Monday........Panama City to Managua, Nicaragua.......I've had better days
Managua Travel Blog› entry 97 of 129 › view all entries
Katya picks me up just after 9. Apparently youâ€™re supposed to be at the airport two hours before your flight, but once again itâ€™s quite unnecessary. Thereâ€™s a long queue for the check in but it moves quite quickly and Iâ€™m checked in within 25 minutes from arrival. I look to see if there are any shops once I go through Migration and security and it seems that there are, so I go through, takes about 10 to 15 minutes to finish the formalities.
There are lots of shops, duty free, a restaurant etc. Panama is obviously a connecting point for many flights. Over an hour before my plane is due to leave, Iâ€™m ready for the flight. The scheduled time for boarding is an hour before the flight. I buy a translator to replace the once that I broke and the second one which requires the hands of a very small child with thin fingers and also has something wrong with the screen colour and I often canâ€™t read it.
I get on the plane half an hour before it is due to leave and most people have already boarded. Itâ€™s almost like thereâ€™s an extra 1/2 hour added to the flight. Very boring. When weâ€™re offered a snack, I canâ€™t understand what the hostess says, not because itâ€™s Spanish, but because she speaks so quickly. I ask her to repeat the options and she does so in English, but I still donâ€™t understand because she speaks so quickly. However I catch something that is a salad, so ask for that. Food is extremely ordinary, but I find out later that the other option, some sort of meat sandwich is even worse. Not long before we landed I got to talking with the guy next to me, who is Nicaraguan and has a computer company; not sure of the details. He tells me thereâ€™s nothing worth seeing in Managua, the museums arenâ€™t any good, nor the shopping etc.
Nicaragua is an hour behind Panama and we land there just after 12. Immigration is reasonably fast; they want (I think it was USD5) money for visa or whatever and then my bag is waiting for me. No searches.
Iâ€™m met by a taxi driver called by the place where Iâ€™m to stay, but when we get there he tries to drop me off at another place across the road, with a different name. No, I have a booking at Casa San Juan. He only speaks Spanish and thinks that I donâ€™t understand the word â€śfullâ€ť in Spanish.
Taxi driver wants USD20 which is obviously too much but apart from telling him itâ€™s demasiado, I canâ€™t be bothered arguing so give it to him. Iâ€™m shown to my room, very basic but with wifi, aircon, ensuite and cable and it is very clean.
Later I decide to go out and as I go to the front desk I smile at two female workers, who glare back at me. Charming. This accommodation is definitely not going to plan. I ask a fairly simple question to the girl on the desk, where is the centre of Managua, shops, hotels etc? Does she have a map, can she show me? No, didnâ€™t I get a map at the airport? No, usually the hostel/hotel shows me.
This is the first place Iâ€™ve been to, in any accommodation price range, that doesnâ€™t have some way of showing guests how to get to a simple place, the centro, which, in this case, they advertise in their brochure as being 5 minutes away. In the end I show her the brochure, take her to the front door and ask her to point to where the city is. Not exactly rocket science. Then I set off on foot as Iâ€™m not game to take another taxi and not sure how safe they are.
I walk to the area indicated, find the main road, but have no idea which way to go, so ask a couple of the local ladies. Theyâ€™re very helpful and off I go again. Itâ€™s very hot and humid. When I came in from the airport I felt like I was back in Peru or Bolivia, just a different version of the poverty and the housing. Iâ€™ve decided that the amount of tooting has an inverse relationship to the amount of money people have; once again there is a great deal of tooting.
Suddenly I see what looks like the top of a Shell service station or something similar, so I feel relieved. Then thereâ€™s a sign to Pizza Hut and finally what looks like a shopping centre. I just want somewhere I can sit down in a nice airconditioned space and have something to eat. Finally I arrive at the shopping centre called, very originally, Metro Centro. But no, thereâ€™s only airconditioning in the shops, not in the mall itself. I walk around for a while and then go to the slightly cooler food court and have a Coke Light. I wanted to find a restaurant with wifi but thereâ€™s certainly no such animal here. Nearby is the Managua Intercontinental, but they want me to pay to use their wifi in the restaurant.
So I walk further up the road and then notice that my feet are starting to hurt; guess it's the humidity. I get to the Hilton and sit next to the pool. Connect to their wifi and then find that they want me to pay to use it. No thanks. I decide to just write my blog. Itâ€™s rather interesting as thereâ€™s an American couple at the only other table, who are in the process of adopting two Nicaraguan children. Itâ€™s not hard to overhear what is going on.
I order a wine and salad. When the waiter brings the salad he then disappears, never to be seen again. After over half an hour I go inside to pay the bill. I go out the front and ask the concierge if I can catch any taxi? No, some of them are bandits. So he ushers me to a taxi, with a driver of mature years, waiting nearby.
What an ordinary day, can it get worse? Of course it can. I tell the driver where I want to go, but first I want to buy a bottle of wine. So the taxi driver calls over the concierge to ask where he has to go to buy wine. What sort of taxi driver doesnâ€™t know where the bottle shops are? The driver is muttering and mumbling. Eventually he seems to know where to go. But he has to put his seat belt on. Well, this, I kid you not, takes at least six tries before it is achieved. I say something about going to Granada on Thursday and I think he says he can take me. I have great difficulty understanding him as he doesnâ€™t have enough teeth to achieve easily understandable language. He turns the cooling on high, with the fan blasting, even though I tell him Iâ€™m cold and turn off the vents on my side. His driving is really bad, he keeps getting tooted because heâ€™s very slow, gets in the wrong lane and then wanders over to the right lane.
We get to the shopping centre and he tells me to go inside. I canâ€™t see a bottle shop. I ask a security guard and he shows me where it is, outside, where the taxi driver had just driven past. Get the wine and get back into the taxi. Unfortunately the driver took off his seatbelt, so we have to wait while he puts it on again.....no Speedy Gonzalez this driver.
Surprise, surprise, the taxi driver doesnâ€™t know where to go, even though I give him the address of Casa San Juan. He gets to roughly the correct area, drives round and round, stops to ask four different men where to go. I canâ€™t wait to get out. Finally we get there but he doesn't seem to see the huge sign "Casa San Juan". Pare, pare......Stop, stop................is this really happening? Doesn't he understand stop in either Spanish or English?
What is the cost? Canâ€™t get him to answer; I think he has some inane idea that Iâ€™ll use his services again and he's trying to negotiate a further arrangement with me. Have to open the door to convince him Iâ€™m leaving. He says he doesnâ€™t have any change. I end up paying 300 Cordobas, AUD17.
Go to my room to watch cable. Realize that the hotel hasnâ€™t even told me when and where is breakfast. Type up my blog. Havenâ€™t heard from Plan re what is happening about the visit to Geiselle, planned for Wednesday. I think Iâ€™ll open the bottle of wine!
BTW The map thinks that Managua is somewhere quite different from where it is, so just ignore the map.