Jinotega – Matagalpa

I had breakfast at my hotel and was pleasantly surprised to find it was ‘on the house’. A walk to the bus terminal I needed saw me land at one of the fanciest in the country. I had time for coffee before I left, them hopped on the bus to Matagalpa. The route between the two towns was spectacular as it ran in between three different reserves which had tiny pueblos nestled on the fringes. As this was coffee country, tiny coffee plantations clung to the side of the hills in varying stages of cultivation. All overshadowed by magnificent cloud forest stretching out for miles.

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The bus pulled into the southern bus terminal and I took the opportunity to get information about my planned overland trip to Puerto Cabezas the following day. This trip is not talked up in any way in the guidebook which is probably why hardly anyone takes it, but I was determined. I knew I could catch a bus to remote Siuna and from there another to Puerto Cabezas but needed to check the details. I eventually found a señora who was able to help me out and wrote down some information for me including the name of the terminal I needed to catch the bus from.

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I then walked up the hill following the river to the Parque Central from which my chosen hostel was close to. Martina’s Place was an excellent choice – clean, comfy and free breakfast included in the price. I dumped my pack, then walked up to the terminal I needed to go to the following morning to check the information I had been given at the other terminal. A lovely señor at the information office was extremely helpful and I felt confident I would be able to get all the way to Puerto Cabezas as planned in two days.

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I had time to visit the Museo de Cafe, so headed to the part of town it was located in. This little museum outlined the steps involved in coffee growing and processing and provided a very interesting history of the town from right back to its indigenous inhabitants to when the first German family arrived in the late 1800s and decided to plant coffee. Other German families followed suit and Matagalpa’s coffee industry was born. It wasn’t easy for these early pioneers though as they originally sent the coffee cherries back to Germany for further processing which resulted a much spoiling on the voyage. Eventually, one of the migrants invented a machine to dehusk the cherries and things went swimmingly thereafter. Matagalpa is now one of Nicaragua’s major coffee producing regions.

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It wouldn’t be Nicaragua without some political message proudly inherent in the display and this little Museo had a big one. After the coffee crisis of 1999, many plantations went under and tens of thousands of workers lost their jobs. This led to a widespread diaspora from the region to the bigger cities and many former farmers and their families starved to death. Eventually, the workers formed a union and set up a road block on the Pan America Hwy in protest demanding food, work, education, health and land. The government at the time (not the FSLN) did little to alleviate the problem, however, a truce was eventually made after three years. According to the signage at the Museo, it wasn’t until the FSLN came back into power that thing really started to rectify themselves. A more believable message though, was that the coffee growers are only getting a tiny portion of the income produced by their crops, with global giants such as Nestle taking the giant share.

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Armed with my new found determination to buy only free trade coffee when I return home, I continued wandering around town. Matagalpa was where Carlos Fonseca, martyred FSLN commander, was born and his presence is felt throughout the town. A bronze statue depicting his image is proudly and prominently erected in Parque Central and the facing Police Department building bears his name. When one learns that he grew up impoverished in a tiny shack with his mother and four siblings, it is little wonder that his political leanings tended towards revolutionising the people towards a socialist state. I still wonder, however, what he would have thought about the way things have turned out for his country with a significant percentage of the population still desperately poor.

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Back at the hostel, I got chatting to a Dutch girl who had spent the previous few months doing an internship in Granada as part of her nursing degree. She was telling me that polio is still prevalent in Nicaragua, although the vaccine is available here. She told me about a 22 year old patient she had who could only move her eyelids and who would eventually die. Of course, no money has gone into developing more effective polio treatments since the vaccine proved so effective 50 years ago, so contracting the disease often remains a death sentence. Her insight into the Nicaraguan health system did not surprise me, but certainly made me grateful to be living in a developed country with access to quality medical care. We ended up going out to dinner together and had a lovely evening swapping stories. I find I always meet interesting people on the road. That’s one of the great benefits of travelling.

Jinotega

The wind picked up during the night and the loose fitting metal door rattled loudly in its frame. I was able to solve the problem by laying my backpack along the edge of the door, thus stopping the wind from blasting in as well as silencing the door. Morning dawned and I got my first glimpses of this pretty town in daylight. One could see spectacular mountains from the balcony outside my first floor room with clouds creeping over the tops. I had planned on climbing to the top of one of these mountains to a lookout, but first needed breakfast.

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I decided to check out a much touted bakery in the guide book for breakfast and fuelled up with great coffee and a couple of pastries. It looked a popular spot for locals as well as the place started filling up not long after I got there. Thus fortified, I was ready for my hill climb. Cerró La Cruz is the town’s cross which is firmly perched on a rocky ridge high above town. It was placed there in 1703 by Franciscan Fray Margil de Jesus. The effort it would have taken to trudge a kilometre up the steep terrain with a supersized cross made this effort pale well beyond ‘something to do one sunny Sunday’ and more in the ‘paying penance for some heinous deed’ category. Although it might have just been that the fine Fray had a mighty big point to make about his devotion to the good Lord.

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The path up to La Cruz was through the town cemetery which was a colourful affair of graves and mausoleums nestled into the base of the hillside. After climbing a steep path, one entered the reserve and a series of concrete steps continued zig zagging up to the top of the ridge. The cloud forest was truly spectacular and a riot of flowering plants in its midst enhanced the splendour. One lost sight of the cross as soon as one started on the steps, so it was difficult to gauge how much further one had to go as the thick forest obstructed vision to the top of the ridge. You could only just keep climbing ever upwards and know at some stage you would eventually get there.

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On top of the ridge, a dirt track led to the top of the peak to La Cruz. A brightly coloured observation pavilion was in prime position for 360 degree views and another short climb led to the cross itself, firmly planted in a pile of large boulders and facing the town far below. The views were magnificent; not only over the whole of Jinotega but of the hinterlands and Lago de Apanas in the distance. After enjoying the vista, I headed back down the hill and back through the cemetery.

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I wanted to go out to visit one of the communities in Lago de Apanas I had read about in the guide book, so headed to the bus terminal. I was directed to a bus which supposedly would take me to Sisle, however, on chatting to a señor standing next to me I found out I would need to get off at a crossroad and wait for a connecting bus. This I managed, but it ended up being later than I was planning on getting to the area. I got dropped off at the top of a dirt road down to Sisle Malecón, but found it deserted and the few shacks there shut. So much for my fresh fish meal I had been looking forward to!

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I walked back up the hill to the little tienda on the corner to make enquires about the next bus heading back to Jinotega. There was a highly inebriated señor who greeted me when I stepped onto the porch and tried to embrace me with an unpleasant fervour. Whilst trying to sidestep and push him away, I was able to find out from the senor in the tienda that the next bus would be along in about 15 mins. I asked to use their facilities which ended up being a drop toilet perched up on a ledge.

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Skipping past the usual menagerie of pigs, dogs, cats, chooks and a horse, I encountered my sodden señor again. He declared he quite liked me and was very persistent in his advances. I moved over to a small clearing next to the tienda to try avoid him and encountered another crazy. This one was muttering and shouting about something I think only he was aware of. I decided to move to the other side of the road to avoid them both, but my sodden señor followed and decided he was coming with me to Jinotega. I was silently wishing there was some sort of entity which would make this damn bus appear and get me the hell out of there. On cue, my salvation in the form of a giant lumbering yellow bus came rumbling up the hill. I thought that sorted the issue out, but sodden señor kept following declaring his undying adoration. It was at this point I told him I was married and had a husband back home. In cases like this, it is always handy to have an imaginary hubby in your back pocket you can use to throw at unwanted attention.

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Safely ensconced on my bus, I could finally see the scenery I had missed coming out here due to having to stand the whole way on both buses. It was very pretty country and I was glad I had the opportunity to see it. Back in Jinotega, we were dropped at the same spot as the night before so I knew where I was going. It was a very full day, so dinner and bed were high up on the agenda as I was leaving early the following day.

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.

Estelí

As I decided not to do the Miraflor Reserve tour but had already paid for the night at my hostel, I had an extra day in Esteli in which to poke around as well as get some things done I needed to do. First off it was breakfast and coffee at my regular where I made enquiries about where to find a good hairdresser. There comes a point in one’s trip where one needs to address the issue of regrowth in one’s hair and throw a heap of chemicals at the problem. I used to really stress about getting my regrowth done in Central America, however, having had it done now four times in four different countries with good result, I am a bit more relaxed about it all. I get my hairdresser back home to write down the colour combination and formula and hand that to the local hairdresser.

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The salon I was directed to was able to help out, however, had no water at that particular moment so suggested I come back in a couple of hours. Another job I needed doing was getting my travel sandals re-stitched as the canyon trip the previous day had not been kind to the job done on them in Leon. I found a shoe shine señor who also did running repairs and sat on his stool while he worked his magic on my sandals. As I sat, several other señors came by to have their shoes polished up. I was astounded at how these shoe shine señors could make the most scuffed shoe look amazing. My shoe shine señor asked if I wanted my sandals to undergo the same treatment and I readily agreed. After all they are leather and should come up nicely. As it was, they ended up looking almost as new and I pranced out of the Parque Central in my shiny sandals.

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I still had some time to kill before I needed to return to the hairdresser so decided to check out the much touted Buffet Castillo which was closed first time I tried. This time, however, the place was humming and I waited in line with other locals. Food was served from large Bain Maries and one paid for it at the end of the counter, cafeteria style. I found a table and tucked into a most delicious meal. There is a reason that the locals crowd here at lunchtime and I was glad to have experienced it.

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By this stage it was time to return to the hairdressing salon and see if the water had been restored. All being good, I handed over my little card and let the hairdresser work her magic. I was happy the water stayed on until it was needed for the rinse process or I wasn’t sure what was going to happen. I treated myself to a blow wave and swanned out of the salon with soft, silky locks (all the same colour) for only AUD32! Happy days.

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I still had time to have a bit more of a poke around Esteli so headed straight for the 1823 Catedral. There outside, stood a young girl in a pink gown accompanied by her mother, grandmother and two young attendants also in pink. This was a quinceañera ready to enter the cathedral to be presented to society as a woman. This practice of girls celebrating their fifteenth birthdays in such a manner is common throughout Latin America and is similar to a debutante ‘coming out’. The girls are escorted down the aisle of the church by their mothers to a special mass which is followed by a celebratory reception afterwards. They are commonly quite grand affairs if the family can afford it.

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One of the things Esteli is famous for is its street art in the form of murals around the city. My last job for the day involved checking the bus timetable for where I wanted to go the next morning, as I was heading into a more remote section of the country and fewer buses plied these routes. I chose a different route to the bus terminal to see what murals I could find en-route. As it was getting dark by this stage, I made a note of ones I liked so I could take a photo of them the following day. At the bus terminal, I found an hombre that worked there and made enquiries as to when the particular bus I was seeking left the terminal the following day. He was busy chatting up a local girl and paid scant attention to my query but confirmed the times in my guidebook were correct. Thus armed with the information I needed, I headed back to my hostel for my last night in Esteli.

Estelí – Cañón de Somoto – Estelí

In Esteli one gets the 6 am air aid siren as well as the midday one, and today I was up with it! I had been told I needed to get the 7.15 am bus from a terminal that was about a half hour walk from the hostel, so set off in plenty of time to make the bus. The walk didn’t take as long as anticipated so I had time for some coffee before hopping on the bus.

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All the other travellers that were going on the canyon tour were also on this bus and it felt strange to be on a local bus and not the only gringa for a change. I managed to get a seat up front which only had leg room for the person on the aisle side. A couple of locals checked out the vacant spot next to me and decided they neither could nor wanted to try to squeeze into the space. Eventually, a señor came along and I found myself sliding over into the legless territory with my feet where his should be. I managed with alternating between putting my right foot up on the wheel arch at intervals to regain what little sensation I could under the circumstances.

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The bus roared along a relatively good road and amazing vistas revealed themselves at every twist and turn of the winding road. We were climbing deeper into lush forested hills, punctuated by verdant valleys. Tiny pueblos dotted the landscape and subsistence farmers eked out their existence in pockets carved out of the forest. Despite the discomfort of my seat, the trip was most enjoyable. Though circulation in one’s legs is not to be underrated.

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I struck up conversation with my bus bud who was intrigued with my being from Australia. He told me he had broken his clavicle in a motorbike accident, then proceeded to show me an array of photos on his phone of his work and home. I had bought some plantain strips from one of the many vendors plying the buses at certain stops and shared them with my new friend. We munched on our snacks companionably as I answered his many questions about Australia.

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We eventually pulled up at Somoto terminal and I was relieved to be able to get circulation back in my legs. A tall hombre by the name of Henry met us at the terminal and assembled his tour participants like a patient mother hen gathering her chicks. We walked over to the awaiting duel cab ute and I climbed into the tray with five others. It was fabulous whirling through the countryside from my windswept post. We pulled up at Henry’s property and the guides got us ready with life jackets and ensuring we had everything we needed. I handed over my camera in its snoop pouch for our guide to carry on his dry bag.

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It was then a three kilometre walk to the start of the canyon, at first along the road where we passed horses and mules quietly grazing in their fields or on the roadside. We then turned off onto a dirt track which climbed a hill to give superb views of the river below and then down to the river itself. Volcanic boulders were everywhere. The whole area was basalt of various levels of degradation with the Rio Coco meandering through it all. This is the longest river in Central America and runs all the way to the Caribbean. A three kilometre natural gorge has been carved out with walls that close in to ten metres at its narrowest. There is a 160 m fall over the extent of the gorge which made for an interesting but fairly easy traverse.

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We rock hopped, waded and swam the extent of the canyon, stopping occasionally for photos. At the end of the canyon we were all piled into a small rowboat and taken about another 500 m downstream from where we had another three kilometre walk back to the start. We passed a tiny casa on the edge of the river and had to dodge cattle slumbering peacefully on the track and one very contented pig having an awesome time snuffling in the mud at the edge of the river.

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A steep hill which resulted in a magnificent vista of the river led to a Reserve checkpoint where we had to register our visit. Then it was just a short walk back to where we started. After changing into dry clothes, we went down for a hearty meal of chicken, rice and salad. A very welcome repast indeed! Two of the girls were staying on overnight, so the rest of us organised a lift back to the bus terminal to catch the 3.15 pm bus to Esteli. The bus everyone was catching was an express which was a bit more expensive and a lot more comfortable with individual seats which in some stage of their life had reclining capacity. The time was also shaved by about an hour as well.

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Back in Esteli, I messaged Susie and arranged to meet up with her and Ana for dinner. I was planning on doing another tour into Miraflor Reserve the following day but it ended up being too difficult so decided against it. We found a fritanga to eat at and had an amazing meal of fresh local food. All too soon it was time to bid my two new friends adios as they were leaving in the morning. I hope to meet up with them both when I travel to Costa Rica on my next trip.

Estelí

Had breakfast and fueled up on coffee at my favourite corner cafe before heading off to meet Susie and Ana for our cycling tour to the tobacco finca. I arrived to find Ana going over all the bikes with a fine tooth comb and rejecting several as not being up to scratch. It turns out she is a bit of a cycling enthusiast back home in Costa Rica, so knows a thing or two about a bike. I was happy to leave her to it as I only usually check seat height and whether the brakes work. After about an hour (nothing happens fast here…), Ana was satisfied that everyone on the tour had a bike of acceptable level and we took off.

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We rode out of town along paved streets and then off down a dirt road which took a bit more focus to avoid separating oneself from one’s bike over dodgy potholes. That was the difficult part, as it was hard to focus on road hazards when there was so much spectacular scenery to take in. Tobacco fields in various stages of cultivation separated out the various cigar factories we passed. Rustic wood slab drying sheds were dotted over the countryside and everything was back dropped by jungle covered hills.

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We crossed a stream and rode into the finca we were to visit. Our guide took us from section to section to meet local workers who manned that particular part of the growing process. We saw the seeding and the seedlings in the large greenhouses, then went out to one of the fields where another señor explained the planting out and eventual harvesting process. We also learnt a little of the history of the tobacco and cigar industry. Evidently, during the revolution Cuba lent significant support to the socialist FSLN movement which also included support in developing Nicaragua’s tobacco and cigar industry. After the revolution, the Cubans were allowed to stay and today have large partnerships with Nicaraguan tobacco and cigar manufacturers.

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After viewing the drying shed and having the process explained, we mounted our steel steeds and rode back to town. As we had started so late, we had a slight delay to the start of our cigar factory tour, but as most of us were on the finca tour it didn’t really matter. The cigar factory we were taken to was just across the road from Treehuggers and was a small Cuban-Nicaraguan affair. We were shown the fermentation room (which if you came out of in a conscious state, you were doing well…) and a room about the size of an office tearoom where half a dozen women were sitting around a large table sorting the dried, fermented leaves and de-stemming those which had been missed. There was a lovely communal atmosphere around this part of the process, with the women chatting and sharing a laugh.

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It was then on to the rolling room where the process of combining leaves into the final cigar takes place. A couple of dozen workers were seated side by side, combining the required leaves to make the different styles, sizes and brands the factory produced for. This was the final stage in the process and after rolling, the cigars were placed in a press in batches to compress further. Trimmed and finished with an outer sheaf, the cigars were then ready for packaging.

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I was bemused to notice a couple of hombres choofing away on massive cigars whilst working, despite the ‘no smoking’ sign displayed on the wall. I asked one of the señors about this and he said one was only allowed to smoke the company’s cigars and these were provided free as the company believed it helped workers with the process if the knew what they were making. I’m not so sure it would have helped with their future respiratory health issues, but this is Nicaragua after all.

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We were then taken to a small stockroom where a massive cigar was lit and passed around for all to sample. Whilst the communal stogie did the rounds, we were free to make purchases from the stockroom at ridiculously cheap prices. Although this was a fairly small operation by Nicaraguan standards, cigars were being produced for some of the finest brands in the world.

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We thought we still had time after the tour to visit the Museum of Heroes and Martyrs and made our way there straight afterwards only to find it shut. We went around the corner to make enquiries and was told that the old woman who usually does the tours was unwell and hence the Museo was closed. Not deterred, Susie continued making further enquiries and we ended up in an art studio that focused on supporting youth art programs and street murals. A very interesting conversation evolved about their work and Susie and Ana took advantage of the offered tour of murals around Esteli the following day. I would very much have loved to have joined them but had my canyon tour already booked.

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Susie then made enquiries at the fire station over the road from the Museo and spoke to an aged hombre whilst waiting. Susie asked him if he fought in the revolution as he looked about the right age. His answer was interesting. He said it was all in the past and he that doesn’t like to talk about it anymore. He just wants it to stay in the past and for everyone to move on with life. Whilst Esteli was a stronghold for the FSLN during the revolution, there still would have been people who did not support the FSLN or simply did not take sides but who would have experienced massive trauma despite this. He also could have been a disillusioned FSLN member who just wanted to put it all behind him. And who could blame him?

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I went back with Susie and Ana to their hotel rooftop terrazzo where they met up with the son of a friend of Ana’s who now lives in Esteli. Caesar works in the cigar industry here but makes flavoured cigars which evidently are quite popular. He recommended a restaurant for us to go to for dinner which ended up being a great choice. A fairly early evening was in order for me as I had an early start the following day.

Estelí

I found a great little cafe on the adjacent corner from the hostel and spent some time checking emails and enjoying a tasty breakfast and fabulous coffee. Nicaragua produces some of the world’s best coffee and here it is cheap and plentiful. My supply of dodgy Guatemalan anti-inflammatory drugs was running low and I wanted to make sure I didn’t run out in some remote spot, so found a sizeable pharmacy to see if I could stock up. They didn’t have any Bayer (first preference), nor dodgy Guatemalan (unknown quantity preference as Lord knows what else might be around!) but did have some slightly less dodgy looking Costa Rican ones which came in a pack of 30 so would last me until the end of my trip.

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I wanted to visit Somoto Canyon which can only be organised as a guided tour, so went to a local NGO by the name of Treehuggers to arrange. As my knee was still nowhere up to scratch for such things, I wanted good, reliable information about the terrain, etc. so as to be able to determine whether I thought I would be able to do the trip. A woman sitting nearby overheard my questions and offered to help to ensure I was getting exactly the information I was after.

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It turned out that Susie was a US expat now living in Mexico and was visiting Nicaragua with her Costa Rican friend, Ana. They were organising a cycling tour to a tobacco finca, then a tour of a local cigar factory. As that was one of the things I was looking at doing myself, I decided to join them the following day and postpone my canyon trip to the day after. As is typical of Central America, such things are not expediently organised and it was some time before all the arrangements were finalised. Susie and Ana decided to get a coffee while I finished organising my canyon tour and I joined up with them afterwards.

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I went back with Susie and Ana to check out their beautiful hotel and amazing rooftop terrace with its incredible views over Estelí . A group of student nurses from the US were also staying there and helping out with regional clinics in the area. It seems Nicaragua attracts a lot of foreign support in terms of professional volunteering. I bid Susie and Ana buenas noches and took a wander down the streets of town for a comedor which took my fancy. I eventually found a fritanga which ticked all the boxes; cheap, typical and full of locals. I chose from the limited menu and sat down at a table. This is Nicaraguan eating at its best. Simple good food prepared on a large rustic wood fired oven facing the street. Just the thing to finish off my first day in beautiful Estelí.