after leaving copan we decided that we really didn’t want to spend too much more time in honduras. there was quite a bit that we wanted to do in nicaragua. so, we planned and discussed and finally decided that we’d try to make it close to the southern border in one day. we knew that this was a toss-up, as land slides, construction, random protests, etc. could stall our progress. but, we made multiple plan b’s and hoped for the best. and, as luck would have it, we made it all the way to the border city of danli and still had a little daylight to find our hotel and walk to the nearby pizza hut that we spied on our way in. we were all craving something familiar. it’s funny because the taste was pretty much the same and it still gave me that too-much-grease-in-my-tummy sick feeling that it did when i was a kid. oh well, it was a fun experience because our server spoke with such a thick accent that none of us could understand a word she said. but, we made it through our meal and headed to bed early to rest up for yet another border.
this was a meal bob and i shared at a lakeside restaurant on our lunch break in honduras. we got to pick our fish from the pile of dead ones laying in a large deep-freezer, waiting to be fried. that was novel. but, the fish was good! the drive was smooth that day, but not without quite a few events along the way, the fish being one of the highlights. there was also a horrible accident that we had to weave our way through because it didn’t seem like an ambulance or police would be showing up for awhile. a man from one of the trucks involved was laying in the road and i am almost 100% positive he was dead by the look of his body and the reactions of the locals upon seeing him there. that was pretty unnerving. we also got stopped at a local police checkpoint, but they really just wanted to chat about our trip and the bikes. they were pretty hilarious and one asked if we had any lunch for him. we told them that all we had was candy, and passed it around, and they seemed pretty content to have a treat while standing in the hot sun all day. those were the major events on our ride through honduras.
now, back to the border. we had been told it would be the longest yet and wanted to give ourselves plenty of time to get through it and make it to esteli, which was about an hour and a half into nicaragua. i don’t know if we are just completely lucking out on borders, but it ended up taking less than 2 hours. it was a little more crowded with truck drivers and money changers. but, other than having to make a lot more small talk while bob and matt figured out the process, it was a piece of cake. i hung out with two old men who just really wanted someone new to talk to, so they discussed our route and places we should visit. and they both started showing me stuff to watch out for on the map. but, i only got half of what they were saying, because they seemed to just want to argue amongst themselves about where exactly certain things were. bob and i had bought some coconut cookies for our breakfast that morning, and we had a few left. so, i bounded with the old man who wanted to lean on the bike by sharing cookies. i know it’s elementary, but it still proves a great way to make friends.
we made it to esteli with half the day ahead of us to get settled and figure out our plans. so, we took our time finding a hotel with parking and headed to a well known cafe that served food from local organic farming cooperatives. the food was delicious and fairly cheap, so we quickly decided it would be a staple for our stay in esteli. it was also connected to a hostel that set up ecotours/culture exchanges in the nearby reserve where the organic food was coming from. bob and i decided we really wanted to do a few homestays in the reserve. so we set that up with the hostel. they had binders full of info on the different communities you could visit, each family that offered a homestay experience, and they offered local guides to get you from community to community through the privately owned farms. more on that experience to come…
while we were in esteli, we rested up and caught up on emails and other business. it was the first time we had internet access in a few days. so, we took it easy and ate most of our meals at cafe luz, which was just down the street from our hotel. it was a very easily navigable city. bob and i ran around and did some errands on sunday morning and got to view the beautiful socialist/social justice themed murals all over town. we told ourselves we’d come back out with the camera. but, photography is getting lower and lower on the list these days. sorry if that’s a big blog disappointment. it’s just where we’re at currently on the trip.
after our morning of meandering around town, we decided we wanted to check out the local swimming hole that afternoon. we headed out on the bikes and only had to ask once for directions to the turn-off road. it was a dirt road that wasn’t well marked, so it was easily missed. but, we found our way and headed the 5km down to the small parking area for salto estanzuela. once we parked and payed our 20 cordoba apiece (less than a dollar) for admission, we walked down a winding gravel road that was too treacherous for the bike. when we reached the cascade, it was a welcome sight. it was a lovely waterfall, about 50-60 feet high, and it ended in an icy cold pool, perfect for taking a dip. bob and i slowly inched our way in and were immediately rewarded for our efforts. the water felt so good on our stressed muscles. it was pretty therapeutic, considering what we put our bodies through on a regular basis on the bikes. but, after a short while there we felt rejuvenated and ready to make the trek back up to the parking area.
once we got back to the top (with the comfort of the cool water almost completely forgotten) we put our gear back on and matt made some friends with two local guys who had been hanging out at the house next door. as sunday is the only day off for most people here, lots of people live it up that one day a week. and these guys had definitely been having a fun afternoon. one of them was trying to get back into town, and really didn’t want to make the 5km walk. so, he convinced matt to let him ride on the back of his bike. he didn’t have any gear (obviously) and barely fit, but it didn’t seem to matter to him. most people we’ve seen don’t wear gear, so usually we’re a pretty big spectacle. anyway, matt being the superb driver that he is, got the guy back to esteli safe and sound.
that night we all headed back to cafe luz for one last dinner together before we went separate ways for a few days. matt didn’t want to do the ecoreserve thing, so he was headed down to granada to check out the city and the surrounding areas. while we ate, we made friends with two young nicaraguan guys who had stopped in for a beer. they were super friendly and spoke very highly of their country and the safety that tourists should feel there. they were fun to chat with, as they wanted to practice english and we were trying to practice spanish. but, bob and i had to catch a bus at 5:30am the next morning, so we called it a night early and let matt entertain our new friends a little longer.
we were nervously excited about what the next three days would hold. we knew we’d be doing a good deal of hiking and would be seeing multiple communities. we also knew that there wasn’t much electricity or running water in miraflor. and we knew a tiny bit of info about each of our host families. but, we didn’t even know where we would get off the bus, just the name of our destination community. so, we tried to get a good night’s rest, knowing that our alarm would go off at 4:30am. and, anxiously anticipated our next adventure.