Esteli, Cigar Capitol Of Nicaragua
The drive from San Jorge to Esteli was five hours long. We were no longer near the lakes of Granada and Managua, we were now in the part of Nicaragua famous for their cattle and cigar. We drove through several town’s and had traffic issues at times, but nothing too dreadful. As we approached Esteli, we would see electronic billboards and signs all over the place. Similar to the ones in Reno, Nevada. Esteli even had their version of “Hard Rock” dubbed “Hard Place” Casino.
While driving thru the subdivision to get to our bed and breakfast, we noticed lavish homes and the armed security guards on every corner. At first, we thought this must be a bad crime area, because the guards were carrying AK-47s. As we arrived to Esther BnB, she greeted us with fresh juice and mango pie, which was absolutely delicious. As we walked backed to the car to get our bags, we heard Ester saying “leave your bags in the truck, they will be safe”. We gave her the are you crazy look, She noticed our hesitation and said, “Don’t worry about the armed guards”, they are hired to house sit for the fancy homes of the cigar bosses. That eased our minds and explained the reason for the armed guards, Esteli happens to be the cigar and beef capital of Nicaragua.
As we sat in her patio talking, she told us how she quit her good paying job in the Netherlands to travel the world and live a minimalist life. She left the Netherlands five years ago and finally settled on moving to Esteli. After swapping stories for an hour, it was time to eat. Since Nicaragua has some of the best beef in the world, she recommended Pullaso’s Ole, which was about 2 miles from her house.
Pullaso’s Ole, was a nice spot, definitely would compete here in the U.S. in regards to quality and ambiance. We all ordered one rib-eye each. The rib-eyes arrived with their sides and it had to be the best steak we’ve ever had. The best part of this rib-eye dinner and bottle of wine is that the total was less than $100 USD, which included an overpriced bottle of wine for $38. The next morning, Esther prepared a complimentary breakfast for us with all the works, it was delicious and we felt right at home in her garden patio. She handmade all the jellies, jams, juices and mango bread. We can definitely understand how she is the the top rated place to stay in Esteli on TripAdvisor. Thanks Ether for the stories, laughs and the stay at your place, and yes, The Alchemist was a wonderful book.
Somoto Canyon, Cliff Diving & Rock Climbing
It was an hour from Esteli to Somoto Canyon National Monument. There were 2, 4 and 6 hour tours, we chose the 4 hour tour and I’m glad we did, we were completely wasted after the trek. We started with a 30 minute walk through the forest to get to the Canyons, at one point we were about 500 meters from the border of Honduras. As we approached the canyon, the trail disappeared and we began climbing boulders and walking through knee high water. The knee high water soon became waist high and soon after that we were able to jump from 30, 40, and 60 feet into 40 feet of water. We all jumped from different heights. Faustino jumped from the 60 ft cliff, unfortunately the guy that volunteered to film this epic jump from 60 feet, did not know how to use the GoPro, so he was only able to get a picture of Faustino jumping in mid air.
At some points within the tour, there was no walking involved, you either had to swim or float on an inner-tube across the 40 yards of water and nothing to hang onto, it was mentally and physically exhausting. The whole trek was about 2.5 miles long and we did it in 5 hours, just an hour behind schedule. After a quick bite, it was time to hit the road. We were done for the day, no more tours, it was 2 pm on Sunday, and we had to be in Leon, Nicaragua which was a 3 hours drive from the Canyons.
Welcome To Leon, Nicaragua
The drive from Somoto Canyon to Leon was peaceful, there was hardly any traffic on the highway. One thing we noticed while driving thru Nicaragua, is the amount of schools. Nicaragua really has a lot of schools and they are everywhere. Every town, even the small remote towns had at least two schools at a minimum, every child is afforded an opportunity even in the poorest conditions. After 3 hours of driving, we arrived in Leon at about 5:00 pm, we had an hour before sunset and we were supposed to wait for our host at La Colonial, a supermarket in the center of Leon. Our host was late and it was getting dark and all our bags were in the bed of the truck.
After about 45 minutes, our host finally arrived and we had to follow him to our last home in Nicaragua. As we followed him, we realized there was no way in hell, we could have found our house without an escort. When we arrived at our new home it was dark, we didn’t see much and to make things worse our house was not ready! The host promised us a house in the morning and gave us temporary home, which was equipped with a scorpion, yes a real live scorpion… after taking care of our scorpion problem and checking the home for any more unwanted creatures we decided to have dinner and call it a night.