05.02.2011 - 05.02.2011
We moved on from Somoto in the afternoon after the canyon trip. Only a couple of hours down the road is another town, bigger than Somoto, called Estelí. There's a couple of reserves near Estelí and one caught our eye as living there is an artist who's spent the last thirty or forty years carving all sorts of things into a huge cliff face. His name is Alberto Gutiérrez.
Up at the crack of dawn we caught the 6.30am bus into the reserve to explore. It was a slow start with the old rickety bus' clutch breaking every couple of kilometres. We jumped out a kilometre or so from a mirador/look out point and decided to start the day with breakfast up there. It was a pretty walk up through a pine forest to the peak and a huge panorama awaited us at the top. We ate breakfast, which was actually a piece of sponge cake, and got blown around a bit then a few kids came and joined us.
In the guidebook it said not far from the mirador was the Gutiérrez' gallery so we headed back down and carried along the road away from Estelí. We must have walked about 1km without seeing any signs and were starting to wonder if we'd missed it somewhere when we heard someone shouting on a megaphone drawing closer behind us. Around the corner came a pick-up with two teenagers on the back, one holding a mic shouting something in spanish. At first I thought they were protesting about something.
The pick-up stopped and out jumped a man asking where we were going. We said we were looking for the house of Señor Gutiérrez and he knodded and offered us a lift. Great, someone who knows where he lives I thought, even if they do seem a bit strange with their megaphone. As we bumped our way down the road they carried on shouting and people came out of their houses carrying hessian sacks. When we stopped at one point, the man explained they were collecting aluminuim to sell to the chinese, where it would be used to make weapons! You meet some random people traveling! His first question to us was where do we come from and the second do we believe in God, those seem to be the most important things. Not what is your name for example though he did ask that later on.
As we came to a village I was fairly sure we were way off track as we'd been driving for a good few kilometres but I still presumed he knew where Gutiérrez lived. It turned out not and he'd just presumed he was someone in the town. After asking around in the town, they said we needed to go back to pretty much where we started so we got a lift part way then walked the rest.
On the way we asked one man who said we'd see it in about 15mins - but we never did. Another couple didn't know who he was. Back near the mirador someone from a farm/hostel gave us some directions back in the Estelí direction but when we went that way we still saw nothing and a bit further on at another group of houses the people there said no one of the name lived near them! It was hopeless! We spent about 2 hours in the end looking for the illusive Alberto Gutiérrez and still no luck. In the end, it was so hot and we couldn't face walking back up to the mirador area again so we carried on walking back in the direction of Estelí hoping a truck would come past so we could hitch a lift back into town...
...10km later it was hot, we had no water left and there had been nothing but the odd motorbike going past. It was another El Mozote day all over again! Finally a truck went past and we got a lift for the last 5km back to the main road. We couldn't face the last 1/2km into town so we got a taxi the last little bit for a quid.
I still don't know where the bloomin' gallery is but I've seen some pictures of his work on the net and it looks like it would have been fascinating to see. Well you can't say we didn't try that's for sure!