Trip Start Oct 10, 2005
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of Nicaragua  ,
Friday, October 21, 2005

At the end of September 2005, I finished working on a low budget romantic comedy feature film which the director had promised would be "fresh, new, exciting" and not at all like "all those other's which had been set in Notting Hill".   The 10 week location shoot turned out to be a gruelling nightmare and by the end of it I felt mentally and physically exhausted.  The film, in my opinion, would be lucky to see the inside of a DVD cover, let a lone a cinema.   
So, it was with some relish that I boxed up all my worldly possessions and put them into storage in deepest, darkest Wandsworth, before saying goodbye to friends and family and catching a flight to Nicaragua to be with my girlfriend who I hadn't seen since April.  We had vague plans to get married and my girlfriend, being 7 months pregnant, had very definite plans to give birth.
Not many people seem to know where Nicaragua is.  For those of you who don't, Nicaragua is a small country about the size of Ireland which can be found on the skinny bit which links North America to South America.  It is the largest country in Central America and until 1978 was also the wealthiest.  An enormous earthquake, a popular revolution, several years of civil war and an economic blockade, courtesy of the United States, all took their toll and now Nicaragua is officially ranked as the second poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, Haiti taking first prize.  The average wage is approximately $50.00 a month with many earning less than this amount.   Coffee and cattle account for much of the country's income, although there has been a marked increase in tourism over the last few years.  (North) Americans now consider Nicaragua to be 'safe' and are busy buying up huge swathes of property, mostly on the coast, while it's still cheap.   With only 5.5 million inhabitants this sparsely populated country has plenty of space.  A string of Volcanoes cut the country from north to south some still active, others, dormant monsters dominating the landscape for miles around.  Nicaragua also boasts the second largest lake in Latin America - Lake Managua being some 100 miles long and 80 miles wide.
My (now) wife, lives in a small town in the north of Nicaragua called Matiguas.  Not many tourists, or even backpackers for that matter, ever make it out to Matiguas.  When I first went there 12 years ago I was warned to watch out for the bandits and the kidnappers.  Matiguas would be best described as a Latin American cowboy town.  It is hot, dusty and humid and has a resident mosquito population of several million, all of whom take great delight in making my life a misery whenever I'm there.   A small mountain range, known locally as Quiragua, dominates the view to the north.  Cattle roam the lower slopes of these mountains and higher up, the coffee plantations take shade underneath an ancient forest canopy.  Monkeys swing in the trees, parrots and toucans fly overhead and the occasional sloth can be spotted hanging from a branch contemplating whether or not to move.  In the town itself nothing much happens either.  Farmers trade cattle, men wear large hats and carry guns, and skinny overworked mules stand around looking as if they wished they'd never been born.   A walk down the main street, more often than not, involves stepping over the inert body of one of the local drunks.   Friendly disputes have been known to turn into punch ups which have been known to turn into all out gun fights.  Matiguas was where we decided to get married.
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