Friday, March 20, 2015

Make Sure Not to Run Green Lights in Managua

Riding around the lobby of Via Via Hotel

Staying at the Via Via in Leon was a relief. It was a chill place to catch up on rest and recover from what was a very loooong and hot border crossing day. But Leon certainly didn’t offer any respite from the heat with temperatures peaking around 110F (43C) in the shade.

Seb and Kim from Wandering Souls had met a reporter for the Nicaraguan National News the day before we arrived, who was interested in interviewing motorbikers traveling through Nicaragua. They kindly invited us to join and the news people picked us up at Via Via and toured us through Leon until we arrived at a picturesque spot to do the interview. It was a fun experience and hopefully everything we said was more or less intelligible

From Via Via we headed out early to beat the heat in hopes of taking a dip in Lake Apoyo by mid-afternoon. Everything was on target in Managua until Seb went through a green light which a second later turned to orange, keeping the rest of us stuck at the light. He pulled over to wait for us, and the cops waiting at that intersection took it as their cue to harass him and ultimately charge him with running a red light. They were awful and crooked, and basically said “We’re the cops and if we say the light was red, it doesn’t matter what you and your friends saw.” They also added a charge for crossing a solid white line, which Seb says he also didn’t do. And while we were waiting for Seb, the officers took David’s information and also charged him with crossing the solid white line (which David did indeed do). Naturally, Seb was outraged - we all were - but Seb was, ahem, the most vocal about it - hence an awesome photo he got of the officer yelling back at him. (Check out their report of the incident here.)The officers had Seb and David’s licenses and so we decided to head to the Police Station to file a complaint.

"Discussing" lies and corruption

Now they have David's Papers

Seb and Kim return and all "discussions" end - to the police station we go!

2 police, 5 bikes

We found the station easily enough, handed in our passports for badges, and were led back to the Internal Affairs office. They seem to take accusations of corruption seriously.
I explained to the secretary at Internal Affairs what happened and she told us we would have to wait for the Commissioner. After about 20 minutes, a translator arrived and wrote down Seb’s account of what happened. This was shown to the Commissioner (I guess?) and we then had to go to the Traffic Police Station with this document and speak to the jefe there.

Waiting to be seen at the traffic police station

He was rather kind, looked at the tickets,
raised his eyebrows, hardly looked at the paperwork and told us not to worry about it. “To go find a place to stay, have a beer, and then return between 7am and 8am to get the licenses back before the paperwork for the tickets would be lodged.”

Not so bad. We all decided to head to Apoyo, but en route, Seb and Kim decided that it made more sense to stay in the city so they didn’t have to back-track the next morning. David decided to do the same. Roel and I contemplated staying, but after standing outside in the heat (110+ degrees F) all day watching the bikes while the rest us of were sitting in the air conditioned police stations, Roel was really eager to get to a cooler area. Apoyo would not only be cooler, our arrival would be rewarded with a dip in the lake.

Well, best laid plans, and blah blah blah. We wound up taking 40+ turns trying to get out of Managua (thanks to roadworks detours) and didn’t make it to the lake until dark. We did suss out the best spots to stay (Laguna has good moto parking but expensive dorms… $14 for a bed.) And Paradiso, which was full when we arrived, had good parking, better prices and was BEAUTIFUL. Fortunately, we were able to secure reservations for everyone for the next night and we headed to Laguna to bunk up.

Paradiso... no joke.
Licenses back in their possession, David, Seb and Kim arrived the next morning and we spent the rest of the day swimming in the lake and letting the stress of the previous day wash away.

While in Managua, they had found out that police handing out tickets for running green lights is actually a common ploy in that city. UGH.
We decided to ride in the direction of San Juan del Sur together and have wound up all liking the looks of Granada so much, we’ve stopped at a hostel here for the night. I think it was the presence of an Irish Pub that sold David on the idea ;) And the rest of us were just keen to have an ice cream :)

What traffic looks like in Granada

"Do we stay, or do we go?"

Riding with David makes for some great photos. As you can see, between the Africa Twin and the horse/carriage, is David's bike laid down on the sidewalk, much like a 8 year old would lay down his bicycle before running to get an ice cream cone. David was kindly checking hostel prices for the group at this point.

It's devastating to know that in a short time, Lake Nicaragua will become a sea passage, thereby killing much of the wildlife that currently call this lake home.


  1. Rereading your posts and making notes this time. Love reading these posts.