Saturday, April 30, 2011

Day 116 - Ometepe - Granada

Distance travelled (by bike): 11,890

Catching the 9am ferry from Moyogalpa to San Jorge del Sur i met a fellow biker called Sigi, a german who teaches in the states. Disembarking off the ferry we decided to get some breakfast along the beach, not settling for the first place and because the ride was fun we drove 2 km along the beach, then stopped. Breakfast over i headed back on the road north to Granada and Sigi south to Costa Rica. 
Nicaragua is very hot! Though the drive isn't a great distance it was really draining to ride in the intense heat with all the gear on, i was drinking a over a litre of water an hour ad i'm sure i was sweating more out.. 
Arriving at Granada i found the hostel that had been recommended, parked the bike and quickly stripped out of my bike stuff, peeling off my boots i did feel a little sorry for those that had to share the dorm that night.
Granada is a colonial city, evident the moment you start to drive or walk thought. the streets are one way, narrow with lots of building restoration happening due to the influx of foreign investor in the region.

looking back to the island

sigi and his bike on the beach

bike on the beach (as the side stand is temperamental i had to lean it on a post)

Guadalupe Church

Cathedral of Granada

Friday, April 29, 2011

Day 115 - San Jose - Altagracia (Ometepe, Nicaragua)

Distance travelled (by bike): 11,730

Early start, big day! Leaving the hell of San Jose and one way streets behind i headed north for the border of Nicaragua. After a long, amazingly hot ride i reached the border at 11.30. Having taken some time to clear Costa Rica it was lunch time when i wanted to enter into Nicaragua! Having wasted my time been sent from place to place i gave in and payed someone $10 to help me with the process, this was a great help and sped things up hugely (though i never trusted him with my documents).
Hotter than i've been on my travels so far and resenting paying $12 to have my passport stamped, the $1 border charge, $5 tourist charge and Nicaraguan Insurance i rode into the country a little bitter. I was soon driving around Lago De Nicaragua, the bitterness forgotten. I decided to get to San Jan del Sur and stop for the day, but as i arrived i saw a ferry loading to go over to the island. Ometepe, the largest fresh water island in the world and is basically two volcanoes. After an hour on the ferry i disembarked at Moyogalpa, enjoying the scenery i drove straight through and around the island to Altagracia on the east side of the north island. About to over heat i had to stop for the day.

the last of costa rica

hidden behind the trees is the office you need to export the bike from costa rica, not easy to find and 300m from the border

lone bike at the border

inside nicaragua

Ometepe in the distance

waiting for the ferry

local kid who decided to look after the bike on the ferry crossing


the only paved road around the island, i soon diverted off to the gravel

Day 113/114 - La Fortuna - San Jose/San Jose

Distance travelled (by bike): 11,360

Day 113 -
Waking early, (think Holly has had enough of the early starts) we drove through the mountains south, been early there was little traffic on the road. Though Holly did witness first hand the buses and trucks coming around the corners on the wrong side, after that i had a nervous pillion. Driving into San Jose the day was starting to heat up. First stop would be the BMW dealer to pick up new tyres. As alway these things take a lot longer than you think, finding the dealer and then purchasing the tyres (Holly slept in the dealership while we were waiting). Second and final stop was the hotel. Deciding it was Holly's last proper night in Costa Rica we headed out to fond a suitable place to celebrate!

letting the professionals change the rear tyre, the inevitable happened - 
sir, we recommend you replace your chain, sprockets, inner tubes, side stand and possibly bearings - 
ummm, at these prices, i think not!

holly passed out at the garage

Day 114 -
San Jose is a bit of a nothing city, too those that warned i know see your point! nothing really to see or or a great deal to do. We mooched around getting a feeling for the city before heading to the gold museum. The stories under the Plaza within vaults the museum documented the history of gold through the ages. Emerging into the light we then explored the National theatre. Later in the afternoon we met up with Sadie, Rachel, Gemma and Anne (Rachel, Gemma and Anne i had met in Argentina & bolivia) to celebrate holly's last night, after some food and drinks we left them to go out returning to the hotel to pack for tomorrow. Holy was leaving early, so i decided to leave the same time and try to get to Nicaragua.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Day 111/112 - Santa Elena - La Fortuna/La Fortuna

Distance travelled (by bike): 11,230

Day 111
Amazing mountain roads that skirted around the side of laguna de Arenal. Leaving Monte Verde we had to back track 60Km to get fuel, then continuing north around the top of laguna de Arenal to return south on the other side. This is the only way to get from Monte Verde to La Fortuna as the road to the south was washed out, it might have been worth a try had i had more time and without Holly on the back, as it was, not a risk worth taking. 
Taking our time we meandered around the lake avoiding potholes, dogs and oncoming traffic. Approaching La Fortuna we saw the volcano, unfortunately the lava had stopped flowing last month, massive disappointment! 
Once stopped, unloaded and settled we went for a wonder around the town and booked tickets to the hot springs the following day. 

laguna de Arenal

holly and the bike on the shore of laguna de Arenal


staying out the sun

the main plaza at la fortuna

Day 112
Hot springs, leaving the hostel at 10am we were one of the first people at the springs. Although its quite touristy it was well worth the visit. 28 different hot pools, all at different temperatures, 4 cold pools, water slides and plunge pools! We left the hot springs at 5pm, just as it was starting to get busy with the evening tourists. 
Back at the hostel we met another biker called Ben from New York, he drove from NY to Panama and is now on his way back up. After talking routes etc, i'm hoping to meet him in Nicaragua and do some of the journey north with him. Holly having finished her book, just grinned, trying not to look bored!

mine and bens bikes parked infront of the volcano


holly splashing into one of the hot pools

hot springs with volcano behind

hot springs

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Day 110 - Santa Elena

Coffee and Sugar cane tour. We opted for a smaller family run and operated tour, rather than the larger corporate operations. Arriving at the plantation we were introduced to the whole family, buy Deigo, the eldest son. We set out on our tour, guided by Diego, after trekking up mountains to the coffee plants and how they are harvested we returned downhill to the farm to see drying and roasting process. All the coffee at this plantation is picked by hand.
The plantation also grows plantain, bananas, pineapples and oranges which are grown among the coffee plants.
The second part of the tour concentrated on Sugar cane, following the process until you have brown sugar, which is moulded into 1kg blocks and sold. We also got to see 'sac de guar' which is the liquor made from sugar cane. At the end of the tour we had the opportunity to make some sugary caramel concoction, Holly was first in line! 
This was followed by coffee and a local savoury pastries. On the journey to Santa Elena i thought i had just edged a lot closer to diabetes with all the sugar consumed, Holly was bouncing!
Returning to Santa Elena we embarked on a hike though the mountains to burn the excess energy, halfway through we discovered a frog sanctuary, very random.
That evening we went to a bar, having met the owner the night before (who also had a bike) we got some free drinks. Having smashed her sunglasses earlier, and in need of comfort food i introduced Holly to empinadas.


bananas and plantain 

holly harvesting coffee

beans before roasting


the ladies in the traditional ox pulled cart

how to make moonshine!!

a vat of caramel 

the caramel concoction

the moulds with 3kg of sugar 

holly loving the frog