Thursday, December 6, 2007


Its noon, and we have just checked into our hotel in Esteli. I have been unsuccessful at getting my email, so if you have tried to communicate, it´ll have to wait until our return on December 8th.

The trip has gotten better because of our tour guide, Juan, from Matagalpa Tours (subcontracted to Va Pues Tours). Yesterday probably the highlight for us was lunch hosted by Francisco, a campesina and her grandmother, and seven year old son. They live in mud and bamboo structures: one for the grandparents, one for Francisco and her son, and a separate one for cooking. There is no electricity or plumbing, and chickens run in and out; as well as a scrawny dog and cat. In the grandparents home was a small alter with a statue of the Virgin Mary on it. I'll post a photo if I have the opportunity. We were served tortillas, rice, tomatoes, and beans. Francisca feels we have bigger problems than she, implying she is spared the stress of industrialized life.

We spent two nights in Hotel Selva Negra, 9 km from Matagalpa. It is in the rain forest, and we could regularly hear a troupe of howler monkeys. We also saw parrots fly over, and my flashlight fell on a possum at night. The squirrels have unusually long tails, and there are numerous butterflies. The main building and restaurant is on a small lake populated by a gaggle of very noisy geese who strut between the tables.

Selva Negra was established by a German family three generations ago, and is a working coffee plantation. The cottages for guests are nestled among the rain forest, which grows over the roof. Our cottage reminded Judy of a dungeon, brick with so little light she read at night with a flashlight. For me it reminded me of those motels which haven´t been updated since the forties. Its walls were covered with old calendar photos, and the place smelled of a mixture of Lysol and mildew. The food was awful, unless you ordered sausage and sauerkraut, but the place was so remote you had to eat at their restaurant.

In addition to our lunch with Francisca, we went to a weaver´s home in a small place called El Chile. The road to get there was gravel, pot holes, and if wet, would be 4-wheel drive. Marta is a woman from Argentina, who married a man from Belgium. She obviously is well educated and well traveled. Yet she has been in this remote village for 25 years, and said its a life she prefers to the urban lifestyle. She taught the local women how to use a loom, and they produce purses, place mats, blankets, etc.

Pictured here is Marta and the women in her weaver's collective.

Juan then took us to the top of a mountain in El Chile, which we weren´t prepared for, as it was a trail best navigated with a walking stick and machete, neither of which we had with us. Worst of all it was so steep Judy didn´t make it to the top, and I fell three times. When we got back down we were both soaking wet. We were enticed up there for the view, but it was a hike that took a toll on both of us.

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