Monday, February 15, 2010

La Granadilla

La GranadillaI visited the farming community of La Granadilla as a day trip from the city of Granada, Nicaragua. The morning started with an excellent breakfast prepared by the family with whom I was boarding. My guide, Jessica, had requested a more filling meal than the usual due to the endurance run I had at the end of the week, so I got plenty of Gallo Pinto and other hearty food. It was much appreciated as we had several active days before the race.

After breakfast we walked across town (maybe 6 or 8 blocks) to the bus stop, passing by the local market which was crowded. The bus stop was a dirt lot on the edge of the market area. Buses here are old Blue Bird school buses which have been adapted for use in public transportation. There were a couple of buses going in our direction, and the attendants for each bus quickly approached to encourage us onto their bus, yelling out their final destination as advertisement. Jessica picked the bus that she believed was most likely to leave first and we got on. We waited for 10 minutes as local vendors got on and off selling drinks and snacks to the passengers.

The bus ride was maybe 30 minutes. Near the beginning I noticed one overly friendly local greeting everyone as he passed through the aisle with a hearty “Buenos Dias.” A few minutes later he got up at the front of the bus and started speaking to the passengers in Spanish. My guide explained it sounded like he was discussing something religious and that it was not uncommon for people to get on the bus like this and try to either sell trinkets or pens, or some kind of religious preaching. After a few minutes, he pulled out a set of ink pens, decorated with religious symbols for sale.

La Granadilla

We passed the stop for Mombacho, which would be my destination in two days, and got off a few minutes later where the highway intersected a dirt road. We had a 3km hike through the quiet roads to La Granadilla. As we passed people, the locals were friendly and said “adio,” which was a greeting I did not recognize. Coming from South America, I was getting accustomed to using “Hola” in such encounters. My guide explained it was “adios” with the S dropped in the country dialect.

We eventually arrived at the community building for the La Granadilla cooperative. Our local guide for the day, Daniel, was waiting for us. Daniel appeared to be in either his late teens or very early 20’s. Daniel explained about the community in Spanish and Jessica translated to English for me. I repeat a little of it as best I understood and can remember. Much of the farmland in the area was originally owned by wealthy land owners and many of the families living on the land worked for them. After the revolution many of the land owners fled the country to Miami. Then the Sandinistas gave the land to the people living there who work hard to make a living off the land. The nearby families formed the cooperative association in order to band together for better prices on the food , and also to help gain assistance from NGO organizations. They make extra money giving tours to tourists such as myself.

La Granadilla

The community structure was referred to as El Chilamate because before the structure was build the community gathered under the nearby El Chilamate tree which now stands by the roadside at the entrance to the walkway to the building. The building houses dormitories for visiting NGO delegations and the occasional tourist who wants to stay the night. The building contains a library for the local kids who take turns performing librarian duties. I was told that normally the building would be more active with kids after their schooling, but this week was holiday.

We took a walking tour through several of the farming plots, walking past some of the local houses where people were performing the daily chores such as washing clothes or extracting beans from the recently harvested pods for dinner. Locals were using barbed wire fencing for clotheslines. At one point we stopped at a manmade pond used to retain water for irrigation. The pond was no longer in use because the iron pipes were stolen several years before, presumably to be sold for scrap.

La Granadilla

Daniel explained a lot about the various plants we saw in the fields, about the organic and sustainable farming practices employed everywhere, and about the work required to harvest the food. One of the most common crops here are frijoles (beans). Daniel demonstrated how the beans were pulled from the ground by hand, and left there in the field to dry. Daniel was quite proud of how fast he could harvest a space. Then the beans are turned over every so often. After several days they are dry enough, the men would beat the piles of beans which would cause the beans to separate from their pods. It was a lot of hard work for a relatively small amount of money from the eventual sale.

La Granadilla

Next to one house there was a hole dug in the ground which was used as an oven to bake a particular candy or desert treat. Whatever it was, it was a big deal since they only go through the process once a year during the holiday season.

As we passed a Cacao tree, Daniel pulled a pod and later opened it to show what the seeds looked like inside. This is the plant from which chocolate is made. It was not what I expected. The seeds had a soft white gummy covering of fruit matter that had a slight sweet taste. We could suck on the seed for a few seconds of flavor. But it was not what I would have expected.

La Granadilla

After the walking tour we had an excellent lunch prepared with foods grown and raised on the cooperative. Then we had a horse ride around the outer edge of the cooperative that left us 2/3 of the way back to the bus stop. The ride took us outside the cooperative for a section, and there was an obvious difference in the amount of trash on the side of the roads compared to the cleanliness of the coop.

La Granadilla

When we arrived at the end of the ride, at the farmers house who led the ride and owned the horses, we dismounted. The property was covered with roosters, each tied with a leash. These were used for cock-fighting which is legal in Nicaragua.
The women and teenage girls of the house demonstrated how they make jewelry using the dried seeds of the various plants as beads. This type of jewelry made from natural materials was seen elsewhere around Nicaragua. My guide sells some of these jewelry items from Nicaragua as a side business.

La Granadilla
La Granadilla

We walked short distance back to the highway, where we did not have to wait long for a bus to come by. Happened to get the front seat of this bus, which was full. I got to watch the attendant do his thing. He would hang out the front door and waive to people ahead who were standing by the side of the road to solicit passengers. If someone indicated they wanted on the bus, the bus would then slow down just long enough for people to step on. The attendant would then take money and make change with flashy hand movements that were incredibly slick and quick. I am later told these guys have refined a process of for keeping coins rolled up in certain order so as to quickly make change. If someone was boarding who needed merchandise backed on the roof, the attendant would step off the bus. I thought the driver left the attendant behind, but it turned out he just hopped on the back of the bus, secured the luggage, and then climbed down and entered through the emergency exit all while the bus was moving. It was quite a production to minimize the time that the bus was stopped.

More pictures can be found in my Online Album or in the embedded slideshow below.

- Google Map of the places visited in this Nicaragua Trip
- This tour was arranged by my guide throughout Nicaragua, ¡Un Buen Viaje!.
- More Blog Posts or Photo Albums from this Nicaragua Trip

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1 comment:

  1. Hola John,
    You have a superb memory! I love reading about our travels together from your perspective. Thank you for sharing your Nicaraguan experience with the rest of the world.



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