2015 Nicaragua Post 3

Nicaragua 2015 Blog Post 3 – February 6 – 12 – San Carlos, Rio San Juan, Boaca, Matagalpa
Deni posting again. It’s been awile since I posted. Part of the time we were in an area with no internet at all. So, I’ll catch you up-to-date.
We left Juigalpa Friday, Feb. 6. We had thought we’d stop on our way to San Carlos, but decided to power on. We got to San Carlos and caught a fast boat down the Rio San Juan to Sabalos Lodge. The nearest town, if you’re looking at a map, is Boca de Sabalos, population 800. The lodge is a collection of bungalows set along the river. It was sort of like living in a tree-house. We were awakened our first morning there by howler monkeys. We didn’t do much on Saturday other than hike to Boca de Sabalos for lunch. Boca de Sabalos is divided by the river, so we had to take an adorable little boat across the canal – 8 cents per person one way. After lunch we returned to the lodge and I spent some time floating in an inner tube that was firmly attached to the shore by a rope – the river moves at a rapid clip, so I was glad to be attached. Sunday we traveled by boat downriver to El Castillo where there is this fabulous fortress built in 1673 -75.  It was bulit to try to keep pirates from continuously coming up the river to access Lake Nicaragua so they could sack Granada. The fortress was attacked repeatedly, but continued to survive. The Brit, Horatio Nelson, conquered the fort in 1780, but most of his men got malaria and the Spanish got the fort back within a couple months. Today the town is visted only because of the fort, which, as you can see from the pictures, is pretty amazing. We ate lunch in El Castillo and I was very impressed by my fish tacos. They were not wrapped in tortillas as I expected. They were wonderfully seasoned and wrapped in cabbage leaves and then steamed. One of my best meals so far in Nicaragua.
Monday we caught the fast morning boat back to SanCarlos and headed north in our trusty little rental car – a Suzuki. I call it our toaster on wheels. On our way north we stopped at San Miguelito. If it’s the gateway to the region’s newest reserve, I don’t think anyone has told the residents. It’s a very sleepy town and no one was there trying to hawk trips into the wetland area. So, on we went to Boaco, a market town that reaches from the valley floor up the side of a steep slope. The less said about our accomodations there, the better.
Tuesday we got to Matagalpa, in the mountains northeast of Managua. It’s a coffee growing area and has a population of over 89,000. We are staying at a fabulous hostel – La Buena Onda, which means the Good Wave and makes no sense since there is no water to be seen. Our first day was spent exploring the city. We had great ice cream at an ice cream parlor owned by an expat from the Central Valley in California. He makes wonderful ice cream and knew all about Portland’s Salt and Straw.
Wednesday we drove north toward the Penas Blancas mountain range. We had hoped to be able to get into the reserve, but our little toaster couldn’t handle the roads. For the most part the road up into the mountains was great, but as we got closer to our destination the paving abruptly stopped and it was like being on the worst of African roads. So, we just enjoyed the beauty of the views, which were spectacular.
Today we took another road north to two small towns – Jinotega and San Rafael del Norte. Jinotega has a really good bakery and I had a good cup of coffee – finally. (Like Kenya, Nicaragua exports all its good coffee and the locals drink junk. We did find a coffee roaster here in Matagalpa who does an excellent job and sells export-quality coffee. I’ve bought three pounds of his stuff to schlep home.) The only things to see in either town were churches. The one in San Rafael is a designated a National Artistic Monument, I guess because of the murals painted by an Austrian artist. We both liked the church in Jinotega better. The woodworking was exceptional. On our way back down the mountain, we stopped at Selva Negra (Black Forest). I was a little reluctant to go, because it sounded a little too upscale and touristy for me. But it was wonderful. It’s an active coffee finca (farm) that was established by Germans in the 1880s – thus the name. The original owner sold it before the turn of the century and the second owners, also German immigrants, have kept it in the family since then. They left during the revolution, but returned when things calmed down. They have devloped a small resort with cute cabins in a beautiful setting.  We paid a small entrance fee, about $2 each, which allowed us to wander around and to hike in their forest. At first I was sort of negative because it didn’t seem that much different from hiking in the Oregon Cascades. But our trails don’t have giant trees being overtaken by strangler figs. Or huge-leaved plants that tower over my 5′ 6″ self. Or bamboo. It was really very cool and we had a great time.
Tomorow we’ll visit the cemetery where Benjamin Linder is buried. If you don’t know who he is, Google him. I remember when he was murdered by the Contras – never thought I’d be visiting his grave one day.
And, since politics has reared its ugly head, now is time for a word or two about the stupid canal the Chinese are planning on building through Nicaragua so they can get their freakin’ big boats back and forth to Europe. When we were driving north from San Carlos we encountered several hundred people marching down the highway – with a brass band, no less. They were part of a growing protest movement against the canal. There have been protests throughout the country. Parents in the area that will be impacted have kept their children out of school and entire families are marching in the streets. We have talked with lots of people here – expats, business people, and locals. No one is happy about the plans. But most seem to think that it will not come to pass. Some think that Ortega will back out because the Chinese will not agree to give the Nicaraguans any control. Others think that the Chinese have other goals – land and the things they can produce on it. All agree that they don’t trust the Chinese and they know the canal, even if built, will not produce jobs for the Nicaraguans.
(Bob) After the Managua area we’ve been In river lowlands In southern Nicaragua near the Costa Rican border. Now we’re In the cooler mountains In northeastern Nicaragua. The vegetation has varied from semiarid plains to tropical lowlands and mountain rain forest. Tomorrow we head further north almost to the Honduran  border to explore a canyon area. We’re still looking for that quaint quiet town that’s in our imagination and which we found last year in Columbia. So far the Nicaraguan  towns have been pretty noisy and rough. They are working industrial, ranching, or farming towns – not preserved colonial towns. Also, the nature preserve areas are hard to get to and require expensive guide services to access them. Plus, few things are signed. There’s still a lot to be done In building infrastructure for tourism. We’ll report what we find.

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3 thoughts on “2015 Nicaragua Post 3

  1. Leslie Alber

    Wow, what a trip..love the car, the colorful places, neat falls and other things you are learning about! Thanks for,sharing! Les and Gene safe journey you two!

    Reply
  2. Kymm

    Huh, in the pirates game Jim and I played, you always had to march overland to sack Granada. Who knew there was a river/lake angle as well! I

    Reply
    1. bcooperrider Post author

      Lake Nicaragua drains out to the east via the San Juan River which flows to the Caribbean. So pirates just had to row their boats up the lazy river to reach Granada. Further north the pirates went all the way up the Coco River to Ciudad Antigua and pillaged that mountain area. It’s amazing that any of the old cathedrals and their gold survived.

      Reply

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