Hiking through Matagalpa – December 19-20, 2012

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So there was a hike that Kristi and I signed up for because it is a new hike with Quetzaltrekkers.  It is normally a 3 day 2 night hike through Matagalpa that they call the Northern Highlands.  Unfortunately, nobody signed up and the hike was canceled.  So we decided that we would do it the next day, pay our way and do it in 2 days instead of 3.  It’ll be easy without the clients slowing us down.

Wednesday morning, we met at Quetzaltrekkers around 7am and got our stuff together.  There’s 5 of us in total.  We leave by 7:15am totally unorganized, thinking we’ll buy food in Matagalpa.  We get to the bus stop to find out we missed the express bus by 10 minutes so we have to take a normal bus.  Our 2.5 hour bus ride turned into a 4.5 hour bus ride.

We get to Matagalpa, buy food in the market and decide on refried beans and veggies with tortillas as we don’t have anything to start a fire with.  None of us have done this hike before either so we are armed with a piece of paper written by a guide who has done it.  While we eat lunch, we try to prepare a game plan… Since Kristi and I are new, we decide to sit back and let them do this.  Probably our first mistake.

There was a serious lack of leadership on this trip.  Trouble following directions from locals and this led to us walking 10k around the outside of the  city to our starting point.  I suggested a few times we jump in a taxi but that went ignored.

Finally by 2:30pm we get to the start of the hike.  We’ve lost a lot of time and realize we’re going to have to fly through this hike.

The first climb of the hike was legitimately pretty tough.  Especially since I was grumpy and annoyed from all the random crap we had dealt with that day.  We got to the easier part and hit the lunch spot.  From there, we had more confusion. It was like the blind leading the blind with this group.  It didn’t help that the directions were things like “Turn right at the puddle” or “go back to the road you came from and follow the town”…  Kristi and I found the path we were looking for and were back on our way.

Unfortunately for us, there was a big ugly grey cloud rolling over us.  Kristi showed me some of the cool plants in the area including a fern that coils up when you touch it and a thorn bush that has ants living in the thorns and if something threatens the plants, the ants come out to defend it (Bullshorn).  Really cool stuff.

Sure enough, the rain starts coming down on us and we don’t have rain gear.  We hide out in a little hut over 20 mins while we wait for the rain to stop.

Checking the time before nightfall, we don’t have time to go to the peak.  We take a fairly easy path and end up back at the highway.

Eventually the bus comes by, we jump off at our stop and walk for 45minutes to our final destination.  This was pretty annoying because we didn’t have to get off the bus.  When you do the hike, you get off in that spot because it’s lunch time for day two.  We could have stayed on the bus and been dropped off right in front of our destination… way to read ahead.

I try to just make the best of the situation.  We arrive at the waterfall just as it’s getting dark.  The guy tries to charge us 200 cords to go in… our paper says 30 cords.  He walks away, comes back and says “Okay, 30 cords but you don’t get my protection”. Okay cool. We don’t care.

We hike down to the waterfall and get the headlamps out… we’re short one… again not planned very well but that was mine and Kristi’s fault.  So I’m in the lead with the headlamp and Kristi is following. It’s dark, wet, muddy and slippery.  We get into the cave and start setting up tents.  Kristi and I in one, the other 3 in the other.

We sit down and have dinner with our headlamps on, and it’s kind of depressing.  Now I’m kind of wishing we could have had a fire.  We finish eating, hang out till about 7:30pm and decide to go to bed.  The conversation with this group is tough. They either don’t get my humor or just don’t find it funny and I’m struggling to keep conversation with anyone.  7:30pm bedtime is a pretty solid option at this point. We plan on being up at 6am anyways.

I toss and turn all night.  The little sleeping mat is not enough on the rock floor of the cave.  I’m asleep for 20 mins, awake for 10 and repeat all night long.

We wake to the other male in the group yelling it’s time to get up.

-Okay cool, what time is it?

-7:40am! You guys slept late.

-Why didn’t you just wake us up sooner?

-I dunno.

Okay whatever, we pack up.  One of the girls had to leave early to catch the 9am bus so it was just 4 of us now.  They decide they want to swim in the brown water at the bottom of the waterfall, Kristi and I decide on coffee.  There is definitely a personality conflict but we have 6 hours before we have to catch our bus.  The conversation for the day is painful to be polite about it.  The 19 year old guy wants to argue everything for the sake of arguing.  I think he may be smart in the brain, but when he tries to translate it to words and people skills, it comes out like diarrhea.

We agree to walk down to another waterfall looking for a bridge.  The bridge is way off the road… another terrible direction.

We decide to hitch hike back. We get picked up within a couple minutes and get to enjoy a beautiful, relaxed cruise to the chocolate factory.

The chocolate factory is pretty cool.  The tour is in spanish and quite boring but Kristi is translating and we got to see how things opperate there.  They have 2 women who make all of the chocolate and they have very inefficient ways of doing things, but their chocolate doesn’t melt in the sun and is made all organic except for the sugar because it clogs up and destroys their machines.

We definitely didn’t plan for buying a bunch of delicious chocolate.  We are now in a spot where we are all buying chocolate and trying to budget for the bus and maybe a light lunch. Kristi and I buy one of each bar.

The walk back, I take charge and walk us in the direction we need to go, knowing that I will not add an extra 7km to our trip.  The other 2 follow us reluctantly.  Finally we stop at a park, grab a bite to eat.  30 cords got us a piece of chicken, rice, beans and a tortilla.  Good enough for Kristi and I to share.

Before we go, Kristi suggests we ask directions before going to the bus.  The girl insists she knows how to get there.  Kristi asks someone anyway and we take the lead again.  We arrive at the bus stop 90mins early but we decide to relax, put our flipflops on and just relax all the way home.

Finally after a long smelly bus ride we get to our apartment, shower, and head out for a good dinner at San Bonito.

The trip overall was a cool experience but the company was brutal.  Sometimes the people you are with can make or break an experience but we made the best of our own company and in the end enjoyed ourselves.  It helped that Matagalpa is a beautiful state with some amazing scenery. We may have to go back for a couple days when we travel.

Normally I am a very patient person, laid back and can get along with just about anyone… but the effort needs to go both ways.  The guy was constantly arguing with me and couldn’t even see that his points were moot in many of the things.  I’m pretty non confrontational and like to keep an open mind but speaking to someone so close minded and set on thinking they know everything is pretty annoying.

The girl with us is a very nice girl.  Though sometimes seemly snobby, the worst feature about her is that she is a hippie. She doesn’t shower or shave and hiking behind someone who hasn’t showered in a week is disgusting.  By the end of the hike, none of us smelled good and that can’t really be helped but if you’re going to put yourself in a situation where you interact with people on a regular basis, it makes it very hard to listen to anything you say when I’m gagging when I come within 10 feet of you.

The girl who left early is a sweet girl who we get along with great. A bit scatterbrained and disorganized but a great person to be around as she is usually bubbly and upbeat.  Almost a contagious attitude to have, I love it. She also might be moiving in with us.

I also believe that these people both lack the necessary leadership skills to be able to take command of things and it will be interesting to see how they act when they are in charge of a group of clients.  Either way, I have 3 more weeks to be around them, I get along with others in the group so I will make the best of it and not get into any unnecessary conflicts.

I was supposed to lead my first hike tomorrow with the 19 year old guide tomorrow but it doesn’t look like we will have enough clients.  I’m just about done my office shift, then Kristi and I are going to grab dinner and possibly head to Quetzal Playa for a “End of the world” beach party tonight.

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