Oil on Canvas
30 ” x 40″
Okay, I’m now well on my way back home to Arizona. I flew from Lima, Peru to San Jose, Costa Rica which cost a bit more than I had planned. When I arrived at the ticket counter in Lima the young lady informed me that Costa Rica would not allow me to enter the country after being in Peru without a yellow fever vaccination, ten days prior to entering Costa Rica. How could I do that? I was not allowed to switch my flight to another country, and staying in Lima for another 10 days would cost hundreds of dollars. As it turned out, the airline is accustomed to the situation and set me up with a valid vaccination document pre-dated by 15 days from a nearby hospital, and I just had to pay $210 (to tip everyone involved) Well it sucked, but everything went smoothly after that , and I was so happy to land in Costa Rica. I immediately felt my spirits rise as I stepped out into the relatively fresh air of Alajuela, and I enjoyed a good night at the nearby Hostel Maleku, where I had stayed before.
The next morning I took out just a little bit more colones from the ATM than I had caluculated to get me to San Juan Del Sur, Nicaragua. The bus ride was a bit long, but not uncomfortable, and we stopped halfway to Liberia for a break, which has been rare on my trip. In Liberia I met two Swedish girls who were also on the way to San Juan del Sur, so we went through customs together, lucky for them, for they had no dollars, and Nicaragua doesn’t accept anything else to enter the country. I lent them the $24 they needed, then we shared a taxi to San Juan, and they paid me back when we arrived at the Surfing Donkey. It was great to see friendly faces, and I was amazed at how many of the guys had stayed on to become employees there.
I rested at San Juan del Sur just a couple of days, and it was great to hit the beach and swim in the pool and eat Nicaraguan food. The second and last night I was there, the Surfing Donkey folks decided to try out a new drinking game concept: 1 shot of rum every 5 minutes until you pass out or vomit. Sounds fun huh? right, well I was one of a number of observers and eventually caregivers to the four participants. It was pretty funny the first hour, then it got a little scary. Three folks were sick or passed out within 1 1/2 hours, and the winner, Dan the Bear that Grills, was still steady.
I woke up early the next morning, did a short Qi Gong workout, then heaved my backpack on, picked up my guitar, and walked a few blocks to catch the direct bus to Managua. When I reached Managua I had to take a taxi across town to the station for buses to Leon, but it all went smoothly and a couple of hours later I was paying another taxista in Leon just $1 to take me to Lazybones Hostel, where I had spent a week back in November. This time in Leon I decided to make an effort to photograph people, which I am rather uncomfortable doing. Most of the time people don’ t like to be photographed by strangers, so some of the photos I just shot from the hip so to speak ( more like from the chest.)
Besides the swimming pool at Lazybones, I had been looking forward to two things in Leon: Asado Pelibuey (bbq lamb) and some excellent French pastries. Saturday night they ran out of pelibuey, so I had to eat chicken, but it was awesome with the gallo pinto, tortilla, slaw and fried plantain. Then Sunday morning the French bakery was closed, but I bought some delicious bbq pork at the market served on mashed yuca (manioc) and slaw, wrapped in a banana leaf. Monday I had my pastry and my pelibuey.
Yes that is iguana for sale in the Leon market downtown, although I never saw it offered on any menu. I just stayed in Leon a couple of days but as luck would have it, or as a gift from above, I stopped to listen to a band begin their set on an open-air stage downtown and when I heard the Santana style I hurried back to the hostal for my guiro. I started playing along and the band members called me up onstage and we jammed out for a couple of hours to a very appreciative crowd.
I woke up before dawn and did some Qi Gong under the stars by the pool, then I grabbed my belongings and took a taxi to the bus station. The direct bus to the El Salvadoran border had left at 4:30 AM, so I took a chicken bus to Chinandega, then a shuttle to the border, watching the Volcan Chinandega as I left Nicaragua.
It took slightly less than 12 hours to travel from Alegria, El Salvador to Leon, Nicaragua. I woke up at five AM so I could do some rudimentary Chi Gong exercises before catching the 6 AM chicken bus to Santiago de Maria, then another bus to San Miguel, then another still to El Amatillo at the border with Honduras. Two enthusiastic young men immediately helped me into tricyclo taxi and pushed me through both immigration posts and left me at the shuttle for Nicaragua. This was a ¨”combi” that had to fill all 12 seats before we left. The highway in Honduras was full of potholes, but the worst part was arriving at the Nicaraguan border where more enthusiastic men wanted to help me, though this time I was not being pushed around as easily. The immigration post in Nicaragua was the worst I´ve yet seen: unorganized, took 30 minutes, half of which for the official to get change for my $20, the fee was $12.
I had a leisurely lunch at the bus stop and took another shuttle to Chinandega, then yet another to Leon, where I finally got a cheap taxi, just $1 to my hostel. I was so glad Lazybones had a swimming pool. I was exhausted.
Leon is an interesting place. I like it, so its difficult to describe accurately without seeming derogatory. Its dirty, yes, but by now I´ve come to the conclusion that garbage exists whether it is hidden or not, so I´m not offended. Its old and lots of buildings are falling apart. It is lively and offers a lot for the wanderer to see. I feel like it is Antigua´s opposite in some ways, dark and seedy, and not entirely tourist minded. It took me a while to get some shots of the ubiquitous horse and cart.
I can´t say that Nicaragua is significantly cheaper than El Salvador, but I have found a couple of places where I can eat well for under $2. One is Pelibuey (Nicaraguan for Lamb) where it is hot and sweaty, like most of Leon, and the racket next door is from a gym. Well, the racket is mostly from the street, its very noisy in Leon. The other good spot is a French bakery called Pan y Paz where I took this photo (the juice is guayaba and the croissant chocolate) first class quality.
I´ve been here a few days, mostly just to recover from that horrendous day of travelling. I lucked out and caught a Cuban Trova act at La Olla Quemada, Fulancito y Tal, really world-class performance. I finally felt like I was in the Leon of my imagination. Alas, I did not have my camera.
This is Alegria, Usulutan, El Salvador which is a small town perched high up the side of a volcano. I arrived by bus from Playa San Diego via Comalapa, Usulutan, and Santiago de Maria. I found the hostel I was looking for right on the main square where the bus let me off, but it was a little pricey, so I crossed the plaza to Hotel Las Palmas, which gave me a private room with bath for $10 a night.
It is pleasantly cool in Alegria and I enjoyed walking about and taking photos of the tremendous view. I had to include one featuring the numerous coffee plants growing everywhere. I don´t usually drink coffee, but the restaurant at breakfast offered locally grown coffee and … nothing else. It was quite good.
After a filling breakfast including gallo pinto, delicious fried plantains, and salty eggs with fresh rolls, I set off by foot to climb the volcano. This is why I came to Alegria, you can visit the volcano with just a 45 minute walk from your hotel. It was a beautiful walk on a cobblestoned road winding through a forest full of coffee and other tropical food plants. The gatekeeper to Laguna Alegria charged me 25 cents (una cora) and I got a shot of his animal pal.
The lake in the middle of the volcano´s crater is a beautiful bright green due to the high sulphur content. Because of this the water is considered to have curative powers, which may be why some equestrians brought their steeds here to give them a swim. It took me some time, but I finally found one smoking fumarole to give evidence of the volcanos active state. I assume there are other days when the area is more impressive in that regard.