Day 6: Nicaraguan Journal

First stop was Condega’s, Pre-columbian Museum which has a good col­lec­tion of pot­tery includ­ing clas­si­cally shaped and elab­o­rately painted bowls. There was much spec­u­la­tion as to where the pre-columbians got their colours, as we’re pretty sure it wasn’t from a pot­tery sup­ply house.

After that we drove up the hill to look at one of Somoza’s planes that was shot down by the Sandinistas dur­ing the rev­o­lu­tion. Quite a prize for this north­ern town who refused to coop­er­ate when the gov­ern­ment in Managua wanted the plane as their own sou­venir. Last year the plane still had a few holes torn in it and we could climb up on the wing to peer inside the win­dows, but now it has been cleaned up and put on a higher pedestal so that all we could do was look at it. Beside the plane there’s a new 3-storey look­out plat­form that shows off a great view of the val­ley below, where two rivers over­flowed into each other dur­ing Hurricane Mitch and flooded the whole area.

Later, on a wind­ing road through the moun­tains we encoun­tered the first of a series of stone stat­ues of gordi­tas (“fat ladies”) and this one was read­ing Geist! The stat­ues (there are 20 in all) are the work of the local stone carvers and each one depicts “women’s work.” We fol­lowed the stat­ues to San Juan de Limay, a sleepy lit­tle town of bicy­cles, horses, dogs and roost­ers (more on these later) and had lunch at what looked like an ordi­nary house but turned out to be a comidor.

Spent the after­noon at the home and stu­dio of the stone carver Oscar Casco where we learned to carve mar­molina (soap­stone) using first a machete and then finer instru­ments. Oscar put both his stu­dio and his work­ers at our dis­posal and some of us man­aged, with a lot of help, to end up with carvings.

That night we stayed at Casa Baltimore, a well-worn old house owned by a non-profit group in Baltimore, Maryland and my favourite place to sleep in Nicaragua. Reminds me of the villa in “The English Patient.” We slept on can­vas cots on a cov­ered patio and washed up in a roof­less cement enclo­sure in the mid­dle of the court­yard, halfway to the outhouses.

Despite bark­ing dogs and crow­ing roost­ers  (the dogs wake up the roost­ers and then the roost­ers wake up the dogs),  we man­aged to get some sleep but in the mid­dle of the night some of us were awak­ened by Maritza who had heard some­one break­ing into the house and was call­ing out to our dri­ver, Ivan, and walk­ing up and down the patio stomp­ing her feet. Ivan the Brave inves­ti­gated, going through the few empty rooms with Maritza close behind him, and then he heard the noise too and opened the street door to tell an intox­i­cated man to stop bang­ing on our door. Just to be safe, Maritza put a stout stick from the court­yard beside her bed before she went back to sleep. In the morn­ing Mike con­cluded that there were more roost­ers than peo­ple in Nicaragua and Robert, who had slept through all the excite­ment, con­fessed that the care­taker of the place had warned him about the drunk who might bang on the door.

This was first posted at geist.com.

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