Coffee, hiking, and making friends with locals
Trip Start Apr 21, 2010
18Trip End Jun 29, 2010
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We went for a nice hike in a dry cloud forest on our first day, which took about 2.5 hours round trip. It took us to a beautiful lookout point overlooking Matagalpa, which is nestled in a valley in a very mountainous region. This is apparently a route that the FSLN (revolutionary forces) used during the civil war on their way to and from Leon and Honduras. Matagalpa and the surrounding area was a major FSLN stronghold, partly because the mountainous terrain was ideal for hiding guerilla forces and also because of its central Northern location
I fell in love with Matagalpa's DELICIOUS frappaccinos made with local Nicaraguan coffee, which as it turns out is surprisingly hard to come by. Unless you go to a Starbucks-type (NOT Starbucks, in fact we didn't see ANY North American chains in Eastern and Central Nicaragua and very few in Granada and Leon) trendy coffee shop, you are stuck with cheap, instant, and yucky coffee. Not even the grocery stores carried any local coffee.
We also visited a coffee museum, which was basically a small room with some colored educational posters about coffee. We learned that the process of making good coffee is very finicky, and requires extremely careful bean selection and quick processing. Apparently Nicaragua only produces arabica coffee, which is a higher grade than robust coffee. Robust coffee is what most North Americans drink and it is higher in caffeine content and lower in quality. Unfortunately, although Nicaragua produces some excellent coffee, there is no local market and most of the profit ends up in North American and European hands. Lately fair trade efforts have been making a big positive impact on Nicaraguan coffee farmers and villages and they are making an effort to expand their local market as well
The next day we visited a coffee plantation called Selva Negra, which is quite developed and touristy. The property encompasses protected virgin wet cloud forests and there are tons of hiking trails. We hiked for about an hour and a half in the monkey spotting areas, and try as we might, we didn't spot a single monkey! We did however stumble on a lot of roots and develop sore necks from looking up for an hour and a half. Oh well. When we came back onto the property, we saw this really cool old open air church that was totally overgrown with plants on the roof and walls. It is still in use and the inside is neat and tidy, but the outside is a living ecosystem! It was really neat. We had some lunch at their expensive restaurant and met another backpacker couple.
Two tables down there was a local family eating lunch and the grandma was getting drunk off the local rum, cana flores. Here, instead of ordering a rum and coke, you order a bottle of rum (mickey or 26) and a bottle of coke for around 4-8 dollars. You get a bucket of ice and as many glasses as you want then you knock yourself out. Also, in local restaurants, beer and liquor is the same price as you would buy it in the liquor stores, sometimes even cheaper...About 65 cents to a dollar a beer...OK sorry for the side tracking, anyways, the grandma was telling her adult daughter how much she worries about crazy backpackers and insisted that her daughter offer us a ride back into town.They were the friendliest people in the world and invited us into their gorgeous house in Matagalpa
That night we had some beers with the couple we met at another local bar and managed not to run away this time!!
The next morning it was off to Leon.