Having been dropped off on a deserted black beach in what I hoped to be Nicaragua, I stumbled accross the one man show that is immigration control. Great Success for being in another country! This bit of coastline formed the remote-ish southern peninsula of a large bay that provides Honduras (which I skipped completely by cutting accross the bay by boat), with accress to the Pacific in between the El Salvador and Nicaragua sandwich. In practical terms the remoteness gave me some respite from asphalt riding and how good it felt to be back in the dust!
But in Central America it seems all roads lead to the Pan American and soon enough a was funneled back into the fray. The plan was a straight carry over from El Salvador: head south directly and without too much faffing about, but with a lesser sense of the security risk induced anxiety.
I managed to include some backroads and more dust but the days and kilometers sped by untill I found myself in Granada on the shore of the massive Lake Nicaragua, the largest in Central America. I’d passed 2 major cities on route, Leon and the capital San Miguel, with nothing really noteworthy seen or experienced in either.
Granada had a fair bit more character and soul. And by this I mean tourists. No, to be fair it was a beautiful colonial town of just the right proportions to be impressive and intimate at the same time. The setting on the shore of Lake Nicaragua also helped, but strangely the town was centered slightly inland, not fully exploiting the waterfront potential.
I was savagely batted from camping at the Bomberos (Firestation) but was shown pity by the Red Cross. Here I met 3 other young Frenchmen, on a sort of Catholic pilgrimage from Canada to Colombia, travelling and volunteering at Catholic orphanages along the way. They had decided to ditch the busses and bike from San Miguel to Panama. After establishing my superior cycling credentials, i.e. I had cycled in an afternoon what took them 2 days on a bike that didn’t puncture every handfull of kilometers, they sheepishly proceded to ask some technical advice. Like why the new tyre they bought didn’t fit the rim of one of the bikes. Answer: They must have sourced the bike from an antiques dealer, as they were proper vintage from yester decade and non compatible with todays standards, like rim sizes to name but one obvious feature. But good intentions aside, I made it very clear to then that attempting to tour with heavy 20kg backpacks on skinny ‘racing bike’ tyres, is going to continue being a puncture riddled disaster. I felt for them as they realized the guy who sold them the bikes might have over emphasised their touring capabilities.
I set off the next morning with a distraction to catch, the must do figure of 8 tour of the twin volcanoed (Conception and the smaller southern Maderas) island of Ometepe, situated on Lake Nicaragua. It was a testing ride south into a stiff breeze that had been pumping all morning, and picked up to an angry howler whilst waiting for the ferry at the port. What followed was quite a frightening crossing to the island. It’s ironic that this voyage formed my idea of rough, stormy and near fatal seas, as it happened on an inland lake in otherwise sunny skies.
The ride around the island (100km or so as far as I remember) was very agreeable, and would have been even more so had I not been coming down with something. As such it stretched into a second day of riding on flat and unresponsive legs, albeit after a nice camp on the beach in the wind, which thankfully kept the mosquitos out of the normal equation. In fact, let it be documented once and for all in a blog that is scraping the bottom of the barrel for content: show me a picture of paradise and I’ll show you an idyllic location in which you’ll be tormented by flying and crawling bloodthirsty agents of dispair.
The following day I returned to the mainland with more riding into the headwind, and my thoughts soon turned into reality as scores of wind turbines began to appear next to the road, spinning about merrily and facing the same direction as me. Truth be told, not the best sign of all. I had little choice but to persist and after another windy night spent camping on the shore of the lake the Costa Rican border was looming within a mornings ride. Time for another repeat of the Central American cycle. On bicycle. Nothing wrong with that.