Friday, April 27, 2012

Selva Negra

Since my parents had survived ziplining, climbing up 177 stairs to peer into a sulfur-spouting volcanic crater, and spending a sweltering night in non-airconditioned cabin with a compost toilet, I decided to cut them some slack and take them to more hospitable environs.  Off we went to Selva Negra, a nearly self-sustaining coffee finca, organic farm, and eco-lodge a few hours north of Managua, in Matagalpa.  Matagalpa is at a higher elevation and is significantly cooler than anywhere else we'd been.  Someone had recommended that we bring sweaters and, I admit, I scoffed.  You have to understand, the guards at my house put on big puffy winter coats and ski caps if the night temperature approaches 70--so when a sweater was recommended, I wasn't buying it.


It was probably around 70 when we arrive, at noon.  Unheard of!!!  At night, I'd say that the temperature hovered in the low 60s and yes, I was glad that I'd brought a lightweight sweatshirt with me.

Selva Negra means "Black Forest" and the owners are descendants of German immigrants who settled in the area.  There are a variety of lodging options to choose from; we went for a small brick cabin that had 2 bedrooms, a living room, a bathroom, and a small porch area with two rocking chairs.

The finca has its own restaurant, and virtually all of the food served in the restaurant is grown or (if animal) raised onsite.  They even make their own cheese, and let me tell you, after going 6 months without Camembert, I could have cried with joy when I saw that wheel of cheese.   This was the off-season, though, so we didn't see any coffee production in action, but we took a tour and drove all over the finca, saw the fields, saw the processing area / equipment, and learned a lot about coffee production.  Apparently, the farm sells most of its beans to larger coffee producers, and keeps a small amount for itself, for the restaurant, etc. Although our guide did tell me that you can buy Selva Negra coffee in Whole Foods, but I have no idea if that's still true.  I will say, though, that this was some of the best coffee I've ever had; good enough for me to drink black, and I'm the kind of gal that likes a little coffee with her milk. 

The finca really takes the self-sustaining bit seriously; plant matter that is left after the beans are harvested and de-husked is used to feed the worms in the worm farm, and after the worms eat and the material passes through, the end product is used to fertilize the fields where the coffee, fruits, vegetables, etc. are grown.  By the way, am I the only one who thinks its funny to describe worm shit as an "end product"?  

Selva Negra is also very family-friendly; there were swingsets, rope swings hanging from trees, a tetherball pole, and a small playground scattered throughout the farm.   I'm also not too ashamed to admit that I whipped the Mini-Menace at tetherball.  So what if I have a significant height advantage. 

There is also a beautiful stone chapel on the property, with simple benches and beautiful stained-glass windows.  

We met the owners' son-in-law at breakfast and he told us that the chapel had been built for their wedding.

The restaurant is set on the side of a small (and not deep) lagoon; we ate dinner and watched a guy balance himself in a small wooden boat and use a pitchfork to to pull something akin to seaweed out of the bottom of the lake.  

Nice view!!  I'm talking about the lake, of course.

And have I mentioned the howler monkeys?  There are two bands of howler monkeys that live in the forest around our cabin, but alas, there was no repeat of the Monkey-in-My-Lap.  Howler monkeys are loud, and sound pretty scary; it was like a really deep, baritone bark.  No pictures, unfortunately, but my dad and I enjoyed our little hike; there are some great trails on the property.

Next time, I might plan ahead and take advantage of the stables and go  horseback riding instead.  And eat my body weight in Camembert, of course.  

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