Published: July 13th 2012May 31st 2012
Yum! Just checking if the chocolate is good!
Dear Blog Readers,
After an intense couple of days travelling through three separate countries, we had a quick stop in Somoto planning on doing a canyon hike but the river was up and the currents dangerous so we moved straight on to Esteli. The Lonely Planet guidebook somewhat glorifies the town as a Mid-West cowboy town but for those expecting wooden saloon doors to swing open at either ends of a dusty track and two gun toting hilbillies to stroll out and draw twenty-five paces before shouting "Vamos!" and shooting each other then you are probably going to be disappointed.
The city is once again centred on an oversized cathedral and a gloomy looking central park (the sort that you wouldn't fancy walking through at night). We wandered the streets and realised to our, or should I say Laura's, disappointment that the guidebook proclaimed abundance of cowboy boot shops was a bit of an overstatement. However, the town itself was pleasant to walk around and in the evening we found a restaurant that did great sandwiches. The nightlife wasn't up to much so Laura, Harry, Charlie and I went to the cafe opposite the hostel and played cards. Laura
The view from the top of the hill overlooking Matagalpa.
took advantage of the cheap cocktails and once we had stumbled back across the road, she was already speaking French at a louder than 11pm acceptable volume.
When we woke in the morning, as Laura went in search for her dignity, she realised that during the night she had gone to the perfectly well lit toilet with her headlamp on and didn't come back with it. The dorm was right next to a main road so the horns blaring and loudspeakers woke us up pretty early - as did the pillock who opened the door so he could use the light to unpack, repack, unpack and then repack his bag again even though he wasn't leaving. The four of us got a taxi to La Casita which was a little bit out of town but did a reasonably good breakfast in some really nice gardens. We were resigned to indoors for most of the afternoon due to the torrential downpours but it was good to relax for a while.
Whilst travelling, we have often seen the same people at different points during the trip as everybody is doing more or less the same route. Non more so than
On a tour around the roof of the cathedral!
a Danish girl, Ida, who we met on our first day in Panama, then Boquete and now here! The next morning, our horns and loudspeaker alarm clock worked perfectly shortly after 5am. We went to get some breakfast and I had a bacon and egg butty. Superb. We got on a bus heading to Matagalpa which was already full so we perched at the back sat on the floor. When we arrived, the taxi driver dropped us off at this random park and we ended up having to walk 2km with our bags on to get to a hostel! Our strenuous hike deserved the huge plate of fried chicken and chips down the road (no patch on KeunTong Chicken though!).
In the evening, the heavens opened and the power cut off. People spilled out onto the streets and the central park came alive with activity. I was still full of fried chicken but Laura braved a chicken burrito from the stand on the street which would later become quite a big mistake! The day after, we visited El Castillo de Cacao, a chocolate plantation selling chocolate unique to Nicaragua, where we were given a guided tour by one of
A view at a line of volcanoes from the roof.
the two women who hand-make the chocolate there. It tasted so good and it was really interesting seeing how the chocolate was made. We also were treated to some fantastic views of Matagalpa from the rooftop of the plantation. The rain closed in on us during the afternoon and Laura began to feel distinctly under the weather too.
With Laura resting to try and recover, I went for a walk into the Reserva Natural Cerro Apunte which had a nice little hike out of the town and up into the mountains snaking across a river with some spectacular waterfalls. The river had swelled and increased with strength due to the rainfall which made the river crossings a bit difficult but the view from the top was superb.
The following day we ventured out of Matagalpa and on towards Leon after a couple of reasonably uncomfortable bus journeys. However, the journey passed a beautiful volcanic ridge with the near-perfect cone of Volcan Momotopo being a real highlight. We stayed at the Lazy Turtle hostel just outside the centre of town which was really cool and found that Ida was staying at the same hostel again (4th time!). The free
The clouds are drawing in!
pancakes on offer when we woke in the morning tasted of washing up liquid. Horrid. We went to a hostel called Via Via to see if the English girls, Amy and Fiona, that we had met in Antigua were there. We ordered a couple of drinks which took 45 minutes to arrive and my lemonade tasted of pure lemons. No wonder it took 45 minutes - they'd probably hand pressed 45 lemons to make the drink! So after an inedible breakfast and undrinkable lemonade, it was of some relief when Amy shouted us over from the other side of the street. We arranged to meet later in the evening as they headed off to the beach, we decided to have a look on the rooftop of the beautiful cathedral in the centre of town. The views were spectacular and the architecture was outstanding.
The torrential rain fell constantly during the night and I was woken by the shuddering of the room after a particularly close thunderbolt! Laura was still struggling so I went out and found some fresh croissants from a bakery. We got another uncomfortable bus to Granada and looked around for a hostel. I had a superb
Huge hammock which can hold 17 people!
cringe-worthy currency changing moment as a woman on the reception of a hotel said it was "175 a night" which I assumed to be 175 Cordobas (about $8). It wasn't until half way around a viewing of the "Junior Executive Suite" that it dawned on me it was $175 a night! The hostel we ended up staying at was beyond terrible. The Canadian owner had the biggest chin I'd ever seen and had the cheek (or chin) to turn off the basketball half way through the game whilst I was watching it so he could put on the Simpsons (with the sound off!). Blood and sand!
The following day we ordered our beautiful chair hammock from the cafe de Las Soritas and bought some antibiotics for Laura. We went to Masaya to buy some presents from the wonderful artisan market that we'd visited a month previously. To make room for the presents, we decided to give some of our old clothes to the numerous homeless people roaming the streets. My 'Bury Your Demons' t-shirt went to a little kid who ran across the street in the pouring rain to give us a hug. Laura gave some clothes to a
The woman who makes the chocolate explaining to Laura the roasting machine.
mother and son who were walking around in the pouring rain begging. We thought we would feel good giving our clothes away but we ended up just feeling depressed remembering the joy on their faces for something so small. The unfairness of the situation was just depressing and with a heavy heart and mind, we packed our bags and made our way out of Nicaragua and towards San Jose in Costa Rica.
Tink and Laura
There are more photos below