of which is beautifully shaped and still active (and,

in fact, gave its last sputter around three years ago), and another

that is rather shittily shaped and entirely inactive. The island also

has a gorgeous waterfall, which is worth weathering the island's

TERRIBLE roads to visit. David and I stayed in an eco-lodge built on

the side of the shitty volcano and overlooking the beautiful one.

While the view was amazing, David's experience was less so. His first

issue was the compost toilet, which had a peculiar odor (of well,

compost), and was too tall to facilitate any sort of comfortable

sitting experience. The second issue, which I shared with him, was an

ant invasion. Ant-invasion Day started out pleasant enough: David and

I had a lovely hike up part of the volcano, where we viewed some

ancient (and astonishingly detailed) petroglyphs; encountered various

families of aggressively vocal howler monkeys (although we failed to

see any anteaters, which are, unfortunately, nocturnal); and visited

one of Nicaragua's premiere coffee plantations. Arriving back at our

quarters, however, we soon discovered our room invaded by streams of

giant black ants, which had broken into two or three thick trails. To

top things off, the eco-staff was rather unsympathetic to our plight,

telling us that the ants (1) didn't bite and (2) were probably just

seeking out a dead rat on the roof. Nonetheless, David and I worked

ourselves into a frenzy: We grabbed a pair of broomsticks, a plate of

lemons (which are apparently ants' kryptonite), and headed valiantly

into battle. (Un)fortunately our heroism was in vain. The ants had

departed quickly as they arrived, and we were left holding our weapons

and looking like the pathetic, cowardly city boys we are. The lodge's

tap water, which comes straight from the volcano, is really good


With ants (or Volcano water) no longer on our minds, David and I

prepared to depart for the beach town of San Juan del Sur (in

Nicaragua proper) the next morning. When we arrived for the 9 AM

ferry, however, we were told that wind conditions were atrocious, and

as a result, no ferries would be departing that day. Furthermore, the

ferry was the sole means off the island (believe me, we asked). After

commiserating with a potpourri of similarly stranded Gringos (but no

other Chinos), we began preparing to spend yet another night in

compost-toilet land. Nevertheless, at our weakest hour the sun shone

through: the winds dramatically died down, and a small vessel shortly

arrived thereafter, ready to ferry any foreigner with a pulse and two

dollars. While the resulting journey wasn't particularly pleasant, it

got the job done, and David and I arrived in San Juan del Sur early

that afternoon. The beauty of San Juan del Sur (besides, of course,

its natural beauty) is how little there is to do. Thus, we spent our

time lounging around, consuming many more calories (and, on my end,

drinking much more rum), and enjoying our resort's three beautiful

pools. Some adventure occurred when a small scorpion sought to enter

our premises, but he was little match for our finely attuned shooing

skills. We departed the following day badly sun-burnt, and are now

stationed back in Managua awaiting tomorrow's flight.

Seriously, though, David and I had a wonderful trip. The weather was

splendid, the people are lovely, and the volcanoes are plentiful.

Hopefully everything is going well on your end.

Hasta La Mañana,