The Beginning-Nicaraguan Culture

Published: October 15th 2009
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Nicaragua, Round One

July 10th

I arrived in Managua at midnight and was shuttled to the Managua Backpackers Hostel for the steamy first night in Central America. There is little that appeals to me about this capital city of 1.5 million, so I left the next morning with a couple of Brits to Leon in Northwestern Nicaragua. We found a hostel owned by English and Barbadian business partners trying for Nicaraguan citizenship that was rather busy with young travelers. I immediately signed up for volcano boarding the next day, since it seems well that’s what you do here; things with volcanoes. The volcano for boarding was Cerro Negro, black hill, which first formed in 1850 making it one of the youngest in the world. It last erupted in 1999 mainly of sulfur and ash, but enough of which to cause problems for locals. After climbing to the top and catching views of the Pacific, Leon and the other more impressive volcanoes, it was time to go down the volcano on a 1.5 x 3 foot chunk of wood. Local customs apply; girls go down first to show us how it’s done. After watching a few people crash and roll uncontrollable down a hill with jagged volcanic rocks, I was pretty conservative, only hitting 29 kph while others hit mid 50s (the record is 80kph). No need to use my travel insurance on my first day I decided.

July 12

Next on the list is, what else, but more volcanoes. This time I am after ones I can climb and maybe see lava. A group called Quetaltrekkers is a purely volunteer project that takes multiple day trips to area volcanoes with proceeds going to help street children, and fund a school that they built. I maxed out the limits of my pack with enough water and food to last 2 days and a tent and we were off for Volcan Telica. After a tough first day we found our camp in a beautiful grassy section with views of at least 4 surrounding volcanoes. The sunset over Volcans San Cristobal and Casita was maybe the prettiest I had ever seen. Through the think haze of sulfur a small glimmer of red was visible at the bottom of the volcano, although the more I tried to appreciate it, the more suffocating sulfur gas I breathed in. After a long days hike we were rewarded with a great dinner of burritos and banana boats, which are an amazing combination of simple and complex sugars. After an equally amazing sunrise the next morning from the top, it was time to strap on our much lighter packs to return to Leon.

July 14

I had such a great time climbing Telica with QT that I thought why not keep it going and climb Volcan Cosiguena which left the next morning. This is in the very NW of Nica where you can see Honduras and El Salvador across the Gulfo de Fonseca while standing on the beach. After a 6 hour bus ride we were greeted with a beautiful deserted beach and a dozen smiling and inquisitive children from the nearby village. They sat in a row without saying a word while we stuffed our faces with sandwiches on the beach. You might think they were waiting for food, but more than that they are just very curious about all these gringos that show up to their village once a month. They did each get two sandwiches each, since we had such a surplus of food. As we got to know them more, they would cutely say 'Hola gringo' and 'Adios gringo' as we walked past. We were fed and housed by a local family which gets paid a small amount by QT; however this has caused some tension in the community from other families wanting the 'business' as well. After a sleep on the beach, I woke up and peered out to the ocean to see two pods of dolphins crossing in front of us. I thought this must be a good omen for the day, and it was since the climb up Cosiguena was easy without a pack, and the view from the top: AMAZING. Cosiguena is a dormant volcano that last erupted in 1850, and is now filled with dazzling blue-green water. I think I could sit up there all day and not get tired of the view. However waiting at the bottom was the refreshing Pacific and cold juice, which is hard to beat as well. Another night on the beach, this time without a tent was excellent for star gazing.

July 17

Upon returning to Leon I decided to join some friends that I had met on the Cosiguena trip to Matagalpa in the northern mountains, where we hiked in the rainforest at a German coffee plantation, and toured the city. It was on July 19th that we tried to visit the neighboring town of Jinotega, however this was the 30th anniversary of the Sandinista Revolution, and apparently there was a party going on up that way. We only know this because the narrow, winding mountain road was a traffic jam of cars, buses, and motorcycles, and families toting coolers. After moving only 4 miles in over an hour, we decided to give up, and head back to town getting picked up by a flat bed Mack truck (It helps to have a blonde girl with you sometimes). Back in Matagalpa pickup trucks full of young men would tear down the streets hollering and flashing V-signs for victory over the U.S. backed Somozan Guard in 1979.

July 20

My friend, Megan from San Francisco was on her way to the Corn Islands for some diving, and since I am keen to that I came along. There are two options to get there, an easy flight or a string of buses and boats which cannot be done in less than 3 days. We chose the latter, since it was cheaper, and we got to stay in interesting but very rustic towns of El Rama and Bluefields along the way. This is the Caribbean, which on a map is part of Nicaragua, but has a whole different feel and culture than the western half of the country. Walking down the street you can overhear Creole, Spanish, and English, spoken amongst its residents. The grimy feel and cultural differences were hard to appreciate at first, but given time I think I could get used to it. Extremely economically depressed, the main thing going on here is fishing, which has become more and more difficult the last decade do to non existent catch limits. The other major source of income in the region comes from the Columbian cocaine trade. This is the underbelly that seems to keep the area afloat, however sometimes it rears its ugly head with clashes among police, military, officials, and the powerful Columbians.

Finally after a rough and hot 5 hour boat ride, which involved dropping off and picking up goods at the port, we arrive on Big Corn Island and immediately headed to the dive shop in search of civilization. After signing up for diving
Blowing Rock TripBlowing Rock TripBlowing Rock Trip

Coming back from Blowing Rock dive site
the next day, we had dinner by candlelight, since the island only gets electricity about 12 hours a day, followed by dominoes with the locals at the town club. The next day I did a couple dives, where I saw some angelfish, and lots of blue tang and snappers. I decided I would do my rescue diver course here, after doing the famed blowing rock dive site.

July 24

Blowing rock is 40 minutes by boat on a calm day, however today our captain had to navigate 6 foot swells with just a 20 foot lancha loaded down with divers. When we arrived to the site, a 10 foot high, and roughly 20 foot around rock surrounded by reef, it was clear that the conditions necessitated full alertness and caution. We came around the rock upwind of it, where we were to get out and do one loop. Everything was going smoothly until the boat motor stalled and we drifted closer and closer to the rock, at this point we were around 20 feet from the rock and drifting closer in the rough current. Julien, the dive instructor, tried to throw out the anchor, but fell as he tried knocking Shannon, a new Open Water diver into the water, at this point it was clear we must abandon the boat and Julien, gave the order to do so. Luckily everyone had their gear on and tanks open. I was on the far side of the rocks and next to Shannon, so I was next in the water, then Megan was near us, and we were in the water watching the situation play out from a distance. Everyone ditched the boat in different directions, and Luka, the divemaster, we would later find out had to descend and swim underwater to get away from the rocks. The other Californians on the boat would end up near us while we watched Julien and Tony, the captain, frantically try to save the boat and find the mobile phone to no avail. The boat was smashing on the rocks while Julien continued to look for the phone, at which point I was most concerned and was certain that he would end up smashed on the rocks himself without a BCD or lifejacket. At the very last moment as the boat was flipping over onto the rocks, he decided to give up and swam out toward us when he spotted a boat! A lobster fishing boat in fact was heading right for us! We were in the open ocean for not but 15 minutes, 9 miles from shore pondering a long time in the open ocean, but instead we were quickly all in the boat and accounted for while the fishing team's lobster and turtle catch was back in the sea for another day. With the relief of being in a boat wearing off, but the shock still very present and the 5-7 feet waves crashing the boat I was not feeling the best. However if there wasn't proof that God was smiling down, as we pulled away from the rock my bag was spotted complete with my passport and over $300 cash (please don't ask why I would take these things diving). Chaboe, a guide, quickly dived in after it before I could decide if I was up to it. I am extremely grateful to have it, since I would rather not think about how I could manage without cash, credit, or a passport in Nicaragua. While Julien and Chaboe snapped photos with my camera, I struggled to maintain my stomach and head. It wasn't long till I lost my breakfast, dreaming of lying on the beach when we got back. However soon we could see the island and I was feeling better as was everyone. We landed at the picnic beach on the south side of the island where we dumped what gear we had while Julien and Luka told the boss man what happened. It wasn't too long that they were back in the boat to go search for the remaining tanks and gear. They didn't return till after dark with a count of 17 of the 21 total tanks. My idea of lying down never materialized, as I was still in shock and amped up after the morning. Later Karen, whose friend was a nurse, would come by and convince me that I need to go to the doctor for my foot, which I had been nursing for a week after a spider bite. With the ideal of what health care should be, a nurse quickly looked at my infected foot, gave me some antibiotics for 4 days and sent me on my way. The whole process lasted 3 minutes, enough to get my name and give me instructions. Seems to me socialist health care works well, however going at 4pm when everyone wanted to go home had something to do with the speedy service also. For dinner and beers we had a great gathering of everyone that was on the Blowing Rock trip where we all had a chance to release, tell our account and celebrate all that went right.

Although I wouldn't want it to happen again, the Blowing Rock trip was a perfect introduction to the Rescue Diver course that I will take the next few days. This is the type of scenario that I need to be prepared for, and be able to handle under pressure like Julien and Luka. I successfully completed my course, learning CPR, basic first aid, methods for assisting an unresponsive diver in the water, and retrieval. The dives were excellent, but since I was practicing techniques I couldn't have my camera. I did see a huge sting ray, and a squid, which are normally very reclusive. On my final test, as I was saving the unconscious Julien, Chaboe jumped in the water and nearly drowned until I saved him, however I lost Julien and he sank to the bottom of the ocean. Luckily this was only a simulation, and he eventually surfaced.

July 31

With my rescue course completed, I headed 30 minutes by panga to Little Corn Island, to check out its reefs and beaches. This is a more tranquil but touristy island, the best part being no cars, and the beaches here are absolutely beautiful. I stayed at a group of isolated huts on the east side called the Sweet Breeze. This is my idea of Caribbean paradise, all the beauty of the ocean and the beach without the snootiness of a resort. Diving on Little Corn was pretty good, and I saw a lot of nudibrachs, and a 6 foot nurse shark, which I managed to scare way before I could get a photo. Oh well, still awesome! After a couple days on Little Corn and a week and a half on Big Corn before that, I felt I should rejoin the real world on the mainland and took the midnight ferry back to Bluefields.

I thought maybe I would be the only person attempting to get back to northern Nicaragua in one day on the boat, but while I waited at the dock I met two girls from Germany and Israel that were also attempting that, so I tagged along with them and successfully made the 18 hour journey from Big Corn Island to Matagalpa on 2 boats and 3 buses. On the midnight boat I had a strange feeling of being a refugee since there were over 70 people with only around 20 seats, but did feel fortunate to have a very uncomfortable storage hatch, which remained dry, unlike most of the deck. My thoughts of being a refugee quickly vanished when I learned of 14 Angolan refugees that were dropped on Little Corn Island after being promised safe travel to the US, which most likely cost them their life savings. They were taken by the police, and were being transported to the mainland where their fate would be determined. Although the women wore beautiful dresses, and the men new suit coats with nice luggage, the look of sadness and confusion in their eyes told the real story. According to the Navy officer I talked to this happens somewhat frequently and I realized suddenly the 5 hour ride on my uneven storage hatch didn't seem so bad.

August 4th

Sweet Breeze, Little Corn IslandSweet Breeze, Little Corn IslandSweet Breeze, Little Corn Island

This is where I stayed on Little Corn
in Matagalpa my new friends were keen to do some hiking in the area that I had missed the first time. The level of tourism infrastructure that exists here in the beautiful mountains and coffee farms of Northern Nicaragua consists of trails connecting homes and villages with instructions from the local tourism office like, "follow the fence on the right till you get to house 18 and enter the gate going down the steep hill." So you can imagine the level of confusion when fences are moved, or new houses built. We stopped at what looked like a restaurant, however it was the home and fruit farm of a father son team, Mario and Mario. They enthusiastically gave us coffee and showed us all around their home and farm. They are trying to start a restaurant and guest house and despite my lack of Spanish were very interesting to listen too. They asked an array of questions to my friends about why I was there and why I didn't speak Spanish, to which my response that I will be learning soon seemed to satisfy. They had many interesting artifacts from the war, and lots of knowledge of local flora and fauna. I was most interested in a gun from 1852 owned by Buffalo Bill, though I never learned how they got it.

August 6th

While ready to move on from Matagalpa the second time, I met a Belgian couple that was going to Somoto, to take a tour of the canyon there. Since this is near Esteli, my next destination, I tagged along staying one night in Somoto and touring the amazing canyon the next day. This area was unknown to outsiders until discovered in 2003 by Czech scientists. The fact that not many people make it here, adds to the amazing beauty of the 2.5 km long deep and narrow canyon. The only real way to see it is a combination of hiking and swimming while stopping along the way to jump off cliffs as high as 30 feet. The difficulty in accessing the canyon ensured that our group of 6 had the whole thing to ourselves; however it’s still hard to comprehend how such an amazing treasure is seen by so few people.

August 9th

Today I started a weeklong Spanish course complete with a home stay in Esteli. My profesora is a full of energy fifty something grandmother, who also teaches 4th grade at a Catholic school. Her method of teaching involved 4 hours a day of one on one classes, whilst she also showed me around town, introduced me to her family, friends, and I even visited her 4th grade classroom a few times where I had the chance to practice. She is very intent on her Spanish students getting a full cultural experience which I really appreciated, although sometimes I wasn't sure if I had the energy or confidence in my speech for it. However because of this and my home stay I feel I got a true Nicaraguan experience that most people do not. My family was also wonderful because to my pleasure they had loads of young children running around to interact with and make things exciting. The home was a typical Nicaraguan setup, which included 4 generations living in an open 6 bedroom house surrounding an open dirt and rock courtyard, complete with 2 cats, 2 dogs, and a parrot. With all the people always coming and going it wasn't till midweek that I finally determined who actually lived there, which included the grandmother, who was currently in the hospital with a broken leg, the mother, three of her adult children, one spouse, five children aged 5-9, and two university students, along with at least 4 other people that were there regularly. Despite this seemingly crowded setup, I got my own room, with two beds and my own bathroom, while the next room had a husband and wife and their 3 daughters on two small beds. Attached to the house is the 7th Day Adventist Church, which I attended my first day there as a result of it being the better of two options. If you are out and about on Sunday in Nicaragua you are bound to see two things: church goers, and every other man drinking his troubles away. Sunday being the first day in my home stay I of course saw both. Sitting at the table after dinner, one of the men of the family introduced himself to me after a whole days worth of drinking in the countryside. I don't think even the family members could understand him, however I did gather he wanted me to come with him and drink some more, and while pondering the situation a churchgoer saved me by inviting me to the sermon that was just about to start next door. Clearly he didn't need anymore to drink, the only appropriate decision was church, and not easily put off, he stumbled in behind me and tried to talk to me during the service until his sister dragged him out and sent him to bed. After this uncomfortable encounter everyone at the church was so welcoming and kind, and graciously prayed for my safe travels.

The rest of the week at class and with my family passed quickly. During class we would regularly be visited by the rather spry elderly neighbor woman, who spoke way to fast and unclear for me to understand. Despite my visible incomprehension, one conversation was focused entirely about sex, which was pretty awkward and confusing so I sat until my virtual silence sent her on her way. My afternoon visits to my profesoras 4th grade class were really fun because the kids were always so excited to see me, and I could easily impress them by doing simple math equations, and win most of the tic-tac-toe matches. Upon my arrival the simple classroom would explode with 10 year old exuberance and even if Marta
Banana BoatsBanana BoatsBanana Boats

The ninas of my host family in Esteli helping make the banana boats
wanted to control them, I don't think she could have. Mainly my visits involved me giving high fives to the entire class of 40, getting poked, tickled, and tackled, and having all the girls fighting to hold my hand on the way to recess. Overall they are great kids, the worst one of which seemed only interested in saying bad words in English, although while I walked with him after school, he was so protective of his little sister, and always told me to be careful when walking in the street. I played gato y ratone (cat and mouse) and relay races with them during recess and although my team lost, I was told "you run really fast!" I also played beisbol with Marta’s grandson and learned that the Nicaraguan strategy in beisbol is to try and get all the way around the bases in one play. This is done when whoever has the ball is not looking, the runners take off and the fielders simultaneously try and trick the runners into a rundown. This can make for some very long innings and high scoring games since usually the ball gets thrown into the outfield. By day 4 the children
Mural, EsteliMural, EsteliMural, Esteli

Esteli is called the city of murals and was very influential during the war as a Sandinista stronghold
of the family really warmed up to me and we had lots of fun playing cops and robbers with the lone boy and tickle tag with the girls and me throwing them up in the air, whilst they giggled. The children that did live there were Wemdy 5, Stephani 7, Valeria, and Graybin both 9. We also had some coloring nights where we made some really good refrigerator art, and a photography night where the children loved to look at the pictures they took with my camera. They would go absolutely hysterical when they saw a silly photo of themselves or if they had their eyes closed. With this many children around there was never a dull moment, and many times a day I would be napping or reading with constant giggling and running in the background only to her the mother yell "Wemdy!", the silliest who was always in an ever-present toothless giggle. I wanted to do something nice for my family since they were so welcoming, and fed me enough to put on five pounds in one week, so I asked if we could make banana boats and mom said yes! Despite the women of the family thinking that surely I cannot survive outside their home, I found the required marshmallows, bananas, chocolate, and peanut butter for the perfect afternoon snack. I must have done ok, since the children all said, "very tasty!" and mom said they would make these again someday.

August 16th

I would again surprise the woman of my family by stating one day my intentions to walk the 5 kms to the Saltos Estanzualas which are waterfalls right outside of town. They were sure this was too far and not safe for a white boy on his own. And maybe they were right since I cruised right on passed the turnoff and walked another 5 kms down the Pan American highway until I asked a farmer in exquisite leather boots where it was. He kindly smiled, led me back to town, and dropped me right past the huge sign for the waterfalls, but again I missed the second turnoff, and instead came across a rather serious baseball game in a country field. I eventually found the falls, where the locals had fun watching me stumble across the rocks, but I reckon I gained some respect swimming the 100 meters out the falls and getting pummeled underneath them, since I was the only one to do so.

My week with my family had come to a close, however, I still wanted more Spanish lessons, so I agreed to do 3 more days, which I knew wouldn't lack in excitement with Marta, and I was right. One morning she hurriedly brought me to her daughters surprise birthday party with an elaborate cake, a mariachi band, and dancing. With the persuasiveness I have learned to expect from Marta she got me to dance with two of her nieces, and if you know me, you are aware that I have no ability for dancing, especially in a Nicaraguan living room at 8AM to mariachi music. Still I was glad to have another great cultural experience that I would not have had otherwise. Despite Marta's persistence in dragging me all over northern Nicaragua and to attend every fiesta and family gathering, I had to leave Esteli before I grew roots there. The final invitation from Marta was to her niece’s baby shower, to which my first reaction was "I don't like baby showers," after which I had to retract and explain that in the States men
Waterfall, San Jose de Los RematesWaterfall, San Jose de Los RematesWaterfall, San Jose de Los Remates

This is at the top of a 400 foot waterfall
don't go to baby showers. Nonetheless a nice invitation and an example of the average Nicaraguan's willingness to show you a good time and make you a part of their circle of family and friends. To celebrate my last night of class we cooked the Nicaraguan tipico of gallo pinto (rice and beans), tortillas, and queso. This night I learned to make tortillas which was entertaining for all since I knew nothing of the technique of repeatedly patting and rounding a cornmeal ball until your hands are numb. After a great meal it was time to say goodbye and move on from Esteli.

August 20

Today I left with Marissa, a friend that I met in Esteli also taking a Spanish class, for Camoapa to visit a volunteer project to possibly work with. They were very gracious in housing and feeding us while we learned about the program, and what life is like for volunteers. The project is a foster home/school for 20 some children, where they provide the basic needs and education for children that otherwise would be on the street. Although neither of us would sign up to volunteer we did have a good day of interaction with the kids and learned about how these types of programs operate. The highlight for me was getting to play soccer with the kids; the lowlight was accidentally hitting two boys in the face and another in the chest with the ball. Whoops!! This is the problem of me playing soccer with children: the size difference, and that my soccer abilities being exclusively kicking the ball as hard as I can if it is in front of me. Nicaraguan machismo prevailed and the boys were fine. Camoapa is surrounded by beautiful mountain ranges, so early one morning we set off to climb the closest one, Momochito. It was a pleasant hike on trails and through cow pastures, until the steepest, forested part which consisted of shoe sucking mud. Although we planned on hiking most of the day, we brought very little food, however soon we were at the top sitting in the clouds looking out over the mountains, valleys, and Camoapa and it didn't seem to matter. This was one of the most impressively green vistas I have ever seen, despite being surrounded by cell phone towers on the top. Unthreatened by the chance of rain, once we had seen enough clouds pass over and through us, we hiked back down and very much deserved some ice cream and a nap!

Misinformed about the bus to Boaco (why would we think children would know when the bus comes), we didn't arrive till it was dark. However in our hot and long wait for the bus, a kind farmer gave us each an orange. When something like this happens you first think he wants some money, but this was not the case (maybe he saw the displeased look on our faces), really he just wanted to tell us about his farm and invited us to come see where he grows his oranges. Given the economic circumstances this is an incredibly kind gesture. Because although there are a lot of oranges and they may only cost 5 cents, when someone gives you one, it’s a big deal for them.

Here are some economic stats on Nicaragua that I found on Wikipedia that show why one orange matters:

Nicaragua is the second poorest countries in the Americas. According to the CIA Fact Book, inflation averaged 8.1%!f(MISSING)rom 2000 through 2006. As of 2007, Nicaragua's inflation stands at 9.8%! (MISSING)The World Bank also indicates moderate economic growth at an average of 5%!f(MISSING)rom 1995 through 2004. In 2005 the economy grew 4%!,(MISSING) with overall GDP reaching $4.91 billion. In 2006, the economy expanded by 3.7%!a(MISSING)s GDP reached $5.3 billion. As of 2008, it stands at $6.5 billion.

According to the PNUD, 48%!o(MISSING)f the population in Nicaragua live below the poverty line, 79.9%!o(MISSING)f the population live with less than $2 per day, unemployment is 3.9%!,(MISSING) and another 46.5%!a(MISSING)re underemployed (2008 est.). As in many other developing countries, a large segment of the economically poor in Nicaragua are women. In addition, a relatively high proportion of Nicaragua's homes have a woman as head of household: 39%!o(MISSING)f urban homes and 28%!o(MISSING)f rural homes. According to UN figures, 80%!o(MISSING)f the indigenous people (who make up 5%!o(MISSING)f the population) live on less than $1 per day. According to the FAO, 27%!o(MISSING)f all Nicaraguans are suffering from undernourishment; the highest percentage in Central America.

Boaco is "el ciudad de dos pisces" (the city of two floors) because it sits on a hill with a flat spot on top, and a steep valley below. My time here was spent exploring the city and practicing my Spanish with whoever would listen, and preparing for my next destinations.

August 26

Today Marissa and I tackle the chaotic and under construction Boaco bus terminal which is even more fun due to the very steep and narrow streets. She is on her way to Granada to meet her sister, and I am on my way to San Jose de los Remates to meet waterfalls. San Jose is a coffee growing town of 2,000 3 hours by bus on remote, rocky, yet picturesque roads between the larger cities of Boaco and Matagalpa. You may ask yourself why I would go to San Jose? My guidebook vaguely mentioned that there are waterfalls and great hiking and which I implied no gringos so I can really see how my Spanish is coming along. I check in with mayor’s office, and in short time I am greeted by the former mayor, Jorge, who is behind the tourism push for the area. I am set up to stay with his family where I will have my own room, be fed during my stay, and am arranged a guide for the Ruta de los Chorros the next day with Oscar, who is also a high school teacher (high schoolers only go to class on Saturday). This evening Oscar shows me around town which includes the rodeo arena, cemetery, baseball field, and school, where we listen to students practicing their instruments for the upcoming Independence Day celebration. Oscar tells me that only a few schools in Nicaragua have music teachers, or even sheet music, meaning the students have to learn how to play themselves. The next day Oscar and I leave at 6AM to hike to four different waterfalls where the route first takes us through coffee fields on steep hillsides. While he is full of knowledge about the area, trees, plants, and the waterfalls, with my limited Spanish I can only comprehend so much. He can quickly point out types of trees and plants and what they are good for, however after just one minute I have already forgotten the name of that tree back there whose leaves are good for headaches. An interesting stop along the way was in a small shack near the first waterfall where men where distilling an alcoholic corn drink, which Oscar tells me is a local specialty. It seems to be one of those things where you have to know who to ask to get it, however even it is illegal, local police certainly wouldn't be concerned. It was an interesting process to watch as they were just getting started for the day, and they let us try some of the predistilled product, which tasted pretty good. Moving on we see our first waterfall which will be the most difficult one to access of the day. Although all waterfalls are basically water going over rocks, I find each one to possess something different and appealing. My favorite was probably the second of the day, which although not the tallest, you can walk behind it and put your head underneath it, which after climbing halfway up a mountain, felt quite nice. After climbing for over one hour we came to a flat spot and Oscar became more and more concerned for his dog that had been following us the whole way. I couldn't tell why, but I finally realized it when we came to a stream with a view peering out over San Jose and the valley: we were at the top of the 130 meter waterfall that we just saw from below! A missed step too close to the edge and you’re a goner! This was my favorite spot of the day since the view was clear for miles along with the added risk of easily plummeting to your death if you slipped. After seeing all four waterfalls, we continued up to the top of the mountain through the clouds to check out the view, which for at least 20 minutes consisted of nothing but white in all directions. Oscar was telling me which direction San Jose and other towns were until all of a sudden the clouds cleared and we had great views of the surrounding countryside, and yes Oscar was correct in the direction of San Jose. It was now time to head back to town, sampling licorice tasting plants along the way, where my host family would have lunch waiting.

I enjoyed the area and hiking with Oscar so much that he didn't have to sell me too hard on doing another hike the next day in the Canyon de Malacatoya, Nicaragua's other canyon. This was a shorter hike which took us through fields where they grow coffee, fruit, and cows apparently, until we reached the river where we scampered a bit and then climbed back out passing by farmers carrying grain I am told to feed coffee, fruit, or cows, I am not sure. Climbing out of the canyon the views continued to get better and better, until we are on the road back to town. I am back in town in time for Oscar and me to enjoy a gaseosa, before I have to catch the mid-day bus north toward Matagalpa, which if you are counting at home, is the third time. On the bus was some young Matagalpans who told me there was a party that weekend, and that they would show me a good time. However while I took them up on their offer to eat at their house (I had not eaten all day) it was quickly apparent that no food existed and that I should fend for myself which meant....hamberguesa en el parque!

August 29th

Today I waited all morning for a torrential downpour to end to travel the scenic and mountainous road north to Jinotega. I was hoping for a clear day for this trip, since this is supposed to be one of the most beautiful stretches in the county, however the clouds persisted. Jinotega is a pretty city, set in a valley where you can find the market full of cowboys who come to town to buy supplies and have their boats mended. I stayed two nights at the Hotel Rosa, where I paid $2.50 to a feisty old matriarch for a 5' x 7' room in the attic, and scored meal deals for $0.75. Here it seemed once again I was asking for trouble as I set out on Sunday (bottle of rum day) by myself to hike up the western hills for a view down on the city. Fortunately everything was great, the view amazing, and I was treated to a parade procession through town while I was at the top.

September 2nd

After a night each in Esteli and Somoto, I am finally on my way to new territory: El Salvador via Honduras.


15th October 2009

Good to hear from you. Looks like your livin' good. Stay in touch.
19th October 2009

Wow, Philip. Its really fun reading your blogs. Keep them up. And as your second mother, Im telling you to be careful.........Quite an adventure. Have fun. Love ya, Aunt Madeline
13th January 2010

You know Nicaragua more than me, even I am from Nicaragua
Hi my name is Samuel I am from Nicaragua now am living in Miami Florida and I hope one day can go to Nicaragua and make a trip around the country, am from Telica , en Leon I used to go to telica volcano with mi father when I was a boy look your pictures from my volcano is really good to me remind me beutiful things, God bless you.

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