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