Estelí – Jinotega

Time to farewell beautiful Estelí and head further afield. I needed to leave my hostel at 8.30 am which was before my corner cafe opened on a Sunday so missed out on one last magnificent breakfast. I had marked on maps.me where the murals were I wanted to take photos of so zig zagged through the streets on my way to the bus terminal. Once there, I found out my inattentive señor from the previous night had given me a bum steer and the bus I was planning on catching wasn’t running so had to wait another three hours for the next one. As I had nowhere to practically leave my pack, I decided to hole up in one of the little comedors and wait it out.

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Eventually my bus pulled up and I got a good seat. Of course, a ‘good’ seat in my eyes is based purely on being able to get a relatively decent view of the countryside. In no other way could any of these seats be considered ‘good’ by Western standards, but I was grateful to have somewhere to put my feet as an added bonus. The ability to get a decent view was key to me taking this bus as it went smack through the middle of Área Protegida Miraflor which I was keen to experience, even if only from the window of a local bus. We headed out of town past the tobacco finca I had visited a couple of days ago, then the bus began its long, slow climb up into the mountains.

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The condition of the dirt road left much to be desired, but the driver negotiated the worst of the obstacles, stopping on a fairly regular basis to pick up and drop off passengers. This slow pace of travel is wonderful to truly experience the way of life of the average rural Nicaraguan. Most of these people are too poor to own any form of motorised transport, so the lumbering bus is their only form of transport, aside from the occasional horse or bicycle.

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Área Protegida Miraflor is an interesting conglomerate of community farming and nature reserve. Evidently during the Revolution, the subsistent farmers here rose up to resist the Contra soldiers who snuck over the Honduran border which helped the FSLN in its cause to no small degree. In return, when the FSLN took power, Daniel Ortega nationalised the area and gave it back to the people to organise into colectivos. Of recent times, several of the communities have organised homestays and guided tours through the region, though it still remains a largely undeveloped area.

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There are three main climate zones one reaches travelling through this area. The ‘low zone’ is a tropical oak savanna, the ‘intermediate zone’ has some remnant cloud forest, and the ‘high zone’ is mostly cloud forest. One could see the changing landscape as we climbed ever higher into the mountains. Bromeliads, orchids and mosses draped over oak trees giving the landscape an eerie perspective. Colourful flowers began becoming more prolific and one could see buckets of many varieties of flowers for sale at roadside stalls.

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Eventually, we pulled into the tiny pueblo of San Sebastián de Yali. This picturesque little town was completely surrounded by mountains and had nestled itself within a small high valley. I found out when the next bus I needed left and wandered off to find a comedor or bar where I could sit and recharge my phone. Clearly this was well off the beaten track as I received more than my fair share of stares by the locals. I crossed a small river at the edge of town and came across a well patronised bar full of hombres. As there didn’t seem to be much in the way of other options and I really needed to charge up my phone, I plonked myself down on a chair next to a power socket and ordered a cerveza. I definitely was a novelty in the bar as it didn’t seem it would be often a woman, let alone a gringa, stepped foot in here unless she was working behind the bar.

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Once I had sufficient charge in my phone, I bid adieu to the couple of hombres who had struck up conversation with me and walked back to the bus terminal. My bus had already pulled in and of course, all the seats were taken! That is what one should have been doing rather than chugging cervezas with the hombres. I had another check of my guidebook and decided to continue on to Jinotega for the night. We passed through pretty San Raphael del Norte, with its impressive looking church, and continued on to the south western shores of Lago de Apanas. This is Nicaragua’s third largest lake and supports several fishing communities dotted around its shores.

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It was dark by the time we pulled into Jinotega and I had no idea where we were as we were clearly not at a bus terminal. Those cheeky siesta cervezas had worked their way through and I was busting for a pee! A señor started harassing me about something but I couldn’t/didn’t want to understand what he was on about. I walked to the gas station on the corner and pleaded with the attendant to use their facilities, but to no avail. He did, however, direct me to a nearby pokie joint where I gate crashed the ladies bathroom. I’ve never been so happy to be in a house of gambling in my life!

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Thus relieved, I checked out maps.me for where I was and where Parque Central was. All the hotels in the guidebook were a little on the pricey side so I went into one close to the centre of town and checked it out. USD12 for a single room with private bathroom suited me just fine. I went back downstairs and organised dinner and another blanket as the evening was turning quite chilly. Time to explore this pueblo in the morning.

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