The Mafia of Masachapa

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This is one of those stories that is really funny – after the fact. So read on for a few laughs at our expense.




On our one-week vacation to Nicaragua we stayed at the all-inclusive resort Barcelo Montelimar Beach Hotel which is located in the small fishing village of Masachapa. With the rest of Nicaragua being so easily accessible from our hotel, we knew we could visit other parts of the country at our convenience. On our third day, we decided to leave our resort to spend a few days exploring Granada and the surrounding sites and towns.

On the night of our return, we almost missed the last bus from Managua to Masachapa but, fortunately, we made it just in time to catch a transfer bus in the mountain village of Capri. During the day, the sun was hitting us like a heat wave but way up high in the mountains that night, while waiting for the bus to arrive, it was unexpectedly cold and windy. A few minutes later, we were relieved to hop on the bus heading to Masachapa.


Waiting for the bus in Capri (it was so cold!)


When we arrived in Masachapa late at night it was so pitch dark, it almost looked like a ghost town – nobody to be seen, everything was closed but more importantly no buses, no taxis and no triciclos (taxi bikes) to be found. Our hotel was about 3 kilometers from Masachapa which isn’t very far (we usually walked) but this late at night with no street lights along the way, blisters on my feet and carrying our purchases (pottery) from our mini-escapade, we thought it unwise to walk.

All of a sudden, from what seemed out of nowhere (really it was like in a movie), a guy rode up to us on his triciclo offering to take us to our hotel. We don’t usually like taking taxi bikes (we feel bad for the driver pedaling the weight of two people) but we were left with no other choice. Without giving it a second thought, we sat in the back of the triciclo barely squeezing in our backpack and purchases. After all, we were grateful to have a ride straight to the lobby of our hotel.

The taxi biker spoke very good English so we engaged in a friendly conversation about the usual topics between tourists and locals. Until then everything seemed fine with no red flags warning us of any imminent danger. But once we got to the darkest and most deserted part of the road, the taxi biker casually starting saying Masachapa is run by a local mafia (What?) that controls everything – advising us to be careful. We both looked at each other laughing – we had walked around Masachapa before and didn’t find anything remotely dangerous about it plus the people were very friendly.


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Seeing we weren’t taking him seriously, he insisted a mafia did exist and all the triciclos belonged to them including the one he was riding. We wondered why he would mention the mafia at that particular moment (remember: dark, deserted road). He then said he needed to call his friend for no apparent reason. After being told about the mafia, we both found this strange. Not wanting to give him a chance to call someone (to mug us?), Pafio took grabbed the cell phone from his hands. At this point, I admit, I did start to get a little very uncomfortable.

It was obvious he was having a very hard time pedaling so we asked him if he was okay. He took this opportunity to tell us that he needed to take a break because there wasn’t enough air in his tires which made it difficult to pedal. Keep in mind we were still on the darkest stretch of the road only about halfway to our hotel. Add to the fact that we weren’t positive he hadn’t contacted someone (from the mafia?) to join him; the whole situation was getting sketchier by the minute. Pafio fiercely objected to him stopping for any reason – yes we felt a bit bad for him but we just wanted to get to our hotel as fast as possible. We left him no other choice but to continue pedaling (almost coughing out a lung – oops).


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The long stretch of road that was pitch dark


Let me say this, I’ve traveled to many countries some of which were considered somewhat dangerous (i.e. Brazil) without any problems. Also, I don’t get scared easily and I’m not paranoid by nature but this time in Masachapa, a sleepy fishing village of all places, I started to worry and so did Pafio (for me not for him). He actually told me that if anything happens, I should just run as fast as I can and not look back. I couldn’t imagine getting very far running in my flip flops with blisters on my feet (and, silly me, I was actually thinking how I could rescue the handmade pottery we had purchased in San Juan Del Oriente).

Our triciclo driver, sweating profusely and breathing heavily, proceeded to tell us his aunt worked at the lobby reception at our hotel and his uncle owned the pharmacy in town. That reassured us somewhat – thinking we could track him down if anything happened (that is if any of what he was saying was true). The whole ride we were on alert expecting to be suddenly stopped and mugged by a gang of mafia touts. We were starting to think it could actually be true – were those armed guards at the gate (Why is there even a gate?) of our hotel there to protect us from the evil mafia of Masachapa?

After what seemed like an eternity – every minute slowly ticking by – riding along that dark, deserted road, we finally saw the marquee of the Barcelo Montelimar Beach Hotel. The taxi biker proudly said he was the only biker who was allowed to cross the gate (Why? Was the gate also controlled by the mafia??). I still wasn’t confident nothing would happen until we arrived, feet firmly on the ground, at the lobby.

Within a few minutes, we started to see some of the staff from our hotel and finally the welcoming lights of the main entrance. I sighed with relief and, with my legs shaking and my heart beating fast, I got out of the triciclo – happy to be back at our hotel safe and sound.

Once we got to our room, we immediately starting laughing at ourselves and the whole situation – recollecting all the details which, at the time, all seemed to lead to a disastrous outcome. We’ll never know if there’s a mafia in Masachapa but it sure makes for an entertaining travel story.


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Oblivious to the mafia of Masachapa


Have you ever had a similar experience? Feel free to share your story in the comments below!


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