The small slightly charming but quiet town of Somoto lies about 20kms from the border. Once the taxi dropped me off in the centre of town I made my way to the Pan American hotel. The room was basic and cheap but the monkeys in the courtyard were fun to watch and the two cats and one dog were super friendly.
The reason people come here is to visit the nearby canyon and the hotel runs a tour there for about £10 so I signed up for the following day.
That evening I wandered around the centre of town, noting how much the locals love their fruit machines, amazing myself with my own stupidity when it came to finding the only atm in town and discovering that the local beer called “Tona” was really rather refreshing.
In the morning I had my usual breakfast with monkeys, cats and a dog and then I got ready for the tour. There were five other people coming along, a middle aged Czech couple, two Belgium lasses enjoying a weekend away from a N.G,O in the capital and a Swedish lass who had the same 1st name as my favourite Portuguese singer.
It was a short ride in the taxi back towards the border and soon we were walking along a dirt path up and over a steep rise (which I did slowly) before plunging downhill to the river and the start of the canyon adventure. In this part of central America its the middle of the dry season so the flow of the river is slow and apart from the well'ard trees everything else is brown and dormant. Its also hot but the river was cold.
When we reached the banks of the river we walked across rocks and pebbles for 100m and then it was time to get wet. With our life jackets on our feet got wet and slowly the water level rose till with a chilly shudder the water was waist deep. The canyon is up to 100 metres deep and narrow. In many places the river was less than 10 ft wide. We continued walking/swimming/floating downstream...I preferred the floating!
After a while we came to an abrupt turn in the canyon with a waterfall the rivers only means of escape. Climbing out and up onto a large area of rock and grit we basked in the small section of sunlight till our cold bodies had warmed up. To get back into the water was easy, all you had to do was jump!
In this section of canyon the water was deep and the canyon walls slowly got further apart. Before long I was in bright sunshine and I was glad I was wearing my sunglasses.
Eventually the floating was over and after a short boat ride we were back on dry land with a one mile walk back to the road and a waiting minibus.
The next morning I walked to the nearby bus station and waited for a bus to the town of Esteli. By 11:30 I was at the bus station in Esteli, wondering where to go. After a two hour wait a bus for Jinotega showed up...that was good enough for me. The bus went via the back roads, the long climbs up the mountains tortured the engine and the descents made the brakes squeal. Three hours later I was in Jinotega, a small town surrounded on three sides by steep jagged mountainous ridges. There's not much to do in the town but it was a nice place to spend an evening.
The following morning it was a 30km bus ride to Matagalpa, it took over two hours. The mountain roads were long and steep but the views were fantastic. Arriving in Matagalpa I got a room in a hostel halfway down the main road in-between the two central squares. I checked out the local tour company to see what was on offer but it turns out because Matagalpa is slap bang in the middle of the highlands every tour involved at least a three hour hike. As beautiful as the mountains and cloud forests are they were also bloody steep. My left ankle doesn't do steep any more so sadly I had to decline their enthusiastic offers...bugger!
I spent two nights in this town, the second night I came across Woody's bar and grill. That put a smile on my face and ice cold beer in my belly.
The next day I walked to the bus station for transportation to the city of Leon. I was joyfully surprised to discover it was a minibus. Less than two and half hours later I was in Leon. Looking in the guide book I choose a hostel and took a taxi there. The room was basic (shared bath) and it only cost C$445 a night. What the f......???? The last two places I stayed in cost C$260 and C$300 an night and both were en-suite with cable tv. (there are about C$35 to £1)
However it was hot and the hostel did have a pool, hammocks and free wifi...so what the hell!
I found the town of Leon to be somewhat of a slight disappointment. Its nice enough but it ain't no Antigua.
It is now Friday morning and I was going to be leaving this morning. Turns out I can't be arsed. There is always mañana and I'm spending the morning watching BBC world news on my laptop reporting from Japan and the devastating earthquake.