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Saturday, July 3, 2010

Nicaragua to Guatemala: A Tale of Two Cities

Leaving Grenada

Today was the day of make or break for our escape from Central America. We had booked an ultra-cheap return flight from Managua to Guatemala City to try to avoid the fiasco that happened on entering Panama when COPA demanded we buy a $780 onward ticket we didn't use.

So we got up with fingers crossed, arranged for a $30 kone hour taxi ride direct to Managua airport and duly set off around the outskirts of Managua arriving at the chic little air-conditioned airport a couple of hours before the flight left and lo and behold we were received with open arms and were accepted on the flight with no questions asked.

The road to Managua

Just as in Cali, the airport security was somewhat ridiculous. They demanded we put everything into the x-ray including my crutches belt and shoes which meant I couldn't walk through the metal detector and my pants immediately began to fall down and I simply couldn't take my shoes off either with no crutches. After storming at them that this was impossible they finally retrieved my crutches and gave me back my x-rayed belt.

Augusto Sandino was a very famous Che Guevara-like rebel 'bandit' who held the US marines
at bay but was eventually assassinated by Somoza and became the symbol of the Sandinistas.

The surprise of surprises when they scanned my metal hip it didn't set off the detectors, so maybe its made of something fancy like titanium!

Sandinista literature at the airport

The flight set out in great weather and we could see a succession of features from an active volcano, through water filled crater to the highland mountains and coastal islands. As we landed in Guatemala City we were hit by a torrential rain storm that turned the runway to a sluice.

An active volcano en route

A water filled crater

Guatemalan highlands

Barios on precipitous mesas outside Guatemala city

We had to walk out through packed crowds beset by touts

The customs and immigration was straightforward but s we emerged we were greeted by a posse of touts trying to entice us into different forms of minibus and taxi transport to Antigua. We nearly got sucked away by some very dubious characters before settling on a beautiful air-conditioned minibus with a good courteous driver who stuck to the $8 each price except he had no change in any currency, requiring some last minute bargaining with the other passengers.

The volcano over Antigua

Arriving in the shared minibus

Finally we ended up at the Ummagumma Hostel, which is a rambling ancient building with only one small toilet and is full of young travelers.

But we are liberated. It's so great to be able to get to our flight out of Mexico city in ten days with only some fairly long bus rides and a good number of rest days in between with no further snafus over raod blocks from airline immigration scams.

Ummagumma Hostel from the front and upstairs

Taking on a grande 'mixed up' Pizza

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