I am cycling to raise money for the fantastic UK based chaity Macmillan Cancer Support. Big thanks to everyone who has sponsored me so far! Justgiving is a quick, easy and secure way to donate online. See my other fundraising page, specific to the Macmillan organized part of the trip

Monday, 22 March 2010

Estelí graffiti

Can finally tick one thing off my newly-written life-wish-list: riding up top a chicken bus! The life-wish-list idea was something Jesse and I had been chatting about - something that might seem a bit self-help-book-twee at first, but whe you actually think about it, there are so many things we´d like to do or acheive in life, and at the same time it can be so easy to get distracted and caught up in a routine, that to have a list of dreams to look at could be an inspiring thing... and it is so important to a sense of well-being to have a direction,. an aim or a project, so in low moments of uncertaininty, like in the anti-climax lull that always follows the completion af a big project for me, it would be a great thing to have a list of things to refer back to to uplift into getting started on the next project. It can be used to remind you of who you are, what you believe in and the direction you want to go in life... anyhow, I love the idea and I now I have a massive list ranging from the definitley possible, like the chicken bus ride, to the extremely-unlikely-but-still-potentially-possible, like the Jesse-shared idea of crossing a border in a hot air baloon.

So anyway, knowing that if I wanted to make the 3 hour ride up top I´d have to catch the early bus to avoid the burning midday sun, I made sure to get up early and be at the join in the road for 6am. Was a little shy at first to join the rowdy blokey atmosphere up top, and a little hesitant to scramble over all the cargo...but had set my mind to it, so found a spot half way back and nestled down amongst some sacks of maiz. Interestingly, I never felt like I was going to fall off, the biggest hazard was the low hanging tree branches - ducking them was like playing the ostrich level of Lion King on the sega mega drive, after being smacked painfully a couple of times round the head and I quickly learned to listen out for the word ramas being shouted out by the others!

As well as the sacks of grain there were bags of fruit, big wicker baskets, bundles of firewood, even an acordian & a stereo and a whole bundle of live chickens, some dangling right off the side. Some is being brought in with passengers, others are being delivered, so are flung up or down at various stops along the way, by an impressively nimble crew who scramble all over the bus while its jolting on its wiggly-way. I only saw one bundle fall off, and with a lot of whistles and shouts the bus stopped and it was retrieved undamaged! Right before Estelí all of us up top had to get down - Denis (who´d come back earlier in the ride to jokingly ask me if he could buy Peggy for $30, and had got one of the other lads to give me a mango for breakfast) explained that the police prohibit it. I was doubly glad to have been uptop when I saw how packed the bus was - I just squeezed in the doorway and Denis was hanging on by his fingertips, mostly hanging out, for the last little bit of the ride. Wicked stuff!

Struck third time luck on the hospedaje front in Estelí, finding the Sanjuache which for the same price as the last two had a lockable door (so no wandering hands in the night to nick another helmet like Chepito) and no bedbugs (like San Ramon) and the bonus of a toilet and shower in the room! Had been feling pretty smug about how unbothered I´d been about my helmet getting nicked and my camera breaking before Lagartillo - had put it down to a heathly detachment from materialism coming from the peacefulness of the trip. But when I found out my camera couldn´t be repaired and resigned myself to buying a new one had a gut-wrenching moment of guilt as I paid the $175 U.S. for the cheapest digital camera in town - more than just the tightwad-Scot in me objecting to spending what could be at least a couple of weeks living expenses for me on this trip, it was the thought of it being more than a month´s wages for a teacher out here. Oswaldo, the Lagartillo librarian had told me the average teaching wage is just $150 U.S. a month. I somehow felt like a fake to be living day to day as cheaply as possible, but then to splurge all that money in one go on such a luxury item.
Replacing the nicked helmet was less painful financially, a little more awkward to find. I haven´t seen any Nicaraguans wearing them, so had thought I might have to resort to looking really over cautious in a moto-helmet, but after a mini tour of bike repair shops came across a very dusty but undamaged second hand one that surprisingly enough fitted and was only $7.50 U.S...relative to the camera, a bargain!
Spent the rest of the day breaking in the new camera, wandering around admiring the graffiti. Had read in the guidebook that Estelí is famous for its Sandinista murals, and saw a lot of the traditional style painting, but was also impressed by the quality of some of the more contemporary imagery. Two particular groups seemed to have done a lot of the tagging: and Dog Squad, who had some interesting slogans "There´s a dirty rat in all of us" and "Thinking about graffiti, love, art, loyalty,".

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