It’s over. It’s done. Ten weeks in Nicaragua have flown by – but I think I have a good amount to show for it. In addition to getting to know the country better, and exploring all that it offers, I actually did do some work (my father is a bit worried that that has not been clear in my blog). All in all, did I change the world in 10 weeks? Probably not. But I learned a great deal – and I’d like to think I did contribute to Agora’s overall mission.
But before I left, I did manage to squeeze in a few more trips around the country – and knock a few more things of my list of things I wanted to do. First, I finally got to milk a cow. I don’t know why, but I’ve always wanted to milk a cow. I’ll have to say, it was a little anticlimactic. The cow in question didn’t seem to have a problem with it, but I felt a little bad tugging on her udders like that. I wouldn’t want someone to do that to me.
I also made it out to the Chacocente wildlife reserve where Matt owns several plots of land. The dry tropical forest on the edge of the Pacific was declared a reserve primarily because of the turtles that come to lay their eggs on the beach. We didn’t see any of the turtles, but we did see their nests. Unfortunately, many of the nests had already been scavenged. In addition to animal predators, the eggs are also at risk of humans who sell the valuable eggs to be eaten, or exported to El Salvador to be used in shampoos and lotions. Though the beach is monitored at night by a handful of rangers and members of the army – they still can’t protect all of the nests.
And finally, I made it up to the Cañon de Somoto on the Honduran border. Local Nicaraguans from the region of Somoto have of course known about the canyon’s existence for years, and in fact it was through this area that the US backed Contras crossed into the country to fight the Sandanistas. But, it was only recently “discovered” by European tourists, and so is even less untouched than other regions of the country.
To reach the canyon you drive up through the lush foothills of Northern Nicaragua. In Giaconda Belli’s book “The Country Under My Skin” she talks of the great joy she felt returning to her country and its beauty after years of living abroad prior to the revolution. Reading her book in the not quite so picturesque Managua, I had a hard time imagining what she meant. But on the drive north it finally made sense. At this time of year the country is alive with lush green vegetation, and pictures don’t begin to do it justice.
Part of the impetus for this final trip was a visit from my friend and traveling companion Irene from Spain. We only had two days to get up to the canyon and back, but it was worth. We set out early in the morning for the hike into the canyon, which starts in a small village just outside. Once we reached the canyon, we hiked along the river for a ways until we came to the site where Irene would repel off of a 60 meter high wall. I, on the other hand, decided that ziplining and sandboarding were enough adventure for the summer, and only climbed up to the drop off so that I could take her picture.
Next we donned life jackets and set off floating down the river. Most of my experiences in rivers have involved a boat, or at least an innertube – but for this voyage all we had was the life vest and two guides. Luckily, they knew the river fairly well, and before each set of rapids they would head down first so that they could catch us and pull us out of the current before we got too far down the river. Unfortunately, I don’t have any pictures of that part of the trip – though it may be just as well as I’m sure we ended up in some slightly comprising situations as we grabbed onto them each time – but I’m sure it was all for our safety. . .
I spent my final night in Nicaragua in my favorite town of Granada and had a wonderful send off. It’s an amazing country – and for all of its political and economic challenges – it’s so beautiful and full of potential. I don’t think this is the last I’ll see of Nicaragua and I have a feeling my path will lead me there again. But for the time being, it’s time to say adios.