Monthly Archives: March 2012

Learning to Drive in Nicaragua

I’ll begin this post by saying that I am no expert in the subject of learning to drive in Nicaragua.  We bought our truck a month ago and even though we rented vehicles while vacationing in Nica, we only used them to go from one city to the next.  Even now that we live here Elisha and I only drive the truck when we make our once a week trip to the Maxi Pali supermarket or when we go on the occasional road trip.  I should also be forthright about who the actual driver of the vehicle usually is – Elisha.  

You are probably wondering why I am I one writing this post.  Well, to be honest Elisha asked (i.e. told) me to and as some of you already know my moto is “Happy wife, happy life”… so here I am.

Driving in Nicaragua is not for the feint of heart.  It’s important to stay focused at all times.  In my opinion distracted driving laws really aren’t necessary in Nicaragua because if you become distracted while driving you wouldn’t make it 5 minutes without causing an accident.  

On any given road you will encounter cars, trucks, busses, ox carts, horses, bicycles, motorcycles, pedestrians, herds of cattle, chickens, dogs, kids selling iguanas for meat and let’s not forget – the police.  All will be moving unpredictably and at various speeds – except for the police.  They will be standing at the side of the road waiting to see if this roadway circus causes you to step out of line.  Once you do (and you will) it’s pretty much a guarantee that they will be there.  This is especially true at the entrance to any town and most certainly so near the airport.  I’m not sure if it’s more feeling than fact but it would appear as though the local police are set up in places where it’s that much easier for them to extract money from you.

The ticketing system in Nicaragua is interesting.  Generally the police will write you a ticket for an infraction and the costs is usually around 200 cordobas, which is just under ten bucks.  They will give you a copy of the ticket and keep a copy for themselves while attaching a copy to your license which they keep.  When their shift ends they will take your driver’s license (and any others they have collected) to the police station where it awaits your visit.  For your fun and excitement you must take a trip to the nearest bank to pay the fine and have your your ticket stamped.  You must then return to the police station of the town that issued the ticket to pick up your license. You have 15 days to do this or I’m not sure what, but I suspect it’s probably a lot less fun.

We have a friend who lives near Granada. When he gets a ticket he simply waits the 15 days to pay it and proceeds to drive without worry of receiving additional infractions during that period of time.  When the police ask for his license he shows them his pending ticket and he’s free to go.  It seems as though additional tickets are not issued when you already have one and with no license to threaten to take they have no bargaining power over you.

This ticket paying process isn’t terrible unless you are only passing through a town.  In this case you would need to make a special trip back there to retrieve your license.  I’m quite sure there is a possibility that the police understand this all too well.  In all of our travels in the past three months luck has been on our side and we’ve rarely been pulled over.  The couple of times we were no tickets were issued.  That all changed when our friends came to visit and we were traveling with luggage on the roof rack. It seems as though this is the symbol of a foreigner on a road trip.

During the two weeks we spent traveling with our friends we were  pulled over 3 times.  The 1st infraction occurred just as we were leaving Leon.  Elisha made a left hand turn across two lanes instead of one.  When she realized what she had done she immediately moved into the correct lane.  Even though no cars were near and she caused no issues this slight oversight was the result of not one, but two infractions.  One for the improper turn and one for an improper lane change.  According to the book the fine was 600 cordobas or if we paid the officer directly it would be 400 cordobas. Luckily we were able to settle on 200.

The next infraction was really weak.  A slow moving car applied the brakes and made a right hand turn into a driveway.  Elisha signalled and went around him as he pulled in.  Because she crossed a solid yellow line the police officer stepped out onto the road about 100 meters up the highway and motioned for use to pull over.  He gave us a long drawn out lecture about driving safety. To avoid the hassle of paying at the bank he was gentlemanly enough to allow us to pay our 200 cordoba fine directly to him.

The 3rd infraction was almost too much to take. Coincidently about 5 minutes from the airport we were pulled over after we drove through a traffic circle.  The police officer wasn’t even looking in our direction until we were driving past and then he walked out toward us.  He said that we lane changed in the traffic circle without signalling.  This was very far from the truth and even if it was  he would not have known anyway because he wasn’t even looking.

I got out of the truck and told him the ticket was a piece of shit.  He said it wasn’t.  Then I told him that he was a piece of shit. He didn’t agree with that statement either. I then proceeded to tell him I didn’t have time for his games and tried to push some cash into his hand. He started yelling at me and instructed me to get back in the car. I thought maybe I had really pissed him off and pushed a bit too far so I did as I was told and got back into the car. I looked over at Elisha to tell her this might be bad, but I didn’t have the chance.  The cop was standing beside her window with his hand in the truck waiting for the cash.  Apparently the only thing that upset him was my uncultured attempt to bribe him in plain sight. I guess I still have a lot to learn about driving in Nicaragua.

Our Social Card

What’s a social card you ask?

Well, it’s similar to a business card, but used for social occasions. It is a convenient way to provide your friends, family and acquaintances the information they need to stay in touch. On it you can have as little as your Facebook address or email address, or if you prefer your home address and telephone number. A social card can be used when a business card is not appropriate. 

Tired of writing the URL address to our blog on a napkin or scrap piece of paper every time we made a new acquaintance Gord and I decided it was time to have some social cards made up. I spent a couple of hours on the design one day; followed by a few minor edits, tweaks and changes a few days later and then I was ready to go to print.

I placed a call to our good friend Carlos who told me where to go. We took our sample image to the local imprenta (print shop) here in Leon and three days later we had 100 really cool cards in hand.  I was pleasantly surprised with the outcome and especially pleased with the price. 100 cards rang up at 180 cordobas or $7.83 USD.

Our Lovely Little Apartment in Leon

After two months of waiting for the previous tenants to move out we were finally able to move into the lovely little apartment in the guest house here in Leon. Our monthly rent has increased slightly from $300 USD for the room we were renting to $360 USD.  

Our new pad has great curb side appeal and faces a nice little garden. 

We are set up in the kitchen with a few dishes, pots and pans, blender, small refrigerator and gas stove with oven. After two months of using a poorly equipped shared kitchen we are super pumped about having our own space to prepare meals.  

The espresso machine and toaster are ours.  The toaster is one of few possessions we’ve bought since we arrived three and a half months ago.  We picked it up last month at Maxi Pali for $12 USD.  Our friends Chad and Marnie brought our espresso machine to us from home.  Thanks so much guys; coffee never tasted so good!

We’re all set in the living room with four nice rocking chairs and a table.  Now we just need some company!  

Our bedroom is a good size with a huge walk in closet and the queen bed is comfy.  There is an air conditioner that can be turned on for an additional $100 per month, but since the ceiling fan works well enough we’ve opted to go without.

It’s nice to have the desk with a large mirror and an additional table with a couple of stools in our room. Cable TV is included in our rent and we still have free wi-fi in the common areas of the house. 

As per the usual in Nicaragua we are without hot water which means only cold showers for us. In Canada I wouldn’t have dreamed of having a cold shower but with the extreme heat here it seems like the only way to go.

Having spent the last two months anxiously waiting for the previous tenants to move out so we could move in it seems ironic that while spending time in Granada with Chad & Marnie last week we found an apartment we simply couldn’t pass up and will be moving in just a couple of weeks.

We’re On Vacation

…with our good friends the Dueck’s!

In case you’ve been wondering what we’ve been up to we wanted to let you know we’ve been living it up with our friends Marnie, Chad & Olivia who are here visiting from Cranbrook, British Columbia, Canada.  They are here on a 2 week vacation and we’re having a fantastic time acting as their personal tour guides.

Stayed tuned for pictures and stories of our adventures together in Nica!

A Road Trip to Esteli

Approximately 2.5 hours after leaving Leon, making only one wrong turn along the way,  we arrived in the town of Esteli and easily found the central park. Finding a place to lay our heads for the night warranted a bit more effort, but we eventually stumbled across a decent B&B called Hostal Santa Maria. 

For a rate of $15 per night we were quite happy with our little room with “private bathroom”.

Our cuarto was super clean (much cleaner than my feet) and had a comfy bed with good pillows. I was quite excited about snuggling up under the thick comforter that night, much more so than I was about Gord going number two behind the green and yellow shower curtain.

It wasn’t until we registered and handed over our money to pay for our room did we realize that the nightly rate was actually $15 per person, not $15 per night. Not nearly the great deal we originally thought it to be, but we decided to spending the night just the same.

Later that afternoon we took some time to wander around and explore the streets of Esteli. The town was busy and bustling, but not nearly as fast paced as Leon.  The cooler temperatures we felt were a welcomed change from the extreme heat we’ve been experiencing in Leon. 

This being my first visit to Esteli with the afternoon light just right and a fully charged battery in my camera I was anxious to find some new and interesting subjects and objects to photograph.  

Here’s a sampling of what I saw:

A Potential Place to Live

Iglesia de San Francisco

Cowboys

A Colorful Baby Bird

Wall Murals

The city of Esteli may not be a photographer’s dream compared to the colonial cities of Leon and Granada, but as you can see I had no trouble finding the interesting subjects and objects I was looking for.

The majority of day two of our Esteli trip was spent exploring Somoto Canyon.  To read about our experience click here.

We decided to spend night two at Hotel Cualitlan.  We rented one of their cabins at a nightly rate of $40 USD.  A full breakfast was included. 

Although there wasn’t really anything extra special about Hotel Cualitlan our cabin was clean, quiet and comfortable and we had a good night’s sleep.

With all the exercise we got from exploring Somoto Canyon we had worked up an appetite. Ranked #2 on Trip Advisor we opted to try Pullaso’s Ole steakhouse.  My chicken, beef, shrimp and chorizo sausage kebob was cooked very well.  The meat was tender, juicy and very tasty.  Gord’s flank steak was perfectly grilled to medium rare as requested.

Before making our way back to Leon on Sunday we took a drive up the hill through Tisey Nature Reserve. As you can see the view was pretty awesome! If you look closely at the photo (top right) you can actually see a Volcan Telica.

We really enjoyed our 1st road trip in the Galloper and are looking forward to wherever our road trip travels take us next!

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