Remember Matagalpa, the magical land of fertile fields and friendly people nestled up in the cool highlands of Nicaragua, teeming with Volunteers and just waiting to be explored? I went back last weekend for my third visit, this time to a small village called Yúcul. My friend Joe, and Environment Volunteer, lives there, and he has always promoted the natural beauty that his site offers.
In the native language Yúcul means, “Bustling Metropolis.” The village occupies two whole sides of one dirt road on the side of a mountain, and boasts an impressive 800 people. There is, usually, water and electricity.
On Friday Joe took me to a pine tree reserve overlooking his town. Believe it or not there are pine trees in the higher elevations of Nicaragua, and it was great to get to hike under them. The smell was also great. I haven’t smelled pine in a long time and it was a very nice memory. They also grow passion fruit, which is one of my favorite smelling fruits. As you can expect from just about any and all hikes in Nicaragua, the views from the pine tree reserve were excellent (and slightly breathtaking because I was getting over a small cold and its accompanying asthma).
Based on my ‘bustling metropolis’ sarcasm, you can probably tell that Yúcul is a far cry from a well furbished city like León. I really admire the Volunteers who live in such austere conditions. Joe’s host family went to bed at around 8:30 PM, and Joe lit a candle for me so I could keep writing in my diary; otherwise the light from his room would have kept the family awake. There are no bathrooms in the house. They use a latrine in the backyard. Another PC visitor blogged about the latrine, calling it the “Worst Bathroom in Nicaragua.” To be honest, I’ve seen worse, although I didn’t have to do #2, so I really did not get the full experience.
On Saturday our friends Jen and Anna joined us and we hiked uphill from his town to Finca Esperanza Verde, location of the Best Bathroom in Nicaragua. FEV is a working organic coffee farm and eco-lodge. The views are wonderful, the whole farm is beautifully landscaped, and it is a wonderful place to visit. Day guests get unlimited coffee and bananas. On the hike back down we also saw a wondrously gnarly caterpillar.
And as for the FEV bathroom? I was a little underwhelmed. It was clean and functional, which is always appreciated. However, the sink faucet was very left hand discriminatory, which I didn’t realize until I had already soaped up my hands, so I had to perform some arm contortioning to turn on the water. 7.5/10 for the bathroom.
After FEV we headed for a night in Matagalpa. On Sunday I was in no rush to get back to León, so Anna and I tried to find some cultural things to do around the city, but we were a bit disappointed. There is the Carlos Fonseca House, notorious for always being closed, but other than that there is not much to do in the city other than eat. Matagalpa is a very outdoorsy city it seems (we were hiked out).
Getting to Yúcul from Matagalpa is fairly easy, because it is not far at all from the city. From Coltran Norte bus station (also known as Guanuca) take any bus heading towards Matiguás via San Ramón (could be the 10:00 AM to La Mula, the 11:00 AM to Santiago, or the 11:45 AM to Cerro Colorado, and more continuing on into the afternoon, such as to El Jobo or La Patriota). Tell the Cobrador (person who asks you for money) to advise you when you are at Yúcul. The ride costs C$25.
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