Saturday, November 1, 2008
Off and Running in Nicalandia....
I have to say I love Nicaragua. It reminds me of of El Salvador before the war, just bigger. Equally hot and humid, however, as in your shirt is dripping in 1/2 hour. The countryside is lush, peaceful and quiet, and and people are exceedingly friendly, and very helpful. Can I take your picture? Sure! Sometimes they even ask! There aren't any other tourists, and we are constantly asked where we are from. Seems like a country very much under the radar, at least this end of the country, which is up north near Leon, and coffee country. Prices are exceedingly inexpensive, the local food is a variation on the themes of plaintains, beans, rice, tortillas, and cheese, fish.
Managua is a bit like any other Central American capital city, noisy, too much garbage, the MetroCenter large mall is filled with young kids, a 'date and mate' moment. Very self conscious place, looking like it's trying very hard to be in Los Angeles. Lots of Texaco, BurgerKing, Coke, Shell, CitiBank, Benneton, 9 West, Fila, Nike...but that's about it so far. Our fist night was in a small 10-room hotel, Los Robles, new Spanish Colonial in style, great service, food and prices. Lots of bikes in use everywhere.
We (Veronica and I) decided to go high up to coffee lands to a completely sustainable coffee finca, and while it stopped us a bit short at first as it is Bavarian in style and content (with Octoberfest celebrations!) it is a very unique place on the sustainable map of important experiments. SEE: http://selvanegra.com/en/Coffee-Sustainability.html OR - http://www.planeta.com/planeta/99/0199selva.html
It would have been worth of inclusion in Omnivores Dilemma, by Michael Pollon. Mauzy and her husband Eddy Kohl, author of 10 books on local history and coffee industry, have invested heavily in the understanding of how bacteria can help in the process of natural pesticides, composting, creation of methane gas and bio-diesel, with solar and electricity from their lakes providing much of the power to run run a 1500 acre coffee plantation that produces organic coffee we can now buy at Whole Food in Santa Fe under the Selva Negra brand. They provide housing, education and health care for all their workers, numbering anywhere from 300 -450 during the picking season, when 7,000 tortillas and produced daily for the entire community! The farm produces all their food: cheese, sausages, chicken, beef, cheese, etc. etc. Truly a remarkable couple and an experiment that they hope receives more world-wide attention. Mauzy is now lecturing for Whole Foods in different parts of the country. The little bungalows and dining room need a bit of sprucing up, and the fireplaces didn't work, so the damp chill stayed on all night long. No matter. This is a unique effort in a true rain and cloud forest, where it can rain as much as 14" in ONE DAY.
We lucked out and got a ride with a visiting Frenchman (living in French Tahiti as a high school Spanish teacher) back down the mountain to Managua to then grab a microbus for $2 to go to the colonial town of Leon for the night and next day. I feel like I am in San Miguel, in the eastern part of El Salvador. Streets have the same dimensions, as do the buildings in size and style. Love it. We are splurging on the Hotel El Convento, an underdeveloped huge former 16th century convent. Lovely, replete with antiques, manicured gardens, palm trees! No one else is staying here. Taking a taxi back to Managua, then off to Grenada to join the group.
Posted by Judith Haden at 5:57 AM