Nicaragua | Exploring Managua
The final few days of our El Camino Travel excursions were spent in Managua (you can read about previous adventures in San Juan Del Sur and Granada) at the El Bajo cloud forest sanctuary. Similar to the HulaKai Hotel, this was yet another paradise tucked away in the jungle, but on a whole other level. Heavy rain greeted us the afternoon we arrived and I recall struggling up the muddy stone hill in crappy flip flops to our temporary homes, a little uncertain about what we had just stepped into. Turns out it was something I’ll forever refer to as Yurt Heaven. From what I remember hearing, the Habitarte sanctuary was newly finished last summer and is open to groups of ten or more, but I’m unable to find a booking link online to share here. My travel roommate, Jennie, and I walked into our yurt and couldn’t believe how beautiful, cozy, and stylish it was. Here we were out in the middle of a forest, away from the distraction of wifi, with the sounds of nature all around us, and yet we were standing in the most luxurious little haven. Our remaining days of the trip were spent here and at the nearby Apapachoa community center. We had a less active itinerary during these final days of the trip, and instead we spent more time resting and relaxing.
As I mentioned, we arrived late in the day to El Bajo accompanied by a downpour. Once we got settled into our yurts we headed over to Apapachoa, an eco-cultural community center that promotes agroecological agriculture, education through art and music, and eco-tourism. We met up with a group of locals, many of them children, who showed us the art of capoeira and took turns partnering with us so we could learn some of the basics together. Capoeira is a Brazilian martial art that combines elements of dance and music. It may look graceful and effortless when done well, but let me tell you it’s definitely not easy. I loved that everyone in our groups was so willing to give it a go. Even though I’m sure we looked a bit silly in our attempts, I laughed until my cheeks hurt.
We started with a nice and slow morning, including yoga and breakfast. I chose to skip yoga as I started to get really sick and fatigued in these last two days, but man was I sorry once I heard about how wonderful it was from others! I spent the morning finishing The Bright Hour: A Memoir of Living and Dying. It’s written by the late poet Nina Riggs, a mother of two young sons and the direct descendant of Ralph Waldo Emerson, who chronicles her journey with terminal breast cancer at 38 years young. It’s lightness and heaviness in equal measure -- exquisitely profound, hauntingly vulnerable, and so brave and big-hearted. In one of the most peaceful places I’ve ever been, I sat there overwhelmed in disbelief that I was existing in this spot on earth feeling so dang lucky and grateful to experience it.
The rest of the day was spent back at Apapachoa where we participated in a drum circle, which was my first and definitely my last. I prefer to leave the music making to those with actual rhythm and talent. We toured the vibrantly colored community center as well as its gardens and grounds. To close our final night of the trip, we had a fabulous meal with drinks at the Habitarte. At the table we went around and shared a favorite memory from the trip and it was the perfect way to reflect on our time together.
The next morning we wrapped up our final day with breakfast at El Bajo before we headed back to the airport, said our goodbyes, and made our way home.
FINAL NOTES oN NICARAGUA
It’s easy to see why tourism is growing in Nicaragua -- the land and its people have so much to offer. The coastline, lakes, volcanoes, and jungles provide both adventure and relaxation. And the people and cities we encountered were full of life, color, and flavor. Costa Rica has been a popular Central American destination for much longer, but a stop in neighboring Nicaragua is equally rewarding and a bit more undiscovered.
One of the things that stretched me most was the poverty I witnessed; I had never seen this way of life up close before. Nicaragua is the second poorest country in the Western Hemisphere and 70% of the population lives on less than $2 a day. During portions of our drives to and from each city we passed by communities on the roadside. The homes were made from the most humble materials one could use for shelter, just wood and metal sheets to form roofs and walls. There seemed to be no plumbing and no electricity from what we could tell. Seeing men, women, and families sitting outside just being with each other and looking out was a bit jarring. The same crowd in wealthier countries would likely be fussing with technology and mostly staring down at phones. Here, they were just simply human beings, being human. It all seemed so inadequate, yet whole at the same time. While touring Granada our guide spoke about the school systems and education across the country. While primary schooling is free and available, it’s all too common for children to withdraw at an early age in order to take part in agricultural work out of necessity so their families can have enough to survive. It goes beyond being poor in money -- it’s poor in education, poor in healthcare, poor in opportunity, and so much more. It’s such a juxtaposition to once being a college student complaining about finals, which in reality is such an enormous gift. We too easily forget how blessed we are. We are too easily distracted by all we have. This aspect of the trip wrecked my heart and I’m still processing it all and what to do with this growth in perspective. Right now, that looks like doing my best to recognize my privilege, being open to learning from and serving those with less, spending my tourism dollars in developing countries, and being generous with my resources.
*Photos taken by Sabrina Hill.