First stop in Nicaragua was in Somoto were we had hoped to have a look at the El Cañon de Somoto that sounded like a great place. After crossing the border earlier in the day, a quick lunch, and arranged for a place to camp, we drove out to have a look at the entrance or start of the canyon. As we passed what looked like the main entrance we saw all the local guys/guides jumping up and looking at our cars and waving their arms for us to come their way. One or two kilometers further down on the road was another sign for the Cañon Park, but as we talked to the people living in the houses next to it, we learned that the path was just for hiking and not for cars. As we talked to them one of the “guides” came up to us on a push bike . We told him that we did not need a guide just wanted some info about the park and then we would make a decision if we would come back in the morning. He said that we could get it information at the main entrance. At the entrance they still did not want to listen when we said we did not want a guide, but they did not want to back off. After about one hour we had had enough after a long day and decided that this Cañon was not worth all the hassle and we decided not to go.
The next day we moved on and drove up to the coffee capital of Nicaragua, Matagalpa, and further on up in to the highlands. The harvesting of coffee was done a while before we got there so it was not much to see, only coffee bushes and a beautiful landscape. After a few “no”s on our requests for camping, we got to Jinotega at Sunset. We stopped by one Hotel, Sollentuna Hem, that was listed in the Lonely Planet Guide with parking space, to ask if they would let us camp in their parking lot. It turned out that the friendly owner had lived in Stockholm for 20 years and that her mother had opened up the Hotel and named it after the barrio, Sollentuna, where they lived in Stockholm. Hem means “home” in Swedish.
Kind of weird to check into one place and be able to talk in Norwegian (Norwegian and Swedish is almost the same language) and see photos of the Swedish king and queen on the wall.
But we were lucky and had found our home for the night.
From Jinotega we continued south on some smaller roads east of the Pan-American Highway.
Found a perfect lunch spot down by the river. The river was well used by the locals who came down for a refreshing bath or for doing their laundry. The women were carrying or bringing their laundry on a horse, than standing in the middle of the river scrubbing and washing it before returning home to hang it up.
Seeing their hard work remained me that I should not complain when I have to do my laundry at home. I can just put it all into a machine, press a button and take it out when it is done, and all this without leaving my house.
Back along the Pan-Americana Highway the sides of the road was covered in plastic and other trash that people throw out of their windows while they drive. Nicaragua is the countries where we have seen the most trash been thrown out of windows so far and driving along the road towards Managua was not very nice. We had to drive close to Managua to get to the road that we wanted to take further south. As we got closer to the city there were several police check points. We were pulled over twice and the second time the police officer was not just happy to see our papers, he kept on talking about a “fraction”. When we are stopped by local police is our tactic not to speak any Spanish at all, not that we speak much anyway. But we figured that a “fraction” might be something wrong. Since we did not understand what we had done wrong and did not understand much at all, the police officer eventually gave up on us and we could keep on driving.
A couple of days later we were pulled over by the police again and he was not happy to only see the copies of our driver’s license, he wanted the ORIGINAL. So he got our international driver’s license. Again the police officer talked about the “fraction” and we realized it was a fault we had done, but we did not really understand what it was. Then he made a drawing of the “fraction”, and it turned out that I had crossed a line between two lanes where I was not allowed to. It was true that I had done this and probably had done the same two days earlier too. After almost five months on the roads south of the USA border we have started to adapt some of the local driving styles, but still it haven’t got so far as to overtake in curves. The police man wanted to give us a ticket of 20 USD. When we were able to communicate that we could pay the ticked in the bank, he said that he had to hold on to the driver’s license until we had done so. The officer never wrote a ticket, he just wanted us to pay him 20 USD so he could give us the license back. We did not want to do this and we just waited and he waited with my license and every now and again repeated that we had to pay the ticked. We said the BANK and he just looked down in the street. After half an hour he realized he would not make any money on us and gave us the license back, and gave us a warning saying that in Nicaragua when one got a ticked one had to pay it. Yes, when I have done something wrong, which I had done, I will pay my fine, but not into a police man’s pocket!
South off Managua we found Laguna de Apoyo, a beautiful lake in a volcano crater.
At the lake we met Tom and Janet (www.adventurouspirits.com), and we had some good days and evenings camping at the lake.
We also went exploring to Volcano Masaya, and in their museum we could all see where we are…