September 11, 2006 GMT

I was intending to leave León this morning, but have been trapped (yet again) by the start of the Independence Day celebrations.

Most of Central America celebrates September 15 as Independence Day, when they finally managed to get rid of the Spanish. Sometimes the English and Dutch get sniped at as well, as we were in Granada on Saturday. So this morning, just as I was about to get my togs on, the street outside became extremely closed for three hours for processions of schoolchildren with marching drum bands. I couldn't have left even if I'd been able to get at the bike.

So I'm spending another night in what is actually a rather charming colonial town and Nicaragua's second city, boasting Central America's largest (and possibly most decrepit) cathedral. Large is a relative adjective here. When I managed to bypass Managua yesterday (more by luck than judgement) it was clearly yet another capital city around the size of Reading. León is about Newbury-sized, which at least makes it easy to walk around all the interesting places.

The main road from Managua to León, the one the buses take, isn't bad. You don't even have to slow down for the unpaved bits, as they're good hard dirt with no more potholes than the paved sections, so it's just a case of up on the pegs and keep going. There were one or two muddy patches, and I wouldn't want to do it in the rain if there were much traffic around; the only small worry was the sharp-looking rocks, which induce puncture paranoia.

When I finally managed to find the post office to send some postcards (which may or may not arrive) it was, again, more by luck than judgement. I knew where it was in theory, but there was no way to recognise it - just another tatty little hole-in-the-wall, but with a very-armed guard smoking a ciggy just inside the entrance, and hand-written signs on the two letterbox slits in the gloomy interior.

Addresses here, as in Costa Rica, are rather abstruse. In San José the official address of the bike dealer was "50 metres west of the lighting factory which was demolished ten years ago". Not even a street name. No wonder my first taxi driver had a bit of difficulty finding it. Here, addresses often give a street name, but no number. So the hotel in Granada was "at the end of calle Zapalda, in front of the church of Guadelupe" (and thus an easier place to find than most).

Nicaragua produces some of the best coffee in the world, but unless you ask nicely you get Nescrapé. Unbleedingbelievable. Maybe I should go back to Costa Rica. It's more or less impossible to get G&T (the G's available but there's a distinct dearth of T), but the beer's pretty good. The food is veering towards Mexican the further north I get - refried beans have made their first appearance on menus, and the filled tortillas are really good. Good job I like Mexican food as that'll be all there is for a few weeks.

And since you ask, the cold's improving, thanks.

Posted by Cynthia Milton at September 11, 2006 09:00 PM GMT

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