Siuna – Puerto Cabezas

Rudely awakened at 4 am, I quickly got myself organised and was out the door within 10 mins. Tripped over a small step I didn’t see and and landed smack bang on to my bad knee. Fully laden with pack. Curses were uttered which woke the young girl up who was sleeping on a mattress near the front gate. She asked what happened and looked at my grazed knee sympathetically. I must admit I was more concerned about getting out and catching my bus, so as soon as the gate was opened quickly hobbled over to the bus terminal.


My ‘wheels’ for the next 12 hours was already waiting and slowly filling up, but I managed to get a seat behind the driver where I would get a good view of the countryside. Shortly after 4.30 am, the bus slowly, but surely pulled out of the terminal and drove along the dirt road which was the middle of town. I could see very quickly why there was nowhere to eat the previous night as the pueblo was so tiny there was very little there apart from the occasional little tienda. The bus maneuvered around the numerous potholes and ruts and continued on out of town.


The early morning chill set in and I pulled my sarong out of my pack to wrap around my shoulders. As the dawn slowly gathered strength, the countryside began to reveal itself in the form of low hills with tiny casas dotted within its folds. Lights were emanating in the gloom and the smell of freshly cooked tortillas pervaded. Life was stirring in this remote little part of Nicaragua. I snuggled into my sarong shawl and tried to remain awake, but the early start combined with the gentle rocking motion of the bus as it slowly negotiated the poor road made this impossible I found myself nodding off.


I was startled out of my slumber by a jerking motion of the bus which nearly saw me deposited into the aisle. The señora next to me put her hand out to prevent me falling, but I awoke in time. This time for good! After a few hours of travel, the bus pulled over for a service stop. There was a little comedor where one could purchase a meal and baños out the back. It was good to stretch the legs for a short time before hopping back on board again. The little pit stop reminded me of roadhouses in remote parts of Australia – basic, but does the trick. And an array of different vehicles all stopped for the same purpose. In the middle of nowhere.


It was another few hours before we got to the tiny pueblo of Rosita. Rosita, Siuna and Bonanza (yes, there truly is a pueblo by this name…) form the mining triangle of Nicaragua. Early last century, immigrants from North America, Europe and China descended upon Las Minas to seek their fortune in the form of gold. Whilst some found their ‘El Dorado’ here in the picturesque hills, most left empty handed as is the case in most gold rushes. Those that made their way down to the emerging coffee plantations found a more sustainable fortune in the form of the little red cherries grown on the coffee bushes.


Another few hours on the road, we stopped again for a pit stop. This time there were two drop baños on the side of the road and a small tienda on the other side. The señoras queued for the baños whilst the señores got off lightly by relieving themselves on the roadside. Whilst waiting to continue the journey, I watched a señora cart buckets of water she drew from the stream at the back of her tiny wood slab casa. The usual assortment of farm animals were within the immediate vicinity of the casa and ambled unrestrained around its perimeter. It was as far away from the hustle and bustle of the bigger towns and cities as one could get.


Back on the road for the last sector of our long trip and the end was nigh. I had been watching the three bus attendants with interest. This hard working trio were typical of bus attendants I had encountered throughout the country. Able to scramble up the steel ladder to the top of the bus like a troop of monkeys, run alongside the bus and jump back on as the bus gathered speed, port and load luggage with grace and good humour, and assist those passengers who needed it. I saw babies being carried for their mothers, young children helped up and down the stairs and the most beautiful of all – two attendants gently and patiently helping a frail señora through and off the bus as if she was the most precious of cargo.


After a while the countryside began to change as we climbed down from the hills and came closer to the Caribbean coast. Gone were the eerie cloud forests and lush jungle, and a wide, flat savannah dotted with palm trees took its place. The tiny casas changed as well to more of the Caribbean style; on stilts to contend with the regular wet season flooding that the region experiences. We began crossing large, sleepy rivers meandering ever onward to the coast and had to stop at one for a barge crossing. I was surprised that everyone got off the bus for the crossing, but it soon became apparent why. On one entire side of the barge, were end-to-end tiendas selling a variety of food and drink. Once over the river, everyone walked off the barge and jumped back on the bus to continue on.


11 and a half hours after leaving tiny Siuna, we finally reached Puerto Cabezas. As always when doing a long trip with the same bus, I felt a kind of attachment to it and the crew. I gathered my pack, bid my adiós and checked for how to get to the hotel I had chosen out of the guidebook. It was about 3 km away but I was hoping the walk would help with the swelling in my knees. Puerto Cabezas is a typical Caribbean port town with just the right mix of skank and sketch stirred into this spicy soup of humankind. Clapboard shacks of various faded hues lined the gravel road and children and dogs played in their compacted dirt yards.


Casa Museo Judith Kain had a lovely room within my budget and I gratefully took it. This little set up was the former home of prominent local artist, Judith Kain. It has since been turned into a museum featuring some beautiful antiques and many works from the late artist. Accomodation has been created in the upstairs rooms of the large casa and also in two adjoining casas. All set within pretty gardens and attractive sitting spaces. It was just the thing after my two long days of travel!


I spent what remained of the afternoon washing, then walked to try find somewhere for dinner. A lovely little upper story restaurant with views to the pier grabbed my attention and I hobbled up the steep steps. I decided upon the fish soup in coconut milk and was not disappointed. Just the thing to welcome me to the Caribbean and I looked forward to sampling this delicious local dish again whilst here.

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