Here’s an article I wrote for CentralAmerica.com
Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;
Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,
And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
- Robert Frost
We planned to arrive in Nicaragua sight unseen with a baby, a toddler, 7 suitcases, and 2 dogs. We knew that we needed to have a car immediately. Luckily, one of Kharron’s friend’s fathers, Joe already lived on the Atlantic side of Nicaragua and offered to help us get a car purchased before we moved. He seemed to know what he was talking about and convinced us to spend over our $4k budget so that we would have less problems. He advised us to spend at a minimum $10k, but that was not financially possible, so we agreed that he’d look in the $5k-$6k range.
After test driving a few SUVs he found one that needed a clutch, but he could get that fixed and all said and done it would be $6k. We agreed and wired him the money to purchase our 2007 Mitsubishi Montero. When Joe picked us up at the airport he had our car waiting for us at the hotel in Managua. It was really great to immediately have wheels and a way to get around town. We had a list of items we wanted to purchase before we moved to San Juan del Sur a week later.
Since that day, we have made many repairs on our vehicle. It turns out Mitsubishi’s have computerized engines so when something goes wrong, the mechanic needs a diagnostic computer to tell what that problem is. This is super easy in North America, but we only found one mechanic in San Juan del Sur who has that computer. The abundance of bumpy dirt roads in San Juan del Sur is rough on cars. It is common to replace bushings annually and hoses come loose often. One of our sensors needs to be cleaned every so often or our car doesn’t start. This is always fun when you have everyone loaded in the car in the morning for school.
We found a mechanic we really like, but he is located in Rivas which is 30km from San Juan del Sur, so depending on the issue, it is sometimes hard to get our car to him. Slowly we’ve been ticking off a list of fixes our car needed, but then on our way home from Matagalpa our car finally took a dive. There was a hole in a water tube that caused the engine to overheat. A nice Nicaraguan towed us the 9km to our mechanic.
Over the last 2 1/2 weeks we’ve been having our engine rebuilt and got it back yesterday. Thank you to the “collectivo” for being a cheap was to get to Rivas to pick it up. We are hoping this major rebuild will solve most of the issues and we can finally feel confident in our car.
For the first 3 days we stayed in Managua, listening to the advice of a friend who was already living in Nica. We landed on a Saturday and our dogs weren’t scheduled to come in until Monday night. Our friend Joe reserved us a spot at Don Quijote Hotel for only $60 a night and was going to show us around the city for the next couple days. The hotel was in a convenient location, was very clean and included breakfast and delicious coffee in the morning.
Managua is like an infectious disease that slowly creeps up on you. The first day you notice its busy and a little dirty, but you’re okay with it. The next day the scenery seems a little apocalyptic and you can’t believe how crazy the drivers are. By the third day you just want to get all your errands done quickly and get out before the inevitable accident in a rotunda, or traffic ticket.
Managua is a necessary evil when living in Nicaragua. There are things harder to find outside of Managua and everything is cheaper there. The best supermarket, La Colonia is located in Managua (also in Granada and Leon), the best veterinarians, hospitals, and stores. Mechanics seem to take trips to Managua many times a week for parts.
On our last day we ran around going to get a copy of our car key made since the one the car came with was about to snap. We also went to Western Union to wire money, went to SENSA – the big hardware store owned by Ace, Kid’s Plaza looking for a twin size plastic sheet (Azalea was having some bed wetting issues), ate lunch, and managed to buy our way out of two traffic tickets which are called “multas” – translated to “fines”.
Finally we were off to paradise – Surf Tours Nicaragua, in Miramar where my friend manages.
I thought getting through customs with 7 bags and 2 kids was going to be a nightmare, especially after traveling a red-eye. It was actually very easy! There are men to help you with your luggage and you only need to pay them a couple of dollars to make them happy.
There is a VIP option which for $30 per person (and some undisclosed amount for kids) you can skip customs all together. They take you out a side door and you wait in a lounge while they stand in line and do everything for you. Not sure how this is legal. I thought we had made a reservation for this, but there was no one holding our name on a sign when we exited the plane and it wasn’t much of a hassle anyway.
All in all, not a bad experience.