I come to and someone’s wiggling my big toe. It’s not the girl wrapped around me, she’s still asleep – it’s Murphy standing at the foot of the bed. It’s light out, very hot, and I feel absolutely horrible. Did I even sleep? Is it the afternoon? Please shoot me. Murphy walks out to the bathroom and I try to shut my eyes but what feels like seconds later I hear him say in a very serious voice, “It’s fucking ONE o’clock.” Okay, I have to get up. Give Adrianne’s head a pat to wake her up.
We’re total assholes. Not only did we oversleep breakfast, we broke almost every rule in the hostel. Check-out time is 11 am (oops). Not allowed bringing anyone back to the room (oops). No drugs allowed (oops). No noise after 10 (oops). Clean up the common area if you’re drinking beer and smoking (oops). As we slink around people we’d spoken with last night are averting their gaze. We try to figure out a plan to get Adrianne out the single entrance without bringing too much shit down on ourselves but because we’re braindead the best we can come up with is for her to just walk out and not say anything, then for us to leave three minutes later and pay up. It sort of works – the hostel staff are polite but they do charge us for an extra night since it’s 1:30 at this point, and we don’t really argue it. It’s a fair enough asshole tax, really.
Some food might help so we walk for a bit to try to find a restaurant. Adrian knows of a decent cafe but it’s brutally hot so me and Murphy figure a much closer Mexican joint is a better decision. Food doesn’t really help, nor does water or Coke. Adrianne tries to convince us to stick around for another couple of days and I’m tempted but Murphy has shifted into full-on rally mode, we have to get to Nicaragua Lake to rent motorcycles and drive around a volcano. Quick goodbye hugs and we’re back on the road.
Within half an hour out of Leon I’ve blown my navigator duties and we’re on the wrong road, having missed a turn-off. The road goes in more-or-less the same direction but with the added benefit of bypassing the capital of Managua so we decide to roll with it. For a while it’s a beautiful road, freshly paved and very little traffic, but soon it turns into a fifty mile construction zone.
Along most of the stretch the roads were down to a single lane of concrete with the other lane completely destroyed, long pieces of re-bar jutting out of the sides of the completed slabs, waiting to destroy tires. Where there were bridges we had to traverse lousy dirt-only detours over temporary culverts. In one spot a landslide had apparently broken up the flow of construction and therefore traffic – we waited ten minutes for a front-end loader to fill up a dump truck. When finished, the construction crew let the opposing traffic through but when another dump truck showed up, they decided it’d be a better idea to let it keep working than allow ourselves and the two other vehicles waiting in our direction to go. Might as well get a picture then.
Eventually we approached Managua, taking about twice as long as we expected. We veered away from it, getting back on the PanAm “highway” – it’s a two-lane 80 km/h zone for most of this stretch, with the occasional passing lane and more common 40 zone for towns and schools. Due to my lack of sleep the night before I was constantly nodding off but I was shaken awake by Murphy, and looking around it dawned on me that we were in a police checkpoint and were being flagged down.
A rather irritated policewoman approached our window and started speaking to Murphy in a stern tone. Slow down, we don’t understand. She repeated herself at the same speed and slightly more pissed off. Hrm. Repeat once more, please – we still can’t get a thing. After she writes some simple words on paper we piece together that we’re in trouble because Murphy passed a tuk-tuk that was doing 10 km/h, with a small portion of El-BP crossing the double line in the process. She demands a thousand Nicobucks (about $40 USD) on the spot, which we don’t have. She can’t issue us a ticket, she wants it right now. If we can’t pay up, she’s going to keep Murphy’s license until we go back to Managua – the closest bank, according to her – and get the money. We’re left in a state that’s somewhere between anger and disbelief. We have to drive back through all the bullshit construction without a license because of a fucking 10 km/h mototaxi? I pull out my best Spanish to try to ask her for a way to pay a judge or at an office somewhere further down the road and she disappears to collaborate with her partner in extortion. They laugh for a bit then return and tell us to go, no cash required. I’m sure it was a scam attempt – it’s suspicious that the amount was a cool thousand and that we couldn’t pay elsewhere.
We puttered along after that, obeying the laws to the best of our limited abilities. In the ten minutes following the checkpoint we passed three ATMs, adding more weight to our theory of the checkpoint being a hustle (let’s be honest – most of them are, no matter where you are). After a lot of swearing and only a couple dozen illegal driving maneuvers we reached our destination of Granada. No time had been taken to investigate hotels or hostels so we drove to the biggest cathedral we could find and took a left, finding a swanky joint called the Hotel Continental. After the carnage of the previous evening we figured we could use a nice place with AC and reliable hot water so we splurged and got a room there. It was a nice place.
Had we laid down at that point we wouldn’t be getting back up so we immediately strolled out to the square to find a place with food and booze. Trusting in our ears we went to where the noise was coming from, and it took us to some kind of bizarre combination of street festival and political rally, with mediocre music and an atrocious female speaker raving about territory and justice in a grating, high-pitched voice. She sounded like a Nicaraguan Fran Drescher. We spun a 180 to get as far away as possible and resumed looking for grub. The first few places we checked were extremely touristy and highly overpriced – that is to say, main courses were $12-14 a piece. Reasonable in most situations but not in Nicaragua. After a few more tries we found a strip off of the square that was equally touristy but cheaper, and with more action in the pedestrian-only street. A troupe of dancers were dancing in sync to some hip-hop but it wasn’t great so we went another block until the song changed to a House of Pain classic and a single dancer started doing some pretty sick breakdancing. At the same time we noticed we were next to an Asian-themed restaurant with decent prices so we hit it up. Within two sips of wine I felt better than I had all day, perhaps a worrying sign that I may be drinking a bit too much on this trip. The place was super-touristy, every person in there was white, but the food was pretty good and the wine was reasonably cheap.
Post-dinner we walked around and snapped a few pics
After, we walked around for another 20 or 30 minutes to check out the remainder of the strip and some old colonial architecture then headed back to the hotel. I passed out almost immediately (8:30 or so) while Murphy spent a couple of hours busting out blog posts.