Nicaragua

imageThe last segment with Sebastiaan. We leave Honduras, reputably the most dangerous country in Central America, for Nicaragua, reputedly the safest. Yet in Honduras we were overwhelmingly welcomed into peoples’ homes, and 10km into Nicaragua a teenager spat at my shirt, which probably only helped clean the sweat and salt encrusted thing. Safety is funny sometimes.

imageWe crossed the border at Las Manos, at the peak of the mountain pass. Either there or the last few days in Honduras we crossed over the Continental Divide, returning to the Pacific. The Divide is easily noticeable throughout Central America as the Caribbean side is characterized by hot and humid weather, and the Pacific side lies hot and dry. Parched, especially now, since we’re coming through in the hottest part of the year, just before the start of the rainy season.

image Beating the heat.

image First stop in Nicaragua: Somoto, just across the border. Resting a few days there, reading and watching football and taking a hike through the canyon.

image Following the track down to the river.

image To walk a bit, then cool off in the water and float downriver a ways. The current strong enough to pull us along, weak enough to be able to just sit back and relax.

image Sheer walls, rocky bluffs.

image Back on the road, aiming to beat the heat by heading back into the mountains. We’ve been avoiding as much as possible the Pan American highway, the main traffic route through Central and South America that stretches all the way down into Peru and Bolivia from Mexico, with only a few interruptions. After riding the PanAm for 40 miles from Somoto, we turned onto the stone-paved road to Jinotega, coffee country.

image A quiet road, past farms and not much else. All would have been well, except both Sebastiaan and I started getting flat tires, and since Honduras our tube patches have not been holding up. Maybe we each had a bad batch of glue, or bad patches, but we would fix a puncture only to roll out and flat a few minutes later, when the puncture invariably blew a hole in the side of the patch. Patching over the patches inevitably just wasted patches. Replacing the punctured tube with a new tube was the best strategy, until we ran out of spare tubes. In any town down here though, it’s always possible to find 26″ inner tubes, so as long as we could limp to the next town, we could keep moving forward. Sebastian was riding on 700c tires, and while most small towns won’t have that sized tubes, it’s possible to fit in a 26″ inner tube, carefully, despite the larger sized wheel. Rubber stretches.

image But up we went, to the permaculture retreat of La Biosfera. Suzanne welcomes in traveling cyclists, so we spent a few days there, resting and recuperating from a bout of intestinal parasites.

image Parasite symptoms include: stomach cramping, nausea, diarrhea, some combination of the above. Parasite medicine costs: $3US for the name brand meds, $1US for the generic ones. Espresso costs $1-2US. From bad water or food, parasites have been explained to us as a routine matter since Guatemala, with most people saying they just get the test done once a year and take the corresponding medicine to knock out the little buggers.

image Parasites cured, our final days riding together took us to Granada, the first city the Spaniards founded in the Americas. Beautifully colonial, and in the summer heat all foot traffic gravitates to whichever side of the street offers some shade from the surrounding buildings.

image Not even the heat can stop a baseball game, either the children playing or the old men standing about watching.

image Many sports going on; the city was built on the shores of Lake Nicaragua, and was being used as the arena for the Paddle Board World Championships.

image City built from stone, swathed in colors.

image Also, more bug problems. This round: bedbugs! They bite, they itch, and there’s no easy medicine. One pharmacy suggested smoking ourselves. We didn’t know what that meant. A few days of riding and sweating under the sun seems to have cured them now.

image And then our final goodbye. Time for me to continue to Costa Rica to meet some friends, and Sebastiaan to start returning to Mexico to catch a flight home in a few weeks. A great riding buddy, sad to say goodbye.

image Sebastiaan, between Granada and the border you missed out on some wind, windmills, and volcano views. Safe travels man.

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Honduras.

image Honduran route. The map page is currently updated through Nicaragua.

Bananas and variants everywhere. Fresh ones eaten roadside. Fried plantains for breakfast, or sliced thin and fried and served with a meal instead of French* fries. Banana bread too a great snack, and easy to find in most tiny grocery stores.

image *Note: if traveling with a Belgian companion, refrain from calling them “French” fries.

image Headed into Honduras along the Caribbean coast. First stop: Omoa, jump into the Caribbean straight off the pier.

image Head farther down the coast to La Ceiba, Honduras’ party city. Ended up hoping up here for Easter week while Sebastiaan went to the nearby island of Utila to do a dive course.

image One of the busiest weeks of the year, and still one of the quietest beaches I’ve ever seen. Honduras is underrated.

image All recent camping has been urban camping. Generally this means asking whatever little restaurant we eat dinner at if we can camp there overnight. Usually we’re given a place under shelter, and just set the tents up for bug protection.

image Or we might ask at a police station. This station had a room and mattresses for people to sleep off a hard night out, which they immediately offered us. “To serve and to protect- this is our motto, this is our job”, one policeman told us proudly.

image Third option: church camping. The closer you hang your hammock to the altar, the better your night’s sleep.

image From the Caribbean coast, we turned back inland over the mountains.

image Nighttime looming.

image Dirt roads: found.

image One of the best parts of climbing mountains: pine forests always appear, so far all down the Americas. A little reminder of home.

image One evening, following a long day of near continuous tire punctures (bad glue? Bad patches? Too hot weather? Cause still unknown), we were asking around in a small village about possible places to eat and sleep. José and his sister offered us a place. On a beautiful farm, full of fruits, they gave us mattresses and a cabin for the night, used to sheltering people that their pastor father brings around. A fun meet-the-family evening.

image With some bike testing included. No one here worries much whether a bike is the right size for them; if the frame is too big, just pedal sitting on the top tube instead of the saddle.

image Memorable food moments: this “restaurant” in the side of a tire repair shop. Rice and beans and fried steak, with fresh salsa and fried plantains. $2. Because of food like this, Sebastiaan and I haven’t been using the camp stove all that much.

image Also roadside watermelon stops.

image Good places to make friends.

image Spotted just before leaving: hammocks are everywhere, and truckers know how to hang in a guaranteed shady spot.