Saturday, 2 August 2008
Well a funny thing happened on the way to Matagalpa. We had a very nice evening staying at the "Birdcage" hotel. Our two hosts were very kind and the room was really nice and peaceful. Breakfast was included which is a rarity here in Nicaragua and they provided a very nice spread including a jar of peanut butter which I thought Erika would devour herself. After a leisurely meal we gathered our gear and headed for the express bus station to grab transport to Managua. The bus was actually a mini bus of sorts and since we were the first two on we got our choice of seats. We have learned to sit in the middle of the bus as not to absorb all of the bumps and grinds of a third world road. The ride only took about an hour as we traveled through the high plains in-between two massive volcanos. Managua is a huge typical Latin American city. Lots of poverty, pollution, and people. The bus stopped at some obscure parking lot slash bus station. Before the bus came to a complete stop we wer e being surrounded by taxi drivers and hawkers both inside and out wanting our money. We needed to catch a taxi to the other side of Managua to continue our journey toward the north and Matagalpa. The initial price being quoted was astronomical and we decided just to sit for a moment to catch our breaths in the hope that half of the solicitors would give up and walk away. Luckily some did. Before too long a guy came in at a price that sounded reasonable $4.75 for the ride. We grabbed our gear and loaded it, along with ourselves, in the old Datsun 1600 taxi. I told Erika to immediately to lock her doors but of course all the locks were broken. The other bus station was actually quite a long way and it ended up taking us about half an hour to get to the other station. We were dropped off at the side of the road and were told to proceed to an iron gate. Low and behold behind this well guarded gate was a large parking lot with 50 or so busses, most of them old y ellow school busses. We got directions to the correct side of the station and found a bus to our anticipated destination. It was getting ready to pull out. The problem was that Erika needed to go to the bathroom. She knew the busses were not equipped with facilities and she could not hold it. She raced off knocking a few poor Nicaraguans out of the way. By the time she had returned the bus had already left. A little kid who could not have been much more than eight or nine years old directed us to another bus much to the consternation of other men. It turned out that he was trying to get us to board the Rapid bus to Matagalpa. The problem was when Jeff looked in the bus was already totally packed with people so we would have to stand or worse. It was then we spotted a really NICE bus and asked where it was headed. Turns out it was headed for the north also, but to a city called Esteli. We thought what the hell and we climbed aboard. We were think ing of going to Esteli so why not now??? This bus was the best we have taken here in Nicaragua. Reclining seats, clean windows, the best part was that it was only one quarter filled so we could spread out. The ride itself was really nice as we left the flat lands of Managua towards the highlands of the North. We passed through several miles of cornfields and cattle ranches into the rolling highlands. The roadside vendors went from selling fresh fruit to tropical birds that sat precariously on sticks. I am not exactly sure who purchases these birds but they must sell quite a few as there were a couple of dozen campasinos spread out for a few miles. The ride ended up taking only a little over two hours, which is nothing compared to some of our excursions in Asia. The town of Esteli sits in a beautiful green valley surrounded by coffee plantations. We were able to find accommodations after a lengthy search. The problem with some of these smaller towns off the beaten path is that the choices are usually between bad, worse and worst. So we try to find the bad accommodations. This actually turned out okay and the people who owned it were very nice and quite helpful. We spent the rest of the day wandering the streets taking advantage of the cool weather of the highlands.