[…continued from “Bus Ride from Hell”]
After being dumped at a random gas station in Nicaragua by the Transporte del Sol bus, Rhiannon and I stood in the lot looking around without a clue where we were or where to go. Luckily, the gas station store was air conditioned and had an ATM and a beautiful bathroom (we’ve begun to judge places by the quality of their bathroom. It is very exciting to find one that is clean, has soap and toilet paper, and a toilet with a seat!).
We eventually decided to flag down a taxi and found one with a driver that knew Sonati hostel. We really were in Esteli! Hooray!
After dropping our bags and locking up passports (yea for the great lock boxes here!) we roamed around town. Esteli is a small city. It doesn’t have the quaint architectural coloring of Antigua, Guatemala or Granada, Nicaragua, but is charming in its own right. We choose to go to Esteli primarily to meet the “stone man,” but fell in love with this town and its people. Our two night stay turned into four.
On our first full day we got directions to walk to a bus that would take us to another bus that would eventually drop us near a waterfall. The stroll through the main street in town was great. Lots of shop, murals, and street vendors.
We eventually made it to where we thought the bus would stop and, having 20 minutes to spare, popped into an empty bar for a cold one. There we met the owner (I think his name is Jose, but I never did fully understand him when he told us (multiple times)).
He had just moved from a town in El Salvador that he referred to as muy peligroso. We told him we were going to see a nearby waterfall, which, as a newcomer, it turns out he had never seen. We asked about safety in Esteli and he assured us that Esteli is very safe. He was so convincing that we decided to take him up on his offer to drive us to the waterfall. Seems crazy, I know, but it works here. We have found that Nicaragua is full of friendly, helpful, and happy people. There was no one in the bar, so he closed up shop and off we went, along with his friend Alberto who pulled up on his moto just as we were leaving, and decided to join us.
We tried to convince Jose to let us ride in the bed of the pickup, but he would not. Alberto (who spoke English fairly well) explained that the back is not a place for guests, the front is a seat of honor, and that is why Jose would not let us ride in the back. Our quest to ride in the back of a truck in Central America would have to wait.
Riding to the waterfall with Jose and Alberto was a great decision. The road there is just dirt and full of potholes. It took about 45 minutes to go maybe three miles! A family owns land near the path to the waterfall. They gated the path and charge a small fee (C$ 20 (less than a dollar)) to cross their land. They also sell snacks and beverages. We later learned this is very common in Nicaragua. Seems fair to me!
Unfortunately Jose has bad knees and couldn’t walk down the steep path to the falls. We took lots of pictures for him. The falls are pretty and, of course, we had to jump in and swim to them! For most of the time, the three of us were the only ones there.
Alberto and Jose insisted on buying a round of beers after the hike and then we headed back to Jose’s bar. We said our fairwells and hit the market to buy fresh produce for dinner.
The kitchen at Sonati hostel was well equipped and we successfully made our first meal in a hostel. It was delicious!
We hit the hay relatively early because tomorrow we are going with Michael, a guide at Sonati, to find the “stone man,” a hermit who has been carving in the mountain rock walls for decades.
Audrey and Rhiannon – two travelers who are rapidly falling in love with Nicaragua (especially its people)