Well Nicaragua has set out to teach me a lesson. Don’t make plans.
I spent a nice rest day on Big Corn Island. It was a lovely day complete with lounging in hammocks reading books and walking on the beach. I found the little Italian place and while the food was only so-so the host was so ludicrously charming that I’d go there for the hospitality alone. When I went to leave and walk back to my place in the dark, a short walk along either a clear road or the beach she insisted that her father walk me back, just to be safe. Fantastico!
The next day I had a grand plan. Fly to Bluefields and on to Managua, then hop on the bus to Esteli. With the early flight and buses running every 30 minutes I should be there by 2 or 3pm, well before dusk which is a poor time to arrive anywhere in Nicaragua or for that matter most cities when you’re not familiar.
Yeah, back to not making plans right? I had to actually switch planes in Bluefields and as I waited for my next flight I was eventually told my flight would be 4 hours late. While this is annoying in any airport, in an airport without any food for lunch this turned what was to be a perfectly lovely day into another day of no food travel. I think I just have to realize that when you travel in Nicaragua you just don’t get to eat or drink. OK, got it. Oh and plan for dodgy travel though I suppose this small plane is fine but still…. a bit scary.
So eventually I get to Managua, a place I do NOT want to stay again. My options are to stay or hop on the bus at 3:30 which means I’ll get to Esteli in the dark. For whatever reason I decide to trust that I’ll be OK and I hop on the bus. I won’t be arriving really late, just after dark. Normal people will still be out and about, but what of the bus depot? Many are dangerous but this one is right on the Carraterra Panamericana which means it will be on a busy highway, better than in a dark market away from town as many bus stations are.
I’m glad I took that late bus frankly. Riding as the sun set on the beautiful highway made me think about friends who have ridden this very road on their motorcycles. What a beautiful piece of pavement or more specifically what beautiful scenery. Plus I got to see the cathedral here at dark and it’s even more lovely when its stained glass is lit up. One of the best cathedrals I’ve seen thus far and as most of you know, I’ve seen a LOT of them.
Arriving in town wasn’t terribly sketchy and I found a cab quickly that took me to my hostel. I had hoped for a private room but spent the first night in the dorm which was frankly much nicer than it could have been. The next day I was able to move to a private room and I’ve spent the days here just exploring. I had meant to head up to a canyon hike but to be honest, I realize that I enjoy learning the towns and seeing the sites there more than trying to arrange travel. Again, any days traveling suck when you’re not on a motorcycle. It’s just the rule.
Best Lunch EVER!
The first day I managed to hit the local organic farmers market and then I headed out to a place called La Casita, a beautiful little house serving snack type food and in the middle of a botanical garden. It was lovely and I got the only decent bread I’ve had since Ometepe. A real treat in a land where baked goods mostly resemble wonder bread. I walked most of the way back (gringos don’t really do that) and then spent some of the rest of the day exploring town.
Painting the Signs
(is it weird that I think nothing of people with guns anymore?)
What strikes me about Esteli is that it’s different from anywhere I’ve been thus far. For days of walking around I was NEVER yelled at. No “Hey Baby”, not once during the day and only slightly more attention when I was walking around closer to dusk. Why is this town so different?
I suspect part of it is that people here seem to be actively employed. It’s a cowboy community and somehow that means that people are more worried about what they need to do than the tourist girl. The other aspect is that there are plenty of gringos here, a few ex pats and I think this makes me stick out a little less. When there are no gringos I get attention from everyone, here, just a look and no more. It was refreshing to be able to look at men and even smile without it being seen as flirting and without it leading to inappropriate comments. I’ll need to turn the smiles off tomorrow I suspect. Too bad, it’s enjoyable to be friendly.
So Esteli is known for cigars, cowboy boots and leather work and in my opinion, excellent street art. The cigars came about thanks to the Cuban revolution apparently, the cowboy boots go without saying and I’m not sure where the great street art comes from… if only every graffiti artist would make stuff this interesting. Oddly this community also has a fairly large interest in natural medicine which means I have something for my mosquito bites (BIG strike against going to the Caribbean side of Nicaragua). We’ll see if it works… it says it’s good for virtually every ailment under the sun so…
Tomorrow the plan is (BWAHAHAHA) to head to Leon. The buses run VERY early and I really don’t want to get up quite that early. The mini buses run at 8:30 and 9:30 which seems much more reasonable. I guess I’ll set my alarm for the 8:30 bus and if I manage to get up in time for the 6:30 bus I’ll go then. From here I’ll spend some time in Leon, possibly on the coast at a cabana turtle hatchery and in Grenada. I’ve done my time off the gringo trail and I hope that the rest of my adventure is more rest and relax and less surreal travel adventures. We’ll see.
As I think about it I know I can’t stop making plans. Maybe the point is not that you stop planning, but that you let go of the attachment to that plan actually coming true. Seems like a good… plan.