Get up early and you, too, can find an artist-hermit in Nicaragua! Alberto is an energetic 76 year old man rockin’ a fantastic white afro. He decided to combat alcoholism by taking up rock carving and has been at it for more than three decades. His work is impressive.
He uses only these simple tools to create his masterpieces.
Half the fun in finding a hermit is the search. It is not easy! To visit Alberto you need to wake up at the crack of dawn and catch a taxi to the hospital near the edge of Esteli. Then jump on the local bus at 6:00 a.m.-ish (you never really know when the bus comes and goes in Central America) heading to Tisey. It only goes twice a day so don’t miss it like we almost did! Tell the money man that you want to be dropped off at Eco Pasada.
Then sit down (if you are a lucky one with a seat!) and enjoy the one hour bumpy ride over dirt roads through the forest. Oh, and be prepared for an excessive amount of horn beeping. The driver grabs the chain at his fingertips and blasts the horn very few minutes to announce the bus’ approach. It is effective in letting potential passengers know the bus is coming, which we did appreciate on the return.
When you get off, start walking in the same direction as the departing bus until you come to this sign and a gate.
You will pass through another gate (close it behind you). Don’t be alarmed by the massive cows and bulls meandering around. They are obviously accustomed to random hermit hunting Gringos walking through their field.
Keep following the windy dirt path into the woods. After about ten or fifteen minutes start calling out “Alberto!” He will suddenly appear, welcoming you to his home and his art.
If you plan to catch the same bus on its return you have about an hour with Alberto before you need to find your way back through the bull field to the main road. Or you could do what we did and walk along the main road (still in the direction that the bus went) until a pickup truck comes along.
Jump in the back and go find the organic farm and hike through the preserve. More on that later!
Oh, when you visit Alberto be sure to leave him something, a tip or even a pack of smokes. He charges nothing to show you his creations, and spends the hour merrily guiding you through the trails, pointing out flowers and fruits, and ends the “tour” with a lovely poem. Unfortunately, I have no idea what the poem is about as Alberto speaks only in Spanish, but it’s touching and clearly is conveying something about his love for his home and the beauty of Nicaragua.
This is Alberto’s home. He will show you it and the various photo books from past visitors, awards from the Nicaraguan government for his contribution to tourism, and more. He may be hard to find, but he certainly is not a recluse!
And say hi to his engaging, warm hearted 80 year old sister. You can tell both she and Alberto truly enjoy visitors.
We left their lovely homestead feeling welcomed and inspired. No trip to Nicaragua would be complete without a visit.
Audrey and Rhiannon – two amigas who finally found the Stone Man in Esteli