The bus from Matagalpa to Jinotega climbs higher and higher up in the mountains. The higher we climb, the chillier it gets.
I am off to the “Datanli El Diablo” nature reserve where I will be staying at La Bastilla Ecolodge for a few days, taking in the coffee culture and the surrounding beauty of the cloud forest of Nicaragua.
A pick-up truck brings me from the main road into the forest and on to the lodge. My adrenaline is reaching peak level as we drive at very high speed on the bumpy forest tracks! Adventure!
The ecolodge is situated at a height of 1200m, in the middle of the cloud forest and the views from the main terrace are simply indescribable! Wanting to stay as close to nature as possible, I booked a tent for a few nights. From the platform I get equally magnificent views over the trees, banana- and coffee plantations and local birdlife. The first thing that strikes me though, apart from the view, is the difference in temperature with the rest of Nicaragua and the humidity. It looks like I will finally be needing the jumper and trousers that I brought along for the trip.
The mattress in the tent is pretty rough, but no complaints once I see the view after I zip the tent open. The morning dew drops gently off the leaves and the powerful sounds of the awakening fauna make me forget about the bad night straight away!
Today I plan to go a bit deeper into the forest. I start my walk together with some coffee pickers on their way to work. Once they have arrived, I find myself alone amongst the birds and butterflies and the peacefulness of the forest. I walk for quite a long time, looking for a track towards another ecolodge, but the tracks get thinner, the forest thicker and not sure of being on the right path, I decide to retrace my steps.
Another road leads to the Agricultural and Technical School, a project supported by the ecolodge. In this school, students between 15 and 18 years old learn by doing: they help out on the egg farm, the pig rearing, the ecolodge, … The school is financed by the money the ecolodge brings in. It feels good to indirectly do something for the local community! I walk around the school buildings, take a look at the students’ rota and have a chat with the director before returning to the lodge.
There are endless walking possibility in the nature reserve, so the next day I walk all the way down to the entrance of the forest, where the local bus dropped me off a few days ago. The butterflies and birds accompany me as usual, but it seems as if most wildlife is having a rest after 9am.
I pass the dormitories of the coffee pickers, the school and the huge kitchen, where a man seems to be chopping endless amounts of wood for the fire. There is almost nobody on the track apart from a few workers and even the small settlement a bit further on is almost deserted. A few children hang around observing me very closely and dogs barely lift their head when they see me passing by.
With all the lovely birdsong I’ve been hearing for the last few days, I’m curious to see the actual birds, so I decide to borrow a pair of binoculars to try and spot them. It takes some practice though: in the beginning I am barely able to locate the tree, let alone the tiny bird sitting on one of its branches, but after a while I do manage to spot a few! I could really get used to the slow way of life here!
It’s time to leave this little corner of paradise for the big city: Managua! It looks as if I chose the right day: last night torrential rainfall broke out and this morning the sky is completely covered. It gets hotter and hotter as I approach Managua and upon arrival, the difference in temperature is so immense that I seek refuge in an air-conditioned shopping mall. The contrast with the peaceful cloud forest couldn’t be bigger!
Have you ever camped in a cloud forest or stayed in an ecolodge? Where was it?