Time to bid the river ciao and head to the mountains.
Lancha ride up the river back to San Carlos. As we departed the most boring town ever (check out my previous post), I saw the most sublime sunrise ever over the river. The landscape was painted in brilliant hues of yellow, orange, gold and red as the sun rose. Trees shrouded in mist in the distance, birds flying overhead, and the calm surface of the water, once again reminded me why I like this river so much.
Lancha stopped in El Castillo for a bit, where I checked in with Eduin, and said goodbye to him another time. God, I miss that cute, clean town and its good food already. Transferred to a bus in San Carlos for Juigalpa. It rumbled along a road that was at times unpaved and rutted, and after a long and hot journey, I finally arrived at my destination.
Went to Santo Domingo, a gold-mining town, the next day.
This country is humbling and inspiring me at the same time. I sat on well worn-out ripped leather seats on yet another all-too-familiar old school bus (chicken bus), listening to soulful Latino music, enjoying cool air blowing in from the mountains as we wound our way through a landscape of orange and green rolling hills.
These people are happy. They may be poor but they have dignity and strength. They help each other and above all, visitors to their country. On the long bus ride from San Carlos to Juigalpa, a soft'spoken boy younger than me but with rough hands that could only have been calloused from the rigors of manual labor, helped me out, and then bought me a drink when we stopped at a highway rest stop, refusing all my attempts to pay him. And the father of a family that sat next to me broke off some roll cake and passed it to me. And also the guy who was on the same boat from San Juan de Nicaragua. His name was Cesar, and he spoke to me in not-so-perfect English, explaining things and his country to me. He even gave me his phone number, telling me to call him if I ever visited the capital Managua.
With people like that, there´s no way I wouldn´t feel welcomed and loved in this country. The hospitality they extend is incredible, and I am grateful that I have the chance to receive it.
Nicas, as they call themselves, are not out to take advantage of foreigners. They do not artificially inflate their prices and quote you a ridiculous figure for a room or a meal when they see you´re from another country. They are fair, reasonable, helpful and ever so ready to help and share whatever they have, however little it may be.
To be honest, Santo Domingo was a tad disappointing. It was a dusty, unpretty town with nothing amazing. The Las Brumas hostel recommended by the guidebook for a jaunt in the nature reserve was a joke. The cabanas sound funky but are actually terribly run-down and the crystalline swimming hole consisted of a small, shallow pond with incredibly stagnant water teeming with insect life like mudskippers and mosquitoes. Not a place you´d want to swim in. Guidebook writers, and their over-hyped destinations again. The rest of the nature reserve was mildly interesting, though the cloud forest was pitifully small, surrounded by farms and grazing land on all sides. Learnt the name for leaf-cutter ants in Spanish: perrozompopo.
Juigalpa itself was a nice city although I didn´t spend much time there. I really liked the archaeological museum, which, though tiny and poorly-maintained, had fascinating displays of unearthed ancient treasures like statues, totems and ceramics, all intricately carved. There was also a section featuring stuffed weird animals and distorted foetuses, which I found disturbing (not pictured).