Monday, October 10, 2011

Habanas in Nicaragua

Our very loose plan to see Jeff and Jess in Estelí worked out famously - we saw them walking on the street as we pulled into town. Ironically, we unexpectedly ran into Paul again, who stayed at the same hostel as Jeff and Jess.

(Paul, Jessica, Jeff, and Jill enjoying the cafe next to their hostel)

Estelí is known for its cigar production, so that afternoon we took a tour of a cigar factory. They produce all sorts of labels using tobaco from the states, Cuba, Nicaragua and other regions, keeping it all sorted by region, color, texture, aroma, and taste.

(laying it out to dry)

(sorting the goods)

(puffin on the goods)

(Jill enjoying a Habana, wrapped up in Nicaragua)

(cigarbox stamping equipment, definitely not OSHA approved)

(all labels made it this one factory)

We returned to the cafe at the hostel to discuss the finer points of cigar production, Nicaraguan rum, and the importance of those two.

Some drum beating street dancers performed just outside the bar, a 2-stroke motorcycle started cold just outside the door and filled the bar with smoke, and the electricity went out about 1am. It was time to go home after a pretty standard evening out in Nicaragua.

The next day we planned to drive on to León. When we rolled the bike out of the hotel's garage, the front tire was flat. Flat flat. Not kinda flat. Rim on the ground flat. We put air into it just to get 3 blocks to a llantera. It seemed to hold alright for a few minutes, and made it that far, but had already lost air. Front tube fixing time.

The first place we stopped was well-shaded and on a pot-holed, rocky dirt road parallel to the highway. There was not a good spot for the centerstand, and while looking for a good way to get the bike up, a truck wanted to park in the shade that we had. We told him we had some work to do there and he finally left us alone. Just thereafter Mike managed to push the TA right on over when checking to see if the ground was level enough...turns out it wasn't. So we picked it up and decided to cross the street. Shade was available at the gas station, and they have air. At least generally, gas stations have shade and air. Not this one.

As usual across Central America, a lot of people offer help. Super nice. The best help that we got, though, was from the ice cream vendor. He lent us a huge umbrella. That shade made life bearable.

We got the tube swapped, hoping to patch the old one when we had more time in the day without a lot of driving left to do. When it was time to air the tube up, we found out that the air compressor was broken. This made it the second time that day that Mike filled a motorcycle tire using an emergency bike pump. Unfun. Even worse was thinking about filling the tire for the 3rd time when the bouncy test ride showed that the bead was not seated properly. Thankfully a stop at a llantera took care of that in less than 3 minutes. Free. Well, I tipped the 2 guys a $1 a piece for their help. I will spend $2 to keep from having to pump the tire up with a bike pump anyday.

Finally, we hit the road to León. It's known for being a beautiful colonial city, popular with tourists.

We found a cool hostel for US$6 per person for a private room, shared bath. They didn't have parking for the TA, but told us that the gas station down the street had guards 24 hours a day that would watch it for us. So we unloaded everything and talked to the guard, who was happy to keep an eye on it for the night for just a couple of bucks. And he had a shotgun. That's the best security system we've had yet.

We had a great dinner in a small outdoor parrilla area, but then took it easy that evening. Walking around the next morning gave us a chance to see a lot more of the city, find some more ear plugs, and grab a cheap burger off the street from one of the rolling chain restaurants.

León was a fine city, but it didn't have such a draw that we really wanted to stay for extra days. And we had a sweet set-up waiting for us in Managua, thanks to Salcar from advrider!

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