Summary: Nicaragua was a pleasant surprise. (See also my Blog post with the same title.) I cycled along on a fairly new highway, probably the best in all of Central America and despite the heat in the afternoon the weather was generally very good for cycling. I had the impression that the Nicas – as the locals are called – are industrious, friendly and happy folks who were as eager to meet and help me as any other people in Latin America. In many ways I felt as if somewhere in Mexico, especially in the two lovely towns of Leon and Granada. Except for its capital, Managua, which was terrifying to cycle through due to the bad roads and horrible traffic, I genuinely enjoyed Nicaragua and would not hesitate to go back there for another visit or more cycling.
Photo Album: Nicaragua Ride
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Wednesday, December 9
Somotillo to León
110km / 12400km; 5h / 672h; 450m
I get up early again to benefit from the cool morning air. By 6am I’m on the bike riding! It’s only 23C, the coolest temp I’ve haid since coming down from Chirripo… Very pleasant riding at sunrise. Today’s ride consists of two parts: First in the morning to Chinandega (70km); that’s what I couldn’t do last night, as there is little in between.
The road is almost completely flat and well paved, smooth surface, good shoulder and little traffic, so the cyclist can’t ask for more A large volcano – with big smoke plume blown downwind from it’s top – helps me gauge the distance, as the road leads half way around it. In the last quarter the road slowly climbs a small saddle, perhaps 150m or so. Just as I’m nearing the crest a couple of tractors slowly pass me. I accelerate to stay in their slipstream. Once over the top when the road leads downhill I’m actually faster than the tractors, so I pass them and leave them behind. I roll into town at 9:30am trying to find refreshments and Internet access. After one unsuccessful stop I find at least some coke (2 l) to cool down. A few hundred m further is a hotel with restaurant and Internet. And other than a few birds it’s fairly quiet, something that is rare to find around here.
I check email and write a Blog post while having a light lunch. Time flies when you want to rest and write. It’s 11:30 by the time I’m on the road again; now the heat is on full force and I need sunscreen on my skin.
With iPod and a flat road I get in a good rhythm, ride quite fast and make short work of the remaining 40km to León in 1.5 hrs. Once there, I stop again for another lunch and coke.
Now it’s only 3pm and I can look around what is described as one of the two nicest cities of Nicaragua in daylight, a rare treat. I roll around the various plazas and churches, also looking for hotels. Eventually I find a little hotel (America) near the center and check in. After a refreshing shower I walk the streets and sit at a cafe with Internet access. There I have two Banana milk shakes, followed by Pizza for dinner. I spend more than 2 hrs online, so I have less time to walk the streets afterwards. People don’t seem to be out long after dark (at 6pm), so the streets are pretty quiet at 9pm already. I buy some water and yoghurts for tomorrow morning, return to the hotel and go to sleep by 9:30pm.
Thursday, December 10
León to Managua
105km / 11505km; 5.75h / 678h; 420m
I get up at 6am and walk next door to have a cup of coffee, some toast and my yoghurts while checking email. It’s a bit after 7am when I start riding. There are some cobblestone streets to negotiate, but soon I’m on the main highway and heading towards Managua, the capital.
At 25km the road to La Paz Centro turns left towards the Lago de Managua. I stop briefly at the intersection for some coke and watch the family with twin daughters playing in front of their store. After another 10km I reach La Paz Centro and buy some cookies and a coffee.
From here one can already see the symmetrically shaped volcano Momotombo on the other side of the lake. While the road is now very close to the lake shore, one can only rarely glimpse the lake itself. I stop at a restaurant (aptly named Miramar) which has stunning views of the lake and various outside tables under little straw roofs. This has got to be one of the most scenic spots of the entire trip!
Soon the remaining 15km are behind me and I reach the outskirts of Managua. It’s so hot and I’m so dehydrated that I drink 3l of water within 15min. Then I need to climb some 150m hill in the heat and repeatedly ask for directions to the right bus terminal. Unfortunately I need to traverse the city from West to East, which is a cyclist’s traffic nightmare: Crazy cobblestone streets riddled with big potholes and lots of traffic! That goes on for some 10km and just when I think my trailer will vibrate off the hitch I finally reach the Mercado Mayoreo with the bus terminal. The market is a scene in itself. I stop for some refreshment and start asking for hotels. I find one nearby and explain to the slightly confused tenants that I want to leave my bike there for one night and then come back to sleep there the following night. Once that’s accomplished I change, prepare the little backpack and get ready for the Pico Mogoton sidetrip.
The bus leaves at 5:15pm, so I need to wait for 45min. Then it’s a 4h bus ride to Ocotlan – at least in a bigger and quiet bus.
I arrive in Ocotal at around 9:20pm. I ask around and find the home of the Castellanos family nearby the central plaza. Once there the family calls Roberto, who unfortunately didn’t receive my email from yesterday… But 15min later Roberto comes by and we make plans for tomorrow.
Friday, December 11
Climb of Pico Mogoton
Bus ride back to Managua
Saturday, December 12
Managua to Rivas
132km / 12638km; 7h / 685h; 800m
Managua – Tipitapa – Masaya – Granada – (lunch break and email) – Nandaime – Rivas
Very friendly encounter with local resident in Rivas – who had lived in the US for a while. He invited me in his home behind the bakery shop for a chat over fresh coffee and pastries.
Then stayed on 2nd floor of firehouse and met with curious firefighters who were excited to hear about my story and check out my bike.
Sunday, December 13
Rivas to Liberia (Costa Rica)
115km / 12754km; 6.2h / 692h; 850m
Wind farms along shores of Lago de Nicaragua; friendly and informative chat with security guard at wind tower.
38km to border
1hr delay at CR border entry
78km to Liberia; fresh wind, mostly side. Some hills right after border, then flat Savanna again.