Ham pizza without the ham.
Trip Start Dec 22, 2006
97Trip End Feb 10, 2008
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Back on CA Highway 1 we rolled toward Sebaco on route to the mountains of northern Nicaragua. Within less than fifty kilometres we reached a stop in traffic. There were police everywhere directing traffic and onlookers from the nearby village lined the road. We were motioned to stop and being the first vehicle in line we were able to see that there was an accident between a semi tractor and a bicycle. The bicycle was still lying on the road in a twisted and decrepit state; however we were hard pressed to find a mark on the front of the rig aside from multiple splattered bugs. There was no-one lying on the ground, so we assumed that the cyclist was able to get up and walk away or was thrown into an ambulance before we arrived. The officer waved us on and we rolled forward and found nothing more to see as we passed the actual accident site.
The highway passed local farms and through small villages. The one common theme that we saw was that the cattle and horses in Nicaragua seemed very malnourished. The ribcage was clearly visible on every animal and their bodies were littered with scabs and open wounds. It was a sad sight. The town of Sebaco was not far from Esteli and we reached the turnoff in short order. From Sebaco we headed up into the mountains toward Matagalpa. The entire road was undergoing major construction between Sebaco and Matagalpa. It was a nightmare of a road and thankfully it only lasted for 40km or so. Traffic was frequently stopped to allow vehicles from each direction a turn to cross the single lane sections of road. It took us over an hour to get to Matagalpa, but we continually tell ourselves it is better in 'Nilla than on a sweaty chicken bus. Just before arriving in Matagalpa there is a cemetery on the east side of town built into the side of a mountain. The grave plots were brightly painted in a variety of colours. The entire area stood out enormously from the surrounding green and brown landscape.
We found parking on the street and continued our search for the tourist information on foot. Literally, we had to walk about a block and we ran right into it. Obviously, we possess better navigational skills on foot than we do while driving. The only options we received from the locals were to park at the fancy hotel for $20 USD or park down the street at the Esso Gas Station. We opted to check out the Esso. The friendly station worker named Oliver was quick to spot us trying to park and motioned us to a different area. The charge to camp for the night was C$20, which is about $1.20USD. That was more our style. We had full use of the bathrooms and were right in the heart of the action. The only downfall was that we needed to move the van out of the Esso lot by 6:00am to allow room for the garage workers to complete oil changes and other vehicle services. Luckily we are early risers, well at least Michael is, and getting up to move would not be a huge inconvenience.
With time to spare before sundown, we headed out to take in some sights of Jinotega. Seeing how the main attractions are landscape and wilderness there is not much to see or do in the actual town. We walked to the Central Plaza; however it was a tad to dark to get any decent photographs. Interestingly, the park was filled with a mix of palm trees and evergreens. It was odd to see the two types of trees standing side by side. The San Juan Cathedral across the street is painted white and stood out against the dark and cloudy sky. We ventured into the cathedral to look around and not minutes later we began to hear singing coming from outside. Sitting near the front of the cathedral we were a tad surprised when the singing voices slowly began to rise in volume and echo inside the church. Looking back we saw a white clad priest surrounded by altar boys coming down a side aisle of the church, while the parishioners were filling up the seats from every direction. We were officially part of Thursday night mass. A bit befuddled, we slowly backed ourselves out of church through the steady inflow of parishioners and were not a disruption at all. Phew! Outside, we laughed at ourselves for having such luck.
Originally, the church in Jinotega was a simple building for a simple people, surrounded by rural green mountains enveloped in misty white fog. The San Juan de Jinotega Cathedral was originally built in 1805, however has been rebuilt over the years; once in 1882, and again between 1952 to 1958. The building was given the status of cathedral in 1983. The cathedral houses splendid religious art and its claim to fame is the "Flagellated Christ" below the pulpit in the main sanctuary. There are only three in the world and this is the only one in the Americas. It is definitely worth a look.
Deciding that walking the streets was a safer bet, we rambled up and down the small brick stone roads and poked our heads into some of the small shops that were still open. One of our favourite signs was for a dollar store that read: "Todo Por Un Dollar - Mas ...O Menos", which means "Everything For One Dollar - More or Less". It cracked us up. We were walking around between 6:00pm and 8:00pm and most stores were getting ready to close for the night. As the shops dragged in their storefront displays and pulled the steel doors down, there were others setting up grills and loading tables with food along the sidewalk. The street vendors were getting well prepared for the nightlife. After walking around some more dimly lit streets, we finally found our way back to the main street that was home to most of the restaurants and bars. It was still too early for any of the bars to be hopping; however the pool hall was filled. The barbeque in front of the pool hall was spewing out smoke and the grill was loaded with all sorts of goodies including tacos, empanadas, enchiladas, and other assortments we did not recognize. We decided to sample some local food and walked closer to get a better look. The woman working the grill was very helpful and explained all the foodstuffs she was preparing. We tried a round ball of dough filled with chicken, rice and potatoes. Essentially, it was a massive chicken ball that had been fried and was now grilled to warm it up. It was served on a banana leaf and topped with the typical salad of cabbage, tomatoes and onions. In Jinotega, they also top there food with a hot pickled salad of cabbage and carrots along with hot sauce and fresh cream. It may not have been the healthiest choice, but it sure was tasty.
Walking around some more we found ourselves eying yet another grill. This time Geraldine decided to try the fried cheese and was not disappointed. The cheese here is quite salty and mixed with batter, and some dressing, was a wonderful snack. Michael grabbed a beef and rice enchilada that again was fried then grilled. Topped with salad, sauce and cream, he devoured the little treat in no time. The sidewalk grills charge about 40 cents for one of these snacks. It is a wonder how they even make money. All snacked up we continued to walk around town as there was not much to do sitting inside 'Nilla at the Esso station. We did not want to have all our lights on and draw attention to ourselves, so we avoided going home until bedtime. Tired of walking, we ducked into the small cantina across the road from Esso. We ordered some drinks and passed some time watching a horrible European movie dubbed in Spanish. Even without understanding all of the words, the acting was horrific. We nearly fell into hysterics when the fake blood used in the movie resembled 'Kool-aid' fruit punch. How budget! We decided to order a proper dinner as our snack food had slowly worn off. We split a typical plate of barbeque beef, served with cabbage salad, and grilled plantains along with rice and beans. One meal was certainly enough for the both of us. The total cost including drinks was just over $2. We watched a bit more of the movie before walking across the street to our campsite to retire for the evening.
A few more photos... http://www.kodakgallery.com/ShareLandingSignin.jsp?Uc=16xvaj2z.bxi6xwtz&Uy=-oe5dpq