Return to La Mariposa

We’ve just spent two weeks at La Mariposa Hotel and Spanish School. We stayed in the cabin at La Reserva where a beautiful garden has grown since our visit last year.
Jan studied Spanish for 2 weeks, 4 hours a day. Alan managed the first week and then became a volunteer, gardening and helping a local young man practice his English. In the afternoons we joined in some of the activities with other students and volunteers. We visited the beautiful Laguna de Apoyo, went to the Pacific beach and took a couple of outings to the colonial city of Granada including a boat trip round the islands on the lake. We visited the majestic Volcán Masaya at night to see the red glow from the slowly moving magma – it really was like gazing into the centre of the earth!One evening a Mariachi band came to play.
We also found time to relax and set the world to rights with our friend Paulette in her beautiful garden.
La Mariposa and it’s projects are a great example of sustainable tourism at it’s very best.
There’s a lot more interesting information on the website http://mariposaspanishschool.com

At it’s various locations La Mariposa is home to a wide range of rescued animals including two white rabbits, 23 retired horses, over 50 dogs and more than 20 cats. A group of capuchin monkeys, victims of illegal trafficking, were brought in by the Police. There’s also a toucan, parakeets and other assorted birds mostly rescued from a life imprisoned in a small cage or  on a chain.
Many of these, including the capuchins and toucan have spent too long in captivity to survive in the wild and La Mariposa will be their lifetime home.
For others release back into the wild is a possibility and we were privileged to witness the opening of a cage to free a group of six parakeets. They seemed reluctant to leave at first! The following week a second group’s cage had be demolished around them.
Two spider monkeys who had lived chained as pets have been purchased from their previous owners and now live in the trees at the 140 acre Cañada Honda site bought to protect the wooded area from deforestation. Currently they are on long leads, have made friends and, in the near future, will be released one at a time to enjoy roaming in their splendid natural home. We were there on the day they were introduced.

Now we’ve moved on to visit our friends in Esteli but we’ll be back soon for our final week.

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Juigalpa and some history

It’s only 45 minutes from Villa Sandino to Juigalpa so we took it easy and went by taxi. The landscape changed surprisingly quickly, becoming very brown and parched. Even so cattle farming remains the main industry and Juigalpa, in complete contrast to Villa Sandino, is a hectic, prosperous town.

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We chose our hotel for the location, high above the town with terrific views of the nearby Amerrisque Mountain range. We didn’t expect the continuous wind which made sitting out on the terrace almost impossible!

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A silhouette of Augusto Sandino in the nearby park dominates the town. Sandino, a national hero. was a revolutionary who was assassinated in 1934 as a result of his opposition to the US military occupation of Nicaragua and dominance in Central America.  He became a powerful symbol for the FSLN (Sandinista National Liberation Front) which overthrew the dictatorship of  Somoza in 1979 and continued the fight against the CIA funded ‘contra’ rebels until 1986. The FSLN forms the present government and Sandino’s image appears all over the country often alongside another Latin American hero and revolutionary, Che Guevara!

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The archeological museum is the main tourist attraction displaying a large collection of pre-Colombian statues found in the nearby mountains. Said to be over 1000 years old, they mostly appear to represent men and women, very different from the petroglyphs at Villa Sandino. Despite the huge collection very little seems to be known about the culture that produced them or what they signify.

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Beyond the sculpture court there is a very eclectic collection including domestic items, early office machinery plus an unnerving display of stuffed animals, all with some kind of deformity, including a two-headed calf.

Jan took advantage of the shopping opportunities and bought a fetching cowboy hat.

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After two days, with nothing left to do we continued our journey to San Carlos on the Río San Juan.

Bluefields and Beyond

We thought we’d never make it here!

Nicaragua’s Atlantic coast is quite remote and very different from the rest of the country. Originally occupied by indigenous peoples it remained free of foreign influence for longer than Spanish Nicaragua. Pirates of various nationalities came first then a British protectorate was declared in the 1700’s. That lasted until 1860 and about 30 years later the area was united with the rest of (Spanish) Nicaragua.
Indigenous Miskito communities continue alongside the Garifuna people who have African ancestry, origins and culture similar to residents of other parts of the Caribbean. English, Spanish and local languages are all spoken. English is the first language taught in school. English names are commonplace – we’ve met George Fox and James Woods.
Bluefields is the main town and port, not easy to reach from the rest of the country unless, like us, you arrive by plane. Alternative routes by road and river are time consuming and uncomfortable.

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Bluefields Bay Hotel had been booked ahead; our friend Paulette stayed a few weeks ago. So why hadn’t the taxi drivers heard of it, nor anyone living in the street, nor people working on the building site that turned out to be the place? It seems nearly everyone knows it as Tia Irene, the restaurant still operating on the same site. It remains a mystery how our booking was accepted by a hotel undergoing renovations and with no roof! The water supply was turned off so we paid $20 for the night and two large buckets of water were installed in the en suite bathroom for our overnight needs.
Bluefields is a small working port town said to have been charming until most of the old timber buildings were destroyed by a hurricane in the 1980’s and replaced by uninspiring concrete. We didn’t find the Museum but we saw the huge Moravian Church which, having been destroyed, was rebuilt to the original design.

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At the dock early next morning we put our names on the list for the panga (boat) to Pearl Lagoon.
Jane Kelly Ellis who runs the snack shop there kept us entertained until departure time.

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This coast is a series of lagoons with scattered communities all mainly accessible by boat.
Pearl Lagoon is one of these and gives its name to the main town on it. We were told 4,000 people live in the wider area of Pearl Lagoon. We stayed at Queen Lobster in a cabin right over the water. It’s walking distance from the dock, just like everything else in town.
In some ways our 3 days here were uneventful and yet we learned so much that there will have to be another post about it!
The canon in the final picture is said to have been left behind by the British!

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