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Thread: Balgues

  1. #1

    Default Balgues

    I was laid up for a couple of days after getting sick from food poisoning on Christmas. I got cabin fever, and so I made plans to go exploring and walking before I was completely well. Before I got sick, the last thing that I had done was to walk from Altagracia down to the Santo Domingo beach. This walk opened my eyes to the possibility of exploring two medium sized towns around the southern volcano: Balgues and Merida.

    I asked around in the central park in Altagracia and learned that I bus leaves for Balgues daily around 9:30am, so I packed my camera and my bottle of water in my small backpack and headed out with uncertain stomach, joints, and muscles. My plan was to walk back to Altagracia from Balgues instead of walking to Balgues, because this way I'd have more energy to explore the new town up front, and if I got tired, I could always catch a bus.

    When I got to Balgues, I learned from the guy announcing our arrival that Balgues isn't pronounces like it's spelled. It's Balg-Ways and not Bal-Gays. This must mean that it's another indigenous name (like Quino and Urbaite and Moyogalpa). I don't know what it means.

    The path extending farther south beyond Balgues captured my curiosity, so I ended up walking that way first to see what small town(s) might be father along. The road quickly became dirt, and then it became more and more broken and muddy. I passed isolated houses and farms and larger buildings as I walked a good ways (a few kilometers I'd guess) beyond Balgues, but I never came across anything large enough that I'd call it a town.

    The lake shore was always just in sight or just through the trees to one side, so it seems like this road hugs the shore the whole way. I finally ran across someone going the other direction, and I asked him what was down this road or where the road leads. He told me that the only place the road goes is all the way around the volcano, and the only town is back the way I was coming--to Balgues. So, I turned around and walked back.

    Walking all the way around the southern volcano could be fun, but I knew that I wasn't up for that yet.

    When I got back to Balgues, I stopped at their central park (which was more of a central field with tents clustered around the outside) for lunch. I asked around, and then settled on a pork soup for C$50. There was a nice hip joint in my bowl with chunks of meat and fat clinging to it. I ate the meat and as much of the fat as I could stomach from it, and then I threw the joint to a dog. I looked away from a moment, and when I looked back, the dog and the joint were gone, but there was an entirely different dog in the exact same spot looking at me. I looked up and beyond the new dog to try to locate the other one, and I saw him running across the field with the joint in his mouth. The new dog looked where I was looking and then took off as fast as it could after the other dog. A little bit later, the first dog had reappeared and was giving me a look that I interpreted as "you sold me out" or "what are you gonna do to make this right?" I didn't have any other bones to give the dog. It was a good soup, and the first time that I've ever had pork soup in Nicaragua.

    I wandered around the town to explore it. In one direction I eventually made it down to a muddy, marshy, reedy lake shore, and in the other direction there were only a few cross streets before the town ended in dense trees and an incline towards the volcano. The exception to this was a larger trail leading towards the volcano next to a sign for Finca Magdalena. I'd already expending a fair amount of energy walking past Balgues, and I wasn't up for walking all of the way back to Altagracia, so I decided that I might as well following this new trail towards the volcano instead.

    I wound up to the Finca Magdalena. The road dead-ended at the Finca, and I was forced to walk through a gate and past some out buildings. This made me feel uncomfortable--like I was trespassing, but I saw signs written on the gate with an arrow indicating a path to the volcano, so I rolled the dice and just walked quickly through the Finca.

    Above and beyond the buildings of Finca Magdalena, there is a sign surrounded by benches in a small clearing (picture attached) with a crossroads for trails. The map indicated long trails to the left and right that looped back to that point and a short trail straight ahead to "la laguna" and the volcano. I assumed that the lagoon in question was in the crater of the volcano, and given the short line on the map, I decided to try to get to it.

    I picked up a walking stick (there were half a dozen leaning against one bench) and started up the trail.

    The stick proved useful right away to clear spiderwebs. The trail was dirt and mud and it was very steep. To make it passable, someone had places wooden planks into the trail to serve as steps. The problem was that these planks were smooth and slick and angles slightly down, so I preferred to step to the sides of the trail or on the rocks that had been places to either side of the trail in places. The people who put the wood on the trail couldn't have realized that not only were they not helping the trail, but they were actually making it more treacherous. Clearly a great deal of (wasted) effort was put into adding those slick and inclined boards to the trail...

    About a half an hour up the trail, I came upon half a snake. It was about as thick around as a quarter at the middle, and it was sticking out of the ground. It wasn't moving, and the half that I could see had no head, so I wasn't sure at first what I was looking at or if it was even alive. I thumped the body a few times with my walking stick and waited. The snake coiled a bit, but otherwise didn't react to my hitting it. I figured out that the snake was head first into a hole that was either too small for it or just barely large enough for it. I stepped over it and kept climbing.

    I had been going for about an hour when a European couple came down the trail. I asked them how far I was from the volcano, and they told me 3-4 hours. If this is true, then the tiny line on the sign map back in the clearing was seriously misleading. I figured that I could handle another hour (maybe) of climbing, but 3-4 hours just to get up there made the climb untenable for me. Still, I came this far, so I kept going in the hopes that I'd reach a place with a overlook where I could take picture before turning back.

    The rain hit and forced me to take shelter under a tree on the side of the trail. The rain transformed the trail from treacherous to downright life-threatening as everything became slick mud and slick smooth inclined boards. The tree was near to some coffee plants in one direction (probably the point of Finca Magdalena), and so I went out into the rain and climbed up on a fallen log to try to take some pictures (attached) of the jungle and of the lake beyond. I wasn't able to see much or stay out in the rain long and still keep my camera dry and usable.

    The weighed my options back under the tree. Do I stay where I am until the rain stops (if it even does stop), or do I risk picking my way back down the horrible trail? I eventually decided that given the way that the volcanoes are almost always covered in clouds, that I had no reason to think that the rain would stop if I stayed put, so I picked my way painstakingly down the trail.

    I used three points of contact. I would hold onto nearby trees or crouch over and hold onto rocks as I picked my way down. The rain kept up for another 15-30 minutes. I have no idea if the rain stopped, or if I descended beneath the rain.

    Once I was out of the rain, the descent was easier and a bit faster, but I still carefully selected ever foot and hand placement. When I got down to where I saw the snake, there was no sign of it. Having seen the snake on the way up was another reason that I kept my eyes down and checked before I stepped. Where there is one snake...

    I broke out my camera and took some more photos once the sun came out again. I got some of the views that I wanted when I got back to Finca Magdalena. I enjoyed the play of light and shadow through the canopy over the trail below the Finca as well.

    When I got back to Balgues, I walked up the street towards Altagracia, but I stopped when I reached the edge of Balgues to wait for the bus. I'd walked enough for one day. I could feel my body telling me that I'd overexerted too soon after being sick. Plus, I was still completely soaked from the rain. I figured that I could come back tomorrow to walk from Balgues to Altagracia and explore that stretch of road.


    Soy el chele mono.

  2. #2

    Default Re: Balgues

    Here are the last couple photos that didn't fit in the original post:

    Soy el chele mono.

  3. #3
    Viejo del Foro Daddy-YO's Avatar
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    Aug 2007
    Philly - León
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    Default Re: Balgues

    Ratings of Finca Magdelena vary from 5/5 to 0. Fun to read. "To each his own."

    Hey, if you're not in a rush, try the food at Cafe Campestre, assuming they offer something that fits your budget. One reviewer says, "Best place to eat on Ometepe, and cheap too." Of course, 'cheap' is a relative term.
    I never met a Semite I didn't like.

  4. #4

    Default Re: Balgues

    That "trail" looked more like a mudslide. Beautiful scenery out there, lush vegetation, be interesting to see how the place looks at the end of the dry season.

  5. #5

    Default Re: Balgues

    Some pretty shots. Beautiful one through the trees to the lake. Picking your way down that trail in the rain sounds like it was miserable.

  6. #6

    Default Re: Balgues

    Quote Originally Posted by songbird27 View Post
    Some pretty shots. Beautiful one through the trees to the lake. Picking your way down that trail in the rain sounds like it was miserable.
    It was touch and go there for about an hour.
    Soy el chele mono.


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