15.04.2016 - 17.04.2016 31 °C
Over the weekend I decided to head out on my own to the north of Nicaragua, to a town called Matagalpa. I took the chicken bus from Managua to Matagalpa, which ended up taking an hour longer than the express bus but was also a cheaper alternative. I stayed at the Buena Onda hostel which was great and had a kitchen, allowing me to cook. I felt pretty accomplished cooking my traditional Nicaraguan meal of rice, beans, tortilla, cream, avocado with a salad of tomato, onion and cucumber.
The next morning I went on a beautiful hike just outside of the city of Matagalpa called Cerro del Toro. The hike wound through the local country side and then scrambled up to the top of a mountain that had awesome views of the valley of Matagalpa. The entire hike took between 3 to 4 hours and passed by coffee and banana fields. The region was such a contrast from the grunge of Managua, and it was so nice to see living trees as opposed to the metalic, glowing trees that are scattered about the capital.
I was pretty hungry by the time I got back to my hostel and was invited to go eat pizza with the rest of the travelers in my dorm. They had heard that it was supposed to be the best pizza in all of Nicaragua because the owners were from Tuscany and made traditional Italian pizza. It was not to disappoint. I also had my first glass of wine since I have been in Nicaragua, as it is usually much more expensive if it is even offered as an option anywhere. I was reminded this weekend something that I love about traveling, that it allows people learn about different cultures and spend time together. At dinner we were a group that consisted of: myself (American), two Germans, one English woman, a Swede and a woman from the Netherlands. All strangers, but sharing food and stories about their lives.
After getting back from an amazing meal, I met up with these three girls who work for the same Managuan NGO, Comemos Juntos, as a friend of mine who happened to be staying at the same hostel as me. Too funny how small the world is. The next day they decided that they were going to go visit Selva Negra, which I had been hearing was beautiful but I had not planned to visit. Instead of going back to Managua early, I decided to tag along with them to see what everyone was talking about.
We left early Sunday morning and headed north, towards Jinotega. It was definitely my least enjoyable bus riding experience, in terms of lack of space. Personal space I don't think is something that exists on public transportation here in Nicaragua. I was sitting at the back of the bus and more and more people would squish in through the back door, definitely over the recommended number of people of course. A girl who was probably about five years old ended up pretty much sitting on my lap so she wouldn't be squished, in addition to the three of us already occupying the bench.
Finally we made it to the road that went to Selva Negra, and we miraculously extracted ourselves from the throng of people. It was a kilometer to the main entrance and we enjoyed the view of coffee plantations dotted by robust, green trees. The air was noticably fresher and cooler. The coffee tours were $20 a pop, so we opted for the self-guided tours instead. Being surrounded by primary forrest again was amazing. With the drought and vast amounts of deforestation, up until this weekend I had not seen many large or GREEN trees. We walked through an emerald tunnel with scattered light falling on our path and passed by a stunning cathedral that looked like it belonged to Bilbo Baggins. The trail threaded next to trickling streams and little, stone benches.
We had a little bit of extra time, so we decided to do a more difficult section of the trail called la Fuente de la Juventud (the fountain of youth). The trail was aptly named from the gushing water that ran alongside, and also because you would surely stay young if you hiked it everyday. We were sweating profusely after clambering up 300 meters in less than 30 minutes.
After we got back down, we rewarded ourselves with a slice of German chocolate cake and a hot pot of coffee. Such an incredible end to a relaxing weekend. I parted ways once we were back in Matagalpa, and took the express bus to Managua. Time has been going by too quickly, and I am starting to realize that I only have a bit over a month left in Nicaragua. Crazy how fast life moves, better to enjoy every second!