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Leon thoughts…

 (March 12 – written by Dave)

We like Leon.  There is a university here, right near our hostel.  And there are enough gringos around so that Leon has some of the services we are “used” to.  Leon is the second largest city in Nicaragua at about 200,000 people.  Managua is the largest at just over 1 million.  Having lots young people and travellers here in Leon creates a nice atmosphere.  There’s a buzz on the streets and it appears that much is happening.

Most of the buildings are “old colonial” style.  I don’t know if they build new ones this way but we are staying in old-town and they seem to have decided that no more than two stories are needed yet.  I’m sure that taller buildings would be found in Managua.  It is a relatively poor country so capital to build new buildings could be part of the issue.

For my mind, the one thing lacking in Leon is anything resembling a coffee culture.  We are in the middle of Central America but we are not overly close to the mountains where they grow the coffee.  There are a few cafes in Leon, but every time I asked in the cafes if they sold coffee, I was referred to the super mercado.  I think they are missing an opportunity here – don’t all travellers and students like to drink coffee?

The cost of things in Nicaragua is pretty low.  Our dinner last night was $6 USD per plate.  We paid 50 cents for a taxi ride (it doesn’t matter how far we rode, try getting anywhere in a taxi in Sydney for 50 cents).  Today we walked past a barber with a chair open – I popped in and got a $1.60 USD haircut (ok, no need to comment that I don’t have much hair to cut).  You get the point, the cost of living is low.

All of this economical gymnastics got me thinking about rich versus poor and wondering where Nicaragua sits in the big scene of things.  So I looked it up.  GDP per capita for the USA, Australia and the first 10 countries we will visit on this trip is listed below.

Rank Country in USD
11  United States $59,495
18  Australia $49,882
22  Canada $48,141
57  Panama $24,262
65  Mexico $19,480
76  Costa Rica $17,149
86  Colombia $14,455
104  Ecuador $11,234
112  El Salvador $8,934
119  Guatemala $8,173
130  Nicaragua $5,823
134  Honduras $5,499

There are only 187 countries so being ranked 130th is pretty low.  But you wouldn’t think that people are poor here.  Just like in the rest of Central America, people seem happy and almost everyone smiles and says hello.  And people certainly work hard here.  If hard work alone was the key to success, the gals working here at the hostel would alone lift the GDP significantly.

Travelling almost always makes us grateful for what we have – for sure, being lucky for being born where we were.  And perhaps now, in the political climate in which we live, perhaps not quite so overly concerned about “winning” every single trade deal, with every country that we trade with.  There is value in putting one’s self first but when you already have so much more than many people, maybe a bit more humility and generosity is in order.

Anyway…  Back to the bike trip.  Tomorrow, we are heading in the direction of Managua.  We won’t go into the city proper, but rather skirt the western edge.  We have 4 or 5 more nights left in Nicaragua, about 10 days in Costa Rica and a week or so in Panama.  We are still debating flying from Panama to Colombia – versus taking a 5 day sailboat – it’s getting to the serious decision time now.

Oh and before I forget.  We both slept good last night.  Cold showers before bed and the fan aimed straight at us seemed to do the trick.  We had thought of changing hotels but in the end it was just too much work.  Nancy says that we get A/C tomorrow night (I agree) so one more night here won’t kill us.  As I type this, sweat is dripping down my back – sorry, northern hemisphere friends 🙂

Photos of Leon follow – enjoy…

Leon Lion

We were seeing Lion statues everywhere, then the penny dropped, we are in Leon (Spanish for lion) -duh!

Giant avocados

The avocados are huge here

Leon Cathedral

Another photo of the chatedral – built in 1747

Leon political 2

Interesting political graffiti

Revolution painting 1

Nice mural celebrating the revolution of  the late 1970s

Leon building 1

Old-town Leon building

Nancy gets her pancakes

Nancy got her pancake for brekkie

Plantain chips - yum

Plantains chips – yum – sold on every street courner

Our juice bar

We had juice here twice – double yum

Revolution painting 3

From the revolution mural – sort has a Reg Bonbasa (Mambo) look

University of Nicaragua - Leon

200 year old University of Nicaragua, Leon

Dave's $1.60 USD haircut

$1.60 USD to look this good!

Didn't go here

We didn’t go here but I liked the sign

Who isn't happy

Fast food chain – who isn’t happy with a hot dog?

Armoured tuk-tuk

Old armoured tuk-tuk, before they got armoured cars I guess

Door of the day

Door(s) of the day

8 responses to “Leon thoughts…

  1. Love those doors! I also enjoyed your commentary on GDP and what you are experiencing in the Countries you visit. It means a lot to me that I get to experience these places through your eyes. Thank you!
    *The pancake looks great but is one enough???

  2. I was looking at the map the other night wondering what roads you would be riding. As I looked, I noticed that the roads peter out near the Southern end of Panama at a burg named Yaviza at the junction of the Rio Chico and Rio Chucunaque. Now I know you will take an alternate transport to a point further south. Will you be heading into Colombia or Equador or Peru? There seems to be a lot of high altitude cities and roads in all those countries.
    Like the GDP info.
    Cheers,
    Chris

    • You’ve spotted what is known as the Darien Gap. There is only jungle, head hunters and drug lords. No roads. You have to fly or take a sail boat. We are planning on heading to Colombia – but not sure yet on plane or boat.

  3. Hola, Nancy & Dave! Another great post — I am really enjoying following your journey. And thinking how good your Spanish must be getting! I have fallen off my study-wagon lately, but your amazing trip is inspiring me to get back to work. 🙂 Thanks for sharing. –Cassi from La Paz

    • We are also finding it hard to study. Yes, speaking it in various forms every day is a good thing, but we could be better if we worked at it a little harder on the books.

  4. Loving your posts, Nancy & Dave! Particularly enjoying your social commentary, references to history and architecture, and of course hearing about the people you meet. Your gratitude is contagious and helps me to reflect on the good fortune of being born into a safe and wealthy country where most of our problems really are “first world problems”. Safe travels!

    • Thanks for reading Deanne – we try to write what we see. We hope to be overly political. But you are right, when you travel in such poor places, being grateful for what we have crosses our minds often.

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