Friday, May 13, 2016

Day 4 Estelí

We experienced yet another amazing day of travels in Nicaragua today! At 8 a.m., we started off by saying "¡adios!" to León and Hotel Cacique Adiact, packed our luggage on top of the van (with the help of our lovely driver Elvis and our fantastic tour guide Lenín) and headed on our journey to Estelí.

Driving North through the flatlands of León, Lenín interjected from time to time to point out a specific landmark, tell a joke, or provide more information on the history of the place we were traveling through, entertaining and teaching us along the way.

A couple hours later we reached a nature reserve of Tisay in the mountains of Estelí. We took a short hike, witnessed some incredible landscapes, and then walked toward La Granacha, a cheese making community located in the mountains where we tasted some yummy homemade cheese.

Then we headed toward a very remote section of the mountains, where we were to meet a hermit sculptor from the hills of Tisay. This next adventure was nothing like we could ever have imagined! After hiking down a grassy path into a cow pasture, we took in the amazing view of the mountains around us before traveling further downhill into a Lord of the Rings-esque forest path, and then heading uphill to finally meet this man, Alberto Gutiérrez. He greeted us each with a handshake and described to us some of his stories and the people who had come to visit him from around the world.
Then, he beckoned to us to follow him so he could show us his artwork. We traveled behind him along a narrow forest path, with rocks, roots, and beautiful foliage. He briefly demonstrated how he uses chisels and a stone as a hammer to carve the rock. To our surprise he had created animals, people, and objects from Nicaragua as well as Brazil, Africa, India, even NYC. All of these intricate carvings gave life to boulders and a long high stone cliff.

At 9 years old, Alberto had a dream where God placed his hand on his head and told Alberto he was going to work 3 hours each day and then people would visit him. Much later in life, he remembered his dream, and the very first thing he was to carve would be a birthday: "el nacimiento de Jesucristo" (the birth of Jesus Christ). This fantastic altar-like carving is sacred and holy, intertwined with nature in the recess of the side of the mountain. Since then he has carved for 39 years, every morning from 6-9. The cliff he chisels on faces the great expanse of the northern Nicaraguan countryside, where one can  follow the Nicaraguan mountains as they blend into the mountains of Honduras at the border line. The incredible array of carved figures, including whales, elephants, a helicopter, Sandino and Darío (of course), protruding from the mountainside seem like artifacts from a different age.
Not only did Don Alberto introduce us to wild bananas (which were delicious!), he also introduced us to a humble, serene way of life, in which he was perfectly content following God's will and carving into nature's canvas. As he said: "Hay tiempo para todo" (there is time for everything). With this blessing, he intended that we left knowing life is not too short; there is time to fulfill our endless tasks, our infinite ideas, time to see the world, or time to create our own world out of the homes we have been given. Instead of limiting ourselves to an hourglass sense of the world, he taught us that this life is long, this world is large, and there is time to do it all.

After this, we said our goodbyes and traveled to "La Casita", a nursery that doubled as a delicious restaurant. We enjoyed fresh cheese, homemade bread and homemade yogurt, along with "lassi," a yogurt drink with mango.

From there, we traveled to our hotel, Hotel Los Arcos, settled in, went to a superb Cuban restaurant for dinner and then called it a night.

¡Buenos noches! (Goodnight!)
Shannon Dole

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