First stop in Central America: Granada, Nicaragua

Another travel adventure has begun. This time, I am on this side of the date line as well as this side of the equator. There isn’t a good name for this foreign excursion yet, but it will begin in Nicaragua, go to Costa Rica and then possibly finish in Panama, covering about two months. Before even settling in to the amazing house we rented in Nicaragua, I experienced something I have never had to deal with before on all of my travels. This is a story I think most of you will enjoy. 

The trip started off as planned: a 12:40 am flight from SFO to Managua, Nicaragua via Mexico City. Traveling with my mom and brother, I checked in a bag, went to the gate where the flight was on time. We boarded and were in the air headed south before 1 am. Unless you are a small child (or a small adult for that matter), sleeping on planes for more than an hour at a time is a near impossibility. I snuck in a few minutes here and there, but spent the majority of the four hour initial stretch mostly attempting to sleep. There was proof that I least dozed off for a bit: my neck had that familiar pain from being in an unnatural position for too long. 

The plane touched down in Mexico City, and unfortunately we needed to go through the full customs process even though we were never going to leave the airport. Good times. A line to check our passports and customs documents, another security check, before making it to the gate for a ninety minute layover before the final flight to Managua. I enjoyed a donut that Homer Simpson would have loved. 

We left Mexico City on time, and I was given a view of the seemingly endless flat city, with almost nothing green anywhere in sight. A large fog of pollution hung over the vast area where tens of millions of humans reside. From the air, it looked like a much larger version of District Nine: Massive, crowded, flat, and no natural beauty. Our second flight was not very full, meaning both my mom and I had two seats to ourselves. Unfortunately, this must have been one of the first commercial jets ever created so the seats were dated, small and not comfortable. Oh, well: just another two and a half hours and we would be at our final destination. I did my best to sneak in some more sleep, curling into what felt like several hundred different positions, each one just slightly uncomfortable enough to make me want to change it up. 

The lovely Mexico City skyline. 

After landing in Managua, we once again went through customs, paid our $10 each to enter the country, and made our way to the baggage claim. This is when I was in for the biggest surprise of this barely started trip. I waited for my bag. And waited some more. And then the carousel stopped moving. I asked one of the employees “Es Todo?” meaning, “that’s everything?” He responded with an affirmative. Fuck. My bag ain’t in Nicaragua. 

There was definitely a moment of panic, and I needed to sit down in silence for a bit to gather my thoughts. I had exactly zero clothes besides what I was wearing. I did a quick scroll in my head of everything I could think of that was in my bag, in case I didn’t get it back and needed to repurchase most or all of the items. Thankfully, my important stuff was with me (electronics, camera, laptop), but my other shoes, flip flops, all my clothing, and all my toiletries were enjoying some tacos at the Mexico City Airport. Or maybe it was some churros. 

I had a bad feeling about it, and it turns out I was supposed to pick up my bag in Mexico City, take it through customs, recheck it, and then it would have joined me on the flight to Nicaragua, which was not explained to me in San Francisco. I had even asked if my bag was checked all the way through, and got a “yes,” which, turns out, was far from accurate. After using my very broken Spanish and my brother’s better Spanish, we figured out that, yes, my bag was likely in Mexico City and I could probably pick it up the next day. Ok, I can definitely survive for a day wearing the same starting to stink clothes I have worn since I left San Francisco. I will just have to make another trip back to the airport, which is a small price to pay for every article of clothing I plan to wear for two months. 

It would not have been the end of the world if I could not get my bag, but it sure would have been a huge bummer, a large pain in the ass, and a rough start to the trip. Wearing all of my clothes that I diligently picked out is far superior than going shopping for everything on the streets of Nicaragua. After rocking the same t-shirt, underwear, socks, and shorts that I had been wearing for almost two days, I did in fact get my bag from the Managua airport. It was waiting quietly and patiently by a walker in the Aero Mexico office. It was not a tearful reunion, but I sure was happy to see the fella. A lesson for all of you: if you stop through Mexico City, make sure to pick up your bag before going through customs. 

The first stop of this trip is the city of Granada, which is about an hour from Managua. Our house that we rented is spectacular: a four bed, four bath compound in the middle of the city with its’ own pool. It is one of the nicest places I have ever stayed in, and makes for an incredible oasis at anytime of the day. The locals so far have been extremely friendly, the food is tasty and cheap, and the beers are even cheaper. Granada is a fairly quiet city, especially compared to my expectations. There are cars, motorcycles, horses, bikes, and humans criss crossing the city, but it is nothing like places like Indonesia or Vietnam. Southeast Asia seems to have a lockdown on an insane level of scooter ownership.  

Granada compound. 

Granada compound. 

My first excursion was going back to the Managua airport, but I can’t complain. Paying to double back to the place where the entirety of my clothes were is a sound investment to me. Once my other brother arrived, the four of us went on a boat tour to the “Islets,” or small islands in Lake Nicaragua that are really close to Granada. It was interesting, as there are hundreds of small islands, lots of them with houses or small hotels, and plenty of them for sale if anyone is interested. Granada was a fun, small, relatively quiet city and would be a fun few days on anyone’s trip to Nicaragua. 

Another adventure has started, and as an added bonus, I don’t need to spend two months wearing Nicaraguan underwear. Next stop is the village of Las Peńitas for a week of relaxing on the beach.