House-sitting in Managua, Nicaragua
After Colombia and Panama inexpensive Nicaragua was great. Food and accommodation are affordable and the country is not as touristy as the neighbouring Costa Rica. People are friendly and they do not expect tips for example for giving you directions.
We spent most of the time in Managua house-sitting and cat-sitting for a fellow hospex member in a nice neighbourhood outside Managua. We were able to restart jogging after a break as we found nice routes where we didn’t have to look out for cars all the time. We started at 4:30 AM when there was little traffic and the air was cool and relatively clean. In the house we had a big, fully equipped kitchen including an oven, and we cooked and baked a lot. From one of our guests we learned how to make Argentinian empanadas. We also had a pleasure to host people from Latvia and Portugal.
The cat family consisted of mother and two babies. Pet-sitting was great fun. The last time we had pets (again a cat family) was in India one year ago. A few weeks before the babies went to their new homes, they were pretty wild, running around the house, scratching sofas and chewing wires, but other than that they were like little angels. Santeri became the babies' favourite. Whenever they had some nightmares, they sought refuge in him. The mother, on the other hand, became Päivi’s cat. She was waiting for Päivi to wake up in the morning behind our door—probably not so much for affection though but to get more food.
Downtown Managua is quite dreary and there is really nothing to see but there are nicer little cities like Masaya near, and bus rides cost virtually nothing (a 20-kilometre ride costs US$ 0.40). The buses are really crowded at rush hours so better avoid travelling in the morning and in the late afternoon.
The weather was superb until the rainy season started in late May. The rains are usually followed by power outages which are pretty common also in the dry season but they tend to be shorter. We also had a three-day water outage. The pump of the water company was broken and the whole neighbourhood was without running water. We had a tank in the yard but unfortunately the gardener had emptied the tank for the lawn just before the pump broke. There was no means to get water except in 20-litre bottles. This is the everyday reality for many Nicaraguans. In some places, there is running water only in the morning and in the evening, and during that time you have to refill water supplies for the whole day.
For travelling, Nicaragua is very safe compared to what we have heard about the other Central American countries. There is generally no hassle. Beggars are few and people keep a polite distance. Some, especially children, might call you a gringo and a few market vendors and bus attendants might try to overcharge you a little but that’s basically it. You can always choose supermarkets if you want to avoid haggling over prices and walk instead of taking buses. Happy travels!