Porschist Magazine 60 - Nicaragua

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Magazine for Porsche enthusiasts • year 15 • quarterly • November/December 2019 • 60

PORSCHE IN NICARAGUA PORSCHE 99X • ROLEX FASTNET RACE


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PORSCHIST TRAVEL

Nicaragua

a yet to be rediscovered paradise. Unfortunately, Nicaragua doesn’t have the best image. Most Westerners associate this Central American country with corruption, a totalitarian regime and a long civil war. Last year’s mass uprisings delivered the country’s image an additional blow. But does that make it a no-go destination? Far from it. Because Nicaragua boasts captivating lakes, majestic volcanoes and colonial cities. In Granada we meet Pascal Picot, proud owner from a Porsche Cayenne..

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text: kathleen van bremdt - photos: kathleen van bremdt & sven hoyaux


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The uprisings of 2018 couldn't have hit Nicaragua at a worse time. Its economy and tourism industry were on the rise, and Nicaragua was on pace to become the next Costa Rica: its leading example. Right at that moment, after many years of having experienced a relatively stable political situation, a profound social crisis took hold of the country; chaos and demonstrations reigned. The reforms to Nicaragua's pension system, announced by President Daniel Ortega on 18 April, were the direct cause of this unrest. Pensions were to be reduced and employees would have to pay increased social security contributions. Ortega's reforms naturally upset many, and the streets flooded with outraged people. The unusually harsh repressive measures these protests were met with only aggravated the situation. When Ortega, perforce, scrapped the social reforms, it was already too late. The genie was out of the bottle. The people – for years now fed up with his increasingly dictatorial behaviour, mismanagement, and shady, corrupt dealings – demanded Ortega's resignation. For four months, the country was gripped by bloody violence, hundreds were killed as a result. The economy collapsed entirely, investors looked for projects elsewhere and the tourism industry suffered heavily. Nevertheless, Ortega didn’t move an inch.

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GRANADA: AN EXPLOSION OF COLOUR The dust has settled since then, but the tourists have yet to rediscover Nicaragua. This becomes very clear to us when we arrive in Granada, where we are the only ones walking around with a camera in our hands. A 'colonial gem', 'glorious trade centre', 'the most beautiful city in Nicaragua'... this is just some of the praise that the oldest city in Central America receives. And every word of it is true, we are pleased to establish. Offering up majestic colonial buildings that frame Andalusian-tiled courtyards, a myriad of churches, each more architecturally stunning than the other, and quaint, picturesque little streets, the city truly is an open-air museum. Sun-drenched Granada pops with colours, and Parque Central is its beating hart. Here, the Granadinos hang out in the shade of the palm trees to have chat, drink some coffee or just take in the scene. The city's most impressive building is without a doubt the enormous, ochre cathedral. In front of its monumental door, a shiny black carriage has parked. White curtains made of lace are drawn on the inside of the windows, and the side is adorned by a large wreath. In Granada, the tradition of bringing the deceased to their final resting place in a horse-drawn carriage is still honoured today. We couldn’t think of a more stylish way to start that final journey. A bit further down are some more carriages, but these are painted in joyful colours. The horses are waiting patiently for new passengers.


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A funeral carriage in front of the cathedral in Granada.


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The Porsche Cayenne and Diana in front of the episcopal palace in Granada.

The white Cayenne against the backdrop of the picturesque streets of Granada is a feast for the eyes.


A CAYENNE IN THE CITY Even at Hotel Estrada – Porsche owner Pascal Picot’s stunning boutique hotel, located a mere 100 metres from Parque Central – we are still only one of few guests. The hotel resides in a colonial house with a lush inner garden. 'Tourism was a billion-dollar industry', says Pascal. 'Nicaragua was doing well in that aspect, but that changed from one day to the other when tensions arose in 2018. I've managed to survive thus far, but these are hard times.' Originally from France, Pascal has been living in Nicaragua for 25 years. It's the country of his dreams. We talk about his life, but of course, also about his Porsche. Owning a Porsche is quite rare in Nicaragua, but Pascal has a great passion for the German brand. His white Cayenne against the backdrop of the picturesque streets of Granada is a feast for the eyes. At the hotel, we are also introduced to our guide David. He will join us for the rest of our trip through Nicaragua. A big smile and a firm handshake: David is a man after our own hearts. We become friends instantly. 'Jodidos pero contentos', says David, who followed along with part of our conversation with Pascal, 'that is what Nicaraguans will answer today when you ask them: How are you? It roughly translates to: Sh*tty, but we don't let it affect our hearts.' He emphasizes his point with his contagious laughter. His explanation goes to show how the Nicas – as Nicaraguans call themselves – are dealing with the difficult situation in their country. Their mental resilience, optimism and humour was going to continue to astonish us throughout our journey.

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BLACK-AND-WHITE PHOTOGRAPHY We ask David whether he knows any local beauties, because having a pretty face in our photo report is always a plus. This is of course one of the silliest questions you can ask a latino. It goes without saying that David knows all the pretty girls in Granada and its surroundings. Within no time, he has called una chica muy guapa for us. When Diana arrives a short while later, our hearts collectively skip a beat. We were expecting a raven-haired woman with sultry eyes and a frivolous dress, for some reason. But sure enough, Diana is a bona fide rock chick! Black skinny jeans, black turtleneck (it's still early in the morning and 24°C is quite chilly for a Nica) and black combat boots. Her long hair has green and greyish blue streaks in it. This woman is clearly born to be wild! But what a superb combination she makes with the white Cayenne. And those fathomless eyes...

The beautiful Diana is born to be wild.


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Colorful houses in the barrios or suburbs of Granada.

COULEUR LOCALE IN THE TRUEST SENSE OF THE WORD Couleur locale, it's such a beautiful term. And it almost seems to be invented specifically for Granada’s barrios, or suburbs. The houses with their typical, irregularly shaped roof tiles are just as colourful and picturesque as the historical inner city. Cerulean, lavender, mint and ochre: standing side-by-side, they form a cheerful ribbon of bright, contrasting hues. When night falls, the women move their rocking chairs outside and chat about all things big and small, while the men play a game of checkers or backgammon. The kids are out on the streets, playing street baseball. Not with a bat – simply with their bare hands. Apparently, it works just as fine. .

HISTORY AS TOLD BY THE DEAD A visit to a cemetery can often tell you a lot about a country. Even though colour is prevalent throughout Granada, the serenity of white dominates at the cementerio. As we wander around the large graveyard, Granada's history unfolds before our eyes. A formidable crypt holds the remains of nine presidents. The tombs of the elite of days gone by are all architectural gems, many in Italian marble, with large angels watching over them eternally. The names of countless fallen Sandinists are written on a large wall. Young fighters, teenagers even, who nonetheless gave their lives for the black-and-red flag during the civil war in the 1970s.


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THE GROWLING MASAYA VOLCANO ‘Nicaragua is located on the so-called Ring of Fire, a giant, horseshoe-shaped belt that encloses the Pacific Ocean, which is responsible for 90% of the world’s geological activity.’ David knows his facts. 'This is why we have so many volcanoes. There are 30 in total, many of which are still active. Nicaragua therefore regularly sees volcanic eruptions and earthquakes.' David has guided us to the active Masaya volcano, which is only a half-hour drive away from Granada. This fuming monster has been labelled by experts 'the most beautiful volcano of Nicaragua'. Its rocky mouth keeps spewing out sulphur relentlessly. Standing on the edge of the crater, we can see the redhot lava bubble and boil underneath us. It's clear to us that this guy is far from done being active. The spectacle is fascinating, but we cannot stay long, as the pungent sulphur fumes irritate our eyes and throats. Masaya is breath-taking, but not a very healthy environment. And yet, a small green parakeet doesn't seem to be bothered at all. Hundreds of chocoyos del cráter live in the wall of the crater and swarm in and out of the volcano, chirping excitedly. Scientists have yet to discover how these birds are able to live in the toxic fumes.


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The active Concepción Volcano, Isla de Ometepe.

THE PEACEFULNESS OF OMETEPE Nicaragua is also the land of many lakes. Lake Nicaragua is not only the largest lake in the country, but indeed in the whole of Central America. The Niquira Indians named it Cocibolca: the Sweet Sea. There is something to be said for that, because as its surface is the size of three Belgian provinces together, this body of water looks more like a sea than a lake. In the middle of Lake Nicaragua, you will find the island Ometepe. Ometepe literally means 'two hills', which refers to the two majestic volcanoes which dominate the island side-by-side: the active Concepción and the dormant Maderas. With its lush cloud forests, breath-taking vistas and powdery beaches, Ometepe's nature is stunning. The island has a rural, laidback vibe, making it feel like an oasis of simplicity and tranquillity. The soil is highly fertile, and inhabitants live off of what they harvest themselves. We stay at the Finca San Juan de la Isla, a carefully restored, centuries-old colonial hacienda. The location of the lodge is superb: right next to the water and at the heart of a fruit plantation. Gently rocking in our hammocks, we are treated to the sounds of exotic birds singing and the wind softly blowing through the trees.


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A cheerful bunch of pupils, Isla de Ometepe.

We decide to visit a local school and ask the principal for permission to take some photos. It takes some convincing, but finally we are allowed. Listening to the principal’s grandiloquence, David concludes that he is a true ‘Danielisto’: the principal ‘summons’ a class representative to ‘order’ the seniors to come outside for a group photo. A ‘Danielisto’ is something completely different from a ‘Sandinisto’, we learn. ‘A Sandinisto,’ David explains, ‘is someone who fully or partially supports the socialist Sandinista philosophy. But a Danielisto is someone who blindly follows Ortega and glorifies him. You have to be very careful with those people. Ortega often uses the seniors to come and walk in his parades, it's the generation of teenagers he is still trying to brainwash. In Managua for instance, he put up a giant screen for the young people to watch the World Cup of football. Of course, the children loved it. He then later blatantly used that enthusiasm for his own propaganda. Bread and games: it never fails.' In the meantime, the children have arranged themselves. We quickly snap a photo of this boisterous bunch. .


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Rex Calderon, Nicaragua’s national surf champion.

14 THE LIVELINESS OF SAN JUAN DEL SUR We have to acclimatize a little when we arrive from quiet Ometepe into the bustling seaside town of San Juan del Sur, located in the most southern point of the country. With its lively boulevard, fun bars and immensely wide beach, it’s almost like the Costa Brava of Nicaragua – except that, even here, there isn’t a tourist in sight for miles. We can hear salsa music coming from a little restaurant and let ourselves be tempted to a lunch. We’re having the prawns: straight from the Pacific. Waiters in immaculate white shirts serve us with a big smile, they are clearly over the moon to have us. It’s a little spark of hope that the world has not forgotten about them, and that visitors will soon return in spades.

STRADDLING THE WAVES AT PLAYA MADERA San Juan del Sur is also known for its fantastic surf spots. We are told that the waves of Madera's Beach are the very best. There is a unique vibe to the beach: it feels carefree and youthful, a place of both daring and enjoying. Guys with bronzed, muscular torsos are waxing their surfboard, getting ready for a ride on the water. Girls frolic around them, showing off their tight contours in miniscule bikinis. ‘Beach bunnies’, they are called. The surf gods out there on the water are clearly not on their first rodeo. One surfer in particular draws our attention. With unprecedented agility and at a breakneck speed, he makes one surf move after the other. He balances on a wave, climbs to the top, then makes a razor-sharp turn to go the other way. 'That's Rex Calderon', David tells us. 'He has been our national surf champion for years now, and has also won the Central America Contest twice.' As we are introduced and get to talk to him a little, Rex turns out to be a very friendly guy. 'A day not on the surfboard is a day wasted', is Rex's motto.


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The splendid bay of Ocotal in Morgan’s Rock.


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Wooden luxury lodges are scattered across the hills that surround the beautiful bay of Ocotal.

MORGAN’S ROCK: HACIENDA & ECOLODGE Morgan’s Rock is a place where anyone can find rest, no matter how stressed of a soul they are. The compound describes itself as a ‘sensorial lodge’, and even though that might sound odd, the term actually couldn’t be more accurate. Wooden luxury lodges are scattered across the hills that surround the beautiful bay of Ocotal. Standing on the beach, you can hardly spot them between the trees. The lodges have mesh windows, allowing you to be in touch with nature at all times. In mere seconds, we can spot howler monkeys, macaws and exotic blue jays. However, the undisputed star of the scene is the dramatic ocean. The relentless thunder of its waves is hypnotising. In the beginning, it is even a bit too much sensory input for us, but we get used to the rhythmic crashing of the waves surprisingly quick. As the bungalows are spread across the hills, they are connected through paths and a myriad of stairs. We are staying in bungalow 9, all the way at the top of the hill. It is quite the climb, but the spectacular view we are treated to once we are there is worth every step. At night, all the paths are lit up by countless little lamps, and the jungle is shrouded in a magical light. After a three-day stay, we fully understand what the lodge means by its slogan 'Disconnect to Reconnect'.


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CUBAN RUM: MEET YOUR MATCH!

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We head back north along the legendary Pan-American Highway and drive to Chihigalp: not a particularly interesting town, were it not for the fact that it is home to the Compañia Licorera de Nicaragua. Here, with craftsmanship and much love for the product, the best rum in the world is made. If you think that that honour should go to Cuba, you haven’t tasted Flor de Caña. The Compañia Licorera de Nicaragua was founded in 1890 and is still family-run today, with currently the fifth generation at the helm. We are taken on a comprehensive tour, where we learn about the selection process for the ingredients, the various distilling techniques and the unique Flor de Caña ‘slow aging’ method. We conclude the tour with a tasting of the four varieties. We start off with the 4 Years Extra Seco (spicy, with hints of vanilla, coconut and oak), then the 7 Years (balanced with notes of roasted nuts, dark fruit and light spices) and the 18 Years (full-bodied palette with aromas of dark chocolate, caramel, nuts and brown spices). Finally, the absolute premium: the Centenario 25 Years. It’s simply heavenly!

The Compañia Licorera de Nicaragua where the famous Flor de Caña rum is made.


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A few of the 34 impressive roof domes on the cathedral of León.


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LEÓN: A COLONIAL UNIVERSITY TOWN Aside from Granada, Nicaragua has another major colonial city: León. Both cities were founded by the Spanish conquistadors in 1524. From the outset however, they were polar opposites. Where Granada was a major trade hub, inhabited by conservative landowners, León was the city of the progressives and the place where the intellectual elite felt at home. The two cities were always at odds. Both fought to be the country’s capital, a rivalry that even led to a civil war in 1850. The power struggle ended in 1857, when Managua – at that time not much more than a large village – was named the capital by way of a compromise. Today, León is a university town and Nicaragua's cultural heart. Like Granada, the bustling Old Town with its cobblestone streets is packed with centuries-old colonial houses, churches and museums. Catching the eye is the cathedral – the largest in Central America. Standing atop the pristinely white roof, which is crowned with 34 awe-inspiring domes, we take in the fantastic view across the city and the volcanoes in the distance. The inside of the cathedral, with its arched vaults, is just as impressive. In front of one of the 12 Stations of the Cross, a nun stands in devotion. León is bursting with religious buildings, visiting them all would be an impossible challenge. However, if you ever find yourself in this city, be sure to explore the Iglesia de la Recolección. With its canary yellow, Mexican-style façade, baroque pillars, and medallions with depictions from the life of Christ, she is an absolute masterpiece. .

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The pristinely white cathedral of León is the largest in Central America.


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A lively market in the streets of León.

TAKING IN THE SIGHTS AND SMELLS OF THE LOCAL MARKET After dosing up on cultural highlights, it is always fun to just immerse yourself in the every-day life of a city for a bit. And where better to do that than on a market? A local Nicaraguan market is an experience in its own. You can find anything here: fruit and vegetables, hammocks, handmade souvenirs, clothes – you name it. A very pregnant girl spots our camera and poses with a big smile. Feeling peckish, we buy an empanada (a stuffed savoury pastry) from one of the food stalls. Across the square we see a typically Nicaraguan bus pass: a former school bus from the States. As they are always stuffed to the brim with passengers, these buses have been nicknamed ‘chicken buses’. The driver waves at us, his day is done.


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The beauty of the Cerro Negro volcano.

SLIDING DOWN A VOLCANO As it is only possible to do it at this one place in the world, we believe we shouldn’t let this opportunity pass by. We are going volcano boarding, where you surf down the side of an active volcano on a board. ‘Who comes up with this?’, is the first question we ask ourselves. It turns out, it was the people living nearby the Cerro Negro volcano who first got this idea. They imagined it would be fun to race down the 675-metre high volcano on an old refrigerator door, sometimes going as fast as 95 kilometres an hour. Tourists who were observing the spectacle decided to try their luck as well and voila: volcano boarding was invented, now one of the region’s most popular activities. After a while, the refrigerator door was replaced by a wooden board. A group of university students is ready to take on the challenge and are eagerly waiting at the summit.


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A group of university students is ready to take on the challenge of volcano boarding .

Let’s do this. As our guide gives us some final instructions, we put on our overalls, gloves, and protective glasses. One glance at the steep abyss underneath us is enough to tell us that this is madness, but we put on a brave face. We take place on the board, and next thing we know, we are hurling down the volcano at heart attack-inducing speed. Black sand is flung every which way and gets into our shoes, nose, eyes and ears. But: what an adrenaline rush!


TRAVEL PORSCHIST MANAGUA: A CITY WITH AN EMPTY HEART Truth be told, Nicaragua’s capital will never win any beauty contests. But as it was at the centre of the country's turbulent political history, the city is undeniably important. It has seen civil wars and bloody revolutions, and unfortunately some natural disasters as well. In 1931, Managua was hit by a major earthquake, which wiped the city almost completely off the map. Another one tore through the city in 1972. 10,000 people died, 500,000 became homeless and most of the city, including the historic city centre, was completely destroyed. Millions in international aid were raised, yet the city centre was never rebuilt, as then-president Anastasio Somoza and his family kept much of the money for themselves – much to the anger of the Nicaraguans. That unscrupulous corruption ultimately became their downfall. After 40 years of ruthless dictatorial rule, the Sandinists overthrew Somoza in 1979. Nevertheless, the city's centre has a deserted feel. Many people have moved to the outskirts of the town. Where once there

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The beautiful neoclassical Catedral de Santiago, Granada.

were houses, now grow tall trees and thick bushes. From a bird's eye view, the city therefore looks like a donut: a ring of houses, apartment buildings and a few companies surrounding a green heart. Managua's most important buildings can be found at the Plaza de la Revolución. The Catedral de Santiago was so battered by the 1972 earthquake that it is no longer allowed to enter it, but the neoclassical exterior is still highly impressive. Fun fact: the cathedral was shipped from Belgium in 1920. The Palacio Nacional de Cultura is invaluable in this city, which has lost so much. The monumental building houses the National Museum, the National Archives and the Royal Library. Everything that remains from the city's cultural heritage is kept here for posterity.


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TRAVEL PORSCHIST THE TREES OF LIFE

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An interesting site in Managua is the Malecon Salvador Allende, a boulevard alongside Lake Managua. The boulevard is skirted by countless restaurants and bars, and even boasts an immense recreation centre that includes an amusement park and a water park. It was a social project, intended by the government to please the people, but the area has an artificial feel to it. What's more, this is where Rosario Murillo - the eccentric wife of President Ortega - in 2012 had the controversial Árboles de la Vida installed. These 17-metre high, brightly coloured metal ‘Trees of Life’ were meant to become the national symbol of Nicaragua, but are a thorn in the sides of the Nicaraguans. 'It took over 3 million euros to make and install the trees. At night, they are lit up, which costs another 1 million per year. And all this at a time where most Nicas are struggling to survive.’ David is unmistakably displeased. ‘165 trees were planted in total. At first only in Managua, but soon they also appeared in other cities. And what do these trees even mean? The people are puzzled, to say the least. Murillo herself has never provided any form of explanation. The crowns of the trees consist of sixes and spirals. What does that mean? Eternity? Ortega forever? God help us! Some claim that the term ‘Trees of Life’ refers to esotericism, scientology, satanism and so on. No wonder so many trees were taken down by protesters during the recent uprisings.’

The Árboles de la Vida are a thorn in the sides of the Nicaraguans. Because the trees are the cause of so much turmoil in the country, we definitely want a photo of the Cayenne in front of one. However, the police patrolling the boulevard are not having it. Out of nowhere, two secret service agents even appear to meddle in the case. After much negotiation and after some banknotes have discreetly been put into pockets, we get just five short minutes to take a photo. We can barely believe that we’ve made it work and are happy that we can take such an iconic shot.


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The controversial Árboles de la Vida on the Malecon Salvador Allende in Managua.


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NICARAGUA TODAY Porschist visited Nicaragua in February 2019, six months after the uprisings. The dust hadn’t completely settled yet at that point, and there was still an advice against travelling to the country. And yet, we never felt unsafe, not even once. Now, a year and a half after the social crisis, Ortega is still in power. Although Nicas are still very discontent, they are biding their time until the 2021 elections, when they hope the tides will turn. In the meantime, the country is in desperate need of tourism returning. Visitors are slowly finding their way back to this forgotten destination, but it will take a long time before it will be back to the way it was before the crisis. All we can say is, don’t fret. Because Nicaragua holds many pleasures and sights to be discovered.

Siuna

Prinzapolka

Condega

Somotitto Rio Grande

Matagalpa Sébaco

Muy Muy

Rio Blanco

Boaco

Puerto Momotombo

Leon

La Cruz de Rio Grande

Jinotega

Esteli

Nicaragua Laguna de Perlas

Santo Domingo Puerto Sandino

Rama

Managua Masaya

Juigalpa El Buff

Granada

Masachapa

Nueva Guinea Punta Gorda Rivas

San Juan del Sur

San Miguelito Penas Blancas San Carlos

El Castillo de La Concepcion San Juan del Norte

GENERAL INFORMATION NICARAGUA Area: 130.000 sq km Population: 5.890.00 inhabitants Capital: Managua Government: Republic Official language: Spanish Travel documents: International passport Thanks to : - Christel Somers (www.montana.be) - Pascal Picot (www.orotravel.com - www.hotelestrada.com) - David Alejandro Rosales Garcia (our fantastic guide) - Henri (our superb driver) David and Henri


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INTERVIEW PORSCHIST

Pascal Picot: a proud Porsche owner in the country of his dreams. For 25 years now, this friendly Frenchman has been living in Nicaragua, the country he has fallen in love with. Sitting on the patio of his hotel Estrada, in the heart of Granada, we talk about life in the Central American country and, of course, his snow-white Cayenne.

36 I was born in Paris in 1961 and grew up in what you might call a ‘classic’ French family. I studied Economics at the Université La Varenne, where I got my Master’s in Business and Administration. I worked in the textile industry in Germany for ten years. There, I represented various French companies that were active on the German market. It was hard work, but I enjoyed that time of my life. Around the time I turned 30, I started to ask myself what I wanted to do with my life. Did I want to continue to do the same thing for the rest of my life – like my 60-year-old colleague in the office next to me – or did I want to discover what else the planet I live on had to offer. I decisively chose the latter and gave myself two sabbatical years to explore the world.

'As a Frenchman, born in Paris, I need culture in my life. And I can find that here.' And that you did. Yes, I jumped in with both feet. It was a great adventure. I travelled by train from Paris to Ho Chi Minh City; I boarded a ship in Puerto Rico and sailed to Florida and stayed in the US for six months. One day while I was there, I met a couple of Brazilians. They asked me if I was interested in bringing a diesel truck to Brazil. I accepted their proposal. I went to Houston, where the major truck manufacturers were based, bought a large truck and travelled all across Central America with it: Mexico, Guatemala, Belize, Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua and Costa Rica. Once I got to Panama, I tried to find passage to Columbia on a boat, to no avail. So, I decided


to drive back to Costa Rica, where many had asked me to come work in tourism. 'Pascal', they told me, 'you can speak French, Spanish, English and German, we could really use someone like that.' So, for a while, I was a travel guide for German tour groups. Until one day I was offered a job at Barceló, a Spanish chain of hotels – which, by the way, still exists. The chain had recently opened a hotel in Nicaragua and wanted to make a combined Costa Rica + Nicaragua package happen. I was the perfect man for the job. I travelled back and forth between the two countries with tour groups. The more I visited Nicaragua, the more I started to fall in love with it. Until I realised: this is it, this is where I want to stay. My sabbatical was over, I had found my destination. That was in 1994. You've been to so many countries. What made Nicaragua so special? It was a combination of things. First of all, the people. You won’t find friendlier and warmer people than the Nicaraguans anywhere else. I lived and worked in Costa Rica for six years, but no one ever invited me to their home. In Nicaragua, that already happened on day one. That incredible hospitality is typical for Nicaraguans. I also love the authenticity of Nicaragua. I love the climate. I love the nature, the mountains, the volcanoes, the forests, and the beautiful beaches on both the Atlantic and the Pacific coast. And the culture, the beautiful colonial cities, the plethora of museums, the beautiful artisanal works. That mix is very interesting and important to me. Because, to make the comparison again: Costa Rica has overwhelmingly beautiful nature, but that is it. As a Frenchman, born in Paris, I need culture in my life. And I can find that here. A year after I arrived in Nicaragua, I met my wife. By now, we have four children. You started working in tourism here too. I did, although it was not easy to build something here. In the early 1990s, the country was still recovering politically, socially and economically from ten years of civil war. But aside from those problems, I saw its many strengths and possibilities. I started out as a tour operator and built myself a nice business. Sixteen years ago, I bought this building and opened a hotel and bistro. By now, I also own a small transport company that drives buses. All of this has been the result of patience, hard work and lots of promotion, because Nicaragua unfortunately has a negative image and that has proven quite the challenge for me. It is easier than it used to be, but it still requires an effort to win people over to come to Nicaragua. Are there many other foreigners who own a travel agency or hotel here? No, I don't have a lot of competition. (laughs) Although I have seen a lot of people try and fail. Everyone around here knows me. If foreigners have questions, they almost automatically end up coming to me. At least once a week, I have someone knocking on my door. A charming couple will be standing there, who tell me: ‘Pascal, we have a great idea. We want to open a restaurant here.’ And then they will tell me about their dream of living in a tropical country. After all those years, I can now tell you almost exactly how long they will be able to last. Would you care to explain? Well, they usually don’t last because their expectations don’t line up with the reality. People think that this is paradise, that everything is simple here, which of course it isn’t. Nicaraguans may be easy-going, but life in this country isn’t. One of the main reasons a couple’s dream usually falls apart, is that they break up. After a certain time, it becomes clear that one person has different ideas than the other. There are many small things here that don’t work the same way they do in Europe, which throws a wrench in the works. For instance, the power is regularly cut off, stores have a much smaller array of products, getting paperwork done is a headache, etcetera. One person sees this as part of the adven-

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INTERVIEW PORSCHIST

ture, the other is annoyed out of their mind. One person loves the climate, the other can’t handle it. And jealousy often rears its head. The way men and women interact with each other here is different. The men around here like to look – they are Latinos after all. So, how is it that you were able to become successful here? Because I am a pioneer. I like to build something out of nothing. Obstacles are an exciting challenge to me. Tough times too. It's in my nature. The fact that I am married to a Nicaraguan also helps, as it provides me with balance. I’m also very determined, stubborn maybe even. If I have something in my head, I want to make it succeed. If it were someone else in my shoes, they probably would have given up already, but not me. I don’t give up. That mentality has benefitted me many a time. Recently again, because tourism in Nicaragua suffered a heavy blow after the uprisings in 2018.

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How was that for you? Difficult, of course. When the tensions between the government and the people led to violence in the streets, Western countries immediately advised against travelling here. Within no time, the tourists were gone, and it stayed that way. Cancellations came pouring in. Tourism decreased by as much as 90% in 2018. That had a huge impact. Tour guides lost their jobs, hotels and travel agencies had to close their doors. When a country experiences a calamity, tourism is always the first industry to get hit. And it takes a long time before it picks up again. I am only able to keep my business afloat because I have been doing this for a such long time. Tell us about your passion for Porsche. Owning a Porsche was a childhood dream of mine. The dream began with my mother’s first car, a red VW Beetle with a black roof. That car was of course still a far cry from a Porsche, but there were similarities: the rear engine, the hard suspension and the German construction. That car marked the beginning of my love for German-built cars, and of course, Porsche was the cream of the crop. But isn't owning a Porsche in Nicaragua very unique? Yes, you could say it's quite exotic. (laughs) Two years ago, I thought the time was right to make my childhood dream come true. As there is no Porsche dealership in Nicaragua, I went to one in Guatemala and bought my Cayenne. It cost me a fortune. Import tax for luxury cars is very high in Nicaragua, almost as much as the car itself. But I couldn’t be happier with my Cayenne. Although I don’t really drive it all that much: I’d rather save it for special trips, scenic drives. The Cayenne feels so fantastic to drive that I want to be able to enjoy it to the fullest. I love how fast it accelerates, the way it handles, its comfort and its looks. My Cayenne has a V-6 engine, not a turbo. You don’t need a turbo in Nicaragua, you can’t drive any faster than 120 km/h as the roads just aren’t suitable for that. We thought the roads in Nicaragua are in very good condition. That is correct, Nicaragua has the best roads in Central America. But you have to share them with many other vehicles: slow, heavy loaded trucks, motorcycles, bikes, sometimes even a horse and carriage; all that in one chaotic mix. As such, 60 km/h is almost the max you can go in Nicaragua.


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Pascal Picot and his Porsche Cayenne on the Parque Central in Granada.

Are people familiar with the brand? Only a few. The car always draws a lot of attention, but most Nicaraguans don't know that it's a Porsche. Where can you go for maintenance to your Porsche? San José, the capital of Costa Rica, is the best option for me. That's about 400 km from Granada. As the car is new and I don't use it much, going there once a year is enough. I consider it a getaway; I always try to see friends when I'm there as well.

shoes themselves. That goes for me too: I make holidays happen for others, but I never take one myself. When I travel to trade shows to promote Nicaragua in other countries – Germany, France, Argentina – I use these trips to relax and have some downtime with my wife for a few days. But that is it. Pascal, thank you for this wonderful talk.

Speaking of which, where do you go for holidays? Well... It's like how they say that shoemakers wear the worst