In our last blog, we were in Honduras very close to the border of Nicaragua and our time in Nicaragua has been fantastic. Leaving Choluteca was easy for us because although the city is beautiful, it had some rough edges as well. On the outskirts of the city, a guy threw up some gang signs at us, but it appeared to be in a friendly manner. We were heading towards the border into Nicaragua and were only 40 km away. Twenty km from the border, we met one of the most inspirational bike tourists that we have encountered so far. Kim is from South Korea and has been bike touring with his two sons, twins, for the last three and a half years. And the kids are only seven! Kim rode and old bike with a large trailer that towed the kids and gear. His stories were very revitalizing and great to hear the encounters he has had…Kim informed us we were close to the border so we took off, with Nicaragua on our mind. The border crossing was muy tranquillo, easy paperwork, and we were scott free! We camped at this families yard that night not far from the border. We were given frijoles, tortillas y queso for dinner, which was a nice treat. After hanging out with the family for a while, they eventually insisted we sleep inside, away from ¨danger¨. They were convinced that the drunk neighbor would hassel us, so right as we were about to bed down, we shifted into the indoors.
The sign says it all
Our next day in Nica, we got the pleasure of cycling around Volcan San Cristobal all morning. San Cristobal is the largest volcano in Nica and a very prominent formation as there is nothing but flat land in every direction. The volcano was beautiful, definately a sight worth staring at all day when escaping the view of paved road. We arrived to the city of Chinandega just around lunch time, where we wanted to chill for the afternoon, dig the scene, and then make our way south from there. We saw a Mexican taco restaurant and immediately decided to go there in order to feed our craving for tacos! Chinandega was a cool little city, filled with bike shops, large, old churches, and a very interesting central park. The park was scaped with toy castles, lots of play toys, and plenty of unique benches. After spending the afternoon in Chinandega, we biked south keeping our eyes out for a nice quite farm we could camp at. We found the perfect camp, a banana plantation, not far from the outside of the city. After asking permission to camp, we were granted a nice,quiet spot under some banana and avocado trees! Not only did we have camp, but we were told we could pick whatever fruits we wanted. With mango season coming soon, this would be perfect for foraging!
Check out those razor sharp tan lines!
We took the morning slow, as we were pretty wiped from not having any rest days for over a week. The jefe of the farm stopped by our camp and told us that when we leave, stop by the office because he had fruit for us. When we got to the office, he handed us a overflowing grocery sack of grapefruits! Literally over 20 lbs. of grapefruit, way more than what we could eat. Graciously, we took them all with plans of handing them out to locals. Flor de Caña is the national rum in Nica and quite delicious is I do say so myself. The distillory was about 10km from our camp and we stopped to see how much the tour was. After finding out the ridiculous cost, we changed our minds on the tour and decided to make is further to Léon! The 25km to Léon was smooth, but we could definately tell we needed a rest day, which we would find in Léon.
Volcan San Cristobal reflecting the sunset
The city is quite nice. It is a tourist hub and definately on the gringo circuit. After eating lunch at a local comedor, we sought out a hostel to rest our weary heads. We found Hostel Sonati. Tommy checked it out, the rooms were nice, proceeds go to local kids learning about eco-tourism, and there were tons of babes! Tommy told Bradie the previous and the babes is what sold him. As we entered and unpacked our bags, we were bombarded with questions from this old expat that was quite interested in bike touring. We also met our new friend Franzi there. She studied in Mexico and is now backpacking around. We made a pasta dinner with Franzi and then decided to go to the bar with her and some other travelers from the hostel. This is where we got to try the Flor de Caña for the first time and man is it sweet! A great rum! Some of you may have tried it as it has recently become world reknowned and sold globally. After a nice night out, Franzi and the Rangers stumbled back to the hostel and went to sleep!
Our host family curiosly watching us cook breakfast
The morning was a little rough for the both of us. Not sure if it was the water or the food, but our stomachs were in knots and definately feeling sick. Regardless, we spent the day relaxing at the hostel, layin in the hammocks, reading books. Doing whatever we could to not ride bikes for the day. After touring the local market, we gathered a bunch of supplies to cook breakfast. We whipped up some eggs and Franzi fried some platanos! Fried platanos is definately a new favorite dish! We chilled out all day at the hostel, avoiding the heat as much as possible. Allegedly, Léon is the hottest city in Centro America. In the evening, we met up Ike and Hen and they sprayed us down with info on Volcan Telica. They had hiked it the day before and so Hen hand drew us a map and told us the beta we needed to hike the volcano without a guide. The map was courtesy of dirt bag tours! While at the volcano, Ike and Hen met this French guy named Tito who is a proffesional mountain biker and artist who is on a month long bike trip in Nica! We got to meet Tito briefly and it sounded like he had quite the adventure planned, biking all the volcanoes of Nica!
In the morning, we packed our bags to climb and camp at Volcan Telica! Leaving the bikes at the hostel, we jumped on the chicken bus and rode it to the national park where Telica was at. At the entrance of the park, there were these mud pots where boiling mud and water shot up from the earth! Pretty wild. We braved the heat of Nicaragua and started trekking up the volcano. It is funny how we bike every day and are in bike fitness but hiking is different muscle groups and we quickly realized we have not hiked in a while. The hike was really nice, pretty dusty, but nice. Only getting turned around once, we found our way to the top just before the sunset. There was a large field below the summit where the crater rests. This is where we would camp for the night and the other trekking tours were there as well. We quickly traversed to the westside of the volcano to watch the sunset. It was unreal! So bright and magnificent, one of the most memorable sunsets we have seen in a while. But as the sun was setting, something strange happened. It started pouring rain! For 30 minutes, the rains came down, washing off the dust from the trail, and soaking our clothes. Apparantly this is the first time it has rained in 5 months…After cooking dinner, we made our way to the crater of Telica. Telica is known to have a visible lava pool in the crater and is very audible. When we got to the top and looked down, it was absolutely incredible! The lava was pooled up in the bottom and the volcano was so lound it was amazing. It sounded like a boeing 737 screaming on the tarmack. We couldnt believe it, absolutely incredible. To make it better, Bradie spun fire at the top, staring into the depths of the Earth!
Sunset from Volcan Telica
The lava pool of Volcan Telica
In the morning, we woke up to watch the sunrise from the top. Camp was really nice, it was the first time we had camped in the backcountry, as every night we camp in the ¨frontcountry¨. We hustled down volcano and back to Léon shortly after sunrise in order to beat the heat. We rested at Hostel Sonati for the afternoon and repacked the bags before leaving. It was late afternoon by the time we left. With the sunsetting, we started looking for camp about 20 km south of Léon. After questioning the Jefe of this building off the road, we were granted permission to camp. We found out this building was a safehouse, rehab center for the locals struggling with drug addiction. They told us it was muy tranquilo so we took there word, set up camp, and rested the busy day away.
Gotta love the Toña
In the morning, Tommy was woken up to a huge bull staring at him in curiousity from 5 feet away. Bradie was getting quite the kick out of the staredown. Packing up camp, we got on the road and set out toward Managua. As soon as we hit the highway, the wind picked up. One thing that we have noticed about Nica, is that it is always windy here. Struggling with the wind, we put our heads down and pushed through the heat and wind. Weary from the wind, we got reminded how awesome our lives are by taking lunch at a restaurant lakeside of Lago de Managua. The lake is massive, surrounded by Volcanoes and mountains. We made the push, hoping to make it outside of Managua to bandit camp. Unfortunately, Managua was bigger than we expected and with the sunsetting, we had no other option than to get a hotel. The hotel was pretty expensive for our budget but thanks to the gracious gift from Ray and Heidi Schneider we got to indulge ourselves…Hands down the nicest shower we have had in months. We thoroughly enjoyed the steaming hot water.
The morning staring contest…
It´s always windy in Nica
The next day, our plan was to cycle to Granada, dig the scene for a couple hours and then bike past it halfway to San Jorge, where we wanted to catch the ferry to Isla de Ometepe. After crushing the 35km from Managua to Granada, we got there just in time for lunch. Browsing the streets for eats, Tommy saw a sign that said ¨Breakfast Buffet¨. Instantly, both of us knew we needed to eat there. We have been searching for the ellusive buffet the entire trip and have finally found it. As we stuffed out faces with omelettes, hashbrowns, and waffles, Tommy saw Bradie look forward and say ¨No fuckin´way!¨ Tommy looked back and saw Franzi walking through the restaurant which was also a chocolate museum. We had brief facebook contact with Franzi and had tentative plans of meeting up at Granada or Ometepe, but it was wild running into her like that! We caught up on the past few days while we continued to eat. That is when Bradie realized he forgot his ipod in Managua at the hotel. Deciding to grab the next chicken bus back to get it, Franzi helped Tommy monitor the bikes. Tommy chilled in the park with Franzi, chattin´her up, and drinkin beers in our chairs. Franzi got a taste of the bike tour lifestyle and how we often chill in the park, diggin the scene!
Chillin in the park with Franzi (Total Babe)
Bradie didn´t return until late afternoon, making it too late to bike. So we got a room at the same hostel that Franzi was at and would take the ferry from Granada the next day. We stayed at Oasis Hostel which came with pancakes in the morning. They say they are free pancakes, but who are we kidding, they are just included. Also staying at the hostel was Tito our French buddy. We got to chill with Tito, Franzi, Emily, and Ashley for the night in our newly established crew. It felt like we were on the backpacker circuit again, but it was cool. Granada is a nice colonial city, right on the shore of Lake Nicaragua!
Just another day in paradise
In the morning, we lounged around at the hostel, waiting for 2pm ferry to leave for Isla de Ometepe! Anxious for the 6 hour boat ride, we loaded the bikes onto the boat and prepared for take off. Our large group of friends occupied one side of the large ferry as we started to trek across the lake. One source had told us the ferry ride was a scientifically designed boat ride to please the Masochist, so we knew we had a bumpy ride ahead of us. The water was choppy, waves crashing into the boat as we crossed the 10th largest fresh water lake in the world! Watching the sunset from the boat was quite beautiful and a very tranquilo setting. We arrived to Isla de Ometepe after dark, and biked to a nearby hostel. Being the dirt bags we are, we just set up our hammocks in the courtyard of the hotel instead of purchasing a room. The gang went and got some dinner at the nearby restaurant and shared a few liters of Toña, the delicious national pilsner!
Ferry to la Isla with the volcanoes in the horizon
The next few days on the Isla de Ometepe were very tranquilo. We spent 4 days there, enjoying the slow pace of the island lifestyle. We made camp at a finca (farm) called La Brisa. It was up a trail in the jungle, so we locked the bikes up at a locals house and then trudged up the trail with bags in hand. La Brisa was one of the coolest places we have camped. Full of edible plants, an outdoor kitchen, an open air shower staring at Volcan Maderas, and a composting toilet. The perfect sustainable establishement we were looking for.
Stackin bananas on the island
A rare moment when the clouds aren´t encompassing Volcan Concepcion
While on the island, we spent time on the beach with Franzi, Tito, and friends. We soaked in the sun, while staring at the two volcanos on both sides of the island. Our second day on the island, we decided to do a fruit fast for the day, indulging ourselves in loads of locally grown fruits. However, the fast ended in disaster when we decided to cook a large rice and veggie dish for dinner. Franzi was leaving the next day, so we wanted to have farewell dinner party for our new, but great friend! We chilled out really hard while on the island. Camping with Tito the whole time, we really got know him well, and all of the awesome travel stories that he has. It was a very humble experience on the island, eating nothing but locally produced food, living super low impact. Breakfast was fried platanos grown on the isla with eggs and cheese sourced from the neighbor. It was really cool getting to walk to the neighbors house to get supplies for the day! We also got to cycle around pretty much the entire island, checking out all of the villages and seeing how they different villages go about their lives. Our experience on the island was great and definately one of the highlights of the trip.
Yaaa…Camp was pretty cool (La Brisa)
The view from Finca Mystica, another sustainable farm on the island
We decided to leave the island on Saturday Feb 22, Tommy´s Bday! We spent the morning biking to the oppisite side of the island to the village Moyogalpa, where the ferry left from. The ride was muy tranquilo, getting to more or less circumnavigate the entire island. We arrived just in time for the ferry, bought our tickets, and hopped on the boat heading mainland. Since Tommy´s birthday is today and Bradie´s birthday tomorrow, we decided to continue our tradition of sharing the birthday party. We were heading into San Juan del Sur, a well known party spot, for the celebration. After getting lunch, we smashed the 30 km to San Juan, to find a nice little beach crawling with young tourists. San Juan was exactly what we had expected and been told. Americanized, full of 18+ year old travelling for the first time and getting obnoxiously drunk. Luckily, we got a room in the cheap quite hotel and could visit the party hostel if we so choose.
Rad bus at El Zopilote…Another sustainable farm at the island!
Our birthday celebration consisted of a bottle of Flor de Caña, several beers and a little bar hopping. We checked out this place called the Black Whale, which had some live music and fire spinners. Bradie rushed home to get his poi and was spinning with the performers. Sickin! Our celebration was great.
Bikes WILL save the planet!
We celebrated on Tommy´s birthday and are recovering on Bradies´s birthday. The perfect combo. Tomorrow we are leaving San Juan and heading to Costa Rica! With only a week and a half left of the trip, we can almost taste the crisp Colorado air! But we are making the most out of the time we have left, loving everyday. Next time you hear from us, we will be in San Jose, Costa Rica, preppin´ our bikes and boxes for the voyage home!
Stay tuned for the conclusion of Ranger Rides!
-Ranger B-Koz and Ranger Tom