El mejor taxi
On our way through Leon, our cab driver Marcello was an invaluable help to us. He agreed to drive us to the station where we would catch the bus to Matagalpa and… he made sure we got on the right one.
Pulling up to the rear of the parked bus, he pointed to the large Matagalpa label and double checked that we saw it.
He then helped us with our backpacks and gently guided us past the lineup of three-wheeled taxi drivers waiting to take our money for a “ticket to Matagalpa”. Cheeky buggers. Marcello gave us both a big, genuine hug. We wished him all the best and we boarded the bus – with an hour until departure. We were happy with the timing as it ensured a seat on a potentially full, Friday afternoon bus.
On board, it was an oven. Outside the oven it was 35 deg. C… so inside? But, it was a nice oven. An oven that would get us to our next destination.
How many seats do you need?
Like many autobuses, this one had a ‘crew’. Our crew was the driver and another fellow that did everything else. When I first saw him, he was selling Heather our two tickets but later on he was selling bottled water, lifting bags into racks and generally running a tight ship. At one place where we entered a main highway, he got out and directed traffic. Our tickets were purchased after a bit of confusion. He tried to sell Heather an extra ticket, but she didn’t really want one. No way. However, as communication degraded, the fact wasn’t discussed that the 2 person bench seat we had was actually for 3 people. It wasn’t apparent until the third person came and asked to sit down. Wow. So, I was up against the window on my left, my knees were under my chin because the floor was raised up under our feet and Heather was very cozy with a nice young Nica lady on her right. And the autobus still hadn’t moved.
La sinfonia de cuernos
When the autobus leapt to life right on time, we backed out to a blistering cacophony of air horns.
The symphony was courtesy of our bus saying – “OK we’re backing up!” – and a bus behind us saying, “Not OK, you better not back into me as I have to turn left out of my spot before you can even move!” One more bus was leaning on the hooter as if to say, “Uh, can’t you see I have to move before either of you guys?” And to create a shrill crescendo to the moment, the taxis started in with the beep-beeps. It was thrilling… and one of the those things that really should put a smile on your face and little chuckle under your breath. And guess what… it all worked.
On the road again…
Out on the road it was a fantastic commute. When do you get to ride in a stinkin’ hot bus, latin music playing and people singing as you zoom by active volcanoes smouldering away? As it was the express bus, there were very few stops. Wouldn’t have mattered anyway – I couldn’t move my legs and my butt was numb from being welded to the naugahyde seat.
As we neared Matagalpa, a few folks were gradually let off one or two at a time. Finally… the pressure was relieved and Heather helped me straighten my legs. I felt like I had somehow appeased the gods. Thank you!
The wonderful chaos of the Matagalpa COTRAN Sur bus station greeted us. There are specific slots for the buses to pull into but we had to wait just a moment while a shiny new casket was unloaded from the top of the bus to our left.
We shared a collectivo taxi and for 50 Cordobas, within minutes we arrived at La Buena Onda Hostel. This hostel is well-run, super clean and yes, close to the core of Matagalpa.
It had been quite a day, so we dumped off our gear and put on some sweaters as it was cool and raining. (Yes, it was ONLY 21 degrees C… Bloody brrrr…)
We went for a walk and had dinner around the corner at the Luna Flor Bistro. Nice folks there – Salvador, Mina and their daughter Sochi run this very cool little spot. We were liking Matagalpa already.
We slept like sedated seniors and woke to a beautiful fresh morning in this busy little city. We had no firm plans for the day other than getting acquainted with the layout of the city, the landmarks and, of course the people.
A brief early history
Like many regions of Nicaragua, Matagalpa was originally indigenous land. It’s said that the Spaniards were fearful of the native fighters as they were very brave and knew how to use their weapons such as bows and arrows. It took the Spanish over 300 years to subdue them and even then there were some still free in the hills of the region. In 1856 the Matagalpa Indians were instrumental in ending the much-hated, William Walker’s time in Nicaragua.
Today, Matagalpa is a busy city with exports of coffee, cattle, milk products, vegetables and flowers. Ecotourism established by access to the mountainous regions nearby is growing steadily.
Meeting people, learning more about this part of the country, drinking some of the best coffee in the world, enjoying the moderate climate – what could be better?
Thanks for reading our blog!
In our next blog, we’ll try to dig a little deeper into the history of this area and how people here feel about life in Nicaragua.