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Published: June 26th 2017
Geo: 12.43, -86.89
"Mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the midday sun!.
Well...... I have to report that this is probably one if the hottest places we have ever visited. The life expectancy of your standard UK constructed 99 ice cream I guess would be less than 3 minutes before it drained itself conveniently into your hand.....The shade temperature must have been pushing 38/40C and by 1400 we had retreated to our room for a small Siesta!
There is a folk "Street Play" in Nicruagrua called the "La Gigantona" which centres on a big doll which can be up to six meters tall and constructed on a wood frame. She usually wears a colorful dress and may have many ornamentations and jewelry. La Gigantona represents the tall white Spanish women that came with the conquistadors. El Enano Cabezon is a small dwarfish figure with a big head symbolizing the intelligent but less powerful indigenous native population. We had already spotted the "Gigantona" in the main square but "Midget Head" was proving elusive!!!!......probably gone for a crafty beer.
Time check 0552 local: I am again sitting on the central verandah of the hotel. It is just getting light and we have about 3 hours
before "Elvis" arrives to take drive to Mataglapa some 150km west of our current location. To quote Lonely Planet....... If you love coffee, mountains and urbanity, then have your cake and eat it in Matagalpa, a town where for decades an ever-increasing number of Liberal coffee patriarchs and subsistence Sandinista farmers have rubbed shoulders during city festivals and at market. Growth has sent Matagalpa sprawling into the foothills, up crumbling streets lined with shacks and onto graded plateaus laid out in tony subdivisions.
SUMMARY: Leon has been great......an eclectic mix of imposing but crumbling Spanish buildings dating back to the 1600's fuse seamlessly with a "Fiesta" culture to create a relaxed and vibrant atmosphere. The markets abound with all sorts of exotic fruit, homemade cheese, vegetables and also (sadly to say) live reptiles ready to be dropped into the cooking pots of the locals.
The highlight was a really inspiring tour of the FSLN rebel museum by an actual veteran of the terrible civil between the Sandanista and Contras in the late 1970's and 1980s. Francisco was the "real deal"......after being imprisoned at University for left wing views he joined the armed struggle fighting the corrupt government. He was sent to Cuba
to train and then returned to command a group of rebel fighters..... some of who were still with him in the museum (a crumbling Spanish Colonial Mansion)..........clearly "the past" horrors are very much part of their daily reality.......
Nicruagrua has had more than it's fair share of trauma in the last 40 years.......earthquakes killing over 10,000 in 1972, a horrendous civil war, but perhaps worst of all was the effects of Hurricane Mitch in 1998 which wiped out 70% of their farming and destroyed a huge amount of infrastructure. In one instance a volcano crater overflowed with water creating a mud slide killing thousands below.......biblical stuff!
HEALTH AND SAFTEY ALERT!: This is a good one.......our shower is an electric one.....not unusual you might say.....but not one where is power lead runs straight into the shower head........and wait for it....... you switch it on by reaching up gingerly with one hand as you stand nervously below waiting for a sharp fizzing sensation!!!!!!!
Second to this, but only by a small margin was being led onto the 3rd floor roof of the rebel HQ to see the view.....it was made of rusty corrugated iron that flapped worringly over rotten wooden rafters......we had about 30 seconds
"admiring" the view before beating a cautious but hasty retreat..........
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