From Phnom Penh-Like Managua to Matagalpa, Love At First Sight.
I arrived in Managua from Venezuela last night, and the hot, humid weather, with a frightening tropical thunder and lightening storm which took out the electricity reminded me of similar weather in Phnom Penh, although I think Cambodia got considerably hotter than Nicaragua.
This afternoon, drove up to Matagalpa on an express bus, which cost about $4.00 . Sitting in the very first seat gave me a wonderful view on the two hour trip north to the hill country, where the climate is much more pleasant. About 20 minutes north of Managua, the population density seems to fall dramatically, just a few houses and small villages along the road, and everything is very green. Lots of horses could been seen, or rather small ponies, herding cattle, and in some of the little towns, horses are used to pull carts for carrying small loads and their owners. No car traffic jams to be seen here, the bus zipped along the roads, while the driver and his helper seemed to be having a great time chatting to each other, telling jokes and thoroughly enjoying the trip. People here seem very happy and friendly.
Entering the environs of Matagalpa, lots of busy people could be seen carrying out various construction tasks. Area seems to be economically energetic, with many freshly painted houses and stores. A good indicator of increasing prosperity, which I also noticed in Venezuela in the last four years.
In my hometown of Mérida, Ve, one unfortunate sign of increasing prosperity is the glut of new cars in the town, creating nasty traffic jams. I am told that is not the case in Nicaragua, where the average salary is insufficient to maintain a vehicle, so there are many fewer cars here. Score one for Nicaragua! People here can, however, obviously manage to maintain their horses for transport and herding. Love it! More horses, feweer cars and the world will be much less polluted! Horse shit in the streets is recyclable as garden fertilizer, CO-2 is not.
Entering into the urban areas of Matagalpa, saw many, many small shops nestled together in low slung buildings. The terrible earthquake of 1972 (?) devastated the old city of Managua and seems to have determined the architecture of much of Nica, no high rises can be seen, which, in my view, is a form of urban blight.
Easily arrived at the very nice, very clean and very cheap Hotel San Jose ($25.00 a night) via an equally cheap taxi from the bus station. The 10 minute taxis ride probably took that long only because the cab stopped to pick up and let off a number of co-riders along the way. Fun to share the cab with representatives of the local populace. Taxis are very cheap and everyone seems to take them even for short hops in this small, mountainous city.
Looked at a really cute little house for rent around the corner from Parque Dario and very close to the Carlos Fonseca Museum, one of Nicaragua's great revolutionaries. I am told it is the site of a wonderful community festival twice a year. The street is very clean and the houses are clean, neat and mostly built of brick. The houses remind me of those in Dublin.
Now I am relaxing in the Hotel San Jose after having taken a fairly forceful shower in hot water, and using their free WiFi to write this. In the back ground, the bells of the San Jose Cathedral rings out the time on the hour. The streets in this neighborhood seem to be very clean, which was aided by a short but intense little rain storm which washed the streets but didn't cause the same kind of little rivers which make it so difficult to cross the streets in Mérida when it rains. Mérida rains are very hard on shoes.
The rain lasted for less than an hour, and the air was left clean and cool too. I think I have fallen in love with Matagalpa. From the balcony of the little house you could see the green mountains surrounding this little city, which houses either 77,000 people or 432,000 peope depending on which source you believe. It may be that the 432,000 figure encompasses the whole "department" here around, and not only the official city. I think a "department" is comparable to a county in the U.S.
Supposedly, Nicaragua has a population of around 8 million. It is the geographically largest country in Central America, with the majority of its population living in Managua, and the country-side being pretty un-populated. The same population distribution is found in Venezuela, where most of the almost 30 million people live in the cities and the vast, beautiful countryside is under-populated. Why do people congregate in cities when there is so much lovely land standing empty around them?
All for now. By the way, thanks to the great information on nicaliving, I very adamantly demanded only an express bus to Matagalpa, though my Managua taxi driver tried to put me on a local bus. Nope, I want the express bus! Managua is a very stretched out city and the cabs seem quite expensive when compared to Mérida.
Aloha y saludos to nicaliving folks. It is great to finally be here!