Tuesday, 14 February 2017

Nicaragua - The first bit

We’re in Nicaragua in Central America. Little Miss Know-it-all has been looking forward to getting here so let’s see how it pans out…

The first stop is Leon. It’s a great city. It’s busy, bustling and has a reasonably pretty centre. There are plenty of churches, a pleasant central square which is overlooked by a magnificent cathedral that is 4 years into its restoration. The majority of the town is not overly decorative but there are still a lot of nice colonial buildings and it definitely has something about it that is compelling. The people look and act the same as other places in Central America but everything feels a little more charged. Consequently we wandered tirelessly about the various districts noting all the usual suspects but also see ‘adobe’ building styles (sort of wattle and daub); noisy street sellers ringing bells tirelessly to attract customers whilst annoying the existing ones by tirelessly ringing a bell; a family barbequing with friends in the street with cars passing the kerbside, paddling pool filled with naked children. Drunks fast asleep in impossible positions and places about the town. Its nothing special but it doesn’t stop it being ….special.

We took the chicken bus to the beach one day. It was so packed I spent the first half of the journey hanging onto the door surround whilst hanging outside of the bus on the back step. The beach is about a 40 minutes slow bus ride from Leon and is split into sections Penitas – the busier more commercial end and the quieter end, called Polenoya, which has only a few restaurants and beach houses set by the road. The beach itself is wide, gently sloping and runs down to the pacific ocean. The sand is warm and soft and virtually empty of people – even more so if one wades a shallow inlet at the far end and then there is no one for as far as the eye can see - just sea, sand and jungle. Quite lovely and, unlike many beaches we see in these underdeveloped places, there is no rubbish. Just a huge dead turtle and some dead stingrays that were being systematically picked clean by a flock of huge swooping Frigate birds.

Another day another chicken bus ride and we stayed in the cheapest hotel in the town of Esteli. The ceilings didn’t reach the walls so we could hear everything from rooms on either side (tv’s, arguments, shitting… you name it). Our room opened directly into a restaurant that played loud music so the punters all had to shout to be heard above it. And we, in turn, can hear them. To top it off we have a tv and sofa outside our room where the deaf father of the hotelier sits and watches game shows at full volume. .. Boinnnnng! Ha ha ha, AHH AHHHH! It was horrible. But, suddenly, at 10pm it all stopped. The restaurant closed, father was evicted, bar staff finished cleaning, the neighbours turned off the tv’s and did one last slash and silence reigned. I could have cried I was so happy. We lay on our bed cuddled up and gently drifted off.

WTF! 3.30am. The twat next door was talking loudly on his phone. This woke us and our other neighbors who then made noisy weeing noises before turning on their tv again and watch a movie. I dunno how long it all went on but eventually, at 6.00am, our alarm woke us and, making considerably more noise that we normally would, we packed our things for a day’s trek in the Somoto Canyon.

We meet Magili, Lola and Megan (three young women we met at a tour office yesterday who are also doing the tour) and jump in cabs to take us to the bus park a couple of miles out of town from where we catch a local bus that takes us to the Somoto Canyon.

The Canyon runs through the hills in Northern Nicaragua and has a gentle flowing river running a long the bottom. In the wet season it is a raging torrent but in the drier months it babbles and tumbles over boulders and slowly makes its way through steep sided rock formations. The tour follows the canyon over about 10km and is a combination of trail walking, rock scrambling, swimming, wading and leaps of faith into deep pools. It's a joy to follow the small river along, bounding from rock to rock then having to swim through rock arches or along narrow channels with 30m high rock faces standing vertically on either side. Along the way are climbs along the cliff walls and points where the brave or foolhardy can jump. I fall comfortably into the latter section and gripping my balls jump from a 12 metre platform and am immediately up staged by the guide doing the 18 metre jump. Testosterone challenge be damned. I was content to repeat the 12 but at 55 years old I think going much higher would crumple my old legs. Rachel, much more sensibly, contents herself with the swimming and trekking  aspects. A big challenge for her since she doesn’t normally enjoy being out of her depth but here the exhilaration took over and we both came away having had a great day.

Next stop is Matagalpa. A right old up and down city that is spread over a few valleys so that any walk through the town involves hills. It's another city that has no real beauty in it but is filled with friendly people. There seems to be a correlation between the number of foreigners in a given place and the amount of friendliness that they receive from the locals. Less foreigners = more friendly foreigners. Not sure why but am sure its not a good reason. Anyway Maltagalpa is nice. We stay at an incredibly quiet hotel ran by a lovely woman and wander about the town looking in thrift shops and American clothing stores. We pick up a few items that needed replacing. Bargain of the day - some Keen trekking boots that look like brand new and would deffo cost over 100 quid back in Blightly.

I am not sure why we are here. In this city. I think it was to break up the journey on our way to Granada and avoid getting into Granada too late. Consequently we have no real plans but did schlep up a hill and through a protected area which was quite a challenging clamber to get to a viewpoint. From here the four of us – Rachel, me, baby Jesus and his mum (them being about 20mtres bigger than us) look down over the town and the valleys below.

Good bye until next blog from Granada

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