January 21st 2014: Jinotega

Last week, I talked about heading to Jinotega to take some pictures and get some details for the website. We went to Jinotega last Wednesday and had a blast. It is easily one of the most beautiful places on earth. Unfortunately, I lost my camera/iphone somewhere along the way and all the videos and pictures I recorded are lost to the entropy of the universe. I’ll do my best in text to describe the experience. The last few days I have been in a bittersweet sort of mourning over the loss of my only means of taking photos, in contrast to the amazing time I had in Jinotega. I’ll just begin.

 

Wednesday morning we met Raoul in Leon. Raoul is Dave’s local go-to guide in Leon. He is a Nicaraguan man who spent a few years in the states and has perfect English. Raoul is very knowledgeable of local history and even himself was involved in the Revolution. We hopped in his truck and headed out of the city to the north. We drove for an hour or so through mostly flat plains spotted with the occasional ridge or volcano in the distance. Raoul was kind enough to stop a few times and let me take some very scenic photos. As we started to get higher and higher in what I was now sure were actually mountains, we noticed we were in coffee country. There were many farms where khaki colored coffee beans were spread on pieces of black tarps that covered the entire property. Local workers were either raking them to help the drying, or bagging them up in canvas sacks. Very few of these plastic sheets had the color of beans I expected. This is because they had not yet been roasted.

 

We drove on through the mountains, still climbing. We finally arrived in the quaint little mountain town of Jinotega. The city’s architecture reminded me much of Leon. The town centered around a few churches and parks/central plaza. Though Jinotega was much, much cooler, and rested in the shadow of the surrounding mountains. Leon often feels hot and dusty compared to this cool micro-climate. It was nice to wear a sweater again. Raoul’s aunt lives in Jinotega so naturally we stopped and said “hello.” I was immediately greeted with food and Raoul told me that it would almost be offensive not to eat. After Dave and I finished off some pretty good eggs, rice, and beans, we got back on the road.

 

Our destination was just on the other side of the mountains from Jinotega. We were very high up and noticed the clouds were not very far over our heads at all. The surrounding hills and the mountains all met with the clouds well before their peaks. Raoul’s cousin Juan owns this particular farm we visited. He lives there with his family including his son Moses and his daughter Roxy. Juan’s English is pretty good but his kids were pretty much American- and even after a couple glasses of Flor de Cana, they had a better pronunciation than us gringos. They had lived in the states to go to school and so having them around felt very much like a tour. Roxy is the older of the two, and she seems incredibly intelligent. Furthermore, she is really passionate about her family’s farm and the methods they use to produce such high quality goods.

 

Juan is a very friendly guy. When I first met him he was walking in rubber boots and had a rifle in his hand. I told him I had never shot a gun before (the truth). He holds out the rifle and I take it from him. We walk around the back of the kitchen building. Juan walked up the hill, a good 60 meters, and placed a bucket between a fork in the tree- a little over head height. He walks back down and we each take a shot at the bucket. At this point, I feel obligated to say, I had this all in photographs and video. As we walk up the hill to the bucket, we see the inner ring on bottom of the bucket and two holes- on at the 12 o’clock and one at the 6 o’clock position. Juan looks at me and says, “this is not your first time.” “How many Koreans have you shot?”

 

Juan’s farm is basically a bunch of land spread throughout a valley and even up the sides of the surrounding mountains. His house is very spacious, with vaulted ceilings to help keep cool- even though to most Nicaraguans the mountains are cold enough. There is small wood and dirt building near his house where all the food is made. Not just for the family, but all the workers that maintain the farm. The best eggs I ever had were for breakfast in this kitchen. The chickens are free-range as well as the roosters and so the eggs are more yellow with a stronger taste. Also the workers drink the coffee that is made right there on the farm for breakfast. I am drinking it as I write this and it’s amazing.

 

I’ll admit I don’t know too much about coffee. The details of it’s production I only just learned last week. Basically, coffee is a shrub that grows in cool, shaded areas. This is what makes the mountains ideal for growing. Juan would allow plantains, bananas, and cacao to grow in the coffee fields so the plants would be in the shade. After we shot the gun, Juan took us to a small mill where I watched the processing of the coffee berries. That’s right, berries. Coffee is actually a beautiful red berry. I watched the workers pour red berries down a hole in the second story of the mill. The berries then flow with water through a type of turbine that separates the outside of the berry with the two halves inside. Roxy mentioned that most farmers will wash off the beans once the outside berry is removed. Juan’s farm doesn’t do this. That leftover berry juice dries and give a honey-like taste to the coffee after it’s roasted. It’s delicious.

 

There was a lot Juan showed us and many more pictures and videos that could speak a thousand words. We fed cows a leaf salad, made by putting these huge plants though a wood-chipper. We walked though a celery field to a tangerine tree and picked as many as we could to take home. We walked up a trail on the side of the mountain to “the tree of life.” It was some huge, ancient tree, that had a spring or stream coming from its roots into crystal clear pools. Juan told me I had to drink if I wanted to return to the farm. I took many gulps while Dave took video. The water tasted cool and pure. These mountains are a room-temperature, fertile, piece of paradises. I didn’t get lucky enough to see the monkeys, though Juan says they can get almost to human height and come down from the mountains at dusk and dawn. There’s also Jaguars and other wildlife in the jungle that I would love to further explore.

 

Although I lost my phone and felt pretty upset, the memories I have will last a lifetime and are definitely stored somewhere else in the cosmos for a Vulcan’s future enjoyment. I’m hoping to get a tour group to go back ASAP so I can record the experience (once again) to share with you all.

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Other than that the last few days have been fun. Dave’s old friend Cliff stopped by with his friend, Holly. She had a nice camera and Dave got some pics of me giving her a surf lesson. Holly surfed back in the 70’s so it was really awesome for her to get back on a board again! We are honored she chose us for this experience. We’ve got some more people coming by with the intent on getting lessons. I’m excited about that since I’ll get to teach something I really enjoy.

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Hope you’re enjoying the blog and/or my travels. I’m done for the day and hope to get in the water and go catch some waves. If anyone reads this and has an old digital camera they want to donate, please, send me an email: keenanwebb@gmail.com

 

siempre tranquilo,

 

Keenan

 

*Edited by Dave

 

 

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