I am cycling to raise money for the fantastic UK based chaity Macmillan Cancer Support. Big thanks to everyone who has sponsored me so far! Justgiving is a quick, easy and secure way to donate online. See my other fundraising page, specific to the Macmillan organized part of the trip

Saturday, 27 March 2010

Swimwalking Somoto Canyon

Am continuing to be spoilt for water... had an incredible day at the famous Somoto Canyon with the very knowledgable Reymen. I decided against staying at the firestation, and checked into the Pan Americana Hotel in Somoto´s main square where I was able to organise the tour of the canyon. Some folk go on their own but I was really glad to have a guide, both for the information & because I doubt I´d have found the full route on my own, and because I don´t have an inflatable dingy...Reymen´s came in very handy for floating our dry stuff behind us as we swam the deep parts of the canyon...watching the water reflections dancing on the rock walls...incrediby beautiful.
The initial part of the day was incredibly peaceful and I was getting totally absorbed in the patterns and colours of the rocks. The other other human beings we came across were a mother and daughter collecting water in containers they were strapping to their donkeys. Reynel explained how traditionally the indiginous women work far harder than the me, being the first to wake and the last to go to bed, collecting firewood as well as the water, preparing and cooking the food and all whilst taking care of the children. The men traditionally work the land, but when there is little to do, like in the dry non-harvest season of the moment they will rest at home while the women continue working. Reynel knew this particular family and said that the 16 year old daughter was not allowed to study by her father, and predicted that she would marry and have kids at the first opportunity. Reynel seemed saddened by this, particulalry as his wife is a sociology teacher at a local university, he spoke proudly of the success rate of her university at getting campesino students into vocational courses like medicie, nursing and agricutlure.

We spotted a lot of guardabarancos - the Nicaraguan national bird. With Reymen´s binoculours I could really see the colours this time, the males have brilliant turquoise tails and eyebrows, with a black edging and green and orange chest. They are easy to recognise by their unusual split tail that looks from afar like it has a bit missing in the middle. The females were more dull... I´ve wondered before why that seems the norm for most species apart from us humans where female fashion is the more extravagant. Personally I like the joseph-and-his-technicolour-dreamcoat look on a bloke!

When we spotted a very determined line of sonpopos -leaf carrier ants Reymen related an anecdote from his childhood for me. In 1970 Reymen´s father noticed the local sonpos working away storing up enough food for a few years. Knowing they instinctively respond to weather conditions he predicted that the following years would be bad, with very little rain. So rather than selling even a sack of that year´s generous harvest of grain, corn and beans, Reymen´s father stored all of it away, enough for two or three years. Sure enough 71 was dry, 72 was dry and by 73 his neighbours who had sold their harvests in 1970 were suffering from hunger while Reymen´s father still had the last of his stores. So seeing how busy the sonpopos are this year Reymen predicts another year of bad, dry conditions ahead.

Reynel had seemed pretty chuffed with the idea that i wanted to draw in the canyon,
calling me a ´cultural tourist`! So after the stomach-churning-adrenaline-pumping jumps off the rock at Alcena (and I didn`t even do the highest point that I`d seen some German lads on) Reynel was happy to laze in the shade while I sat up in a perfectly formed rockseat and drew... this is the central point of the canyon that is both the highest and the deepest and we met a lot of other tourists here, including Wolf and Wendy a Canadian couple I recognised from the Tortuga in León adn who have journeyed the whole way by land, no planes involved... I really admire that. It´s all well and good trying to be ´green´but then flying in a plane and with a bike at that kind of wipes out all that effort... a bit like offsetting but in the wrong direction.

On the way back stopped off to see some petroglyphs carved into big rocks at the back of a local mango, noni and jocote farm. They´re figurative images, includig a monkey, yay! Possibly Mexican believed to date from the Mayan period, and are very unobtrusive... its obvious that not very many tourists come to see them as Reymen had to clear sand and brush off the rocks to show me them. To get back to Somoto had our second back-of-a-truck-hitch of the day... an eyelash-rearranging experience in the smack of the wind!
> I was really chuffed when we were coming out of the canyon to bump into the lovely Laura and Catherine from Lagartillo. Turns out they´re at the same hotel, so met up later for dinner with them and the three folk they´s hooked up with: brother and sister Erica and Marie and Eric´s partner in the funny-t-shirt trade Sam. Have a look at their online shop... well funny (Ollie and Phil especially, reckon you´d love it!)

Was suprised for some reason to see the town had a bull ring ... apparently if you eat beef in the town that´ll be where its from as they have fights every day...trying to remember the proper word for the fight from the A.L.Kennedy book I was reading about bull fighting at the start of this trip but it´s gone. After poking our heads into the local community centre... and being dizzy-ified by the spinning lights and mega loud semi-karakoe performance headed back for an early night!

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