Its 4am and I have the water poo – I literally can’t move from the toilet. There is no way I am going to get up for the 6am bus to the Tisey Estanzuela Natural Reserve.
There are only 2 buses a day from Estelí (nearest town) to the nature reserve (except Wednesdays) a lesson we learnt the hard way the day earlier (a Wednesday). After 4 hours, some major language barriers (ie we only spoke pidgin Spanish), 2 expensive taxi rides later and some bribe money for a local to watch our bags we gave up on the nature reserve, found accommodation in Estelí and decided to go back the next day slightly better prepared. Our plan was to get the 6am bus there and the afternoon bus back.
So here I am on the throne making the decision that I simply couldn’t face it. So when we did surface that morning and I’d stopped sh*tting we headed to the park on the afternoon bus. Looking back now I’m not sure that we had planned out how we were going to back. We most likely did think about it but we had the backpacker mentality that everything would be ok.
So lonely planet in hand we arrive in the nature reserve (which by the way is HUGE – like 23,000 acres huge), we set off to find Albert the hermit. Time was not on our side but we were determined, plus how long can it take to visit a hermit?
We found Albert – he was a cute old man with a snowy white beard and a weathered face. He welcomed us and excitedly stared showing us around his carvings. As I eluded to our Spanish was pidgin Spanish at best. I did know the word ‘bonito’ and ‘mi espanol es poco’ but this didn’t seem to bother him as he proudly chatted away to us telling us what I can only assume was his life history and why he loves to live in his ‘den’ in the woods.
Despite the language barrier I felt moved by meeting Albert. I can’t describe why but he was so happy with his life and so passionate about what he does. The views he had were breathtaking. I’m glad that he is well known enough to get the occasional visitor but he’s off the beaten track enough not to have his lifestyle impeded upon by drones of tourists.
All in all we must have been with Albert for well over an hour so as we make our way back to the road (by road I mean the dirt track that saw a car once a day – if that) we worked out that we had about 10 miles to walk and about 1.5 hours of daylight left. Needless to say I’m no Paula Radcliffe so we were basically f*cked. There was no way we could even hitchhike as we knew there was no passing traffic.
So we run, yes run. We’re running downhill trying to cover as much ground as possible in what time we had. The difficulty being (due to given my aforementioned condition) I was having to clench my butt cheeks while trotting along this dirt path. I will leave you to imagine the scene yourself.
As darkness drew in Melissa my travel buddy said, “You know when you promise your Mum that you won’t do anything stupid? Yeah – I think we did something stupid”. It wasn’t long before we were walking/trotting along the dirt path with our I phone torches for light and the battery running very low on those.
With about 3 miles or so to go we see some houses! Actual houses so we bravely knock on the door to see if they can order us a taxi. Not sure how we communicated that but the very kind man let us hop in the back of the pick up and drove us to the main road where we would be able to easily pick up a cab.
It was totally worth it and it was all fine in the end but there were instances where we were sh*tting ourselves. (Metaphorically, not physically thank God).
Finding Albert is far from easy but well worth the humbling experience.
Nomadic Matt covers how to get there at the bottom of his blog: http://www.nomadicmatt.com/travel-blogs/stone-carver-nicaragua/