Today was a special day for Gaila and I. Talk about unexpected pleasures. Yes we were certainly looking forward to our hike with a guide in Nicaragua but we had no idea how special this little slice of heaven would be. We are part of a small group of travelers who ever make it to this great site and experience just east of the Honduras border, west of our small village stay in Somoto. We heard about this gem from Bobbie at D&D Brewery in Honduras. Also a must stop!!! We sort of forgot the name, but when we crossed we asked the gas station dude where we should go in his country. He mentioned the canyon so that became our target. Fortunately the guy in our Hotel Colonial was more than happy to hook us up with a local guide. We think his name was Uliese but hard to say for sure.
He picked us up this morning at the hotel around 9am as planned. While we thought a taxi ride was up next we were treated to a 6 block walk and then 45 minute wait for the local “chicken” bus. So named as they will often have local produce, chickens or otherwise loaded in or up on the top as locals bring products/livestock to market. The wait was OK and I did everything I could to be zen with it. Gaila is better at waiting than I am. We listened to a couple of backpackers play guitar and sing Dylan songs while we waited. Pretty nice really.
Once on the bus we were in for another little tour of the Nicaragua country side. At times it looks like Eastern Washington, but mostly I think a cross between New Mexico and AZ. Mountainous and a bit dry the closer we got to the Guat border. Then all of the sudden greenery took hold again. Little did I know at the time but it was due to the Rio – the exact river we would be hiking and swimming through on the first part of our trip. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Somoto_Canyon_National_Monument
After a bit of further delay we all piled into a taxi. Jon, our new friend traveling from Texas squeezed in the back with Gaila and I while our guide sat in the back hatch holding the open door as we cruised along at unsafe speeds. (Somebody with the cabbie was sitting in passenger seat.) After safely arriving at the entrance – actually the normal exit – we started what would prove to be a 5 hour hike, swim and boat ride through the amazing Canon de Somoto. After being “discovered” in 2004 it became a Nacional Monument in 2005. Tourism here is still new and is mostly helping the local area. Unfortunately a few visitors have elected to put graffiti on just a couple of walls / rocks. With time and care hopefully this will get better.
Here is some supporting video fun: https://vimeo.com/58599470 More to follow.
To make a long story short this was an incredible journey. Hiking along narrow trails, lava rocks, sand and river stones made for a treacherous day. Gaila and Jon both fell a couple of times. Fortunately my previous life as mountain goat kept me upright. Ha ha. Luck of the Irish more likely. Often we would leave the footing of dry land and venture into the shallow waters. Thankfully the clarity made for generally easy passage. Still other moments we were chest deep or swimming to get to the next spot. Wow, was the water perfect. With a bright shining sun and warm temperatures we were treated to the perfect day. Never too hot, but always comfortable in the pleasant waters. Several times during the day we had some fairly challenging bits to cross. I kept wondering to myself – since I couldn’t ask in Spanish – if our guide had anything resembling a first aid kit in his small bag. Given the remoteness of our location, I was afraid of the answer.
Still more fun came our way when we had the opportunity to jump multiple meters into the deeper pools. Gaila was more than eager and when in with the enthusiasm and confidence that can only come from growing up on the Snoqualmie River. That and jumping off “Old Rickety”. Probably spelling that wrong but I have always appreciated her stories of that and her love of water. Even though I have given her a hard time once or twice about our constant need to swerve for water attractions. I too enjoyed the final jump of over 8 meters. About 24 feet for the unmetric folks. :-)
After watching the local kids dive off a much higher cliff we were able to complete our formal hike. As we came to the end of the traditional feature we were treated to a short rowboat ride back to the entrance. Or so we thought. As it ends up, we hiked about another 5 kilometers back to the casa were a cold Cerveza Tona was waiting for our now parched lips. Perhaps this quick write up will give you some idea, but I think the pictures will tell most of the story. If you should ever find yourself in this part of the world, please go and visit. You will be ever so glad you did. Gaila and I have finished the evening with local fruits, vegetables and pan (bread) from the local market as our dinner. Pure happiness. Now as I prepare to upload the pictures other guests in the house here have started singing with a beautiful Spanish guitar and voices blaring out. Oh, was that the church bell form local Cathedral build in 1661 that just rang? Yes, I think so. I wonder if the Black Christ inside this special place knows he is made from a special local wood? Just one more of the countless things that keep demanding our attention and appreciation in this wonderful part of the world. What a superfantasitc day. Thank you Gaila! Tomorrow it is off to Esteli and then Leon. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Estel%C3%AD,_Nicaragua
“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry and narrow-mindedness” – Mark Twain