At the end of my last post, Sabina and I had already spent a day and a half in Area Protegida Miraflor, a protected area of high-altitude coffee farms in Northern Nicaragua. We spent our first two nights in a magnificent homestay called Limonaria in a village called El Sontule. We regarded our third day with divided hearts: on the one hand, day three meant leaving our newfound paradise at Limonaria; on the other, it brought with it a whole host of new, exciting activities.
“Helping” Around the Farm
Luckily we weren’t given much time to dwell on leaving. We woke before dawn to learn how to make tortillas with abuela. The women of Miraflor (and many women all over Central America) wake up excruciatingly early every day to make the pile of tortillas that their family will consume over the course of the day.
To watch abuela do it, it seems like a simple process. She has a big bowl full of a simple dough made of corn flour and water. She grabs some dough, rolls it into a ball, and places it on a piece of wax paper. Next she starts spinning the wax paper as she presses gently into the ball to flatten it into a round, thin tortilla. Easy, right?
Sabina and I quickly realized that we were not helping abuela by making tortillas; we were just in the way. Abuela resided over us with amusement as we worked, correcting lopsided ovals and trying to hide small rips. Every time we finished one tortilla, she would swoop in and make two or three very quickly to speed up the process. It was arduous, difficult, and frustrating.
But let me tell you, I have never tasted anything quite as satisfying as my first tortilla that morning. It may have been thick and lopsided, but it was MY tortilla!
As soon as the last bite of our wonky tortillas had passed our lips, we were wooshed away from the kitchen. We had asked to help with another farmyard chore that morning: milking the cow.
If making tortillas was difficult, milking a cow was downright impossible. We watched with awe as one of Marvin’s sons deftly lassoed the cow and squeezed hot, fresh milk from its udders. Then we each got down on our knees in turn and attempted to do the same.
We struggled in vain. Whereas with every squeeze he got a hot, powerful stream of fresh milk, I spent minutes fumbling around with the soft pink skin to procure a few drops. Together, Sabina and I managed to add about a shot off milk to his bucket. Afterwards, Marvin’s son gave us a shy grin and took over once more. Within a minute, he had filled a five gallon bucket, untied the cow, and directed us back to Limonaria.
Do People Actually Enjoy This?
A rushed breakfast and heartfelt goodbye later, we moved onwards to our next Miraflor adventure: a horseback ride to our next homestay in the high zone.
Sabina and I were both extremely excited about this: neither of us had ridden a horse since we were very young. We had visions of galloping through the misty hillside, our hair floating breezily behind us. It was just about the most luxurious way of reaching our next homestay that we could imagine.
Boy, were we mistaken.
Let me just say it: anybody who enjoys riding horses has had their brains and nerve endings numbed by these visions of grandeur.
We bumped around on the majestic beasts for three and a half hours without a break. During the journey, we passed some of the most beautiful rolling pastures and glistening forest I had ever seen. Alas, I was all but unable to enjoy them due to the exquisite pain that my thighs were experiencing.
As somebody who patently takes too many pictures, it should say something about the degree of my discomfort that I only managed to take a few jittery photos during the entire experience.
When we finally reached our next homestay, I happily slid off the animal and gave him an appreciative pat. After all, he got me where I was going and looked damn good while doing it. It wasn’t his fault that my body simply did not fit astride him.
The New Homestay
Unfortunately, my day was not about to get much better. Our new homestay immediately proved to be disappointing after the sheer wonder of Limonaria. The family appeared to have very little interest in us. They served us lunch in a room separate from where they ate and showed us to our private room and bathroom. Then they left us to our own devices. It felt like we were staying in a hotel rather than a homestay.
Exhausted from the last two days of excitement (and sore from the horses), this arrangement didn’t serve us too badly. We took a nap and walked around town ourselves, before coming back to a bizarre dinner of spaghetti, ketchup, and tortilla chips. We knew this was special “tourist” food, and we had to wonder about it. Did they think we wouldn’t like the food they were eating? Were we too good (or not good enough) for rice and beans?
Waterfalls and Silly Dances
Our moods improved the next morning, when we took off to do a solo hike to a nearby waterfall. The walk was simple and pleasant, and brought us past a whole litter of piglets that distracted us for a solid twenty minutes:
When we finally reached the waterfall, we were delighted to find that we were the only people there. It was not the most impressive waterfall I have ever seen, but it was beautifully symmetrical, pouring out of the forest like a man-made statue.
Sabina and I had a blast climbing up to the top and doing silly-dance-photoshoots of each other.
Hence, this all-star photo gallery came into existence:
When we had finished filling the memory on our phones, we hiked back up to the high zone and grabbed our bags. It was time for the long bus ride back down from Miraflor, leaving behind one of my favorite experiences in Central America so far.
Interested in learning more about Miraflor? Read my previous post or visit Treehuggers, a tourism agency in Esteli, Nicaragua that arranges homestays!