As my trip approached its end it became clear that I needed a break from travelling, if you will, before returning to Brown. So I decided to spend 5 glorious days in Esteli, a cowboy town in a valley surrounded by high mountains dotted with coffee and tobacco farms.
Ate from a lot of good steam-table buffets, heaps of rice, meat and vegetables.
Went on a tour of a cigar factory and a tobacco farm. Learnt that cuban cigars are actually produced in Esteli, Nicaragua. There's many factories in the city, owned by Cuban bosses, and the farms around Esteli produce high-quality tobacco leaves.
Before going to the airport, I stopped in Masaya for two nights, where I went crazy at the mercado municipal. That's the local market next to the bus station, and not the clean, polished tourist market in the center of town. There were so many souvenirs at ridiculously cheap prices, and I had to stop myself from buying things I knew I wouldn't use. It was great fun browsing through everything and also walking through the fresh food portion of the market, with all its cheeses, meats, vegetables and fruits on display.
Masaya is also famous for the Volcan Masaya, an active volcano still belching out gases and occasionally small explosions. It's possible to drive up to the rim of the crater, so I hired a taxi to take me there. Ten steps from the taxi door was the vantage point to peer into the crater. Couldn't see any lava but it was still extremely cool. Breathed in too much sulfur as I walked along some well-marked trails and admired the freakish scenery before me.