+44 1273 676712

Tales from the road

Waking up to tortillas; Nicaragua in all its bumpy beauty

Nicaragua walking in coffee hills copyright Emma Bye Pura

Having spent two years in Nicaragua guiding hikes, managing a social enterprise and riding chicken buses, Emma Bye returned to the UK in the summer of 2018. Nicaragua's loss was Pura's gain, as she joined our Brighton team as a Travel Consultant in December. Here, she paints a vivid image of rural life for us. You can almost smell the coffee brewing and hear the beating of tortillas signalling the dawn of a new day. Her love for the country, in all its bumpy beauty, shines through. It's the Nicaragua that we know, and love to share.

From the very first time I visited Nicaragua, my preferred choice of retreat from the heat and dust of León, my adopted home city, was always the verdant hills of the north. The landscape is a combination of cloudforest and farmland full of coffee, cacao, banana palms, orange trees and much more, depending on the season.

"My countryside alarm clock is the beating of tortillas being prepared in the kitchen and the smell of homegrown coffee from the wood-burning stove."

Part of the attraction for me has always been the beautiful scenery and tranquillity of these areas. Nicaraguan cities are full of life and vibrant energy. But they are hectic and loud, with constant music blasting. Street vendors walk the pavements selling anything from tortillas to fresh vegetables or coconut bread. Fireworks are frequently let off for whatever celebration happens to fall anywhere near the date.

In contrast, my countryside ‘alarm clock’ sounds just before dawn. It is usually the rhythmic beat of fresh tortillas being flattened by hand in the kitchen. A large stack is made in the morning for the whole family to eat throughout the rest of the day. This beating is gradually accompanied by other members of the family getting ready to start their day on the land. And the smell of homegrown coffee on the kitchen stove - a traditional burner being constantly stoked with more wood.

"I have fond memories of children showing me where they milk the cows on their farms, or finding shared feminist values with a Nicaraguan mother. It's the people that drew me here, and kept drawing me back."

I’ve been lucky to stay in various family homes in different parts of the countryside. Each family has their own stories, and their own routines. Some things remain surprisingly consistent wherever you end up. Routines as simple as lunch being served on the dot at midday and dinner at 6pm, sharp. There are always plates of food so big that I would feel a concerted attempt was at hand to fatten me up. Yet it is so good that I couldn’t help but polish it all off regardless.

There's always a general curiosity to learn more about you as an outsider, and your life at home. In my case this usually takes the form of an interrogation from teenage daughters as to why, "at my age", I wasn’t married and why I was travelling alone so far from home.

In these stays, I’ve learned practical skills; how to pick coffee cherries and sort through them after they’ve been hulled and dried; the quickest way of podding fresh beans for tomorrow’s gallo pinto (Nicaragua’s traditional rice and beans).

freshly picked coffee cherries in Nicaragua

But I’ve also sat in the living room of a family home listening to a father playing the guitar and singing Nicaraguan folk songs while his daughter paints her nails by the spotlight of a torch wedged between her neck and shoulder. I've been led around farmland by young kids eager to show me where they milk the cows in the morning or their favourite toy. And I've found a lot of common ground on feminism with the mother of another family, as we sat chatting by a small stream on their land.

So whilst the countryside in Nicaragua remains well worth a visit for the scenery, the views and the farm-fresh food, the reason I kept coming back to it – really, the same thing that drew me into living in Nicaragua in the first place – is the people. It's their connection with the land and their surroundings. And their warmth and hospitality in sharing this with anyone willing to throw themselves headlong into the experience.

Our Nicaragua holidays   Get in touch   Subscribe to The Pothole

The Pothole is Pura Aventura's popular monthly email. We share what we love, what interests us and what we find challenging. And we don't Photoshop out the bits everyone else does. We like to think our considered opinions provide food for thought, and will sometimes put a smile on your face. They've even been known to make people cry. You can click here to subscribe and, naturally, unsubscribe at any time.

The Pothole is Pura Aventura's popular monthly email. We share what we love, what interests us and what we find challenging. And we don't Photoshop out the bits everyone else does. We like to think our considered opinions provide food for thought, and will sometimes put a smile on your face. They've even been known to make people cry. You can click here to subscribe and, naturally, unsubscribe at any time.

Share your story with us