Get moving you say to yourself as you work your way through Managuas bustling Airport. It won’t be long before the adventure begins. You overheard someone speak about a coffee plantation nestled in the mountains of Nicaragua. You ask which is the nearest town and are told it is near the city of Matagalpa. Knowing you never met a cup of coffee you didn’t like– off you go on one of the local buses. Arriving at dusk makes it more interesting and challenging to find lodging for the night. Were not talking about a five star hotel we are just looking for a place to bed-down for the night in the price range between 6 and 18 U.S.D.
After we check into a rather modest hotel we returned to the lobby to watch some local TV before we turned in. A rather well dressed Nicaraguan asked us if we were traveling and where we were headed. We told him we wanted to visit Selva Negra Coffee Plantation.
“Excuse me but would you like a cold beer before we turn in.” He came back with three local beers iced down and explained he was the Presidente of the Nicaraguan Coffee Growers Association and was going to a weekend meeting in the next valley. He offered to take us to the area where the Coffee Plantation meeting was or drop us off at the Selva Negra Coffee Plantation in the morning. We said we would sleep on it. It was Friday night and we were ready for bed.
Nestled in our beds and having a good feeling about tomorrow’s adventures we were rudely interrupted by someone yelling: “WE KNOW YOUR IN THERE– COME OUT WITH YOUR HANDS UP” Bang, bang, Bang, echoed the shots from revolvers just a few feet away from our bedroom. We hopped under our beds for a few minutes until quiet returned. I mentioned to my friend- you wanted adventure this certainly isn’t like staying at the Hilton. Good night, sleep tight, and don’t let the bedbugs bite. A traveler’s tip! A lot of European backpackers carry a fitted sheet that fits over most beds giving you that extra safety valve.
The following morning we grabbed a quick cup of delicious coffee and hit the road with our Nicaraguan guide. Almost embarrassed to ask about last nights cops and robbers episode he nonchalantly indicated: “It was a Federale who went bad that’s all.” As we turned into the road to Selva Negra we could see an army tank imbedded in the landscape that was used during the Contra-Sandinista War. He dropped us off at the front door of the lodge and said he would pick us up Sunday afternoon.
We walked through the woods to a beautiful German style Chalet complete with fireplace and stacked wood. We were also told we could hike through the mountains behind the lake and might see some Howler Monkeys. It wasn’t long before we discovered why they were named Howler Monkeys— as their voices resonated throughout the entire valley thinking maybe you were in a horror movie.
When we came back for dinner that night we met the owner of the lodge Mousie and her husband Eddie Kuhl who volunteered this very spot was the first coffee plantation in the Americas. Her grandfather, a German immigrant, imported a land train from Germany which they brought by boat and somehow brought the land train up the mountain through the jungle. Using steam power and it’s own large traction wheels and plenty of pushing I guess they managed to bring this train to an elevation of over 3000 feet. Mousie indicated it was the only land train of it kind anywhere in the World. Parts of the train are still there. They also brought the first coffee plants to this area of the Americas.
We told her about the mountain hiking and the Howler Monkey Ensemble she laughed. “A Swiss group was here just last week and came running into the lodge out of breathe and said there must be Mountain Lions chasing us —there was a terrible roar echoing throughout the valley and getting closer.” “You just had an encounter with a Howler Monkey Family — if you would have stayed still– you could have watched them leaping thorough the trees and foilaging for food.”
The male waiter whisked around our table serving Mountain Trout, with fried bananas and rice. He volunteered he was 89 years young and was the proud father of a new baby. By the looks of the beautiful mountain lake surrounding the natural lodge we came to the conclusion there must be something in the water.
A tourist backpacker from Denmark used an ultra light fly-rod and caught several speckled mountain trout on the far side of the lake. After a perfect nights sleep in a mountain chalet with the fire roaring it was hard to compete with this natural setting in the hills of Nicaragua. There is a stone Church nestled in the trees to add to the setting— making it almost an Alice in Wonderland experience. Maybe I’ll get a job as a coffee guide.
Their coffee is organically grown and is under shade trees on the side of the mountain. During coffee harvest season which is between mid-November and mid-February they hire a lot of local help and also allow volunteers to help with all of the coffee-making chores. The owner indicated during the heat of the Nicaraguan war skirmish they sent their family to the states until it was safe to return.
When Sunday afternoon arrived our Coffee Association Presidente friend showed up with his driver where we joined them for an afternoon luncheon on the lake’s terrace. Just as the coffee was being served the paparazzi appeared out of nowhere with a flashbulb camera, reminiscent of the 30’s, and took our picture. We are now bonafied for prosperity!
On the bus trip back to Managua our bus driver accidentally ran over a man and his milk cart. After a rather lengthy negotiation the wounded passenger jumped aboard the bus in hopes of getting medical attention in the big city. I wasn’t worried about medical attention as the rather young driver and conductor put the pedal to the metal as we flew in high speeds heading toward our destination. Forget the hospital– at this rate might as well get us a couple of crypts for our next journey. I only hope they have mountain grown coffee up there or down there. Maybe we will have Cafe de Diabolo! Dios Mio!
So there you have it if you want killer coffee so fresh and so good you are ruined for life to drink what the peons drink, experience a Howler Monkey thriller on the side of the mountain — sleep in a beautiful mountain Chalet or learn the history of coffee-making in Central America and maybe escape a few bullets along the way— then by all means check it out and why not not take some organic coffee home for your friends and neighbors. Zentraveler says what’s stopping you– keep traveling and don’t forget to stop and smell the roses and coffee.
Getting there is easy: an express bus from the Managua airport takes approximately 2 hours to reach Matagalpa, the nearest city to Selva Negra. Make sure you tell the driver you are coming to Selva Negra. Once in Matagalpa, you will turn towards Jinotega, the city North of Matagalpa. This is another highway that will lead you on a straight path upwards towards Selva Negra. It will take you about 15 minutes to reach the entrance to Selva Negra and like the Geico says: “Coffee and Jam —000000hhhhhh!”
QUOTE:Everyone is a genius at least once a year. The real geniuses simply have their bright ideas closer together.
——Georg C. Lichtenberg
THINGS YOU MAY NOT KNOW: You can get about $200.00 per Palm Oil Tree just for the berries which they convert into bio-fuel.
THINGS YOU MAY WANT TO SAVE: Your feet! Wear comfortable shoes or go barefoot.
ZENTRAVELER SAYS: Use only Nicaraguan Mountain Coffee from Selva Negra. Legend has it that you can howl all night just like your Ancestors. Mugs up old sport!