By Nathan Page
A little over a month ago, Brett and I spent a week exploring the more mountainous regions of Northern Nicaragua. Our first destination was the breezy, caffeine-fueled city of Matagalpa.
We took the bus up early in the morning, hoping to get up to Matagalpa by nightfall. The bus schedule showed no direct buses and we figured it would be a complicated ordeal. Mysteriously, when we arrived at the bus stop there was a bus going directly to Matagalpa that no one had heard of… It was dubbed, “the miracle bus.”
The bus ride was full of mountainous terrain with low-lying clouds fighting to escape from the valleys containing them. We arrived at Matagalpa before noon and set out to find a literal and proverbial place to hang our hats. We were immediately struck by the kindness of the locals asking if they could help us find something or offer us directions.
Matagalpa is a region known for its temperate climate (by Nicaraguan standards) and its ideal coffee-growing conditions. There are several large farms as well as small cooperatives that produce some of the finest organic and conventional coffee in the world. Brett and I had a chance to visit one of these plantations known as Selva Negra. They produce and import coffee directly to the United States to a small vendor you may recognize… “Trader Joe’s,” I believe? In addition to coffee, they also have a world-class Eco-Lodge with several miles of hiking trails and beautifully maintained gardens.
After our 2-night stint in Matagalpa, we ventured even farther north to the town of Jinotega. Jinotega is a long and slender town, steadily expanding from the valley floor, encroaching on steep slopes on either side. We stayed at a permaculture-inspired farm known as “Biosferia” and enjoyed a gorgeous sunset & fine company. We then ventured out to an agricultural trade school that also had a eco-lodge as a part of its diversified revenue sources. The lodge was a bit difficult to get to and involved a 5km walk up a dirt road; eventually we reached the center and boy, was it a view. The light was especially brilliant reflected off of Brett’s radiant face.
All buses in Nicaragua have seats for approximately 40 people. A bus is not considered “full” until the isle is full of people, the headspace is full of people and there are three layers of kids sitting on top each other giggling. Nicas laugh at a bus’s supposed “full capacity” and pack at least 50 people into all that “wasted” space. We experienced this situation for a total of about 20 hours during this trip. All you can do is laugh and take shallow breaths. :)
Our last stop was in a beautiful cowboy-inspired town of Esteli. The town of Esteli is known for its “world class tobacco” that supposedly rivals Cuban tobacco in quality. However, valuing our lungs and Diane’s approval, we abstained from trying this local commodity. We had some delicious meals from a local organic café and walked through the various leather-working shops that make Esteli famous.
On our way back to Granada we had the opportunity to meet up with a group of students and faculty from our Alma Mater! We met a group of Pacific Lutheran University students and Dr. Mulder in the capital city, Managua. They were on their way back from a truly amazing project helping a small village in Nicaragua receive reliable drinking water. They had fantastic stories to tell and we loved hearing their enthusiasm for Nicaragua and their positive experience. Proud to be Lutes!
We made it back to Granada weary, yet thoroughly satisfied, knowing a little more about the beautiful and diverse country we are currently calling home!