09/05 Made it safe and sound to the colonial city of Leon. It took a while to find a place to stay but I tracked something down right before it started raining. After grabbing a shower I went off to explore. The first thing I noticed were how few people were walking around. It wasn’t dead but there were a lot less people than I’d expect for a city of 140,000. Very few cars too. Not sure what happened to everybody. The historic area is quite charming and there are quite a few buildings dating back to the 18th century. The cathedral is the largest in all of Central America. Getting lost didn’t take long thanks to a lack of street signs but my uncanny sense of direction got me back on track.
Woke up to fireworks and a freaking marching band parade at 6am this morning. Its 5pm now and of course more fireworks are going off. If they were actually fireworks I might not care so much. Real fireworks are kind of nice to look at. The things they set off here just explode and do nothing except make a bunch of noise and set off car alarms.
Stayed at the Hotel Don Mario in Chinandega last night. The hotel was OK but there’s a tendency in this country to keep business entrances closed up with locked steel gates so I had to find someone whenever I wanted out of the hotel. The city itself was definitely not my favorite. Garbage all over the place and it was loud to the point of maddening. Also had stupid little dogs with high-pitched yelps that I want to run over and taxis/cars that honked incessantly. My wake up call in the morning was a chicken bus slamming on its 120db horn at 5:15am.
The garbage situation so far seems to be limited to the populated areas. I haven’t seen any piles of it out on the road so I think people are content to throw it out on the street or next to their house. In Chinandega I saw a horse-drawn cart collecting bags of garbage but from the looks of it I think they need a lot more horses and some education to go with it. One middle-aged guy walking with a lady friend tossed a plastic bottle off a bridge like it was nothing. That’s one reason I don’t like buying drinks/food from the roadside vendors along the highways. They rarely have garbage cans and instead just take whatever it is and toss it in a pile.
An old lady selling Coke at one of the stands warned me about wearing my necklace. I’m going to keep it on though. If someone decides to rob me they’ll do it because they’ve seen my bike/gear and there’s nothing I can do about that. As far as cities and getting mugged, I avoid bad areas just like I would in the States and I rarely go out after dark.
Great scenery yesterday and again today. Coasted along next to the Cordillera Los Marrabiois, a range consisting of 10 volcanos, some active, that rise up from the lowlands. Clouds obscured the tops so pictures didn’t turn out so good but seeing it up close was still impressive. This area is actually the most volcanic region in all of Central America. A lot of the land is flooded, especially on the west side of the highway where the water comes down from the mountains. The highway design has a lot to do with it I’m sure. There were very few places for water to keep flowing under the road so of course it has no place to go but up.
One thing I found interesting was a bridge in the town of Choluteca. I read that the US Army Corps of Engineers designed the bridge in the 1930′s and that when Hurricane Mitch hit in 1998 the bridge wasn’t damaged but that miles of roadway leading up to it were. 94 bridges in Nicaragua were actually destroyed during Mitch. That hurricane was just devastating for the countries in Central America. In fact I’m kind of shocked that I didn’t realize just how bad it was. Over 19,000 people were killed from flooding and mudslides (almost 15,000 were in Honduras). The Army Corps is still here helping to rebuild the damaged infrastructure. The wifi password at the hotel in Chinandega was 1998mitch…
I’m feeling pretty bad for the people up in Guatemala right now. I’ve been following the situation with the rain and mudslides pretty closely and its a shame to see a group of people having to endure so much tragedy over and over again.
[osm_map lat="12.821" long="-84.859" zoom="6" width="400" height="250" gpx_file="http://www.powercycle.net/maps/leg2/090410-090510.gpx"]
Heading toward the volcano
A lot of houses sat on land that was flooded