Published: December 22nd 2010December 22nd 2010
A significant number of German immigrants have settled in and around Matagalpa over the years – apparently explaining why there are more fair-skinned Nicaraguans here. Another of the legacies of this is a coffee plantation/rainforest just outside Matagalpa called El Selva Negra (Black Forest). This is now a combination coffee plantation, hotel (complete with Bavarian style chalets) and walks through a beautiful high land rainforest. We spent a nice morning here walking through the forest – where we saw lots of birds and a number of howler monkeys. But still no sloths - our search continues.
After Matagalpa we headed to Leon – about 3 hours away, again on surprisingly good roads. Historically Leon is considered to be the most progressive city in Nicaragua. There is little evidence of this now – with it boasting a bustling commercial centre full of bars, cafes, and an extraordinary number of dress shops. Nonetheless the houses and streets retain the feel of its colonial past.
The highlight of our stay here was a trip to a nearby volcano (Cerra Negro – Black Hill) which is still active and consists entirely of black dust and small pebbles. The climb up to the crater
was easier than we expected and we could walk right into one of the craters. But the really fun part was coming down – the pebbles and dust allowed us to jump/run/hurl ourselves down the side at a great rate without fear of falling or major injury.
Also in Leon there was a very centrally located futsal field (right next to the main church) which would come alive in the late afternoon with basketballers, soccer players and skateboarders – all of which managed to co-exist without too much apparent conflict; although there was a very clear pecking order with the basketballers being the top of the food chain. Nicaragua is the rare Latin American country where football is not king – rather baseball and basketball are more popular which probably reflects the greater US influence.
After Leon we headed to Managua, via Leon Viejo (old Leon). Leon Viejo is now an archaeological site – with the town being destroyed by an earthquake in 1610 and then a volcanic eruption 90 years later. This was interesting for us and good for our Spanish (as the guide only spoke Spanish) – and Jackson at least got into the gory way
the Spanish used to execute people in those days (not nice).
Managua was terrible 23 years ago, and it is still terrible now – but there is just more of it to be terrible. Driving was a nightmare as there were no street signs and only dumb foreigners like us seem to think red traffic lights mean “stop”. The many people we stopped and asked directions from though were extremely friendly. After being thoroughly lost for a couple of hours we found a hotel right next to the airport, and spent the afternoon drinking margarita’s by the pool waiting for our flight to Panama.