Our last couple of days in Matagapla, Nicaragua were pretty full and interesting. Here’s some of the memories.
We’ve remarked on the number of used clothing stores here… and we’ve been shopping. As we purposely left any really warm clothes behind along the way, it was time to find something for our trip into the ‘canopy’ – the high mountains to the north. We both found hoodies – Heather’s was more deluxe than mine – she paid $3 and I paid $1. It’s great to see these stores that everyday people depend upon and use – a lot.
El Mirador Calvary
We went for a walking tour on the peak of one of the nearbyhills – called Mirador Calvary, it’s a lookout waaaay up on the west side of town.
Definitely worth the trip. We took a cab up and walked back and we’re glad we did.
We made a new friend. Ana Marie owns a shop that sells gifts for all occasions. She is about to open up a small hotel/guest house up the hillside from downtown Matagalpa and we offered to help her by letting YOU know. Her English is impeccable – a good thing to have when you need it!
Ana Maria Amador
Casa Las Lomas
One last thing before we leave… I had the most, well, comprehensive haircut I’ve ever had. As I’ve taken to shaving the top pretty well off, the ‘numbering’ system works internationally for my coiffure. I point to the top – say “cero” and the beard tapers from “dos to quatro” – it works. At one of the most popular ‘barberias’ in town, I was lucky to get a new trainee (I didn’t worry there’s really nothing he can mess up) – he had all sorts of enthusiasm… I was in the chair for over an hour. Once I looked up and I saw the bearded face of a raccoon in the mirror. A black mask had been applied – I was having a facial! Anyway the boss finished off the fine tuning – like I’m such an aficionado of hair styling… The whole job was only $5 – I felt like a million cordobas. The top’s almost shiny!
Let’s go north
The next morning we were ready to head to our next stop – San Rafael Del Norte. It’s known to be a very small town – no major tourist presence there… yet. We understand there are tours of the forest ‘canopy’, so we were open to finding out what’s available!
We took a cab (20 cordobas instead of the 50 we paid the first time) to the Matagalpa bus station.
It was all quite painless as there was a kind fella asking where you were going then he’d point to where you should wait for your bus. For us, there wasn’t much waiting. A beautiful blue and white bus pulled up in front of us destined for Jinotega the town just south of San Rafael Del Norte.
We had heard that one must sit on the left side of the bus to get the beautiful views as you roll up into the mountains. We did just that – secured our seats and waited. When the 80’s metal music started we knew we were ready to pull out. Off we went!
The ride up the hills out of Jinotega is breathtaking. We climbed and climbed and climbed – we could feel the temperature cooling off and we could see the vistas off to the west.
The volcanoes near Leon were even visible! And then… we descended… Down and down we went, air brakes getting a workout. Jinotega loomed on the horizon below.
Jinotega is a busy, but small town – lots of school kids, people going about their business and quite a few taxi drivers. One thing we learned… they have a beautiful bus depot. Spotlessly clean.
We had been advised at the Buena Onda hostel to just take a taxi to San Rafael Del Norte. We found a willing driver and off we went.
He made a few gestures as we left that seemed to have something to do with road checks but we thought no more of it. Sure enough, almost to San Rafael Del Norte, we came across one of those road blocks and our cab was flagged over.
He had taken the cab sign off the roof before we got there and we wondered why. He turned around and made the sign with his index finger “shhhh”. Now we knew why.
He appeared to be fabricating some kind of story for the officials. They talked back and forth and before we knew it we were headed off down a side road. Fair enough, as long as it went to San Rafael Del Norte. It didn’t. In fact it didn’t go far. It just stopped at a washed out bridge and it’s construction zone.
The cab driver mumbled… “Uh oh.” Really? Have we got this guy into trouble? Are we going to spend the night in a Nicaraguan jail?
He turned the cab around and headed back to the road block. He pulled off, turned the motor off and got out. He talked directly to the not-so-cooperative guy and then he got back in the cab. Now he was dragging out his permits and licenses. Geez. The official was a bit of a jerk but I guess he was just doing his job. Our cabbie had all the right documentation except, he wasn’t allowed in this road. You see, there is a bus system. People are supposed to use it. The bus ‘lobby’ has created a monopoly here and the cab was not allowed. Wow. So… he had these two passengers so a solution was found. Our cabbie surrendered his cab license papers to the official and he could pick them up after he dropped us off. We felt sorry for him. We tipped him generously in case there was some kind of fine. Not that it was our fault.
And alas, we had arrived in San Rafael Del Norte. A very beautiful little town. Three nights in the Casa Real hotel booked through Airbnb. Can’t wait. Maybe we’ll get into the mountains while we’re here!