The thing about living in a city in Nicaragua and working nearly everyday is the fact that my traveling is restricted to, well climbing volcanos. Certainly not complaining, but when a day off comes along after a early shift at the office the day before I am jumping for joy at the opportunity to explore a bit more of this country. So when Romy, my super awesome, love her to bits, roomie and I where so lucky as to get a day off together we were over the top excited for a mini holiday away from León and the Quetzal Office. I have amazing colleagues that makes every day here worth wild and for this occasion it was our superhuman kick-ass, director Olga that so kindly gave us time together to travel to the North and the city of Matagalpa.
After putting two and two together, Romy and I figured out that we both would be done early on Monday and would so conveniently be able to catch the last bus to Matagalpa at 2.45. That made our getaway complete knowing we would be able to spend one night away instead of having to catch the bus at 4.40 A.M on Tuesday. And then to top it off, completing the complete, we got to catch up with four of our friends that had gone to Matagalpa earlier that day. Awesome mini-holiday sorted!
In a bit of a rush to reach the terminal and the final bus of the day, we made it in time to head for the north. Now, buses in Nicaragua are somewhat different than what we are used to back home. Most of them are old American school buses converted into what we call ‘chicken buses’. The ride itself is comfy enough and cheap as dirt. However, it seems that in this country they are concerned about giving their costumers maximum value for money whether they want it or not and if that wasn’t covered in the 2,5 hour ride for less than $3 then let’s throw in some entertainment as well to up the ante. With a big screen in front of the bus they are there to make sure you don’t get a freakin second in peace. If they are not blasting out reggeaton music non stop to your destination you’ll be literally tortured with some kind of hopelessly retarded martial art fighting movie that is SO LOUD that you have no choice but to endure the ride watching it, risking coming off the bus deaf, or if luck is on your side you still have fingers or some kind of equipment to shove as far as possible into your ear it almost comes out on the other side. Fuck it’s loud. I was lucky that I had my iPod on our journey back and I plugged in my music straight after coming on the bus. So imagine my shock when I took the earphones out when we were approaching León. It scared the shit out of me. If that wasn’t enough for service you didn’t wanted, let’s talk about the preacher who comes on the bus and starts going on about Jesus. Hey, nothing against Christians, but maybe, just maybe I would go to Church and not the local bus if I wanted to enrich my life with stories from the Bible. Not all things are annoying. Say you forgot to have breakfast before leaving home, what if you get cold and you need a pair of socks? Or maybe you need some remedies to cure you of absolutely everything wrong with you. Well, you have come to the right place. At the local bus you can get this and more. They will sell you anything here and they WILL sell it no matter how full the bus is. So step aside or more correctly squish your sweaty ass up against the faces of anyone who were lucky enough to get a seat, because these sellers walk the length of the bus no matter what.
Enough. This blog entry is turning out to be a post about my growing fascination about bus rides in Nicaragua. Let’s just say it’s an experience and if riding a local bus is not on your ‘to do list’ of authentic experiences then nothing will be.
So, after 2,5 hour on the bus we got to Matagalpa. We jumped in a taxi and drove through the streets enjoying the cool temperature and flashy lights from shop after shop making it so different from León. It was a great welcome. Thanks for the ride and we got off outside ‘La Buena Onda’ our hostel for the night and where the guys were staying too. Now, me and Romy have been living in León for nearly two months now and it has become an everyday affair going everywhere with just cash on us and nothing else, so when we arrived and ready for check in it hadn’t occurred to either of us that maybe, we should’ve brought some kind of ID.
They guy at reception was like; girls, I need your passports. Passports? Whatya mean passports? They are obviously back at Quetzaltrekkers and our bedroom for safekeeping. ‘Okay, so what about some other type of ID?’ What? Like our bankcards or driving license? Well, no because we weren’t gonna drive any and we already got enough cash to last us ’till we go back. Alright airheads. Getting a bit too comfy in Nicaragua, leaving any form of information about myself back at the place where everyone knows me. Brilliant thinking. So we were standing there like two idiots, not being able to check in until I remembered that I had a copy of my passport on my e-mail. Oh joy. Romy had to call the office and ask someone to take a picture of her passport and then send it to her so that she could give the guy something. Anything. In the end they let her off and we put our bags in the room, literally in awe of the bathroom that was something else then what we have gotten used to. We met up with the guys and found another perfect excuse for some drinks when Franklin got a job picking coffee at a farm not far from the city. Of course we had to celebrate!
So the first night we spent eating Mexican food at this awesome small restaurant in town, before we got serenaded by a local man with a guitar in a bar whilst testing out a new brand of beer. Actually the guy would not leave. And I mean, when you get 3 songs for a 100 cordobas you just gotta go for it. And when the guy starts on his forth song without any encouragement from us, then you gotta go for another 3 songs right? Yea, we were more or less sitting there in silence looking at each other through a 30 minute concert that was finished off with everyone singing along to La Bamba and thanking him ALOT for his very moving performance.
Next stop was brought on by the guys talking to this random local in the street that ended up taking us to a night club that was so exclusive no one was there. Except us… Okay, it was monday night though. Didn’t stop us from getting to know Joel by his old nickname (new to us) ‘three shot Armstrong’ and after providing proof that indeed lived up to his reputation we were ready to head back to the hostel and call it a night. We had an early start with Enrique sightseeing Matagalpa.
Enrique is a local that lives here in León with his family who usually hosts for tourists who spend time here either for studies or work like we do. For the last weeks he has been the host brother for some of the guys volunteering here and so he went to Matagalpa to show them around. Awesome guy, Enrique. He spends a lot of time around the Quetzal HQ and we have a lot of fun. It’s so cool getting to know local people. Great people in general. He came to our hostel early morning and me being on a mini holiday and all, was picturing a chilled out day checking out some different places around town. Sure we did, but Enrique was taking us hiking for threes hours! Awesome, I should’ve known that before all that beer last night. A bit apprehensive to begin with, I’m so happy we went. It was a beautiful walk through the forrest and waterfalls before we came to the top of a hill with amazing views of the city.
Back down, we had a quick run through the hostel before leaving for Castillo del Cacao, in English it has the wonderful translation of ‘the chocolate castle’. Awesome. We got a guided trip through the factory where they make 100% natural chocolate from the cacao beans that grow here in Nicaragua. And of course no trip to a chocolate factory is complete without testing the product itself. Mmmmm, now that was some good chocolate. To finish off we were suppose to go to a coffee factory as well, but with the last bus leaving for León at 4 p.m there was no time and instead we went to the central park and had the biggest burger I have ever seen, or eaten for that matter. It sucked, but for me and Romy it was time to say goodbye to the guys who were staying a bit longer before going to another city further away from Matagalpa. Experiences are so much about the people you have them with and these guys make everyday awesome. I’m so happy to have met all of these amazing volunteers at Quetzaltrekkers. They really make the most epic adventures even more memorable. And one noisy bus ride later we were back in León, two very happy girls ready to continue hiking volcanos and helping kids.