We are in Matagalpa this morning at the Matagalpa Inn on the south side of town next to the Tip Top (major Nicaraguan fast food chain) and across the street from Pollo Estralla (literally Chicken Star.) I got up before the kids so headed out to walk around town and get a feel for the area.
I took the highway north and then the first bridge to downtown. The walk along the highway was nice as there was a good sidewalk there. Mostly the walk when by many pulperias and fix it shops for different car components.
I did find two universities on the walk. Universities down here are so wildly different than in the US.
Turning downtown was a major change. Once you leave the highway the center of Matagalpa is very nice. A broad tree lined boulevard leading to downtown with a full city block dedicated for a very nice playground.
I walked around downtown a bit getting to see the cathedral, central park and getting a good feel for what the city is like. Then I returned to the hotel so that we could do breakfast as a family.
We had a nice breakfast in the hotel and then decided, based on my reconnaissance, that there was little of interest for the kids and not very much to see so that it would likely make more sense to do some driving first thing today and go see Jinotega right away especially as that is the city that we are more interested in.
So we got in the car after breakfast and drove north out of town through Molina Norte and up the mountains. The drive from Matagalpa up to Jinotega is a very quiet, mountainous road that is pretty slow going. The distance is short but the time is long. The whole drive was stunning, though. It was the best thing that we have seen in Nicaragua yet.
There was surprisingly almost zero traffic the entire way. This seemed odd as these are two large cities right next to each other and this is the only highway that connects to Jinotega. Everything that Jinotega gets or ships has to come in and out on this road.
We drove around the city on the highway first to get an overview then looped back and came through on the central avenue. Once past the central park, which every city here has, I pulled over and parked and we walked back to the park.
At the park we found a very large playground that the girls were very excited about. This was much safer than the one in Granada near our house, although we still had to be quite cautious as the large slide, for example, has dangerously ripped metal on it! We probably spent an hour on the playground and the girls made some new friends too. It was a very nice time.
The weather in Jinotega is what it is all about. It is always cool up here and often misty. Instead of the high eighties and low nineties it is the low seventies and at night it can even get down to sixty! A very different bit of Nicaragua!
We did a little walking around after the park and stopped at an Eskimo ice cream shop for treats before getting back in the car and driving back to Matagalpa. That was a fun break.
In a city like this, especially with the girls, there is very little for us to “do” when we are out and about. It is not like European cities loaded with museums and parks around every corner. There is generally a central park, a few churches to see and just residential calles. That’s it. So other than getting a quick overview of town and hitting the playground we really had nothing to do.
So back in the car and we returned to Matagalpa and our hotel. The drive was awesome again. Just such an awesome area.
In Molina Norte, just outside of Matagalpa, there is a new housing development going up with mortgages starting at just $240 USD per month. I have no idea why they put prices in American dollars when this is an area where Americans and tourists never go.
We got back to the hotel and did some searching for what we might want to do for dinner. Dominica decided that she really wanted to try this highly rated ice cream place and then get dinner somewhere nearby. It was an area of the city that I did not know and would have been a very long walk had we gone by a major road. Google showed a foot path taking me into the city so I volunteered to go for a walk and see how the area looked.
I walked north and then Google sent me down to a little dark walkway in the mud. It quickly went along the river bank in a really bad shanty town area by the back fence of the university. This was certainly not a place that I should be walking and definitely not at twilight. It is a really good thing that I came alone, this would not be a place to bring the kids. I only came down here because Dominica insisted that Google showed a bridge.
Not only was the area far too dangerous to be shown as a place to go, but there was no bridge there whatsoever. This was just a dangerous dead end. Thanks, Google. The area was bad enough that a guy there laughed at me (in a friendly way) and talked about how I had ended up in the wrong place for sure. So I walked back out.
I ended up doing a ton of searching for a bridge that I had seen from the river bank that was not on any map that we had, Apple or Google. I eventually just followed someone who looked like they might be going in the right direction for me.
I ended up going down an unlit concrete set of stairs without a railing by an old building that descended down to a different layer of town and dropped me in a dark, dirty ally from which I stepped out into a poor area of the city and walked a few blocks till I found the river and turned left to go north towards the bridge that I could now see.
The bridge was an old metal footbridge going over the Rio Grande. There were a ton of people going over it. It seemed so strange as it seemed to be in the most out of the way place but it seemed to be a major thoroughfare for everyone walking across the city.
I walked through the city to the southern park and discovered that there was a huge street fair going on tonight. The streets were just full of people heading to the fair. The park that I was heading to was so packed that I was barely able to get through it.
I was not able to find several of the places that Dominica had sent me out to find. Some were blocked by the fair and some I just could not find. They were setting off fireworks in the park too which was so loud that my jaw actually hurt from how loud it was.
I finally made it back to the hotel long after it was dark – which meant that I had done all of that walking through the city, over the bridge and up that odd stairway by the building in the darkness. All very odd.
Once back to the hotel Dominica decided that she wanted nothing to do with walking out there. So instead we drove downtown to a Mexican place that was well rated. Dinner was okay there but nothing special. It did not warrant the good rating that it had, that’s for sure.
Back to the hotel and to bed. We are going to move on tomorrow to Leon.