Omelettes, surfing and beer – time for a holiday!
Date: 20th April – 25th April 2012
Where: Granada – Isla de Ometepe – Playa Madera – San Juan Del Sur – Penas Blancas
Distance: 1996 to 2099 miles
Our last day in Granada arrived quickly, our week at school passing in a blur. Armed with the past tense and a ‘map of everything’ from Lloyd we set off for Isla de Ometepe(Omelette). (Lloyd was a volunteer at the Casa Xalteva Spanish school, now on his own cycle tour to Mexico with buckets as panniers :-)…no excuses, remember). Later that day in the market, Geoff had acquainted himself with a random tandem and one of its owners, who assured him that there were actually two of them, and also told of plans to catch the identical ferry to us across Lago Nicaragua.
It turned out that Emilien was the founder of the facebook group we are all using to help each other whilst going Southwards. He and Xiahan are planning to be in Ushuaia at a similar time to us. We would have loved to share resources, but we are all but hopeless at planning, whereas they are fantastic. The exchange of goodies was informational from one side and food-orientated (our ferry-watermelon) from the other.
Isla de Ometepe comprises two volcanoes, one extinct (Maderas) and one ready to blow (Concepción). Amazing views of both of them and smooth seas (bar a few unruly waves which soaked us) led to the island at dusk and we quickly got ourselves unloaded. Suddenly, a pleasant surprise as Nico popped up on our boat having boarded for the border without seeing us. We headed off into the darkness following our tandem plus trailer friends, buoyed by the lone figure waving from the boat.
The next day we set off for somewhere armed with the ‘map of everything’. After a delightful ride along the quiet island road, we came across the first ‘x’ on the map, the ojo de agua! This man-made pool is constantly refilled from a nearby mineral-rich spring. Think about emptying 50,000 bottles of ‘Volvic’ mineral water into a hollow in the jungle, and then jumping in off a rope swing, and you’re somewhere close. Refreshed we headed off for a place to stay for the night called Finca Magdalena. A steep climb up the hill to the farm and spectacular sunset views to the sound of howler monkeys.
Some Nicaraguan chcocolate (first chocolate since Guatemala!) powered us up some pretty steep stony hills the next day to the other side of the island to San Ramon. Here we stayed at another Finca on Lloyd’s map called Finca Mystique, primarily because it had Chicken Coconut Curry on the menu for dinner. A guided toddle up to the waterfall through avocado plantations led to the San Ramon waterfall. It was nice to do exercise other than cycling! A cool shower was followed by a beautiful hike back in the evening light and a lovely hospitality for the night (the curry was goooooood!).
Slow, relaxed progress the next day took us to near the morning ferry where we camped swimming in the warm lake waters as the sun went down. Isla de Ometepe truly was a place for the cyclist to rest and recuperate. Here we said our goodbyes to Emilien and Xiahan who we had bumped into throughout our stay on the island. Maybe we will see them again in Costa Rica. We hope so.
We took the rest and recuperation to another level though by catching the bumpy ferry to the mainland the next day and cycling the short distance to Playa Madera for some beach-time (Cyclists be warned! There is a hill just before the beach that cars can’t navigate, let alone bikes!). A beautiful beach setting was complemented by a very quiet evening atmosphere on the beach. The following morning we rented a surfboard at 7 o’clock and hit the waves, or rather they hit us. It was a perfect beach to learn to surf with warm sea, sandy bottom and nicely spaced waves. We shared the early morning waves with only a dozen other surfers and both improved our surfing ability beyond that which the cold UK waves have allowed us thus far. That evening we cycled back to San Juan Del Sur.
The Pan-American beckoned and we duly returned to our Southward path the next day and headed for the border, staying at the one hotel available to us, which was surprisingly cheap, and surprisingly pleasant (for the price). We’ll need that money as we head into the US-priced Costa Rica where everything apparently costa mucha moolah!