Back to school in the Nica time

Date: 5th April – 19th April 2012
Where: San Marcos de Colon (Honduras) – Somoto (Nicaragua) – Esteli – Seboca – Masaya – Granada
Distance: 1800 to 1996 miles

Crossing the border into Nicaragua on Good Friday was a very different experience from any other bureaucratic business we’d had thus far. The bureaucracy remained, but it could be enjoyed in peaceful solitude given we were the only people present other than money lenders, soldiers, officials and local spectators who evidentially have nothing better to do. We were confused when asked by one official for a receipt for our bikes, but soon managed to confuse him with our Spanglish and zoom down the hill to Somoto. On the normally bustling Pan-AM highway we met 3 cars, one truck, a friendly policeman who told us to put our helmets on and gave us road safety leaflets (obviously in Spanish), and a procession of 200 or so Spaniards marching with a cross. Something to do with Easter, we guessed, as we solemnly glided past. The evening in Somoto consisted of another procession (much larger) which we joined for 4 blocks before escaping for food. We also met Aran and Andrew again. It was the sort of town where foreigners stick out like a sore thumb. Speaking of which Sarah was having few issues with her own thumbs…more on that later. As a footnote for those who enjoy the vertical rather than the horizontal, there seemed to be a lot of climbing potential and activity around these parts…something for the future maybe!

Preparing for the start of the Easter procession in Somoto

An empty Pan-American highway – bliss!

Easter Saturday we continued down our empty road and then up our empty road to Esteli passing tobacco farms and the corresponding cigar factories for much of the way. Little did we know that we were following in the footsteps of a certain Nico Stavrakakis with our choice of hotel that night. He was already 2 days ride away though. Another night, another town, another procession, this time with a brass band.

We tried the dirt again the next day, but chose the wrong road. Uphill to the point of stupidity. No way! Back to the Pan-Am we went, a 10-mile detour quickly forgotten in the gorgeous scenary of the road to Seboca. Here we attempted to camp at a petrol station but soon got attacked by mosquitoes, a good excuse if ever there was one for an air-conditioned hotel room.

We left the cross-roads town early the next day for Tipi Tapa, a large town by all accounts (on our map at least), and a full 60 miles away. The downhill had finally led us into the heat, and the ride was really only broken up by the lush greens and blues of Laguna Moyua halfway. On arrival, Tipi Tapa was rapidly renamed Shiti Crapa due to it only having one hotel which wanted $50 for the night. After much faff looking for rooms in sex hotels on the outskirts, we eventually decided such establishments weren’t for us anyway and set off for Masaya. A 73 mile day culminated in a simple room with no window. The extra fan Sarah acquired halfway through the night eventually cooled us down for the night…what will Costa Rica be like if we are already this hot we thought.

Masaya has a fantastic craft market where we bought, amongst other things, an Esteli-made cigar for smoking wherever we finish this trip, plus two delicious fruit smoothies made of many fruits of which Mango and orange were the two we’ed heard of before. The changing fruits are something we’re looking forward to as we venture further South. Some traditional Baho for lunch sated our appetite as we looked out on Laguna Masaya and the volcano beyond. In the early evening we set off for the short ride to Granada and eventually settled on a nice-looking hostel in the middle of Gringo Street (If you ever go or have gone to Granada, you’ll know which one!).

Enjoying the colours of Laguna Moyua

The local Madam enjoys her smoothie in Masaya craft market

Welcome to Granada!

Practicing for Ushuaia, Argentina with our plumbing-pipe wrapped Esteli cigar

During our ride down through Nicaragua we’d struggled to make conversation or friends with many Nicas. We’d heard such good things about the people, we decided we needed to consolidate our self-learning and head back to school for a week. Casa Xalteva was perfect for this, and we were both chuffed to finally be able to speak in the past tense at last and stop living in the present all the time! We had 20 hours of lessons spread over 5 days. During this time we stayed with a local family, the Mother of whom was a fantastic cook, so we experienced all kinds of tasty Nicaraguan cuisine during our stay there. Two small mice eating a hole in Geoff’s handlebar bag slightly marred the first night, but these were quickly caught and we had seven days of complete rest there. By chance, our time at Spanish school fitted in perfectly with meeting Sarah’s brother, Nico, who had been sampling coffee in Matagalpa for a few days, just in time for the weekend. We had a bus and hitchhike packed day to the calming waters of Laguna Apoyo (crater lake) and Masaya volcano (smoking crater) finding time to stop off in Masaya for more Baho in-between. The Masaya volcano in particular was incredible looking down right into the depths of the earth and hearing her roar, all while trying not to choke on the toxic fumes. Even the orangey glow of lava was visible for a time. Later that week the school organised a trip to the Isletas in Lago de Cocibolca (islands) which showed a very different lifestyle to that on-land as it is made up of so many small islands.

Revisiting Masaya with Nico – Smile at life 🙂

Volcano’s gonna get ya! It’s behind you!

The breath-taking view of Masaya volcano puffing away to itself

Elegant diving technique into the warm waters of the Isletas of Lago Cocibolca

Our home for a week. Rocking in your rocking-chair is the national past-time of all Nicaraguans!

Granada cathedral in the evening light

Oh yes… Sarah’s thumbs…she is cultivating maggots under her thumb-nails, and we used our new Spanish skills to visit a Doctor in Granada for a bit of help. He prescribed lots of medicine which we hope will sort them out soon.

Panoramic stitch of 10 photos to create a jigsaw puzzle view of the Granada cityscape…please don’t look too closely, as the stitch has created one or two anomalies!

5 responses to “Back to school in the Nica time”

  1. aventuradejuana says :

    Hey Sarah and Geoff:

    Great meeting you at Casa Xalteva. So I haven´t gotten on a bike again, but I did go volcano boarding in Leon. Hope you are both having tons of fun. Safe journey the rest of the way down to South America!

    Jane Lee
    janeclee@yahoo.com

    • Sarah says :

      Hi James, only joking, hi Jane! Have just enjoyed reading your blog : ) It could’ve been worse no one can say Geoff and the Casa Xalteva guys called him Groff. How are your classes going? Seems you’re getting to go to loads of interesting places and do cool things. Wish I had heard about the mosaic class whilst in Granada I’ve always wanted to learn to make mosaics. Volcano boarding sounds way more dangerous than cycling. Enjoy the rest of your time in Granada and Nicaragua. Perhaps our paths will cross in Peru, I’m following your blog now so we can stay connected. Take good care, Sarah & Geoff

  2. Lloyd Merino says :

    Hey Sarah and Geoff!

    Here is my crazyguyonabike journal. Check it out and let me know what you think!

    Hope pedaling is going well.

    Lloyd

    • Geoff says :

      Hey Lloyd (& Jared),
      The blog is ace! Sounds like you’ve adapted into the eat, cycle, eat, relax, cycle, eat, sleep routine just perfectly. Glad you dealt with your first ( and I hope last) mental crisis so well on the puncture-prone hill. It’s ironic that the thing that causes bike punctures is the wire in car tyres left over from when they punctured! Good luck for the rest of the trip! We’ll be following you.
      We’re in Panama as of today, and the road is hellish busy so we’re on a bus first thing tomorrow.
      Keep safe,
      Geoff & Sarah

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