After crossing the border we go straight ahead to Estelí. A rather small city (129.800hab.) at the north-west of Nicaragua which offers us the first view on Nica culture and society. We get off the bus and go straight to our hostel ‘hospedaje Luna’ (348 Cordoba)(1€=32C$) and by doing that, we feel more free by every step we take. This is definitely not Honduras even the smaller streets seems quiet and peaceful. After leaving our bags in the dorms we make a short walk to discover the center, to do some shopping and to orientate us a bit. The second day we meet Ed and Sophia again, after splitting up in Honduras we visited other places and coincidence brings us back together and again we have a nice evening catching up, telling the stories of Honduras.
Estelí is a cosy town, small enough to discover by feet, as the matter in fact it is the only option as Estelí is famous for the graffiti and wall paintings all through the city. And by walking a visitor can really enjoy the art, understand the message and get better in contact with the story the walls are telling. We really start to feel part of this art project that started 17 years ago and we can understand the need of a population to express itself.
Under the motto. “Small hands, big brushes of creativity and tenderness”, the FUNARTE organization gives kids the chance to express their ideas, proposition, messages and critics to the society. More than 15.000 kids over all this years participated in workshops and coloured their city with more than 139 wall paintings.
It gives Estelí a special extra and makes it different from other cities. It fits a town that has as motto: “Estelí, lover of the present, forging the future.”, to defend the freedom of expression in this particular way.
And there is much more to see in this municipal divided by the Panamerican highway. In Nicaragua and also the rest of the world, Estelí is known for the plantation and processing of tobacco and factories are proud, well willing to show their quality products. So we did have a look at the “behind the scenes” of a cigar.
Further it offers beautiful waterfalls, natural areas and has archaeological preocolombinan traces. All elements worthed to hop off the bus and check them out. But for our special treat we go for a day of art at, more than 20km of Estelí, the natural reserve of Tisey and visited Alberto Gutiérrez. After trying to hitchhike into the reserve, which is impossible, we pay a pick-up 50C$ to bring us closer… we still have to walk for two hours untill we find ourselves in the middle of Tisey. In front of us lays a beautiful landscape, low hanging clouds partially cover an ever green valley with its river running through and a path loosing itself far away between rocks and trees. Cows and chicken are the only sign of human presence. We didn’t come so far to turn around and go back, we must be close and as tired as we are we go on, follow the track not wider than the feed that made it. After a while we are standing in front of the house of Sir Alberto Gutiérrez. The man, when he was young, had a dream and when he woke up he took everything he had and found the spot he had seen in his vision and started to sculpture the bare rock and transformed it into the imagines he had perceived in the revelation he had. Since then he works every day four hours carving and shaping the hill. He might not be Michelangelo or Rodin, neither has it the dimensions of Gutzon Borghan’s Mount Rushmore but it does touch our senses as he himself guides us along the way of his lifework and explains everything, every small detail and every symbol hidden in his dream. It goes on and on and meter after meter every rock, stone, tree and flower has become part of this master piece. We find viewpoints integrated in his story, plants are colouring everything as it is a painting and animals bring alive the whole area.
He offers his vision, his art for free, so for the effort, sympathy and explanations we give him a small donation as appreciation. But his kind-heartness is so big that he even gives us a sculpture to take with us: a heart shaped out of a stone he found. We thank him and will treasure it. And without any doubt this will be the best symbol representing our journey through Nicaragua and the Americas.