Day One: Evening

Note: sorry that this blog is late. This was caused by a hurricane… not during this trip, so don’t worry. But a hurricane nonetheless. More on this later.

We headed south from Rivas to the border with Costa Rica. As you leave Managua, the volcano Concepcion is a looming presence to the east. It is active. Like all busy, productive volcanos, it sports a ragged skyline, to remind you it is nowhere near retirement, baby.
Along with us for the day is David’s wife Jerrlling (David is the Nicarauguan director of TheLendingJourney). She has volunteered to ride with us for the day, along with many other women who have received loans, one for each day of the trip.

We were out of Rivas pretty quickly, and into the country. Imagine a park along whose roadways are scattered stucco villas, open walled garages out of which spill motorcycles under repair, a grove of brightly coloured statues for sale, burned out 19th century mansions, shacks made of wood and tin. In the yards of every other house you’ll find a pony, or a donkey, patiently waiting. The road becomes very good, and the speed picks up. The dwellings by the side become fewer, and great fields spread out. In many there are a hundred cattle, and then the windmills by the lake appear. Behind them, across the lake, looms another volcano in classic, floating, Fujikama perfection. And further down the lake is yet another, larger still.

 

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Nicaragua is absolutely beautiful. Closer to the border ravines cross the road, deep and narrow. A grey horse steps slowly into the green river up to its shoulders and begins to cross. In the high trees three very black monkeys hoot. The houses’ foundations are set in forest loam, and chickens gold and red stand scattered in the yards. We are guided to parking places near the actual border by 3 or 4 young men who need to have us fill out forms for the crossing into Costa Rica, but who wander off when we answer, when asked “We are you going?”, “Here.”

Nicaragua is also battered. She has been since 1502, when Columbus came across her on his 4th voyage seeking a passage to India. The Spaniards arrived in force in the 1520s, and in one of those staggering cases of local obliviousness, discovered both Lake Managua and Lake Nicaragua. Within 6 decades the roughly 1,000,000 Nicaraguans were reduced to 10,000, largely through imported disease. Between then and now, she was fought over by the British (they held the eastern, Caribbean side), the Spanish and the Americans. Somoza, the American-backed ruler for 40 years, was finally ousted by the Sandinistas after the earthquake of 1972. Managua (the capital) was largely leveled by the quake, 6000 were killed, and 250,000 were left homeless. Somoza and his friends pocketed close to half the relief funds, and that made even the long suffering Nicaraguans demand his departure.

And speaking of earthquakes, the country is regularly devastated by volcanic eruptions, tsunamis, and hurricanes. Here’s a partial list of just some of the hurricanes:

  • Agatha (2010)
    Aletta
    Alma
    Andres
    Beta
    Brett
    Caesar-Douglas
    Felix
    Gert
    Greta-Olivia
    Ida
    Irene-Olivia
    Joan-Miriam
    Katrina
    Mitch

… actually, there are eighteen more pages of this, so I’ll stop here. But you can understand why, when asked whether there was WIFI available in last night’s hotel, he answered quietly “No. The hurricane.”

This is the land and the people TheLendingJourney is working with.

  • You describe the highway between Rivas and the Frontier just as I remember it. And good brief history of the struggles this country has faced for 100s of years. God speed.