Monday, 25 February 2008

Esteli : first impressions

LOVE IT!!!! I feel very good about this place. The climate, for a start, is lovely... all warm during the day, with glorious clear blue sky and then warm enough for a summer dress yet cool enough not to be bitten by bitey things in the night.

The local connections. Esteli is twinned with Sheffield. Freedom Road in Walkley is twinned with Cale Libertad in the Monte Sinai barrio of Esteli, a social housing project. The two streets and a third Freedom Road in Australia celebrate their connection with simultaneous street parties at least once a year and have swapped letters, recipes and family news by Internet. Last year, I saw a fabulous concert in Walkley’s community centre by a well established Nicaraguan musician and his English wife, a classically trained musician who has been living in a small agricultural community just outside Esteli for the last 5 years and whose life is now here, and entirely different from what she might have projected 7 years ago!

The setting. Esteli is up from the b*stard hot dry low plain leading in form Leon. The journey up in the bus was great. The bus was full of young UNAN students who board weekly in Leon and then have to face hot crowded 3, 4, 5, 6 hour commutes home at weekends to Esteli and the communities surrounding it. I sat next to a trainee medic, from an extended family of medics. Like UK medical students, she said that she doesn’t have much time to go out partying during the week.

So, Esteli lies up from the B*stard hot plain and in the foothills of the Selva Negra, Black Forest, mountains, apparently named by German settlers for the similarity to their own Black Forest back home. The town slopes off to each side, so peripheral streets give views out to the relatively green hills and farmlands and forest reserves beyond town.

Our accommodation and a great ‘coincidence’. We dropped in first to a Peace Corps stronghold (the town has a long political history of NGO and Internacionalista involvement from the War). Bill went off exploring other hostals and came back suggeting one run by an English woman. An unusual choice for us, as we tend to favour locally owned places. Hot, tired, grubby we walked in and dumped our bags. My attention was vaguely taken with a young woman on the sofa.

Sure enough. It was Hannah, the musician from Limon/Walkley concert. It was a beautiful coincidence, the more so, since she was simply visiting the hostal to see a friend, and because I had lost her email address, from our conversation in Walkley. She now has a young child, Roxanna.

Hostal and cafe Luz are the initiative of Janey, who came to Nicaragua’s Miraflor reserve as a volunteer, loved it and has come back to stay. She also is now raising her child here. Profits from the businesses go into local grassroots projects, and Janey hasa great sense of what interested travellers will want to know about Esteli town and the local surrounds. She is well networked into an ecotourism, homestay project set in the Miraflor reserve and enthusiastic to share information with visitors to help them access exactly what they are interested in, rather than leaving people simply taking a standard package.

I am hoping to milk a cow.

No comments:

Post a Comment