Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Managua Backpackers Inn (Very Unsafe!)

Well, I needed a place to crash for my first night in Nicaragua. My flight didn't arrive until 12:14 am and from everything I've read it is not safe to travel at night.

I paid in advance to have a taxi meet me at the airport and did not leave the glass doors of the airport until I saw my name on a piece of paper staring back at me. I was the second person through customs and had no problems with the passport check point although it seemed odd to pay a $10 fee to get through. This was a new one to me. Everywhere else I've travelled simply stamps the passport without a fee. Actually, police corruption is why I didn't end up renting a car. I read that it wasn't worth it and that public transportation was pretty good.

Managua Backpackers Inn

The glossy-eyed man that picked me up at the airport didn't speak a word of English and had had enough to drink to where we more like glided along the road in a boat with a rickety sound. If this evening experience was any indication of typical respect for the laws of the road then it is barely necessary to slow down at all for a red light. We certainly stopped for none of ours.
I enjoyed the ambiance. It was raw and completely unrefined. Although, I did try for several minutes to find the buckle to the seat belt, to no avail.

Once at the hostel, we rang the doorbell for several minutes before the girl who was working the night shift woke up and responded to our racket. She completely slept through the phone ringing quite loudly as we found ourselves quite impressed to hear it so clearly from the street.
Several minutes later, I parted ways with the taxi driver whom I had pre-paid via the hostel and through PayPal earlier in the evening. The receptionist was groggy and seemed to know the written number nine and the word PayPal which was enough for her to understand I had already paid for the room so she showed me a bed on a top bunk where I will soon find myself cuddling my ever so tiny travel bag.

Apparently, there is a breakfast and transportation to Granada. Hopefully, I will keep my belongings long enough to make it to my destination!

Ants are crawling everywhere in this hostel. Perhaps it's just how it is here in Nicaragua. Perhaps I'll need to get used to it. It would be nice if my hotel was not ant infested, but whatever. I'm sure it will be fine. There is a pool here. Since I don't have a lock for my locker I don't think I'll use it. But there is also a pool at my hotel in Granada, so if it is warm enough hopefully I will be able to swim. The weather is very muggy and damp.

I have met three people so far. One at the airport and two here at the hostel. The first was a German girl who will be staying for free at a hostel she will be working at in a surf town. The second is a hippy-type dude who lives in Jacksonville and is from North Carolina. I sat next to him at the airport but didn't talk to him until after he arrived here at the hostel and got through the language barrier with the receptionist. He didn't fair as well. Although he had paid a $2 deposit on HostelWorld to reserve his bed, he still ended up giving the lady at the desk (who is currently sleeping on the couch next to me) a $20 bill which will or won't get worked out in the morning. And the third is the Polish girl who spent the summer working in NYC then traveled to Honduras and Panama without incident only to get mugged right outside this hostel my 6 little guys at eight o'clock in the morning.

Wish me luck... the kind of luck that means I will wake up with my computer and other belongings still with me.

So morning came and I met a few of the guys on the hostel who all seemed fairly cool. Lots of longtime travelers who had been on the road for months or years. One guy was living off his California Unemployment Insurance which the State of CA keeps conveniently extending. He was coming off of spending 7 years in the military based out of San Diego. Now he's a long bearded hippie not wishing to answer questions. Either he's on the run or is paranoid from too many drugs. In the meantime, he was nice enough and a group of us walked over together to the other hostel for breakfast.

Before parting, the owner of the hostel said that it was perfectly safe to walk over to the second hostel for breakfast. I told him that the Polish girl had told me her story explaining that she and a male friend had been mugged by some 6 local kids. The owner gave further detail to her story stating that the kids were between the ages of 11-16 and sniff glue to get high. All of sudden he seemed fairly well acquainted with the boys and who they were. When I asked, he said that he did not know the boys. He informed me that I was staying in a poor country where people don't have anything and that makes tourists a likely target.

Okay, so let me get this straight. Was the backpackers mugged because they were rich tourists or because the boys were glue junkies looking for their next high or thrill.

Basically, the owner of the Managua Backpackers Inn was a pompous, middle-aged, full-of-himself, blowhard with a condescending patriarchal attitude. He said I should expect such things in when traveling. I told him it wasn't my first pony ride.

He said that's why he had lockers. I asked if he had locks for the lockers. He said, "No!". Not knowing they had lockers without locks meant that I didn't bring a lock. Trust me, I have them and often bring one just in case. But even so, hostels usually sell locks... just in case.

The owner of the hostel had told the Polish girl that they would bring over breakfast in the morning to make sure everyone was safe. NOT! Basically, the guy bullshits every chance he gets and simply feels that one traveler to the next will never know the difference.

The Polish girl had told me that she had heard that muggings were quite common outside the hostel. The owner said that this was a one-time incident and had not happened before. The boy who worked the desk said that if you turn left (for breakfast) as you leave the hostel you'll get mugged but if you turn right it might be okay. The owner said that the kids know that tourists are there so they are targets. By the way, how did the owner know the age of the kids and that they sniff glue if he wasn't there when she was mugged and if he didn't see the mugging.

My honest opinion of this hostel is that it is terribly unsafe and the owner couldn't care less. The guys were very cool to wait for me and to make sure we all walked together. Nice group of nomads.

One of the reasons I picked this hostel was for the pool. I asked about it and was told not to swim in it because it wasn't safe and would make me sick. There was a sign near the pool which said not to swim in it, as well.

So to sum it up, the hostel had ants everywhere, no lockers with locks, a rude indignant owner who seemed to blame his guests for being there and being tourists if they happened to get mugged. My favorite line was, "You have to expect it!" Really? I've traveled a lot. I don't ever 'expect' to get mugged. In fact, I do my best to be a safe traveler and everything possible to avoid getting mugged.

He spoke to me as though I had never traveled before and as though I simply had no clue that Nicaragua was a poor country. He informed me that I was in the safest part of the city. His entire property had gates around it, the windows were barred and the backyard and roof had bobbed wire. What exactly do the bad areas look like?

I strongly suggest staying anywhere else. Honestly, it might be cheaper to give the glue sniffers $10 and a couple bottles of glue. I'd bet they'd be more grateful and loyal for the contribution then he was!

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