So I’ve been in Estelí for a week working at this hostel, and it’s going pretty ok. The hostel work itself is boring, but as long as I have wi-fi and Spanish-language news sites, I’m fine. In my spare time, I’ve gone on some excursions:

EXCURSION #1: TOBACCO FACTORY TOUR

Estelí is known for its cigars (apparently), and there are a handful of tabacarias (tobacco factories) around town. I went on a tour of one with a few other guests from the hostel. While I didn’t care to know anything about cigars before, after the tour I realized jus how much there is about cigars that I don’t care to know. It’s a complex world, filled with smelly tobacco leaves, underpaid employees, rigorous quality testing, and a whole lot of smoke (employees are allowed to smoke cigars on the warehouse floor). I smoked – admittedly not as much as the others – and emerged from the factory stinking of tobacco, with a sizeable stomach-ache. Upon returning to the hostel, I guzzled a few bottles of water and ate a salad to cleanse myself of the claustrophobic tobacco odor.

Bundles of tobacco leaves used for cigars wrappers.
Bundles of tobacco leaves used for cigars wrappers.
Inspecting a cigar wrapper-leaf.
Inspecting a cigar wrapper-leaf.
Pallets and pallets of tobacco. The tobacco odor was absolutely suffocating.
Pallets and pallets of tobacco. The tobacco odor was absolutely suffocating.
Cigar boxes.
Cigar boxes.
Separating the leaves used for wrappers.
Separating the leaves used for wrappers.
Clipped cigar ends, waiting to be reused for cheaper cigars.
Clipped cigar ends, waiting to be reused for cheaper cigars.
Rolling cigars. Each worker is paid 75 cordoba (about 3 bucks) per 100 rolled cigars.
Rolling cigars. Each worker is paid 75 cordoba (about 3 bucks) per 100 rolled cigars.
Rolling cigars. Each worker is paid 75 cordoba (about 3 bucks) per 100 rolled cigars.
Rolling cigars. Each worker is paid 75 cordoba (about 3 bucks) per 100 rolled cigars.

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Flattening the "wrapper" leaves in preparation for rolling the cigars.
Flattening the “wrapper” leaves in preparation for rolling the cigars.

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Finished cigars, wrapped in newspaper and awaiting boxing.
Finished cigars, wrapped in newspaper and awaiting boxing.
Finished cigars, wrapped in newspaper and awaiting boxing.
Finished cigars, wrapped in newspaper and awaiting boxing.

EXCURSION #2: ESTANZUELA WATERFALL

There’s a few nature preserves near town, and I visited on of them with a fellow guest and hiked to a 30m waterfall in the preserve. We swam in the cold, muddy waters (the strong waterfall kicked up a lot of silt in the small pool), under and behind the water stream, dried off in the sun, then hiked back to town.

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Jack, in front of Salto Estanzuela.

EXCURSION #3: JINOTEGA

This past weekend I took a bus to a neighboring small town (nestled amongst the mountains), one of the leading coffee producers in the highlands, and nicknamed “The City Of Mists” – Jinotega. I hiked up to the cross overlooking the city on a hill, drank some coffee, watched the Independence Day (Sept. 15) parades, then spent my remaining 24 hours rained in the hotel. Started out great, ended disappointing. Such is life. Still, the half-day that the city wasn’t dead due to the holiday and heavy rain was pretty great.

View of Jinotega (and its flag) from the hills.
View of Jinotega (and its flag) from the hills.
View of Jinotega from the summit where the city's cross is planted.
View of Jinotega from the summit where the city’s cross is planted.
A Jinotegan graveyard, candy-colored.
A Jinotegan graveyard, candy-colored.
A little guilt trip from the Jinotega government.
A little guilt trip from the Jinotega government: “If we are beautiful, we don’t throw trash anywhere!”
One of the Independence Day parades.
One of the Independence Day parades.
A niño returning from the Independence Day parades.
A niño returning from the Independence Day parades.
A wonderful "capuchino" in the Flor de Jinotega cafe. It's widely agreed upon that Flor de Jinotega serves the best coffee in Nicaragua.
A wonderful “capuchino” in the Flor de Jinotega cafe. It’s widely agreed upon that Flor de Jinotega serves the best coffee in Nicaragua.
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Stained glass coffee berries on the door to the Flor de Jinotega cafe. I love the faces in the leaves.
View of the misty mountains from Jinotega.
View of the misty mountains from Jinotega.
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