Our first outing actually occurred a few weeks ago, which is nothing short of a minor miracle. Normally we arrive at post, end up having too much settling in to do, come to the conclusion we can't drive up a hill without a child getting sick (Caracas), or realize that overnight travel within said country is expensive and we have a worn-out traveler (Iceland).
We had no luck traveling much of anywhere in Caracas other than for day trips. We spent so much time on the side of the road with Cait (who has now since outgrown the affliction) and we pretty much gave up after our day trip to Colonia Tovar (poor thing still can't look at strawberries). Then Peter had three years of constant travel and he viewed moving to Iceland as a vacation in and of itself.
While the rest of us had ants in our pants about traveling, Peter was thrilled to have nowhere to go other than work and the occasional meeting at the base. After watching Love Actually with him, and hearing him comment "Oh, that really does look like the inside of 10 Downing Street!" or listening to him give a play-by-play of events most people only heard about on the radio, I was ready for travel. However, the travel/work/schedule gods conspired against us and we had all of two overnight trips while in the country.
Enter our move to Nicaragua: I refused to move here without a notarized statement that we would travel no matter what. Certainly he did not do much in Kabul, we didn't go crazy our last year in the States, and since none of the kids have sickness issues, we were homefree right?
Well, for the most part. We were desperate to go somewhere, anywhere, this summer, but did not have a car. (Please, do not even suggest that we should have rented one. Driving my own car here makes me nervous, and a rented car simply would have sat in the driveway.) Then school started, I started working, and all of that free time started to disappear. We kept thinking about days away, then nixing it due to things that came up. Finally, a friend suggested Selva Negra for Indigenous Peoples Day weekend.
We realized we couldn't spend the whole weekend, only a night, as the kids had school on Monday (and driving up Friday night was a no-go), but we forged ahead with planning. And so very glad we did.
Selva Negra is a unique coffee farm and resort in the mountains of Matagalpa originally established by German settlers, and if I may say, more of what I expected to see in Nicaragua. It is roughly a 3 hour drive (I would allow 4), much of it on a two lane highway, and one can easily be slowed down by tuk-tuks or the ever present horse and wagon. Scenic, yes, but still something to consider when planning trips or travels.
We drove up early Saturday morning and considering the twisting and turning it took to get into Selva Negra, I am very glad we opted to drive during the day. It gets dark here very early (6 p.m. at the latest), year-round, and you really don't want to drive on unpaved roads in the dark here...trust me and your car will thank you. We finally entered the estate itself by a small guarded gate. There were not many signs, but we finally found a sizable (by local standards) parking area that was across from the office. We parked, stepped out of the car and...
we were amazed. It was at least a 20 degree, if not 30 degree, difference between Managua and Selva Negra. The gardens were lush and green and designed around recycled materials. One lettuce garden utilized glass bottles as mini-greenhouses and the entire area just felt so relaxed and safe. We checked in, received the key to our bungalow (two beds, one bath, & an extra cot ran $105 plus IVA for the night), and opted for a lakeside lunch.
We began to feel as the owners had designed the lodge for families that needed that feeling of being able to wander without worrying. A playground was built right next to the lodge, sizeable and fun for all of the kids, and they could wander freely with no worries about traffic or safety. The air was so clean, the environment so calm, and the food good (mostly organic, too). From the local coffee to the Hibiscus juice, nothing that I wouldn't try again.
We planned on spending the weekend with friends, and they arrived soon after lunch was over. We decided it was the perfect time for a hike (as after dark would have been tricky) and set off on a 2 kilometer hike through the cloud forest. While I wish I'd thought to bring my hiking boots (turned out Pete had grabbed his, not mine, as I thought), it was certainly doable in sneakers (but very muddy, so closed-toe shoes definitely recommended). And while 2 kilometers may not sound like much, it was very hilly, lots of slick and muddy areas, and especially disconcerting when halfway through the LG decides he has to go to the bathroom that minute.
We survived, of course, and followed up the hike with drinks and then dinner by the lake (pretty much the only place to eat...and that was fine by us). Dessert was amazing and I highly recommend the mocha cheesecake. While Peter and I retired to the bungalow to put the LG to bed (poor guy fell asleep sitting up on the couch), the girls spent hours carousing outside and in with their friends.
The next morning brought breakfast by the lake and an early departure for us. Nick had a birthday party he couldn't miss (the 5th in 10 days), and he simply couldn't miss it. Kelsey stayed behind to enjoy a bit of horseback riding, and then drove home in her friend's car. It wasn't the longest of overnights, but so good to get out of the city, and a place we can see ourselves returning to many times. They also plan events centered around holidays, to include a Halloween/Oktoberfest celebration the following weekend. If you have flexibility in your travels, always worth it to check out what might be happening during your visit. Oh, and bring your long-sleeve shirt, long pants, and jacket. You won't need them in Managua, but a visit to Selva Negra is not complete without them...