Thursday, Feb. 18th
The morning started with awakening of the dogs barking, birds chirping and the sounds of the city coming to life. I climbed down my bunk bed and debated about how I wanted to begin my day, cold shower, stretch and yoga on the front porch or just the opportunity to make coffee and tea for my beautiful friends that I have grown so much closer to because of the experience of sharing Nicaragua. I opted for making tea/coffee in our little Casita kitchen. We shared fresh piña and melon before we headed across the street to the Casa to enjoy a traditional simple breakfast prepared by our hosts. But nothing is simple at the Casa. The food is prepared with love and the highlight of the morning is checking in with the mothers. Did anyone go to the hospital last night? Did any new mother’s arrive? Which women are bonding? How is everyone feeling? Even without Spanish it’s so easy to communicate with the mothers and thanks to our wonderful guide, Susan who oozes with love, warmth, respect and true compassion for the staff and the mothers, we made friends quickly.
After breakfast and our goodbyes we headed out for our day’s adventure with Matagalpa Tours. We were greeted by a handsome guide named Daniel, with curly hair, who learned English by watching US television, his two favorite shows were “Nine and a half men” and “The big bang theory”…….go figure. First stop was a chocolate factory just outside of Matagalpa. What a way to begin a busy day, learning how “real” chocolate versus “candy” is made. I will never buy Hershey’s or Nestles again. The highlight of the morning was dipping cashew nuts in a plate of chocolate sauce just made that morning. All of the workers were women and the realization of the power of the Nicaraguan women was just starting to sink in.
From chocolate, we drove off-road to the campo for lunch prepared by a local family. The campo had a preschool, a little church, small houses, dogs, a storefront where campo families bought pollo and a coffee plantation where our lunch hosts lived. The patriarch was 83-year old, Enrique who couldn’t help but try out his English with us and had an eye for Susan. Much to his granddaughter’s horror he asked Susan for “just one little kiss”. By far my FAVORITE meal of the trip, (and the food has been fantastic every where we have gone), was the lunch prepared by the family. Vegetables, rice, beets, chicken, beans and a carrot, orange and lemon drink that was as tasty as it was colorful. How this delicious meal could have been prepared in the simple dirt floor kitchen attached to the back of the house was beyond me, but we loved every taste and ended up fighting over the fried plantains! The family was so proud, “Everything we serve we grow on the farm. All orgánico!” It was obvious to us that love mixed with family, new friends and sprinkled with contentment and a desire to share a meal and a culture is the best recipe for a memorable lunch.
After a quick walk through the coffee plantation lead by one of the daughters who proudly explained the family business, (Daniel spotted a sloth lounging in a tree), we said our goodbyes to the family and headed out on a 6 mile hike through the mountains, dry rain forest, farms and orchards tucked into the side of the hills and even a cow pasture. We spotted monkeys, birds, frogs and thankfully no snakes Destination: a waterfall. We crossed bridges took our time enjoying the most clean air and beautiful vistas and arrived at our spot after about an hour and a half. The river was amazing, reminding some of us of Yosemite, or the Gold Country in California. Quiet, clean and remote we sat along the rocks and listened to the birds, the river flowing and the water rushing off the side of the rocks. Walking back towards the van, we passed a group of children playing baseball with a ball made out of socks and a wooden bat that was a fallen branch. We had learned that baseball is the national sport and soccer is growing in importance. Watching the children swing hard, run the bases and lose the ball in the vegetation reminded me that children are children wherever you are. Children are born with the spirit of love and adventure and laughter is a universal language.
Driving back to the Casita we saw the most beautiful sunset peaking out through the trees and our driver just seemed to time the ride perfectly. But there was one more surprise. Off the road was another waterfall that was developed for tourism. A six-mile hike was NOT required to see the falls. The site was closed, but of course Daniel was able to chat with the guard to open the gates to let our little van in. We scrambled off the van and walked down a set of stairs to be greeted by orchids clinging from trees, begonias with their white flowers dripping with moisture and turned a corner and found the waterfall flowing. I was thankful we didn’t have to share this with tourists just our small group of six…….perfecto.
As we headed back to town the Casa was calling me. Did anyone have her baby today? Did any new mothers come? Which of these strangers from the many different campos bonded? I couldn’t wait to hear the news and say my hellos to the mothers, knowing my day was very different from theirs, yet still feeling an intimacy and connection that I will never forget.