(March 13 – written by Dave)
We were first up at the hostel this morning, even waking the night man. The kitchen is right next to the dorm rooms and the walls of the dorm rooms don’t go all the way to the ceiling. That meant that we probably also woke up dorm room guests as well – woops, sorry. They don’t actually serve brekkie at the hostel until 7:30 but I think yesterday, everyone had been served by 8AM. The heat really does make everyone, even the sleepyheads get up early to enjoy the day while it is cool.
We left just before 6:30 and made our way out of town. There was a little downhill on bumpy cobblestone where Nancy’s chain came off. There was a little stiff steep uphill bit right at the bottom. I thought Nancy had dismounted because it was so steep and very bumpy. I grunted up and then rode slowly waiting for Nancy to walk that bit, remount and catch up to me.
I kept watching and she kept walking, not really gaining on me and not riding. This went on for a couple blocks when the penny finally dropped for me, she needed my help clearly with something. I turned around and rode back laughing now because I knew that I’d be in trouble. I was. Nancy didn’t laugh that much. All was forgiven reasonably quickly because I had the tool needed to tighten her chain handy and made a quick spot adjustment.
We eventually made it out the main highway between Leon and Managua. Traffic was semi-busy for a few K but pretty quickly dropped off. The road surface continued to be nice and smooth. We saw two accidents today, in both cased a car was hit from behind by a truck or bus. We don’t know if anyone was hurt – neither accident had police or medical people that we could see.
While on the highway we passed a monument to “the revolution”. This got me wondering about the Nicaragua revolution. My grade school memory was of hearing about the “evil” Sandinistas causing problems here in the 1970s. And how the US was fighting them because they were communists.
As is almost always the case, things were a lot more complicated than that. In the 1970s, Nicaragua was run by the US backed Somoza family – third generation. By all accounts, the Somoza family was as corrupt as they come. The family amassed a person fortune of $1.5 billion dollars while people in Nicaragua were some of the poorest in the world. And the Sandinistas were not one group but rather an alliance of the GPP party (Maoist), PT party (Marxist) and a group of social libertarians. These groups came together in the early 1960s and a civil war took hold in the following years – some 50,000 people were said to have died in this war.
In the late 1970s economic leaders and Catholic Church got tired of seeing ordinary people suffer and changed alliances to support the Sandinistas. And probably most importantly, the US, lead by President Jimmy Carter, pulled support for the Somoza government. On July 19, 1979 the Sandinistas’ army entered Managua and “won”. The current Somoza president had earlier taken exile in Guatemala. Over the next 15 years there were a couple elections, the Sandinistas didn’t win them all and now we find a mostly democratic government in Nicaragua. It took a while and US policy probably mucked things up for a while.
This all squares with my recollections of what we learned about Nicaragua in school – my school days were in the early 1970s. Back then, coming out of the Vietnam era, anything communist was “bad”. I can understand now better how the simple “Sandinistas = Bad” story was what I learned. You can read all this in more detail here if you like: https://es.wikipedia.org/wiki/Revolución_Sandinista
We had a lot of wind on the nose today, but still had an ok ride. We traded breaking wind duties once it got hard. Nancy had to give me the “hint” to get out front – Nancy hints are subtle J. I got the clue and moved out from behind her – she was doing a great job! (Senior Editor’s note – the trading only happened after the first 45k with me up front in the wind!)
We rode along the shore of Lake Managua for a while today. I was expecting it to have a flat shoreline and not be overly scenic. It was actually nicer than I thought. There is one small volcano island and a few other, larger volcanoes on the far shore. The wind and dust probably meant that we didn’t look up and enjoy it as much as we should have. We pulled over once to get photos just because we were too “heads down” and needed to break the moment.
We stopped for a cold drink at a roadside restaurant and decided to go a little further than originally planned. It was still pretty early. We pushed just 5k further up the road and found eventually found the hotel (Hotel Arboleda) that we were looking for. The whole area around the hotel is one massive road construction site. Most of the restaurants and services (gas stations) around us are close for the duration of the project. We found a grocery store open if you don’t mind dodging big equipment and open trenches to walk there. I set out for lunch and cold drinks while Nancy hit the shower. We’ll be heading back there to pick up dinner supplies soon.
Our hotel has A/C as mutually agreed. There is a pool also but it is not overly clean. Based on the state of all of the other surround businesses, we’re kind of lucky that the hotel is open. We won’t be out wandering to discover interesting Nicaraguan things today, unless you want to see pictures of dump trucks and graders.
Tomorrow we are off to Granada. We may take another day off there – we’ll see what it looks like. We may have more headwinds but it’s a short ride so we’ll be fine.