From Leon we travelled to the Northern highlands of Nicaragua. This whole region is off the beaten track, far from the backpackers super highway through Central America. This is where most of the coffee in Nicaragua grows. The highlands are the most rural in the country, and people live a simple life in the most basic conditions we can imagine. The boys herding the cows wear boots and cowboy hats, the women use traditional firewood heated kitchens to prepare meals based on tortillas and roast there small batches of coffee.
We spend one day climbing, jumping off cliffs and swimming the Somoto canyon. Because of the rainy season the water level is nicely high and pretty wild at places. We climb across steep parts high above the water to go around the whirlpools, we jump from high cliffs into the river, swim some pretty fast rapids. It's a tiring and adrenaline infused trip but also an exciting adventure and a fun playground.
Next we travel by chickenbus to a very remote area called Reserva de Mirafor. This is now a nature reserve where farmers work their land. This is also the region of the Sandinistas, where the revolutionaries fought
their war for freedom. The region and towns are still the most socialist parts of the country with lots of communities and cooperatives where the main produce of coffee and cacao is processed. Schools are free for the children and every town has a beautiful small central park, with a playground for the kids, benches for the elderly and even free wifi for the people.
We feel extremely welcome at the families hosting us, preparing our meals and sharing with us their stories, while asking us to tell them about our lives at the other side of the world. It's sometimes difficult to imagine this was a war zone not that long ago. It's even more difficult to understand why this was a war zone and why these beautiful people were victims of their own government. It's also difficult to understand why this region is still the poorest of the country with all the richness of nature, where every seed you spit at the ground will grow into a plant, where every family has beautiful banana trees and coffee plants.
We stay the night at a family, in a small house surrounded by pigs, dogs, chickens and curious
children. We walk through the different zones (low, middle, high) and learn how this influences which plants grow where. Next day we hop on horses and with our friendly guide Nelson we quickly learn to actually ride the horse, even galloping through the hills and forests, visiting waterfalls and riding through small plantations. Nelson is very talkative and shares stories how he experienced the revolution with his dad. We stay at his family, they have created a small B&B with the most beautiful view. We go for a walk and visit the parents of Lorena and they proudly show us how they have learned from previous generations to grow, produce and roast their own coffee. We get to taste the freshest roasted coffee ever. A lot of love goes into this cup!
We move on to one of the bigger town of the region, Matagalpa, where it's all about coffee again, cooperatives, buyers, sellers, and of course a lot of cups of coffee to taste, great! From Matagalpa we take another chicken bus to the nature reserve Penas Blancas where we stay at a local community initiative. Again the people are so friendly and welcoming. We enjoy their hospitality,
the freshly made tortillas and we sleep in a cabin in the middle of the greenest forest we have ever been to. It's obviously so green because it's high in the mountains with clouds covering the forests every morning and of course we cannot walk through the rainforest to a waterfall without the daily tropical rain shower.
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