After Granada, I swung up to Estelí, a cowboy town in the mountains of northern Nicaragua with a lingering revolutionary romancism. There wasn’t a wealth of things to do (though I did get groped on a bus back from a waterfall where I didn’t get mugged by three men with machetes – that’s something) and the only cowboy I saw was riding a bicycle, so I took a day trip out to Somoto where there is a lovely canyonyou can hike through and more cowboys.
I woke up a bit late, maybe because of all of the drugs I was on at my CouchSurfer’s (it was allergy medicine – DON’T WORRY DAD), and didn’t make it to the canyon until around noon. It started to rain, I was two hours away from all of my belongings, and I wanted to get back to Estelí by night. It was bad that I was rushed, but even worse that I was doing this all on my own because that’s when the prices increase. I managed to talk my third taxi driver down from 100 cordobas to 40 cordobas ($5 to $2) and then sat through 13 kilometers of them trying to speak Chinese to me (read: “chong ching wing wang [miscellaneous Bruce Lee sounds]”). At the canyon, the cheapest guide I could find was a man named Jesus. He charged $12, a price folks later told me was exorbitant. Fucking Jesus.
To snag the last bus to Estelí, I could only do the 2 hour hike. Not worth $12. Yes, it was beautiful, but we didn’t wade through the canyon. Jesus only took me to the mouth of the canyon, smoked cigarettes and did some math with me. I would’ve liked to go through the canyon, but it was my fault for waking up late and being a solo traveler/pariah.
On the walk back, Jesus ran into one of his cowboy friends. In exchange for a cigarette, this happened:
By the time we were done hiking and taking pictures of me on a horse, I had 45 minutes to make it back to the bus station. Three Americans were also trying to catch the same bus and called a taxi 10 minutes before I arrived. 10 minutes later, not a single car passed. I told them to pick me up if they saw me down the road still, and I began walking with my thumb out. I didn’t want to miss this bus. Three cars passed – a Honduran SUV with tinted windows, the crammed taxi with the three Americans, and a car packed to capacity with 8 people in the sedan already. The third one stopped. “If you want a ride, you’re going to have to ride in the trunk.”
“…open or closed?”
I got to the bus station as the bus pulled in. I popped out of the trunk and went to say thanks to the driver. “20.” “Pardon?” “20 cordobas.” Turns out it was a taxi. And he was still overcharging me by 5 cords. To ride in the god damn trunk. But y’know what, I got the bus, was lead through the canyon by Jesus, and can say that I’ve ridden in the trunk of a Nicaraguan taxi and survived. Good day, all in all.