the highway. The countryside is lush,rngreen, cool, and perpetually bathed in arnfine mountain mist. The weather isrngreat. It’s hard to believe that you are inrnthe tropics in ]une. You climb aboard anrnold school bus in Ocotal with the wordsrn”Storm Lake Community Schools” stillrnpainted on the sides. After paying yourrnsix-cordoba fare you continue down thernmountain highway to Esteli, the firstrntown of any size you come to inrnNicaragua.rnYour Central American guidebookrnpoints out that the pleasant mountainrnclimate of Esteli made it a favorite pilgrimagernsite for “internagionalista volunteers”rnduring the Sandinista years.rnGangs of would-be revolutionaries descendedrnon the place during the 1980’srnand covered its walls with propagandarnmurals. Since the election of VioletarnChamorro as president in 1990, the foreignrn”volunteers” have all but disappearedrnfrom Esteli and the murals arernfading. The few internagionalista-typesrnthat still arrive—like the longhaired, effeminaternman and the two shorthaircd,rn”butch” women you met at the Cordobarnhotel where you took a room—arernshunned by the locals who refer to themrnas “los inbanables,” or the unbathablernones.rnAs you walk about town you noticernthat Sandinista campaign slogans fromrnthe 1990 election are still visible everywhere.rn”Con Daniel todo sera mejor.”rn(With Daniel everything will be better.)rnYet even die-hard Sandinista supportersrnin Esteli—one of only two towns inrnNicaragua where the Sandinistas won arnmajority of votes in 1990—reluctantlyrnconcede that everything is better withoutrnDaniel and the Sandinistas. The town isrnfilled with well-stocked shops and smallrnpleasant restaurants that weren’t herernjust a few years ago. And unlike duringrnthe Sandinista years, you can actuallyrnmake purchases with the local currency,rnrather than with American dollars. True,rnmany businesses seem incapable ofrnmaking change for even the smallest ofrnbills. But the business climate is comingrnback from the dead. There’s no doubtrnabout it.rnThe Galeria de Heroes y Martires andrnthe Sandinista Casa de Culture arernclosed. And this is a Saturday night! Sornwhat do the common people of Esteli—rnthe ones for whom the Sandinista Frontrnpurported to have made its revolution—rndo on a weekend? Well, about a thousandrnof them are packed into the hugerncathedral. The Roman Catholic Churchrnis thriving in post-revolutionaryrnNicaragua. Meanwhile, the “PopularrnFront Church” created by the Sandinistasrnas a means of diffusing support forrnthe Catholic Church has shriveled to arnsmall band of fanatics who travel therncountry disrupting traditional churchrnservices.rnThe next morning a three-hour journeyrnin another old school bus brings yourndown several thousand feet in altitudernand spirit to Managua, a sprawling dumprnof a place. And it’s hot. A dead hot, sealevelrncity without hope of an oceanrnbreeze. Central Managua was destroyedrnby an earthquake in 1972 and has yet tornbe rebuilt. Millions in foreign aid pouredrnm following the earthquake, but everyrndime was pocketed by dictator AnastasiornSomoza. An additional decade of neglectrnby the Sandinistas served only tornexacerbate the problem. The earthquakernzone is currently a no-man’s landrnfilled with little squatter shanties. Thernrest of the city is a sprawling jumble ofrnroads that run every which way. Chaos.rnPure chaos. Luckily, the bus drops yournoff at a huge open-air market where onerncan catch buses to other parts of therncountry. You hop on a bus bound forrnGranada and go.rnYou open the latest issue of La Presnarnand read that the J 6th cache of arms hasrnbeen discovered. Like the others, thisrnone belongs to the Marxist guerrillas ofrnEl Salvador and has been maintainedrnfor them by the Nicaraguan army. PresidentrnChamorro wants answers, but armyrnchief Humberto Ortega, brother of formerrnSandinista dictator Daniel Ortega,rnisn’t providing any. He simply says thatrnthe arms were “forgotten.” Meanwhile,rnBarricada, the Sandinistas’ daily newspaper,rnpoints out that 13 of the 16rnbunkers were all but empty. It doesn’trninform its readers, however, that thernother three contained hundreds of mortarrnshells, rocket-propelled grenades, andrnClaymore mines and tens of thousandsrnof AK-47 rounds. The most recently discoveredrnbunker contained thousands ofrnpounds ofC-4rnThe ride to Granada is hot but lovely.rnThe bus passes hundreds of little individualrnfarms. Some of the fields are beingrnworked with ox-drawn plows. Muchrnof the resulting produce is transportedrnalong the highway in horsecarts. Still,rnmany of these folks are purchasing secondhandrntractors and pickup trucks. Justrna few short years ago most were littlernbetter than subsistence-farming peasants.rnNow they are in business.rnGranada is a grand town built on thernshores of a great lake—Lake Nicaragua.rnIt was the first Spanish settlement of anyrnsize in Nicaragua and still possesses arngreat deal of colonial charm, despite havingrnbeen sacked a dozen times by pirates,rnplunderers, and revolutionaries.rnYou ride from the bus station to the lovelyrncentral square in a horse-drawn stagecoachrnpassing adorable tile-roofedrnhouses. The wide, paved streets arernshaded by huge mango and ceiba trees.rnYou take a room at another cheap hotel.rnThis one costs 20 cordobas. And likernthe hotel in Esteli, this one has a fewrnscruffy “gringos” staying there. A couplernof limp-wristed men and two more dikes.rnThey try to propagandize you about therngreat proletarian struggle until you informrnthem that you came to Nicaraguarnto celebrate the counterrevolution. Theyrncall you a “fascist.” You smile at thesernlast remnants of the American hardleftrn—James’ “longhaired men and shorthairedrnwomen.” Hormonal (and societal)rnrejects.rnThat evening you stroll down to thernwaterfront where you encounter an unusualrnstatue of Captain Don FranciscornHernandez de Cordoba, founder ofrnGranada and namesake of Nicaragua’srnmonetary unit. The statue itself is not sornunusual. It’s the brass commemorationrnplate: the inscription reads that the statuernwas “Presented to the President ofrnthe Republic of Nicaraguarnby Chief of State of Spain Don FranciscornFranco….” The missing words fromrnthe commemoration plate, chiseled offrnwith a powerful grinder yet still readable,rnare “Anastasio Somoza.” Orwellrnmeets Ortega.rnThe next morning you find yourselfrnon another old school bus heading tornSan Jorge, a small lakeshore town anrnhour south of Granada. And tied up atrnthe pier, just as you’d been promised inrnGranada, you find La Senora del Lago,rnan old tub of a boat that makes a dailyrnrun to Ometepe, the volcanic island thatrnshoots up nearly 5,000 feet from the surfacernof the lake. You pay your threeand-rna-half-cordoba fare and climbrnaboard, taking a seat with about 50 otherrnpassengers among tons of freight. Thern90-minute ride is delightful, in spite ofrnthe fact that the baby seated in the lap ofrnthe woman next to you throws up onrnyou. No problem. You simply take offrnyour shirt and drag it in the clear lake wa-rnJ AN UARY 1994/37rnrnrn