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NICARAGUA    INFO & DIARY  1

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 GENERAL INFO (Jump to Diary)
Nicaragua, officially the Republic of Nicaragua / República de Nicaragua  is the largest country in the Central American isthmus, bordered by Honduras to the northwest, the Caribbean to the east, Costa Rica to the south, and the Pacific Ocean to the southwest.
Paleo-Americans first inhabited what is now known as Nicaragua as far back as 12,000 BC. At the end of the 15th century, western Nicaragua was inhabited by several different indigenous peoples related by culture to the Mesoamerican civilizations of the Aztec and Maya. In 1502, on his fourth voyage, Christopher Columbus became the first European known to have reached what is now Nicaragua. The first Spanish permanent settlements were founded in 1524. The Captaincy General of Guatemala was dissolved in September 1821 with the Act of Independence of Central America, and Nicaragua soon became part of the First Mexican Empire. After the monarchy of the First Mexican Empire was overthrown in 1823, Nicaragua joined the newly formed United Provinces of Central America, which was later renamed as the Federal Republic of Central America. Nicaragua finally became an independent republic in 1838. Great Britain, which had claimed the Mosquito Coast as a protectorate since 1655, delegated the area to Honduras in 1859 before transferring it to Nicaragua in 1860. The Mosquito Coast remained an autonomous area until 1894. José Santos Zelaya, President of Nicaragua from 1893 to 1909, negotiated the annexation of the Mosquito Coast to the rest of Nicaragua. In his honour, the region was named "Zelaya Department".
Throughout the late 19th century, the United States and several European powers considered a scheme to build a canal across Nicaragua, linking the Pacific Ocean to the Atlantic.

Nicaragua occupies a landmass of 130,967 km2. Nicaragua has three distinct geographical regions: The Pacific lowlands – fertile valleys which the Spanish colonists settled, the Amerrisque Mountains (North-central highlands), and the Mosquito Coast (Atlantic lowlands/Caribbean lowlands).
The country harbour 248 species of amphibians and reptiles, 183 species of mammals, 705 bird species, 640 fish species, and about 5.796 species of plants.
The currency is Quetzal, worth around 0,20 DKK and €0,03.

DIARY
11/12. I arrival by bus around two in the afternoon from Honduras, crossing the Rio Guasaule. It is a slow process on the Nicaraguan side, but the co-driver handle it all, and I get to warm up for the next stint: The bus is way too cold. At first, it seems like Nicaragua is a bit down-trade. The small huts are made of boards or sun-burned clay blocks, and it seems  to be a bit more dirty. A new feature is the tri-cycle taxis. The road follow a wide and fertile valley, flanked by some truly amassing volcanic cones.

I figure I can save at least 10 hours bus drive, jumping off in León. Further more, it is on my list of sights. I lack the local currency, and I rather not start spending my reserve UD$. I just walk to the hotel I have found, around a kilometre from the highway. It is a worn-down neighbourhood, but the people sitting outside their humble homes are smiling. I find the real cosy hotel right away, and it does live up to its name: El Jadin. It is perfectly located between the bus terminal, the market and the central part of town. I drop the bag and jacket, and head into the centre of town, to find a ATM.

In the last beams of sun - and after they run out, it look so cosy. It is an old colonial town, and it sure have its charm! I try a few photos in the fading light, both by the natural cobblestone-streets, the ancient houses and the people. I pass one church, and head for the bigger one, next to the square. Here are the banks as well, and I re-draw a bunch of the local Quetzal.

Although it is real tempting to wander around in the so cosy town, I just grab some local food, and head home to work. I might see it tomorrow evening, should my next bus not leave at night-time. I sit and work outside in the green courtyard, enjoying the 25-30C in deep contrast to the bus' 17C. The drive to León and a bit of night-in-León

12/12. My intentions of catching up on sleep failed due to a mild heat-stroke. Apparently, I should have drunk more in the cold bus, I spend the day in. I do get the relatively late start I intended, and hit the charming town at nine, after the included breakfast.
Just around the corner, I find the huge - apparently; endless - market. Some areas are covered, others open, and all sparkling with life. I try to control my eager trigger-finger, but it is SO hard! I am aiming for the terminal to sort out a bus or two.

After a bit of asking around, I find the spot where the Esteli bus leaves from, but only at 12;45 and 14;00. Well, I don't mind spending time here anyway, and I'm in no rush. The El Salvador bus is a bit more tricky to find, and I end with a fixer. I THINK I get a bus, all the way to San Salvador on the right day, and at eight in the morning.

Then I slowly make my way towards the central part of town. Here are only a real few modern buildings, the rest as cosy as they can get. Like in Honduras, horse wagons are everywhere, along with tricycle taxis, but here are no heavy-armed guards. People are perhaps a tad more shy - but far from all! So many wide smiles greets me everywhere.
I see the central market with mainly clothing and plastic toys. The click-clacks and yo-yos are famous right now.

In the square, in front of the cathedral, a huge Mexican dance-show is on. In the shadows, additional musicians and other performers are waiting for their turn. At noon, I find a freshly made pineapple juice at the square, and rest my legs. Then I slowly make my way back to the market to find some lunch. Chicken - and only chicken - is offered in 95% of the restaurants, but I find a little shop on the sidewalk, offering some closed and frittered enchiladas with slightly spiced rice and cheese.

I can't resist yet another loop at the endless market, and I even find a tailor. Back at the hotel to collect my backpack, and then the tailor don't want the job. However, I did see a shoemaker, having his entire shop on a tri-bike around the corner. He fix in 45 minutes for less than €2 - and it look like new, and he even had a stronger zipper.

Considering the almond of impressions and photos I have made so fare, I head back to work at the hotel. That way, I have the time to spend, at the central part of town, after dark. I head back at five, and soon after, it is dark night. I do several loops around the central part, find some sweet pancakes with cheese filling, and see the large dancing dolls. I'm back at seven, and get early to bed. Fantastic León. Well, I make a slideshow with HIGHLIGHTS FROM HONDURAS.

13/12. I have caught a heavy cold in the bus the other day, and that take off the edge of my energy. I head out to the El Salvador bus company to change my ticket a day forward. Then, I can't resist yet another tour around part of the market, but I try to control my trigger-finger. Then I make a long stroll in the outskirts of this large town, but with the exception of a yard with tied-up fighting-cocks, I don't see anything special.

I check-out at eleven, and head to the terminal area to find lunch. As no surprise, I find new unexplored areas of the huge market and terminal area, and a nice dinner: Rice, beans, fried banana, cooked egg, pickles and what might be tofu. Along with a large glass of juice, I have to pay €1,50.  I have an hour to spend, and do a few more loops, get yet another juice and a short and fruitless Spanish course.
I get my ticket; seat no 57, in the middle of the well maintained bus! Here are three seats in one side, two in the other, and they are close! At least, I got a seat; the ale is filled with late arrivals, standing up.

The bus leaves on the dot, and we first drive through huge fields with corn and cane, then it get more dry, and cattle fields take over. Some huge volcano cones are seen in the back of the valley. One area have rice fields, lush and green or newly flooded. Less than three hours later, we are in Esteli. While I'm at the terminal, I ask for the return bus. It does NOT leave from this terminal, but the northern one - 300 metres down the street. They have no fixed times; it depends on when the bus is sufficient filled.

I have a spot for a hostel 1,2 kilometres from my car rental company, but as I pass the compagny, I see a sign for another hostel, 20 up the side-road. I get a nice room, and she offers me coffee or tea! I grab a cup, before I head into the centre of town. I have nothing particular I want to see here, but two hours of daylight to spend. The town will have its huge Christmas festival this Sunday, and the centre of town is preparing.

It is a less old than, compared with León, and it does lack the charm. That said, it is fare from bad. I take a round around the central square and head back home on the main street, looking for dinner. Avoiding meat does make it challenging, but at the last corner, I get a burgerbar to make me a salad with rice and French fries. Not what I had in mind, but I have to cut down on the corn and cheese! The last bit home is in the pitch dark, but I feel so safe in Central America - when I avoid the big cities. It is a bit chill, but at 850 metres height, that is expected.  From León to Esteli by bus.

14/12. I hardly sleep due to my cold have transformed into a flue with fever. I either freezes or sweat immensely. Never the less, I pick-up my nice Toyota Jaris in good time. Then I head up north by the beautiful NIC-1. The first part is still at +800 metres height, and it is pretty dry. At first, here are some corn and tobacco fields, then it is mainly cattle fields, and I have to stop at a few of them: They are covered in cacti and agaves. And many fields are surrounded by stonewalls.

As a special treat, I find a huge colony of Jatropha podagrica; a caudiciforms which I love. I walk carefully around; flip-flops are probably not the best footwear for this environment. I find at least five different cacti species and two agaves.

The road descents a bit, and it turn significantly more fertile. But the hillsides are not for farming, and they are covered in lush forest. A few humble farm huts are found along the road, and horse and even oxen carriages are common.
Most rivers I cross are dry, but Rio Coco carry water from far away. The NIC-1 is a beautiful road, and I enjoy every corner and view.

At noon, I reach the little mountain village of Dipilto at 880 meters height. It is not as remote and unspoiled as I had expected. The entire village is made into some sort of Via Dolerosa! I do several loops, and do find some humble huts along the river. The hills on the other side of the road is partly covered in pines.

I head back to Somoto, and find my hostel. It have a great looking garden and hot water. What more can you ask for at €9? I drop the bag, and seek down-town for lunch. It is a little cosy and unspoiled town, and on the central square, I get a burger without steak, at a little wagon. I do a loop and find their little Christmas market in the main street.

But, It is getting late, and I am determined to see the National Monument of Cańon de Somoto. I am not sure how it works, and go for a guide, which might be mandatory anyway. Rigco is a great guy, and understand my love for plants and nature in general.

We drive a bit into the area, park the car and start hiking into the more and more narrow canyon. Here are another species of Jatropha with real nasty and poisons spines, Mammillaria, Opuntias, Cereus and another cacti, along with numerous Bromeliads and two species of Agava.

We end up at a fantastic viewing point - which would have been better in the early morning. From here, we follow a narrow trail down to the Rio Coco and walk a bit into the canyon. Then we enters a little rowing boat, and get further in. The vertical walls are covered in Bromeliads, orchids and other interesting plants. The huge and fat Cieba trees towers everything else.

I get to climb the rocks, finding some real interesting plants, while the average tourist swims further in. I find more joy in finding a relative to the Jerico's Rose: Selaginella lepidophylla. A single lizard get framed along with a wasp.
We row back, and then follow the river for quite some time. We get back out after three great hours.

It is almost dark, when I get back to Somoto, and I look for dinner. I end up with rice, sweet potatoes in cheese sauce and steamed carrot, broccoli and potatoes. I feel quite used, but finish my daily work before I head the bed. Dipilto village, Somoto and Cańon de Somoto.

It is time to enter the central art and Diary 2.

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