NicaROCKgua: Day One

12 Dec


Helen Wildy, one of my best friends, turned 30 this year and to celebrate WE TOOK A TRIP!!!!!!!!!!!  Within 30 minutes of saying “Let’s go somewhere!”, we’d booked our flights. Destination:  Nicaragua!!!!!!

When we tried to check in at the PIT airport, we noticed Helen’s name was listed as “Hen”.  Uh-oh.  We were instantly panic-stricken; already running late for the plane, who the HECK was Hen?!  We spoke to the ticketing agent who had apparently never seen a typo.
“Is Hen a nickname? Does ANYONE call you Hen?”
And just like that, Helen had a new nickname.   Chicken on Emoji One 2.2.5

We decided that the best way to see as much of Nicaragua as possible would be to rent a car and use it as a hotel/car combo. We asked for the ugliest car so that if it were damaged or dinged during our travels, we wouldn’t be penalized by Budget for returning it hurt. We requested the “carro mas feo” and to our delight and surprise, we got THE CUTEST CAR IN THE WORLD.



We went to visit an old friend, Randall, in Nicargua’s capital Managua.  Randall and Pablo picked us up from the airport and took us home to make us dinner – those angels. That evening, I learned something new about Helen after 10 years of friendship: she is not her best self in the heat. Managua was unbelievably hot. Hen was cooked.


The hottest part of Nicaragua?  Randall.

We started our days at 5:30AM to beat the Nicaraguan heat. Our first morning, we made our way south to Catarina, which our tour book described as “a city with an obvious love of potted plants.” We happen to be people with an obvious love of potted plants so we HAD to go there. It was on the way to Laguna de Apoyo, a lake in a volcanic crater, where we had our hearts set on swimming. No really, it was SO hot.

We were teasingly close to the Laguna. We could see it from above. But we couldn’t figure out how to drive down to it. We kept seeing signs that frustrated us: “Mira Lagos!” No, queremos TOCAR lagos.  Como?

When we finally got there, we were nervous about jumping in only to discover that it was the MOST PERFECT WATER we had ever felt. We had ambitious goals to tread water for an hour nonstop. I set my timer. 12 minutes in, we changed it to 30 minutes. 20 minutes in, we called it a day. Good hustle.


That first day the passenger acquired many jobs:
1.  DJ.
2.  Helping switch lanes because the windows were so tinted.
3.  Choosing the route and then being the GPS.
4.  Looking out for stray animals (mostly emaciated horses and dogs) on the road.
5.  Reading the tour book about cities on the way.
6.  Watching for police cones of terror.
7.  Finding safe places to park the car to sleep in at night.
8.  Keeping an eye out for tasty looking street food.
9.  Distributing snacks.
10. Translating road signs.
11. Taking pictures.
In contrast, the driver had one job: Driving.


Passenger’s job #12: Be aware of evacuation routes for volcanoes.



Helen…. where does the black road on the map lead?  “…..Oh.”




Desayuno tipico Nicaraguense.


Typical colorful houses.


A rodent pet.  Not to worry, our hand sanitizer killed 99.9% of common germs.

On our first day, we discovered an important lesson:
We had just come out of a roundabout when we noticed orange traffic cones in the road and a police officer waving us (and a few other cars) down. We pulled over immediately.  An officer approached our adorable vehicle and told us in rapid Spanish that we had broken a driving law and we were in trouble. We tried our best to communicate, racking our memories for both any possible driving infraction and for as many car/road/vehicle vocabulary words that we could think of. We didn’t understand everything she said, but her plan was to take away my driver’s license and make us pick it up in a bank the next day. Confused, we pleaded with the officer in broken Spanish:
“Pero… la necesitamos. Porque estamos viajando por Nicaragua… y es importante. Por favor?”

Eventually we realized we could just pay the “fine” of 800 cordobas (about 35 USD) and carry on our journey with license in tact. Literal highway robbery.

We were in shock about what had just happened hours into our trip and couldn’t wait to get back to tell Randall! What a crazy once in a lifetime experience! Except it wasn’t.  Ten minutes later, we were stopped again, further down the road by another police officer. This time we approached with a new strategy: We don’t speak any Spanish. Lo siento. We listened and smiled politely as the police told each other in Spanish that we didn’t understand them and asked what they should do. We were sent on our way, thrilled that we had gotten away without having to pay a fine, but flabbergasted that we had been pulled over twice for crimes we didn’t commit.

We learned that cones in the road meant police and we expected to be pulled over.  Finally, the driver had another job!  Do not make eye-contact with police officers as you pass.


This was day one. We had many more lessons to learn in two more blog posts.
More soon,

‘mi and Hen (Cluck cluck)

3 Responses to “NicaROCKgua: Day One”

  1. deekerson December 14, 2016 at 7:34 pm #

    So was Hen the driver or the passenger. Maybe she was just too chicken to drive!! lol, not. Sorry. Couldn’t resist. Heading to blog #2….

  2. Paul Garcia December 21, 2016 at 5:12 am #

    inspiring! I’m going to pick a place tonight (cheap) & book it – tired of reading yours and not making my own ; )

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