Inicio de la aventura- Nicaragua
Our journey to Nicaragua was surprisingly less stressful than I anticipated. I convinced myself that when we arrived at the Philadelphia airport with two large bike boxes that Spirit airline, which is known for charging customers through the roof for luggage, would either say nope we won’t take those boxes or charge us an obscene amount. However, I dropped Alex off at the airport and went to park the car in the economy lot and by the time I arrived back he had already checked the bike boxes for the normal bike carrying cost. Our flight was an hour delayed and since our end destination was international we assumed we needed to be there three hours prior, but we overlooked the fact that our first flight was domestic to Florida. The airport security was the most relaxed I had seen it with no need to separate out electronics or take off belts and shoes due to dog security and within five minutes we were at our gate. What to do with two hours now till our delayed departure? Well it happens there was a bar right next to our terminal that would pass the time just nicely.
After two flights and a couple seat moves to grant Alex the emergency row seats, purely due to his height, we arrived in Managua with the local time 1:30 am. Again I felt the anticipation of issues with retrieving our bicycle boxes and making it to the hotel I booked directly across from the airport. We past through customs quickly and with no time at all saw our bike box arrive through the normal baggage claim. We dragged our boxes through security, first having them scanned, and out we popped into the warm air of Managua. Taxis drivers swarmed us and we politely said no as we dragged our boxes and two pannier bags to a clear spot to think. The hotel I booked was 15 meters across from the airport and we quickly identified a pedestrian walk and awkwardly carried our boxes across the street. Ten minutes later we were in our hotel room and thinking the process went as smooth as possible. That was until we realized Alex forgot his green card and would not be permitted to end the states on the return journey.
We slept for less than four hours that night to wake up a bit stressed about the whole green card dilemma. We came to the conclusion that the only thing to be done was to have my mom retrieve the green card and have it shipped to the hotel across from the airport. We were already planning on having them keep our bike boxes for the return journey and hopefully they will be okay with retrieving a piece of mail for us as well. After several broken spanglish they had agreed and all there is to do is hope that on our last day when we return to the hotel they have both our bike boxes and Alex’s green card handy.
After a delicious Nicaraguan breakfast of rice and beans with omelets Alex built back up our bikes. I had planned the route for the first day which was only a 25 mile cycle south to Granada. Google does not allow you to drop the little man on the roads and see view, therefore I used satellite imaginary and apparently badly to pick the route. Alex was too busy to check it so we set off with my route. For this trip we went against using our road bike tires that we used in Asia, with having read that the road surfaces would be a bit rougher with less paved roads. We were not sure what it would honestly be like and opted for knobbly tires that we already owned. About 100 feet from our hotel when I took the path down a dirt rocky path through local homes we concluded our tire choice was spot on.
After fifteen minutes of riding my route planked us down dirt tracks through local villages and at times didn’t look like a path at all. How google thought this was ridable or roads at all was surprising. It started to rain and again we appreciate the gripper tires. The rain grew heavier and we saw young boys playing baseball in an open field run under an old tree for cover. They signaled for us to do the same and we waited out the heavy rain with the children.
For me this was the most mountain bike riding I have done and down some sharp declines on rock I was a bit rusty to say the least. Due to the conditions our easy 25 miles we thought we had was more of an adventure taking 3 hours. This trip our daily mileage will have to be reduced and feel my soreness will be increased with the more rough terrain. Although I am a bit sad it will be more physical work and the miles won’t just float by, as in Asia, the scenery through the dirt paths is spectacular. At one stage we saw horses crossing the path and going up a short incline. Curious on what they were doing we got off our bikes and follow up the grass hill to a clearing of open gorgeous countryside, clearly the horses known where the beauty is. One thing we learned early on is to always expect chickens.
I had booked for us to stay at the Mansion de Chocolate in the center of town. Unlike our Asia trip where we both were unemployed and traveling for a long period of time, we both now have jobs and traveling for a shorter period of time that we can afford nicer accommodation. We roll in about midday and immediately taken with the smell of chocolate. We are told check in is not till two so we freshen up with new clothes, lock our bikes, and hand over our luggage to reception. I wonder to the chocolate shop where a tour is going on and the tour guide assumes I am with them or just doesn’t care and hands me a shot glass. The tour guide then starts pouring different type of chocolate liquor shots or mint shots as we are taught how to cheers loudly in spanish. Alex ends up joining and we have five different chocolate/mint/ginger shots, not a bad way to start.
We leave the hotel in search of lunch, but much more relax after the sugar in the shots. Several cars are driving around town with sound speakers on the truck bed playing either Christmas music or local music. Immediately you take in the colors around you, as every house is a different bright colors. We wonder around and find a panaderia, a bakery. We dive in and order several baked goods and coca cola for less than 2 dollars. Still not having real food we go back out and find the central park which is opposite the main iglesia of town. In the park we sit at one of the outside cafe and order cafe, which seems to be flavored with cocoa powder and lunch dishes, rice with beans and some protein.
The rest of the day goes by quickly with spending some time at the hotel pool with a cocktail and walking around and taking in the city. At sunset we opt to go up the iglesia across from the park and see the sunset over the town. In the distance is volcano Mombacho which is known as cloud forest at top. All day even in sunny skies there is a cloud resting at the top, it makes for a dramatic backdrop of town. There is a Christmas parade going on by the locals and at night the Christmas lights showcase the palm trees. We start to feel tired from our lack of sleep the night prior and although we want to stay up and see late night culture after beers at 9 pm we find our way back to the hotel. Around 10 when we arrive back we are surprised by the lack of atmosphere in town, as during the day the streets were lively and crowded.
The next day we have is a full day in Granada and we plan to relax with the free all you can eat breakfast followed by walking around town. We go up the other inglesia Merced only several blocks north of our hotel and are rewarded with views of the inglesia we went up yesterday. The views from above are stunning with all terracotta roof tops and volcanoes in the background. We go back to our hotel and eat more free breakfast and chill by the pool with a Tona beer. In the afternoon we go on a isla tour on a small boat. There are as many isla as days in a year formed by the eruption of Volcano Mombacho. Isla life is a real thing with thousands of people living on the islas as well as everything you would find in a community such as school, church and shops. The islas are small only big enough for one family per isla and everyone has small row boats to get around. Some rich non Nicaraguan own several and come as a holiday house. A huge storm was on the horizon and slowly approached. Right as it was about to stop our tour guide pull off onto the isla of the local chicken fast food shop where we got off and waited on his isla. The boat tour was interesting seeing the local life and learning about the local birds and monkeys.
Now we rest up on our last night here before riding to Isla Ometepe and hiking up Volcan Conception!