(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.
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…