Road Trip to Managua from San Juan del Sur

Last week Quinn and I were invited by our friends Orlanda and Fernanda (the daughters of the owners of Elizabeth’s Guest House) to go with them to experience the nightlife of Managua. The last time we were in Managua we were a bit overwhelmed and weren’t able to experience the fun side of the city. Unaware of what to expect, we quickly agreed that this could be a special opportunity to understand what it’s like for locals our age to go out here in Nicaragua. That Saturday we were excited and eager for the 3 hour road trip with our friends from San Juan del Sur to Managua. We packed our bags and all six of us jumped into the five-seated Toyota Corolla. We left San Juan del Sur around 5:30 so half way into the road trip it was dark.

It was our first time driving the highways of Nicaragua in a car, which, if you’ve ever driven here yourself, you know it’s quite a different experience than riding in a bus. We were constantly passing other drivers in the one way lane going the opposite direction of us. There was a close call as it got darker–we were passing a bus in the other lane and all of the sudden we saw a car without lights on coming straight at us. We quickly swerved back into our lane behind the bus and just barely missed that stupid driver. We all laughed nervously as the reggaeton music blared. It was scary as hell, but it was fun. It was young, reckless and one big adventure for us all. The towns we passed through were straight Nica towns with not a single tourists in sight. These were the towns that Trip Advisor and Lonely Planet travel books don’t write about and therefore foreigners don’t visit. We even passed a haunted house that made all of the girls, except for Quinn, scream in fear as the driver pretended to approach it. It took us a while to understand why the girls were screaming while the driver, Roberto, was cracking up.

Three hours later, as we approached the center of Managua, we saw several large lit up signs for some of our favorite fast food restaurants. Instantly, we both got a craving and fortunately so did our friends. Our first stop was the 4-story mall complete with a movie theater, low-end stores and a food court on the top floor that had a variety of food options. There was Subway with 48 cord ($2.26) 6 inch sandwiches. There was also two Chinese food places that sold large plates of food for only 76 cords ($3.23). The food, however, looked disgusting. The noodles did not look like the chow mien I love, but rather like Raman noodles in a creamy brown gravy sauce. And then, all of the sudden, there it was. Like a light in the darkest night. The two golden arches. McDonalds. One number one. A Big Mac meal. Super sized. 115 cordobas ($4.88). Upon seeing the price I realized McDonald’s is not seen as the cheap last second decision restaurant like it is in the USA. In Nicaragua, its a meal that is reserved for a treat or a celebration.

I knew from traveling to other places outside of the US that McDonald’s adapted their menu relative to the country’s tastes and culture preferences, so they of course did that here in Nicaragua as well. The menu offered a family meal in which each person receives three pieces of fried chicken, one bag of fries and a drink for 380 cords ($16.13) for a family of four. This option was perfect for their target market here as Nicaraguans usually prefer chicken over beef and there are many mouths to feed in a Nicaraguan family.

There was no way we were going to order that option when we saw the Big Mac I had grown to love. Quinn, on the other hand, had a personal craving for a crispy chicken sandwich. So we bought the two meals ate them as slow as we could so that it would last longer. Of course, we couldn’t resist and the meal lasted less than ten minutes. When we finished, Quinn and the girls looked around the mall for a bit, goofed around and took pictures together. Finally, we hopped back into the car and left the mall in search of a cheap hotel to crash at for the night.

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