Hola de Nicaragua!
As Jon just posted, we made it! After all the meetings, research, planning, grant writing, IRB submissions.. we are finally here. And even more, we made it in one piece! Before we arrived, we accumulated a lot of advice about the dangers of travel in Nicaragua. In fact, I’m going to list them all out. Keep in mind, as unknowing gringos, these were genuine concerns of ours before arriving (except for maybe Edsel).
1. First and most importantly… Get the hell out of Managua!
Virtually everyone we talked to with any experience traveling in Nicaragua cautioned us to get out of Managua as soon as we land.. unless we were into getting kidnapped. They suggested we all but sprint out of the airport and get into a taxi. Which brings me to my next warning.
2. Don’t use the taxis.
That’s how you get kidnapped.
3. Don’t drive on the Managua-Leon highway.
So if we were lucky enough to find a taxi that didn’t want to kidnap three and a half gringos loaded with enough equipment to pay 10 nicaraguan salaries (no joke!), the only road out was the Managua-Leon highway. According to the state department website, this road is the location of frequent roadside robberies in which assailants block the road with fallen trees and clean out tourists at machete point. They then drive their unlucky victims to remote locations and drop them off empty-handed.
Luckily, we made it to our hostel without harm. Unfortunately, the hostel is where we expected to face our most feared adversary…
4. Spiders and other insects
Jon was kind enough to inform us of two types of tarantulas “prevalent” in Nicaragua (not cited). First, there are the blue tarantulas. These guys mean business. Apparently, they climb trees, eat birds and are able to jump distances of up to 5 feet.
Then there are the hairy brown tarantulas. These are the ones we were expecting to find under our hostel beds. When you disturb them, they stand up in a defense posture and rub their legs together. This rubbing causes the release of thousands of hair follicles that float through the air and cause painful rashes and even blindness. Enough about bugs, but if you see Jon, ask about “bullet ants”, he loves to talk about them.
Avoiding all of these dangers could surely make one exhausted. What better place to relax than to go lay out on the beautiful Nicaraguan beaches. Wrong!
5. Parasites in the sand
This warning came courtesy of my father via some ER physician who recently travelled to Nicaragua. According to him, there are worms all over the beaches which embed themselves in a hosts skin and cause leishmaniasis (google it). The only way to get them out is to use a matchstick to wind them out like spaghetti. Sounds fun!
Nevermind relaxing, we’ll just go out to the rural areas and start scanning kidneys like we came here to do.
6. Malaria rampant in rural Nicaragua.
Finally there is something we are actually legitimately prepared to deal with. We have mosquito nets, long sleeves, permethrin spray for our clothes, and 100% deet repellant (definitely carcinogenic). We are also taking anti-malarial prophylaxis. Jon and I saved a few dollars buying the generic “mefloquine” which can cause odd dreams and even hallucinations. No hallucinations so far!
In reality, Nicaragua has been far less frightening than we originally expected. We’re getting used to constantly sweating from the heat and humidity, but it’s nothing that a cold, non-alcoholic cerveza can’t cure.
I have to run; we’re going to get food! Expect more soon!