Sunday, April 24, 2016

Matagalpa: Hiking the Highlands, Part 2

(For Part 1 of this post, click here)

Today I hiked trails in Selva Negra, a sustainable coffee estate and eco-lodge with a nature preserve. It is an amazing place, a fine example of how preserving a forest creates value for a private enterprise.

Selva Negra is located about 20 miles north of  and a few thousand feet above Matagalpa. It costs $4 to enter or, if you want to eat at the restaurant, pay $8 and the entry fee goes towards paying for your meal. I chose the latter and had a nice buffet lunch at the eco-lodge, followed by a piece of cake (from the great bakery I visited in Jinotega) and small pot of fantastic coffee.  The lodge is located on a small lake and the restaurant and grounds were pretty crowded with local, more affluent families.

After lunch, I took off to explore the network of trails in the nature preserve, picking a route that would take me up to the top of a ridge and through virgin cloud forest. I was amazed to find not a single person on any of the trails; I had the entire preserve to myself! More affluent Nicaraguans seem to prefer lounging around in civilized surroundings rather than getting all sweaty climbing up trails in the woods.

The forest was fantastic. Finally, the dense, lush, green tropical forest that I was looking for, complete with moist, musty air. There was a coolness to the air, but I worked up quite a sweat climbing the 3,000 feet or so to the top of the ridge.

I marveled at all there was to see along the trail. Vines wrapping around trunks and becoming integral with huge trees. Brightly colored flowers and orchids. Ferns, small and large. Aerial plants growing in the trees. Blue, yellow, brown, butterflies. Birds, a few that I saw, many which I only heard. A peccary-like animal rooting around in undergrowth. Views of the surrounding mountains through the trees. It was an amazing hike.

It was getting close to 5 o'clock as I descended from the ridge and, let me tell you, it gets dark in a tropical forest very quickly. Now I understand why the sign at the trailhead recommended carrying a flashlight. I got back to the lodge without having to use the one I had in my pack, but a half hour later and I would have needed it.

I used the remaining daylight to do a quick tour of the sustainable organic farm below the lodge. It is nicely and thoughtfully laid out, complete with a small village for the permanent farmworkers where a game of sandlot baseball was finishing up.

I drove back to Matagalpa feeling happy, well-exercised and very sweaty. What a great day.

I didn't stop at a bar for beer when I got back.

A truly living, green roof on the chapel at the Selva Negra eco-lodge 
The trail leading to virgin forest on the ridge

Vines become one with tree

Upper canopy of the forest

A great way to reuse old tires, as steps on a trail

Director, cameraman and model for cloud forest shoot

These iridescent blue berries caught my attention. I must be part bird. 

View of the ridge and forest from the lake at the lodge

Geese and goslings. One got pissed at me and chased me, hissing, around the parking area. I barely escaped.

The farm worker village 

In the US with all current transgender restroom controversy this would be a problem. The sign "Ambos Sexos" means both sexes. Too limiting.  Just replace it with "Todos Sexos", all sexes. All inclusive, controversy averted.