We are heading north towards Honduras in bum numbing local chicken buses (retired US school buses).  Three big Nicas squeeze in where once a couple of kids sat. Nicaragua´s countryside is parched, waiting for the wet season. The northern highlands where coffee, cattle and tobacco are grown is a little cooler and a relief from the oppressive humidity of the coast. Matagalpa [4], the coffee capital, sits in a small valley and sprawls up the surrounding hills. It has a blinding white cathedral from the 19th century.


Our school bus laboured uphill through cloud forest, winding past coffee farms, taking an hour and a half to travel the 34 kilometres to sleepy Jinotega, 1100 meters [5].  At the market delicious looking and smelling fresh fruit and vegetables were being sold from stalls lining the roads. Men in cowboy hats saunter around town.


After a 3 hour bus from Jinotega to Estelí [6] we had had enough for one day. There was not much to do in Estelí, but there were no tourists either. Maybe this is the “real” Nicaragua.


Our last stop before Honduras was Ocotal [7], founded by Spanish colonialists in 1543.


Matagalpa Cathedral

The Jasper County Community Unit 1 school bus still has years of service in northern Nicaragua

Jinotega Cathedral

Jinotega market

Cowboy on the bus

You´ll need one of these hats ...

... if you don´t have one, get it here

Cowboy comes to town

Live chickens for sale at the bus stop

Estelí, a big country town

The countryside is brown and dry, soon the rains will come

Typical breakfast with gallo pinto - rice and red beans

The 200 year old church in Ocotal has an old tower and a newer one


The colonial city of León [3] was originally founded in 1524 but was moved to its present site in the 17th century after an earthquake destroyed the old city. It is a city of churches, mostly built in the neoclassical style. Some have the supporting columns and ceilings made from centuries old hand hewn timber. The cathedral, the largest in Central America takes up an entire city block.


The area around León is the most volcanic in Central America, with 10 active nearby. One of the activities is sliding down a volcano at 70 kph on a snow board – gave that a miss.


Village church built by indigenous, near León

Village church built by indigenous, near León

Village church built by indigenous, near León

León Cathedral, the largest in Central America

One of the bells on the Cathedral

Leones (lions) guard the Cathedral

Collegio de San Ramon

Iglesia la Reccoleción

Iglesia el Calvario

Decorative wooden ceiling in the Iglesia el Calvario

Iglesia San Juan

Inside San Juan

Iglesia San Felipe

Angel stands outside san Felipe

Iglesia Zaragoza

Iglesia Laborio

Iglesia La Merced

Side door in Mudéjar style of La Merced

Corner doors are common in León

León street

Lady sells fruit along the street

A smoking volcano just ouside León

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