Living with the locals

Trip Start Dec 30, 2010
Trip End Jul 06, 2011

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Where I stayed
Hostel Apante
With local village in La Pita

Flag of Nicaragua  ,
Monday, April 11, 2011

Day 97 April 11th continued - It takes only 2.5 hours to reach Matagalpa. The journey was in an old USA style schoolbus and it was pretty comfy. At one point, we stop off in a smaller town and all hell broke loose! It sounded like a riot, or some protest but when I looked closer, it was 20 guys surrounding the bus shouting 'Agua! Agua! Agua!', this I found very amusing, of course they were offering other drink and some snacks, for example freshly cooked corn on the cob, when they bring those buckets on the bus, the bus smells so much better.....and tastier! I listen to Tamaras´ business mind about her own business and her ideas are genius. I'm surprised a big corporation hasn't snapped her up! We leave the tree and green filled capital city of Managua and slowly move towards the dusty, treeless north. 

We arrive in Matagalpa but for some reason they drop us off on the side of a road, with no idea where we are. We sit to grab something to eat, now, Tamara has told me about Peanut butter being a travellers best friend! It does not need refrigerating and as long as you have some crackers and a pen knife, a little treat when in need. I still have my vinegar bottle as well, but don't worry family, I haven't blended the two.....well yet!!

We ask a local corner shop owner for directions and they couldn't have been more helpful, I guess the smiley Canadian outweighs the dead pan looking Brit. There are no real hostels around here, instead guesthouses with rooms, not a problem. We drop our bags and explore the town. 

The town of Matagalpa is situated in a valley surrounded by tall mountains and miles of countryside. This is the coffee producing part of Nicaragua, although they only produce less than 1% of the world stock, I'm sure it's a large amount nonetheless. 

I enjoy the town, the people are friendly and when we go to find dinner, even though I walk us down a pretty dark and scary alley, we come out the otherside in one piece, another great lonely planet suggestion!! We had passed another restaurant, so head back there. I grab some chicken wings, some pretty awesome tasty wings! 

So, my next part of my journey was not so pleasant, if you are eating, I suggest you finish. I go to sleep pretty tired, I feel itchy but ignore it, only at 2am do I get up and examine myself. I must have 20 bites all over my body..........and they were blown up too! I pull back my pillow, pull back the sheet and see a bed bug on the top of the mattress. I pull back a seam and expose two massive groups of bed bugs! It was sickening! I didn't know you could actually see them but there were two kinds, big fat round ones and smaller twig likes ones! I made me reach and then feel itchy everywhere! I walk downstairs, lift up my tshirt and show the night watchman my bites, he says mosquitoes but I beckon him to follow and when he sees the bugs, offers me another room!! I'm itching now as I write this!! My only other experience of being bitten was in Montevideo some three years ago, but then I was warned by my travel buddy. In the new bedroom, I explore the bed thoroughly, but cannot sleep for a while as I'm twitching all over, any sense of the fan on my legs has me getting up to check! Not a great experience!! So, now I will need to wash all my possessions and scrub myself silly!

Miles walked 1.56
Temp 30C 86F

Day 98 April 12th - I sneak out my room to check on the bed bug room. I left the door open to see what they were going to do, and you know what, they had already hired the room out to someone else!! It won't be long before he jumps up! 

Breakfast is an awesome affair. We find a cool little place and I have the best cappuccino I've tasted in a long time. I also order an omelet and the place has wifi and some excellent staff! 
 When we get back to the guesthouse, the room is empty, door open and something has been sprayed all over the mattress and room. The mattress should be thrown out!

Today we are going to a small town called San Roman and then trying to hook up with an ecotourism group. I have no idea what to expect and it drives me crazy, we could go there and have to come back, I'm normally so laid back but usually I have an idea of what is coming up. Anyway, we walk a kilometre with packs up a hill to the busy north bus station. A security guard points out the school bus we need to catch and we wait while it fills up. The ride is only 30 minutes and we are in San Roman. These small towns seem to snuggle up nicely next to the main road, we walk some distance and find the UCA ecotourism group. Luckily, a guy from NYC is on a NGO program there and helps translate. Sadly, the coffee season finished and only lasts from September to January. But, you can stay with a local family in their house, hike, see a gold mine, it all sounds good. 

A taxi drives us to a village call La Pita. There is no road, so he drives very slowly to navigate potholes and and one point gets stuck on a bridge, with a lack of dust, he lost grip. The guy NYC guy came along for the ride as well. We arrive at the village and it is angelic. It feels so good to be away from a busy city or town and to be living like indigenous people. 

We are introduced to the family we are staying with. The mother Tomas, her husband Vicente and the cutest 3 year old in the world, Lester! Their house is perched on a slope, they have chickens walking around with chicks in tail, there are pigs , dogs, roosters and down the slope, a tap water swimming pool. Seeing as school finishes at 12 noon, there are many kids around the pool, all swimming fully clothed. This is where we meet out wet guide Denora. Her English is limited, but only because she is shy and still learning. 


We do have our own room. An annex built just off the house with mosquito nets, perfect! When Denora dries out, she takes us for a small hike/view of the village. In total, there are 287 inhabitants and everyone knows each other. So different to my own world where I hide from my neighbours, but then if you saw the places I lived in the last few years, you might hide too! Or ignore a fire alarm or two! 

She takes us to a cocoa farm first, and picks a cocoa plant. We are handed a cocoa bean each, it is covered in a sweet tasting soft liquid shell and once this is eaten off, you have the bitter cocoa bean. Tamara takes half the fruit and it's almost like she has a pic n mix cone at the movies! One was enough for me. We head back across the village to see where the coffee plants have started to be put in place ready for picking later in the year. 

The women and children pick the beans and the men process the beans in the processing plant in the village. This happens for four months of the year, I'm gutted to have missed out but still happy to be where I am. We continue walking and I am so lucky to see passion fruit growing naturally in a womans back yard. Amazing! I had a passion fruit juice in Mancora some 3 months ago and since then have really enjoyed the tasty flavour. As we walk underneath the growing fruits, I inadvertently step on a little ant hill and seeing as I'm wearing my sandals, start to be bitten frequently on my toes and my heel. Pretty sharp bites! As we walk back to the womans home/shelter, she is cooking up some corn, most likely to make corn tortillas. Denora takes us back to the house we are staying at, we walk over streams, small bridges, through more crops, past Sloths clinging to trees, past woodpeckers, this is nature at its best and I am loving this!

Tamara and I kill some time, well, it's not really killing time when you are super relaxed, but we spend an hour or two with the children in the pool, paddling, splashing. They have their own little game of turning themselves into giant splashing implements, to see who and how many people near the pool they can get wet.

An hour before dinner, we are invited to help Tomas make tortillas. She had already ground down the corn and added further ingredients to produce a dough. She demonstrates how to pad out a tortilla, and then throws it on her twig fuelled stove, once it fluffs up, it is ready. Tamara went first and I had a go and making a couple, I don't think my sausage shaped fingers helped in keeping the dough flat! Once we had finished, we were served dinner. A chicken had its last day today, we also were served the tortillas we made as well as some rice and tasty pasta in butter. A delicious meal!!

The sun soon disappeared and it wasn't long before it was time to turn in for the night. Tamara has an ipad with a heap of music on it, I was able to read up on some of my future destinations, look at my schedule, and relax and unwind. Tomorrow we are hiking to a gold mine. As I fall asleep under my mosquito net, I am constantly reminded of where I am, there are insects that sound like an air raid siren, birds are still chippering away and someone needs to buy the rooster a watch, because midnight is not time to get up!!

Miles walked 2.31
Temp 32C 90F

Day 99 April 13th - Oh man, nature is far noisier than when I lived on W 180th st on Manhattan. On a Saturday morning, my street turned into a reggae market and Bob Marley was played loudly at 8am. Back then I enjoyed it, I would have been up to watch some Premiership football anyway on FoxSports, but in La Pita, all the animals in the town were telling us to `WAKE UP!!!!!!!!!!!!`. So we did! Breakfast was served at 7am, I was more interested in Lester and his slightly older female friend running around holding little kittens in their hands. The young boy has that innocent look on his face, and is very shy when responding to a good morning or hello Lester. Breakfast was tasty, some eggs, fruit, tortillas and coffee.

Denora meets us at 8am and we hike to a nearby gold mine. Denora looks tired after walking five minutes and within 30 minutes we are at a hole in the mountain and she says this is the gold mine. The day before we were told that it was a two hour hike to get there. Either there was a breakdown in communication or she wasn't prepared to take us the full way. In questioning her I can sense she is not being truthful, but then I'm pretty tired as well and we stupidly forgot a flash light so instead we continued hiking around the mountains for another ninety minutes and arrived back into the town after two hours. Maybe it was a two hour hike but we assumed two hours there and two hours back?? The hike was phenomenal! Dangerous paths, climbs, holding onto roots of trees, clinging to branches, praying the poor grip on my shoes holds out and then losing yourself in the beauty of the area and the utter enjoyment of spending a morning hiking in the remote parts of Nicaragua.

Back in the village and seeing as the children are all at school, we have the pool to ourselves and gingerman has some shade as well. When I hike, I tend to cover my legs in mud, dirt and other crap. I must flick it up when I walk. It was great to cool off in the pool, wash off my legs and enjoy our last few hours in little La Pita.

Lunch was another example of how great a cook Tomas is with little ingredients on offer, basically living off her land and having few utensils or instruments to use. Another chicken had its day, she even made some small fries and there was rice and beans. So good!!

Sadly, it was time for us to leave. We say goodbye to the family and thank them for being such gracious hosts. A taxi returns us to San Roman, the guy from NYC came to see us again and sorted out for the same taxi guy to take us back to Matagalpa, it would be quicker and only 50 US cents more than a bus, perfect. We just had to wait for him to pick his mum up!

The ride in the taxi took little time and we were soon back at the north bus station. Seeing as I was keen to find out the Champions League 2nd leg score between Man Utd and Chelsea and I was up for another tasty Cappuccino, we headed back to the tasty coffee lounge. It was a good choice, time to catch up and ultimately decide on what to do next.

We decided to continue heading north and Esteli would be our next destination. We geared up again and looked for some water. I don't know if you remember the scene in Slumdog Millionaire but the young Indian boys glue the lids of water bottles back on after filling them with local water. Well, we came across this a couple of times in Matagalpa. It's essential to check the lid and if it looks tampered with, best move on!

To get to Esteli we had to grab another school bus but this time from the south bus station. As my luck would have it, one was waiting for us. Within minutes it was rammed full and we were off. Only an hour or so to Esteli, enjoying the atmosphere of the cramped bus and all the stops where you are offered a bag of onions or a bag of tomatoes from a vendor who has climbed the side of the bus and is leaning through the open window. Great determination!
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Bev on

Ant I love your blog about the lay back country life and your experiences with your host family. Stay safe.

Tamara on

I think your story about the bed bugs is under dramatized :)

The Real Toni Border on

Ohhhh no pics of Sloths *sniff*

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