My 10 pm arrival at my Managua hostel was met with an empty front desk.
“Hola,” I casually called out.
After a moment without a response, I brushed off my Spanish: “Hola, algien esta?” A Canadian voice from the nearby dorm room unhelpfully offered, “He should be at the front desk.”
“Hola, hola, hola?” did not further my cause. I took off my backpack and prepared to wait.
A few minutes later the clerk hurriedly arrived – followed by an attractive and disheveled women a moment later.
I was quickly checked in and led through a labyrinth of hallways and rooms until we arrived at a closet-sized, windowless room tucked behind the kitchen and surrounded by communal bathrooms on two sides.
Under normal conditions I would have flatly refused the room and embarked on a neighborhood search for a better habitacion. I did an assessment of my situation: Full hostel, Saturday night, deserted streets. I set down my pack, graciously thanked the front desk clerk, and settled in for a sleepless night.
Upon closer inspection of the room, I discovered a mosquito-blooded wall, two plumbing access points to the bathrooms, a non-functioning aircon unit, and oddly enough, a large painting by what appeared to be a Nicaraguan artist.
While the room in no way wins the award for worst-room-ever (the filthy room in Tibet and the Ethiopian bed bug and flea rooms come to mind), it was not an ideal first impression of Nicaragua. It also made me question if my budget travel days were over. Could it be?
The next day I hopped a microbus to Leon. My seat companion offered me one of her oranges, pointed out the local sights as we passed them, and showed lovely patience as I haltingly addressed questions to her in Spanish. The triciclos (tricycle) driver who peddled me from the bus terminal to my hostel in Leon, proudly showed off his town as he sweated his way across busy traffic.
This is why I travel.
Signing off from Nicaragua,
P.S. I pitched myself down the steep, active Cerro Negro volcano on a piece of particle board. I didn’t previously realize that volcano boarding was a “thing.”