Home stay and coffee in Esteli, and on to Leon
Trip Start Nov 26, 2005
55Trip End Nov 26, 2006
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They were part of an organic coffee cooperative. There had been recent rain which caused the coffee "cherries" to rapidly swell, split & fall, so now an urgent harvest was needed of the ripe ones. I volunteered to stay longer than planned & help, working all day with the family & a few neighbours. It was back-breaking work, with a home-made basket supported by your waist/neck, weighing maybe 10 kilos once full. The work was on steep slopes up to an hour's walk away, with horses used to bring back the sackfuls. Later after the husks were removed by a manual machine, every single bean was hand-sorted,& many were too damaged by the rain to sell.... so much work for a pittance of money, so really enjoy your next cup of coffee (& maybe buy organic/fair trade?)
After 4 days, I said a sad 'adios' to my little family & travelled by (rather precarious!) horseback for 2 hours along impossibly muddy & steep tracks to a higher, cooler village, to visit the cloud forest there. Then it was back to 'civilisation' , where my next destination would prove to be VERY significant to my travel plans - the historic city of LEON. After leaving the P-A-Highway, the road became bone-shakingly appalling & the rickety old chicken bus felt like it would disintegrate
Arriving after dark, I got a taxi to a hostel which turned out to be awful, with a big impersonal dorm & a loud bar just feet from my bed.Too tired to change, I planned to move out asap the next morning....but I woke up drenched in sweat & hardly able to move or swallow!!!! Fleeting thoughts of malaria & dengue fever came & went, as once I managed to drag myself to the bathroom, one look confirmed it was nothing so exotic - just severe tonsillitis!!! The heat of Leon was unbearable & I really struggled not to dehydrate as swallowing even my saliva caused excruciating pain! I spent the whole day & night in bed sleeping badly.
By midday the next day, I had just enough strength to drag myself & bags across the road to BIGFOOT hostel, which was a million times nicer, with smaller quieter dorms & very friendly staff (SEE LATER!!!) After another nap I decided to stop feeling sorry for myself & went for a v slow walk around the town. There are numerous murals on the walls depicting Leon's history & politics, esp the fierce resistance it put up during the war. A memorable one showed the USA & the CIA as an evil serpent, trying to strangle the country with the help of the corrupt government forces.Nica has had peace since 1988 & despite numerous corrupt governments & huge economic problems is now fairly stable, making progress & one of the safest countries in Latin America
That night I cooked myself my 1st food for 48 hrs - garlic steak - in the hostel's HUGE kitchen, where I also met the hostel's ozzie owner Darryn, whose rum/fruit cocktails definitely helped to sooth my throat! I had already missed one volcano trip (the main reason I went to Leon) & the next day felt well enough to tackle a little one - a tour of CERRO NEGRO "black hill" run by the hostel. After a drive through the rural communities, we hiked 45mins up for amazing views over the plains & other volcanoes. This one is active, with sulphur & steam constantly streaming out from the hot black sand - I loved it! We watched the sunset over the Pacific Ocean then sat on wooden boards on the steep slope, & pointed them DOWN ... this is volcano-boarding, as invented by Darryn, not the for the faint-hearted... but after an initial wimpy start (well, I was still poorly!) I slid down as fast as the rest of them, arriving at the bottom 3mins later, totally covered in dust, full of adrenaline & feeling MUCH better!
The next day I started to plan more travels south (plan"A") but Darryn asked me out on a date....pizza & cinema, true ozzie class that!!!! Anyway, it proved to be a lot of fun & we spent the rest of the week together (plan "B"), with several trips to the beach 40mins away, him surfing, me body boarding & talking to cute beach dogs before watching gorgeous sunsets into the Pacific Ocean! We also did lots of cooking together in the hostel, both of us loving garlic & good food. I even managed to impress him with my culinary skills (stop laughing you lot back home!!!) esp my butternut squash soup! (our drinking copious amounts of the excellent local "Flor de Cana" rum may have contributed to my success...) The week flew by & I was sad to leave, but left a bag of stuff there, planning a QUICK return visit (plan "C")!