3,360m high on a bicycle!

Can I expand Costa Rica’s life philosophy ‘Pura Vida’ across the globe? In Costa Rica, people say pura vida, both as a greeting, and as a goodbye, in response to a beautiful view, in politics, with high fives on cycling to a mountain top, it’s a response to como estas? (how are you?) and you’re welcome: such a multitude of different meanings. I suppose it’s a statement about life, one’s community and family. It’s brilliant and it’s working.

At first I thought Pura Vida was a tourist gimmick, at best a motto, but I’m beginning to understand that it genuinely is a way of life for the people of this little country of 5 million. I look at its rainforests, its rolling hills, sharp volcanoes and verdant valleys, its natural springs, clear rivers (absolutely nothing but human waste is flushed down the toilet) and drinkable tap water. I wrote before how Costa Rica abolished its army and invested in free education, health, welfare, and environment. Almost 80% of its electricity comes from renewable sources, 98% literacy, low infant mortality, low birth rates…but statistics do not convey the grass roots philosophy embedded in Tican culture. This is true sustainability. We see self built shacks and in the city there are (mostly Nicaraguan) street dwellers; it’s not perfect yet, but it will be. 

I’ve never been so high on a bike!! We began in Orosi at 1,075m and cycled up to Cartago at 1,400m where we left our panniers in a hotel room. Then a long climb up to Urazu volcano, to 3,360m, total climb +2,280m, that’s 10 Bristol hills, a personal best! We took a bus up yesterday and saw 30+ Sunday cyclists on a beautiful tarmac road, incredible scenery, so we had to attempt it ourselves, yes, at our age!!  Of course the best thing about going straight up a volcano is that once you reach the top it’s all downhill. Chilly! I needed a hot bath not a tepid shower to release my fingers from brake position! But it was awesome, incredible, I’m sure I’m one of those (fortunate) people whose bodies release endocannabinoids in response to physical activity – I wonder how similar they are to the cannabinoids I smell at Glastonbury? A fitting end to our visit to Costa Rica. Today we cycled into the capital, our last ride with panniers, tailwind and downhill, just as it should be, to catch a flight to Cancun. 

That’s it, my last blog…. however….as Hillary Mantel writes “The word ‘however’ is like an imp coiled beneath your chair. It induces ink to form words you have not yet seen, and lines to march across the page and overshoot the margin. There are no endings. If you think so you are deceived as to their nature. They are all beginnings. Here is one” Where next?

 

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The Orosi Valley

The ride to San Vito was so great, we returned the same way: surprisingly difficult on the dissected ridge, relentless ups and downs, but once we hit the downhill we flew!! What a shame the wind had changed direction…. I felt cheated to have a headwind in the flatter valley on both days.

My new name for Charles is the Toucan Spotter, he always sees them. Shame he’s not so good at noticing traffic. New roads are great, new drivers aren’t. One lad took a bend too fast and almost ran into Charles, middle of the road, eyes in the trees!!


It was pretty spectacular when over a dozen macaws flew out of a tall tree by the road, then we stopped and watched the ones squawking and fussing over favourite branches.

End of the ride and within 10 minutes we were on a bus to Cartago, up the “hill of death”, its actual name, a 3000m+  pass, narrow and twisting, to be completely avoided on a bike, there’s barely room for 2 buses to cross.  Sadly the bus bypassed Cartago and took us straight to the capital, San Jose, dropping us in a red light area at night, razor wire EVERYWHERE. We found a secure hotel: no squawking macaws but sadly a noisy prostitute ‘working’ in a nearby room. We stayed in our room until morning check-out.

Chepe (San Jose) completely lacks any character or charm.  Concrete blocks surround concrete squares! Only one person spoke to us: a gifted linguist but he turned out to be a fraudster. We moved to a vintage 1936 art deco hostel /residence with parquet floors, so stylish, we loved it. Chepe’s Teatro Nacional (1897) is the only building worth visiting: a lavish festival of marble columns and statues. Best of all, at Chepe’s altitude the nights are cold, jackets on cold!!

From my best rides to our worst! Early on Sunday morning we headed east to Cartago, expecting a reasonably quiet road. It began well, joining (overtaking some)  fast Sunday riders, but the hills, gale-force winds, a broken surface, no shoulder, and fast traffic made for scary riding. Usually on a big climb I count revolutions, in Spanish! ‘I’ll get to the top in 240 turns’.Occasionally I sing – it’s surprising how easily I remember hymns – then a white truck almost hit me, and once I recovered I had to smile: at least if I died I’d go straight to heaven!!

Cartago was Costa Rica’s first capital until it was destroyed by an earthquake: its basilica survived, and inside it is stunning. From Cartago we descended into the beautiful Orosi Valley (still following bikers) in fact three valleys linked together by a HEP reservoir. I love it here: bright warm sunshine but cool at night, a distant rumbling volcano, vistas of coffee plantations and forests, safe quiet roads, and a wealth of crystal clear water – hot springs and waterfalls. Here confirms how ‘Pura Vida’ is a way of living and why tourists love Costa Rica.

Orosi town is tiny with Costa Rica’s oldest functioning church, friendly and ordinary, except at weekends when dozens of cyclists blast around the three valley circuit. It’s very steep in parts, rewarding views, and the safest route in Central America. We have extended our stay in this pleasant hostel with its outdoor kitchen and free Costa Rican coffee. Bonus, it’s next door to a hot spring swimming pool!

We fly to Cancun next week, ten days there then home. So we may just stay here…. only one more ride with bags, out of the valley, then it has to be a bus from Cartago to San Jose.

Notice the nests hanging from the palm tree. The bird is a Montezuma oropendola – I had to look it up. It inhabits forest canopy, and builds hanging testical like woven nests of fibres and vines, high in a tree. Each colony has a dominant male, which mates with most of the females: they are really noisy!

Banned in Australia because it’s a nasty hallucinogenic

Cocoa, but I cannot find chocolate to buy

Look for the tiny hummingbird

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Into cool air.

From Sierpe we cycled alongside Rio Grande de Terraba on the inter-american highway for 45km surprised not to find a shoulder. I was dreading it but there was virtually no traffic! We overtaken by seven delivery trucks and a few cars in two hours on the road, no lorries. Admittedly one of the trucks was overtaking another as it overtook me….. The scenery was beautiful, and we started to cycle through indigenous villages. I found a road on LocusPro that looked amazing. A climb, but up onto a long ridge with wide deep valleys dropping either side of us and distant cloud covered mountains. It was better than expected, we paused to watch three toucans, honestly their bills are ridiculously large, they are cartoon versions of themselves – and one of the most important seed dispersers in the forest. But the climb was exhausting: a steeply rolling climb in full sun, we were cycling for over six hours!!
At the top, San Vito town, founded by Italian immigrants in the 1850s. Great for pizza and pasta served by little mammas of Italian heritage. The town is close to indigenous reserves and we see women in solid-coloured long dresses trimmed with patterned braid. Their language is guttural, completely different to anything I’ve heard. Everyone is friendly. I love sitting outside a bakery Best of all the air is cool, wonderfully cool. This morning we explored Wilson botanical garden. Pleasant. We have been spoiled by magnificent gardens. The red flower is on a ginger plant.

 

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Hang on to your hats!!

The SE corner of Costa Rica is home to the country’s largest mangrove swamp and Corcovado’s isolated tropical rainforest park (50% of all of Costa Rica’s species!). The park is 17km from equally isolated Bahía Drake, a craggy stretch of coastline with sandy inlets that disappear at high tide. Reaching Drake by motorboat was pretty through the mangroves; there are no jetties so the rich tourists struggled with their expensive footwear, cameras and excessive luggage. The alternative route is six hours in a 4×4 on rough dirt roads.  Our motorcross friends thought it was thrilling, but not possible on our bikes.

We enjoyed part of the coastal trail towards the park, 17km away, through steamy hot forest and untouched beaches, but not much wildlife, some scary spiders and pairs of macaws, flashing red, squawking above. The park is expensive to access, hike and lodge (unless you camp) some visitors told us they didn’t see much but were massacred by insects. We decided it was beyond our budget, besides, we cannot cope with the lowland heat.
Our speedboat ride returning to Sierpe was pretty thrilling. The young driver could not have accelerated or decelerated any faster, me, lurching and gripping, no life jackets, look forward! Then we sped between the rocks marking the mouth of the river, and rode along the back of a 6’ breaking wave. Too exciting to be scared, boat tilted at 45’, parallel to a wall of white water descending below, and racing towards a wave breaking ahead. Then we reached deeper mid-channel, a quick 45’ turn and somehow we were between then ahead of both waves. No time to recover as we blasted up the channel. Phew!!

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How big are your balls?

Checkout my shiney clean bike!!

This must be the most tranquil spot in Central America. We are in Sierpe, a village at the end of a (blissfully empty) dead end road. From here collectivo boats wind through the mangroves to Drake bay ( he landed 1579) and Corcovado national park. Pairs of macaws squawk from the almond tree opposite, then fly off into the forest. The bird call is tremendous, even on the main road we are amazed by the birds that fly by, the Cicada call, a hawk perched on the roadside that didn’t budge as we slowly pedalled by. It is so so green, multiple shades of green on top of green. En route we found a perfect beach, backed by shady forest. And the people are so friendly. Ricans are renowned for their hospitality. ‘Pura vida’ is a life philosophy out here and the term is used frequently as a greeting as well as a farewell.

But still no rain. Blissfully some clouds yesterday, but not for long, face sweating profusely by 8am. Climbing into the hills on Wednesday.

Charles fancied hiring a canoe $40 per hour… bit steep… then we spotted a huge caimen, it’s like an alligator with a shovel like nose, its grey scaly back gliding through the water, and we were glad not to kayak after all.

Brave visitors climb up the cliff and slide down into the plunge pool. Not me!!

In pre-Columbian times this delta region was home to the Dequis people who traded with the Incas to the south, and the Mayans to the north. No temples here, only immense, perfect stone  spheres, hundreds of them (the largest 24 tonnes) cut using stone tools (300BC-1500AD). Perhaps a solar calendar? But the bigger the stone the more important the chief. holds Costa Rica’s most indigenous peoples

 

We saw a bashed up SUV on the back of a pick up go by and wondered ‘who can smash a vehicle on a dead end straight road?’ Only a drunk.

Dennis and his wife are here on motorcross bikes -perfect to ride the dirt tracks and avoid tarmac roads. Most roads are new, and so are the drivers, car ownership has tripled since 1990. So Dennis has a slipped disc and walks in the night. A car swerved past him, obviously a drunk driver, them boom, he hit a big boat on a trailer smashing it against a concrete wall. The driver’s fine, phone calls, the boat owner is roused, then the village negotiator: the driver desperate to avoid the police. All was resolved amicably!! Imagine the story ‘I was on my side of the road and this boat came at me…’

 

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Scarlet macaws and a toucan

Saturday’s difficult ride left me dreading conditions on the roads away from the ‘quiet’ Nicoya peninsula. But we left Puentarenas on a cycle path, then joined a main highway with a wide shoulder and a concrete cycle lane!! Fantastic. Busy traffic and uninspiring scenery didn’t matter: we were safe! The landscape improved on coastal route 34, I am enjoying this ride!! Charles less so – I left my phone in a cafe, offered to collect it myself, but Charles insisted on cycling back – an extra 20km added to his total ride. Thank you Charles. I booked a hotel right next to Parque Nacional Carara – we checked in early and checked out late. Wonderful! A stylish and comfortable room, ac, a choice of pools and the gardens were beautiful, leading into forest trails. Virtually all other guests were British ornithologists, identified by khaki clothing, binoculars and huge camera lenses, huddled together in the evening ticking off species spotted like a hushed game of bingo. I wonder if birds respond in kind ‘spotted two Germans and a skinny man with strange oil markings’. They were all friendly, lovely people. And guess who joined us for breakfast? Two scarlet macaws!

Further south again staying in Quepos so we can visit Parque Nacional Manuel Antonio. It’s a tiny reserve and very crowded but we saw tree frogs, a deer, an owl, sloths, hummingbirds and butterflies, many more macaws, a toucan. The racoons and white faced capuchins were so cheeky on the beach. I was dozing in the sun but heard shouts of monkey, monkey from the swimmers, calling to me! One capuchin was on guard while another unzipped the bag next to my head hunting (successfully) for food!

Despite the crowds we found quiet forest trails. Again, it’s the forest that steals the show, stunning tropical forest, but oh so steamy hot. Exhausting, enervating.

Our shoulder lane became a usable traffic lane on this hill -fortunately not riding as these vehicles passed

Jaco beach

Owed by the nicest couple ( surfers). Phone us any time you have a problem….

Over 38,000 km. Impressed!


So why is Costa Rica so stable and wealthy compared to its Central American neighbours? Feel free to skip this bit! It begins with the Spanish ‘Conquest’ from the Atlantic: a lack of gold and silver on the ‘rich coast’ and dense impenetrable, mosquito-infested swamps and forest stymied development and made Costa Rica a poor, isolated, and sparsely-inhabited region within the Spanish Empire. Costa Rica was described as “the poorest and most miserable Spanish colony in all America” by a Spanish governor in 1719.  Costa Rica’s indigenous population was too small to become forced labour so Spanish settlers had to work their own land, and large plantations didn’t happen. Costa Rica became a “rural democracy” with no oppressed mestizo or indigenous class. Eventually, Spanish settlers crossed the forest and found rich volcanic soil and a milder climate in the hills. Post independence, they grew wealthy growing coffee. Bananas were the next export boom (early C20th) but this time controlled by American United Fruit Company, or El Pulpo (the octopus) importing migrant labourers, buying up land and infrastructure. José Figures opposed United’s dominance and exploitation, and after a brief conflict became Costa Rica’s first socialist leader. He taxed the wealthy, nationalised the banks, introduced a welfare program and gave women and minorities equal rights. Quoting HG Wells “ The future of mankind cannot include the armed forces” Figueres disbanded the military, laying the foundation of today’s unarmed democracy.

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This is for the French couple from Lyon

 

Thisi is for the French couple from Lyon

If you’re reading this use Google Maps to follow the roads that I suggest. Nice to meet you both!

Granada: you will enjoy the Selina hostel it’s only $20 for an aircon double room with a fantastic kitchen,pool, great location and lots of people to meet. We had a night in masaya simply because we wanted to visit the volcano the lake and The Artisan Market. Route 4 into a Managua becomes very very busy but you do have a shoulder. we stayed outside the city in a nice bed and breakfast called Managua Hills then we could take the southern periphery Road around the edge of the city. it was horrible but it avoided the city and took us out onto Route 2 then Route 12. Route 12 was really pretty and quiet and we took that all the way to El transito (the last 13 kilometers is dirt track but you should be fine on your bikes. there’s a really nice French woman who runs a hostel in El transito, she lives there with her young family). The 52b from El transito is difficult dirt track, you can’t take it, you have to go back up Route 40 and then back along 12 to Leon.

Leon is rather like Granada but more edgy lots more young people, we stayed in Lazybones hostal but there are loads of hostels. if you have time try to visit the Contemporary Art Gallery it even has some Piccadilly works. the building itself is beautiful

I think it’s probably safe enough to cycle through Honduras but we took a bus it was $35 each including bikes to go through Honduras and get dropped off at El Cuco which is in El Salvador on the coast –  just east of el Cuco is La Tortuga Verde that’s the hostel I told you about where your first night is free if you are cyclists.

some serious Hills leaving but it takes you up to Route 2 with a good wide shoulder. on the way west we splashed out on a nice hotel hotel sevilla Usulután, nice to have a western hotel with a swimming pool for $45 and it breaks up the journey west

we also stayed at El Carmen Hotel Rancho agua it’s an airport hotel clean air conditioning and fantastic food next door on the corner, really really good choice of food

C2 route continues west again with the wide shoulder after Libertad the ride on the coastline is very pretty it winds up and down in and out, mountains on the right sea on the left with lots of surf beaches and plenty of places to stay and also to camp.

 

Further west, if you get stuck there is a love hotel but it’s very new very clean quite cheap in a place called metalia, on the western edge as you leave town, oh it has pool very clean $20 a night

we actually cycled the routa de Flores and Santa Ana if you fancy doing some challenging Hills! the best road Up and Down is from Metallo it’s called grn 15s nice Road very smooth and easy, not much traffic and it takes you up 1300m Ataco and then you can do the circular route. it was okay I really enjoyed going up Santa Ana volcano and there is fantastic hostel in Santa Ana called casa Verde, the best!!

once you cross into Guatemala you can stay on the highway to Taxisco. south of Taxisco there is a brand new beautiful Road Route 5 that takes you down to a dead-end and a river port where you catch a ferry to Montericco, beautiful beach resort El Delfin was a very pretty hostel cheap good food nice place to chill and then you can cycle all along the coast that’s a tarmac Road and then see a 9 back up to the highway at Esquintla and then you’ve got a seriously steep climb 1600m up to beautiful Antigua. you will really enjoy staying there, seeing the volcanoes and hopefully climbing acatenango ( hostel Tropicana)

Going to Atitlan, leave your bikes in Antigua the road between is dreadful but you may decide to do it, it’s the ca1 the Pan-American Highway.

Atitlan is stunning San Pedro was fantastic early morning kayaking surrounded by volcanoes just wonderful and of course you’re going to have a lovely ride back down to the coast, if you decide to continue, or you can take the bus into Guatemala to the airport or to Tikal.

The road to Rio Dulce is appalling, take the bus but Rio Dulce to Poptun, Flores and Tikal is good, hilly. Finca Ixabel and Mon Ami with swimming jetty in El Remate are gt.

Good luck!

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My worst day, followed by one of the best, on the same road! Costa Rico

My photos app won’t connect!! Ha! There’s  always a way, via my phone, fiddly but ok

First night in Costa Rica. Terrible room bed made of beer crates lol! but the view was amazing

Clean rivers in Costa Rica

San Juan del Sur where the earthquake happened: last stopping Nicaragua.

The difference was traffic, and a lack of shoulder to cycle on.

We departed early yesterday morning, surprised by the amount of traffic on route 21 down Nicoya peninsula. It avoids the inter-american highway and dead ends at a ferry terminal – many cyclists write they have enjoyed it on their blogs. ‘It’ll improve beyond the airport,’ I thought ‘perhaps beyond the main turn for the beach?’ Then two young women on fast road bikes overtook us, so we speeded up and hunkered down behind them belting along the busy road, a strong crosswind causing us to wobble, especially when a huge lorry went by. At one point Charles was blown off the road onto the gravel verge, you have to concentrate, and I think he was distracted by the pretty women! We chatted a little then the ladies accelerated away, not a chance I could ever keep up with them, not even on my carbon bike.

Our wonderful Airbnb hostess Luz, in Liberia

Most of my fears are made up in my head, a cautious thought becomes irrational behaviour: do I really need to brake on this smooth downhill? Do I really need to un-clip in this gusty wind? Illogical, I am safe. But yesterday my safety depended not on myself, but on the awareness and consideration of drivers on a fast and busy road. To be honest it wasn’t fair on the drivers, the road was unsuitable for cyclists, barely wide enough for two large vehicles to hold their their own lanes let alone overtake us. When a lorry or bus approached, I checked behind and if I saw a bus or truck we would pull off onto the gravel. Several times. Even on the verge it was scary to have an articulated lorry thunder by. We reached our destination, Santa Cruz and it is fiesta time, so all the hotels are full, streets buzzing with visitors, no wonder the road is so busy! We continued to the next town, Nicoya. I tried to hitch a ride, even asked a truck to take us but it’s not allowed in this seatbelt society, not even for precious dollars. So we endured, and a shoulder appeared right when I needed it, but not for long…

 

Today, Sunday, the same road is empty. We cycle through forest and modern farms along undulating hills, with mountains and a deep bay in the distance, and it is beautiful, an absolute joy. Legs and bike in magic unison lol! Birds sweep alongside, I swear they are checking us out!! Birds and butterflies and verdant greens against a bright blue sky, those clouds in the distance are teasing me!! We arrived at the ferry (more like a party boat: beer and disco – there’s a grandad/granddaughter combination that could be on strictly!) again we are completely wet with sweat. Suncream goes on shortly after 8am here. But tonight it’s dollars down, and an anonymous hotel with pool and AC!!!

 

A round the world cyclist with a gr8 bike

Last night we stayed in an Airbnb in Nicoya. At best we were frazzled, yet Google and Airbnb took us to an uncomfortable slum area. Charles was determined to find the exact dot, but I realised we couldn’t stay here even if the house was a palace, too many drunks and dogs (my safety awareness monitor on super alert all day!). Then Franklin appeared on his scooter, he guessed our location from previous guests. Ten minutes later we were chatting in a pleasant shady garden with a relaxing lemon drink and cold melon. Two hours later and we were people watching in the town Square, ( town maternity department!), ice cold beer in hand, friendly, beautiful trees, and live music for the ‘Miss Nicoya’ event happening later. But still a traumatic day.

It really is a live cactus, looks plastic.

No air conditioning at Franklin’s: first cold shower on arrival, second before bed, then two more cold showers during the night, not bothering to dry myself before returning to bed soaking wet! Still, we slept.

 

This is from Lonely Planet: “With an increasingly large network of paved secondary roads and heightened awareness of cyclists Costa Rica is emerging as one of Central America’s most comfortable cycle touring destinations. That said many roads are narrow and winding and there are no designated cycle lanes so there’s an element of risk involved” The jury is out. We will see how route 34 looks, previous cyclist photos show a shoulder. Plan B, we may store the bikes in a hotel and become backpackers for a couple of weeks…
Costa Ricans, Ticos, are friendly and hospitable. Every time we cross a border the change is immediate and surprising ( we crossed the border on the inter-american highway and until we reached Liberia it was quiet and pleasant, but no shoulder). Here in Costa Rica there is a strong American influence with fast food outlets and malls, plentiful consumption, and the population is strikingly white, and strikingly obese! We are in Puentarenas, sort of Weston-Super-Mare, with karaoke and fast food, but the sea is 27’C and the dive-bombing pelicans are hilarious.

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Sleeping in a wind tunnel

Nicaragua borders the Caribbean sea to the east, and Pacific ocean to the west (they can be viewed simultaneously from the top of Volcán Conception but it’s a tough 1600m scramble that requires hiking boots). With so many surfers I was surprised to read that there are only six recorded shark attacks of which 3 were in the freshwater lake of Lake Nicaragua. In the lake?! Where we swim?! I’ve just watched a YouTube clip of a shark gliding through the water and I recognised the islands, where we hired kayaks near Granada. These are Bull sharks and they thrive in both salt and freshwater. They can travel far up rivers, jumping along the rapids of the San Juan River (which connects Lake Nicaragua and the Caribbean Sea), almost like salmon.

The fabulous swimming hole

Nicaragua lake is massive (8,264 km², the 19th largest lake in the world) but threatened by pollution. 32 tonnes of raw sewage enter daily, yet we see children playing in the shallows right beside towns. You just have to look at it to know not to swim there, even out on the distant islands I am hesitant and keep my ears, eyes and mouth dry.

It’s only a magpie,, but I’m so pleased to capture a bird.

Today we cycled to the east coast, where the road runs out, into gale force winds. I’m like a schoolchild, elated by the storm clouds, wind and waves (blustery days at school were always my favourite, noisier, livelier). No rain, but the lake is grey and churning, waves crashing into the shore. After so many days (months!) of sunny and dry I am thrilled to experience weather! Our bedroom window faces directly into wind on the shoreline and it is so rowdy!

The cobblestone pavers are a little bit bouncy but the road is mostly empty and pretty. We passed several cyclists using their bikes to herd six or seven horses (that’s new), and a staggering drunk (that’s not) and a pink pig that wandered into my path then scuttled away. Birds sweep everywhere, perhaps excited by the wind too? And above and between the tall trees a towering perfectly conical volcano. ‘Looks like a slag heap’ Charles ‘ You know, like South Yorkshire or South Wales’. Priceless. OK this flank is mostly unvegetated cinder and ash, but a slag heap?

There’s a swimming hole 2km from here where warm fresh spring water gushes from volcano into pools. It’s delightful, a proper swim in the forest. I like this country: friendly and positive, fewer security guards and guns. Then the young pool attendant who is stacking plastic chairs turns around and I see a pump action shotgun hanging across his back! Sadly the pool left a sting in its tail: we were bitten all over, tiny insects, the reaction maybe twenty times bigger and viciously itchy. Charles is worse, maybe 100 bites ( I was in the pool until it closed, swimming with a little freshwater turtle). So a few beers here in San Juan del Sur, and an antihistamine (antipissedamine!!) and he slept.

Somemore pictures from Granada:

Driving the length of the Americas in his impressive converted 4×4

Mombacho volcano last erupted 10,000 years ago.

A simple garden in an empty Colonial museum.

I shall really miss these blue skies next winter

It must take ages to construct these roofed.

We cycled to crater lake Apoyo. The water is warm and clear, but the ride back up to the crater edge at lunchtime was tough.

Lake Apoyo. ‘I wonder if she will scrub my clothes’ Charles

Our wonderful Simile hostel.

The worst truck we have seen on the road pulled up beside us!

Check out his tyre!

Charles’ hair and eyebrows are closely trimmed and shaped: the barber even removed his ears and nose hair!

Nice place to play Scrabble

New job for Sid!

The windy eastern coast of Ometepe island

The wind tunnel

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Where’s the Alhambra?

Vulcan Masaya: the billowing toxic gases don’t seem to bother the nesting parakeets!

Last erupted in 2001, volcanic bombs hurled 500m into the air and smashed into vehicles in the car park. Only recently reopened.

This one is for you Thomas.

We were not allowed to cycle on this beautiful road up to Vulcan Masaya (only 15mins at top because of fumes) but the van decended from the museum without us so we walked!

Found a restaurant with a pool below the volcano and bogof on beers and burgers and chips. Charles ate two burgers, a salad roll and chips was enough for me. Couldn’t manage the beer either, but Charles helped out by the pool.

From Masaya to Granada  (founded 1524, pop 123,000), we enjoyed a pleasant Sunday morning ride on an empty road. Charles’ pannier rack has snapped – wearing out – rather like ourselves! But he has fixed it with wire and it is holding…   

Elegant Granada is a low rise town backed by craggy Volcán Mombacho to the south and huge Lago de Nicaragua to the east. In fact the lake connects Granada to the Caribbean coast along Rio San Juan, then an important trade route, so Granada became rich, and vulnerable to pirates! Murals and paintings show the town attacked by Spanish conquistadors, pirates, and most recently by Somozo’s Guardia Nacional. A not to be named local described life here in the 80s, any child strong enough to wield an AK-47 would be kidnapped from the street to fight. His father and two uncles died, he migrated to the States. Today his brothers suffer from post traumatic stress. And his opinion of President Ortaga? He has committed so many crimes he must remain at the top to avoid jail.

 

I love Granada. It helps to have such a beautiful hostel right on the square: pool, kitchen, ac, hot showers, quirky, ever so friendly and only $25/night. I can overload my blog with pictures using this super  fast internet. There is so much to see and do here, we are staying for four nights. Each colonial building houses a delight, a secret  courtyard, most often a gorgeous garden with fountains and brightly coloured birds.  We sit on covered patios enjoying the best of western food! I have even spotted a cafe with teapots!!

Yesterday we kayaked among the Isletas on the lake, tomorrow to Apoyo, apparently the clearest lagoon in Central America. Doubt it’ll top Lake Bacalar.

Semilla hostel on the square.

Mombacho last erupted 10,0000 years ago.

Distant Masaya volcano, constantly venting.


Another surprise!  Who should greet me warmly outside our hostel this evening? Michael! Yes Scumbag Michael!! I was sitting in a swing chair chatting to a Canadian travelling the whole length of the Americas.‘Michael’ I admonished as he cut across the Canadian to peck my cheek, ‘ I heard what happened at the last hostel’. ‘ Yes’ he joked, ‘you know me, any criminal activity and I’m there’. So flippant!! I scowled ‘And I thought you’d be volunteering somewhere to account for your sins’. He saw my angry face ‘Well I guess if that’s how you feel..’ and he walked away. I was staggered. No remorse, no shame, he truly expected our friendship to continue. What a scumbag!!

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