Jinotega, Nicaragua July 2010

I didn´t realize it until now, but Tom and I have had it pretty easy on this trip so far.  We´ve enjoyed electricity every night, our health, a variety of fine (alright, maybe only good) cusine, available internet access.  We are now in the midst of a volunteer stint that is testing our manual labor prowess, abilities to find our way down rickity steps to a compost toilet in the dark and the courage to chase CORAL SNAKES out of our boudoir.

We find ourselves at La Biosfera, an eco-lodge and retreat center still under construction in the breathtakingly gorgeous green hills above Jinotega.  La Biosfera is the branchild of talkative and energetic Suzanne, an American ex-pat who relocated to Nicaragua five years ago.

I can´t begin to relay how beautiful the view is from the lodge.  From our bedroom, you can see into the valley of tiny terra coda and corugated tin roofs that make up the city of Jinotega.  The valley widens into a patch work of coffee farms, cow pastures and family owned fincas.  The mountain walls steepen and rise into sharp emerald points 2,000 feet above the valley.  The sky trransforms the view throughout the day – from the misty mornings to bright middays to shadowy afternoons to magically glowing twilights.

The work-exchange option at the lodge gives us a half-price discount for our room in exchange for four hours of work a day.  Our first project has been to inlay some natural stone steps leading to the backpacker´s veranda.  Our first day we hiked up Suzanne´s property for twenty minutes that brought us through her horse pasture, to the clearing where she one day hopes to build a ¨Great Hall¨, into the tall grasses that lead into a thick, ancient forest.  After crossing small streams we finally came to the bat cave – the source of Suzanne´s water for the lodge (and home to hundreds of little batties).  Next to the bat cave Orlando, Suzanne’s carpenter, and another hired hand were bagging some red rocks taken from a wall on the side of the cave.  We helped for a few hours hauling the rocks back down to the base.

The next two days we have laid the foundation for the steps and started cementing the red rock into place.  It’s been hard work but rewarding!