After Esteli, we took the high road

Trip Start Dec 02, 2008
Trip End Feb 07, 2009

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Where I stayed
Solentuna Hen

Flag of Nicaragua  ,
Saturday, December 27, 2008

We spent one last morning wandering around Esteli. Due to the Christmas holiday, the cigar factories were closed. We walked the main square, saw the food stands and local statues, and the church. We also visited an art gallery. We did manage to get into the Museum of the Mothers of Heroes and Martyrs. I shot a lot of photos of Revolutionaries, past and present. Most of them dead. They certainly love their revolutionaries here. There were photos of Che, alive and dead, then dismembered. They took his hand off for identification, then I understand  the CIA sent them to Fidel. His remains were located in Bolivia years later and have been entombed in a monument in Santa Clara, in the mid section of Cuba. There was a painting of Rugama, a Nica poet whose last words were his most famous. When he and Sandino were surrounded by 300 National Guardsmen, they asked him to surrender. ¨Surrender your Mother!¨ he cried before the fusillade.

I read in the paper that now that Ortega has been elected, he is trying to make a few constitutional changes that normally require approval of the legislature. He is trying to push them through without approval of the National Assembly.. I guess it is one thing to win the revolution another thing to run the country. He has some strong opposition here as well. Nicaragua is out of money, the EU and US is not sending more as planned due to the the financial crisis. So, the President Daniel Ortega, has just flown to Russia with his hand out. He is frustrated with the assembly, as they have not met in over a month due to the holidays. So, he passes executive orders, as though the national Assembly didn't count. There are articles in the paper reporting that Russia is interested in building a canal across the isthmus. Boy,  would that put a bee in our bonnet. Fat chance I say. I still try to read a paper every day or two. I am learning quite a bit as I gain from the context.

Well, back to our bus ride. We boarded what was billed as a twp hour ride from Esteli to Jinotega, via the towns of Concordia and San Rafael, the highest city in Nicaragua. We arrived at the station and watched the buses loading, some for the Honduran boarder, some south to Managua. Finally our bus cued up and we scrambled to get a seat. We were fortunate as before long, it was chock a block full of people. The road headed east up into the Segovia Mountains.

As we rumbled along stopping every half mile or so to put people on of let them off, we saw the homes of the campesinos. They were farmers here, their ranches often defined by fences made by planting living trees in a line, then stringing barbed wire between the trees. There were also fences made from stacking the basalt stones in a row to create a fence and also clear the field for farming, much like Ireland. The forests were a mix of succulent plants like yucca and very large trees like the guanacaste. The home of the peasants were clapboard construction, with home made boards. Some had sod walls, and tin roofs. Most were dirt floored. Viewing them made one appreciate living in the United States, in our beautiful homes. Even our most modest home would be fabulous down here in the mountains. And yet, mothers, and children and your girls would emerge from these shacks, looking spotless in the clothes and appearance. The men and women work here from dawn to dusk on agricultural tasks, often getting to and from work on horseback or a bicycle. We passed several small farm houses flying the red and black banner of the FSLN. I tied to take a few pics, but a stable picture is hard to come by on the rocking and rolling  bus, as it lurches up roads that look a bit like riverbeds.

A Little over one hour into our journey, we passed a guy on the side of the road who told our driver we had a flat on the rear of the bus. The driver got off to inspect, and several passengers went to look as well. Then they started pulling the rear outside whee off the bus. At this point about one third of the passengers just got off and started walking up the road, figuring, I guess that they could walk home faster than the driver could change the tire. It took him about one hour to jack it up, change the tire and re-stow the old one. We drove on up the mountain. The road was pitiful. I will try and upload a short video of our lurching progress. We were certainly getting out there. Barb and I were the only gringos on the bus. This went on for hours. We finally passed through Concordia and then came to San Rafael, the highest city ion Nicaragua. It was a very pretty town perched on a ridge in the high mountains. It was the home of Augusto Sandino, and there is a museum there. Unfortunately, we were still on the bus and were now moving very fast on a paved road downhill.

Our planned two hour bus ride turned in to a five hour ordeal. It was just getting dark when we arrived in Jinotega, at what must be the worst bus stop in the country. We off loaded in the dark, unlit, muddy area. Trash was strewn form one end of the place to the other. I was frantic to find a bathroom, and stacked my gear near a vendor and Barb stood guard while I wandered a labyrinth of dark and dingy stall areas looking for el bano. When I returned, Barb was being harassed by two drunks and a mental case. We wanted out pronto, so humped our bags ten blocks of so, to gain some distance between us and the press of the folks at the terminal. 

We caught a cab to Hotel Sollentuna Hen. The lady and her family were helpful and showed us a clean but small room for $20. No bug screens, so we had top use ours. The management was sweet, but the place was over priced. We spent the night and walked 5 blocks to dinner. This town, unlike Estell is awash in plastic trash. There seems to be no system here. People just use the food in the wrapper, then throw it out the window here. The gutters are full of it, river are loaded with it. What a pain! We resolved to find a better neighborhood and room the next morning. We awoke and went on a walk through town. The setting for the town is spectacular, as it is nestled in a valley surrounded by mountains. The town itself is less spectacular. We found the only other ¨nicer ¨hotel, wanted $79 US a night. No way! We returned to our room before check out at 11 AM, and headed for the bus station.

Barb and I have a rule: If it is good, stay longer- If it is not good, Move on! 
Jinotega, for us, met the second part of the rule. We boarded a bus to Matagalpa.   
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