Thanks to some local advice from Salvador who lives in Managua, but is currently riding from Cape Town to Egypt we headed off on the back roads thru the mountains to San Rafael del Norte, Jinotega, and to Matagalpa. This is a not to be missed ride. Just resist the Pan Americana turn left! The road initially is brick, but eventually good pavement. The scenery is lovely on this often curvy road with little traffic. There are several nice towns and we stopped in San Rafael del Norte for a snack. The bikes drew a lot of interest from the locals. There is a nice square here in front of the church and the trees are filled with bromeliads. Ten km from Matagalpa is a Quetzal bioreserve (turn at the tank), but as we were there in the heat of the afternoon we did not stop to search out the elusive bird.
Matagalpa is a busy place, but there are very few hotels. We did find a nice place for 22$ with AC/Fan/Hot water and secure parking 50 m away for .80$. Here in Nicaragua they use moneychangers or Coyotes to exchange dollars for Colones or the reverse instead of waiting in lines at the bank. They give competitive rates, but we just used the ATM seems easier. The cathedral as usual is the center of the city.The main square has a large revolutionary statue and there are murals everywhere. The call to mass brought out a whole lot of nuns! Hey Joe another ice cream shot for you!!! There is an amazing coffee place in this small city. The best cappuccinos ever! The crepes are not too shabby either.
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