Costa Rica offered the tourist beaches, cloud forests and volcanoes.
I had already tasted a sample of Central America’s beaches in Belize. I therefore thought relaxing on a beach would not be the most efficient use of my time.
An alternative was to do some hiking and visit Parque Nacional Chirripo, containing Costa Rica’s highest peak. From the summit, on a clear day, one could view both the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. However Bill had warned me that given the time of the year I might be visiting the park I would see more cloud than forest and I would be wasting my time.
Another alternative was a trip to Volcan Arenal, Central America’s most active volcano. However, given the amount of time I had spent on buses, my itinerary was already congested and I was running out of time. There would be opportunities for me to view many volcanoes the further north I travelled.
In fact I had seen plenty of volcanoes on my travels south from Guatemala City. In many instances they conveniently lined the side of the road, seen from my bus window as it manoeuvred around another gaping pothole on the journey towards San Jose.
Back then they had been impressive objects. Now as I made my way north from San Jose the volcanoes were a thing of splendid beauty. Retracing my steps and seeing these volcanoes for the second time really underlined their majesty. Having the cash to eat most mornings also meant I was in the correct frame of mind to appreciate them more.
The volcanoes stood tall over the flat agricultural plains. It was as if they had come from nowhere to capture the essence of a dominant force. A force that knew its own strength and power but infrequently felt the need to wield it.
Often separated from one another by a viewing distance the volcanoes appeared isolated; regal figures that sheltered their domain. Old and wise, they had seen the soul of the earth and had the strength to forgive and offer solace to the sins of mankind.
May we never cross the boundary of their tolerance, for their anger shall wash us away into a hell of red fury which will be the death of us all!
The bus reached Managua just as it was starting to get dark. Having traversed north from Panama City to San Jose on local buses I was now back travelling on the tourist bus, all the way to Guatemala City.
At the Managua bus depot I was greeted by all sorts of locals offering help in finding me accommodation. I managed to avoid them all expect one young boy who was especially persistent.
I was confident I could find the one star hostel that was listed in my guidebook without his assistance. Even if was going to take me two hours of wandering around the dark streets of Central America I was determined to avoid the help of this young pest. But he kept on following me and chatting in such a friendly manner that it started effecting my concentration. Two hours of wandering around was starting to look more like four.
After telling him on many occasions the only reward he was going to get was a kick up the backside I eventually relented. Backtracking, I offered him the incentive of a one star reward if he found me a top quality one star hotel.
However the two star hotels must have offered him better incentives to find foreign stragglers to fill their rooms. He proceeded to led me to a procession of hotels that were above the endurance of my budget. But I was determined not to relent especially as I had paid for a one and a half star hotel the last time I had been in Managua and it had cost me a night’s food.
Eventually he discovered the strength of my determination and found me my one star hostel, a block and a half from the bus depot. As reward for his hard work in trying to squeeze blood out of this stone I gave him a one and a half star tip, without the promised boot up the backside.
After a good night’s sleep I squeezed into one of the local buses and made the short trip to the nearby town of Granada. This old colonial town sat at the base of Volcan Mombacho, a volcano that had a reputation for continually been masked by cloud.
The bus dropped me off close to the town square, a large cobblestone expanse of space bordered by a cathedral. I walked around the square for a short space of time and then made my way through town to Lago de Nicaragua.
Granada was situated on the northern edge of this large lake which covered an expanse all the way down to the border with Costa Rica.
Besides taking a couple of photos there was not much to do here so I made my way back to the city square with more than half the day spare. I began passing time in the hope the cloud cover would rise about the town’s over looking volcano enabling me to take a half decent photo.
But it appeared it was a hope that was going to prove to be nothing more. I eventually resigned myself to buying a postcard encompassing the town and the volcano on a clear cloudless day.
While buying the scenic souvenir, other postcards of a different nature caught my interest. Particularly the ones with photos of attractive local ladies dressed in revolutionary army outfits carrying powerful machine guns. This was a hint of madness. This was the revolutionary heartland.
I sat back in one of the nearby coffee shops and read the educational section of my guidebook. It gave a brief overview of Nicaragua’s political and revolutionary history.
The history involved the intervention of the United States military in 1909 with the purpose of ousting a left leaning nationalist dictator who had overthrown the previous government. With the help of the United States this new power became a dictatorship itself, a dictatorship which lasted many decades.
In 1979, after years of armed fighting, sieges and strikes the revolutionaries regained power only to be confronted once more by United States backed forces and economic embargos. These embargos crippled the country till the point where the revolutionaries held elections in 1990 and were replaced by a coalition of 14 smaller parties.
Peace had now settled over Nicaragua. However the turmoil of the past had left the country one of the poorest in Central America with a huge disparity between its rich and poor citizens.
Later that day, back in Managua, I witnessed the middle classes when I went to a mall and viewed all the shoppers enjoying their Saturday afternoon spending spree. The poor might as well have been a million miles away.
But this disparity was not unique to Central America. Nor could it entirely be blamed on the conflicts of the past.
Still my reading had left me much to ponder. The idealism of revolution is fine but like the spark that lights the raging fire it can have huge uncontrollable consequences. The cause for lighting the fire must be to keep the hearts of the nation warm and free from the influences of the cold, dark minds of the outside powers that lap another country’s shores.
For better or for worse, that was my thoughts on the subject. That will be my underlying message to my revolutionary superiors – freedom for the people.