March 06, 2006

The Land Before Time

OmetepeISLA DE OMETEPE, NICARAGUA - I woke up this morning with a fearsome volcano staring down at me and realized that Nicaragua, of all the places we've visited, most resembles that old Disney cartoon The Land Before Time. Immediately upon crossing into Nicaragua our horizon became filled with steaming peaks and we've yet to find a vantage point that doesn't include a volcano as it's chief point of reference.

This island, Ometepe is about as exotic a place as I've visited. There are dramatic views from the mainland of it's two magical volcanoes rising steeply from the waters of Lago de Nicaragua. The peaks are bare of vegetation due to recent volcanic activity and almost always appear to have snagged a piece of cloud that has long since passed. From crater lakes to lush cloud forests filled to the brim with exotic birds, monkeys and treacherous snakes the island is a must see for anyone travelling to Nicaragua.

The surrounding waters are equally fascinating. Lago de Nicaragua is the tenth largest body of fresh water in the world. They say it was once part of the Ocean until volcanic eruptions and earthquakes created the Pacific plain that has been both a blessing and a curse while cycling (flat but hot). The part that excites me is the marine life in the lake itself. Over millennia the lake water gradually lost it's salinity, while the saltwater fish trapped in it evolved into some of the most unusual types of fish found anywhere on earth, including freshwater tarpon, swordfish and bull sharks. Imagine that. Freshwater sharks.

Our plan is to catch an overnight ferry (10hrs) tonight to the Rio San Juan, which forms the border with Costa Rica. We're not sure when it leaves as everybody we ask gives a different time and it can often be an unpleasant ride as the lake isn't very deep (60m). It's waters are notoriously rough. If the ferry doesn't go, it won't be the first time we've been stranded on an island this trip, if it does go, we'll be crossing into a remote part of Costa Rica sometime tomorrow morning. Either way, it'll be an adventure.

March 03, 2006

Ometepe Bound

Good People - All of ThemSAN JUAN DEL SUR - NICARAGUA, We don't have much time. If we move with just a little more gusto than usual there's a chance we'll make the last ferry out the volcanic Isla De Ometepe. It's just past noon and after a very groggy start we've only travelled 14km. 50 more to go; in what is promising to be a strong headwind and a consitent, but slight, climb.

The slow start isn't really our fault. We're coming off of three (or was it four?) days lounging, eating and drinking at a spectacular and secluded beach North of San Jaun Del Sur being about as lazy as the sloth that became a fixture in the tree above my tent. It didn't move the whole time, and neither did we. We can't be expected to jump back into the grind, without at least a little hesitation, after such a perfect holiday from life.

There are a lot more photos, but they'll have to wait until tomorrow as every minute counts. We need to be doing more cycling and less typing.

Hasta Pronto

February 23, 2006

Back on the Road, Camera in Hand

­Grow­ing a Beard

GRANADA, NICARAGUA - Lèon turned out to be quite an easy place to lose ourselves in. It was not only cursed with cheap accommodation and food, but also nearly all-night bars, good people and cheap rum. Like San Diego, Zipolite and Utila, the city was difficult to make short work of. This time at least we had a mission driving us ahead…

Back in Tegucigalpa, I was successful in talking Ryan out of purchasing a new digital camera, foolishly thinking that Nicaragua would be some kind of Mecca for cheap digital technology. I was quite wrong and can admit that now. After several attempts in Lèon failed to even turn up a camera shop, we knew Managua would be our best bet.

As usual, we took note of the horror stories of theft and crime, but knew roughly what to expect. An early start and a hundred kilometers into a headwind got us to the city, and apart from its complete lack of street names, signage and downtown the rest was fairly painless. A cheap taxi got us to the ‘LA-style mall’ and fifteen minutes in a store identical to the one in Honduras yielded Ryan a new camera.

That was yesterday, and today we spend in Granada, Ryan equipped with a high powered and multi-featured new toy. I, for my part, am through touting the benefits of film cameras and am getting ready to throw the dirty and cumbersome SLR camera I brought along into Lago de Nicaragua. Maybe tomorrow.


February 19, 2006

On Long Term Travel

LEON, NICARAGUA - A travelling friend friend sent this to me today as part of an email:

Three weeks is just enough to get your batteries reloaded before putting back on the harness; three months, enough to start dreaming in other languages; six months to forget where you're from, and after that, I guess you just start living the world wherever you are...

I'm not sure who wrote it originally (maybe she did) but, It got me thinking. We've been on the road for more than 5 months now and I can certainly say that I´m becoming accustomed to the travelling life. It's really starting to feel normal.

Tomorrow we're going to try to bike to Managua; yet another capital city in Central America. In this heat, it won´t be easy or particularily pleasant but such is life.

Tonight though, we'll drink and be merry. Apparently the place to be is the local Esso station. Yes, the gas station functions as legitimate 'night-club' here in Leon. Last night, it was the best party in town. I have a sneaking suspicion that drunk driving is more prevalent here than at home.

February 17, 2006

On The Road Again...

LEON, NICARAGUA - It's been a busy few days since I last posted. After being stranded in Utila for nearly two days, due to bad weather, we eventually did make it off the island and back to Tegucigalpa. Just in the nick of time for Willie to catch his flight back to Toronto. Brian and I have all the time in the world to go wherever we want whenever we want and would have been happy in Utila, but with the possibility of missing Wills flight, the pressure was on.

With a brand new passport in hand, Brian and I scooped up our bikes after a two week hiatus and zoomed toward the Nicaraguan border... by bus. Our plan was to get back to the point on the coast that we stopped our trip due to passport issues, before starting up again. This time there was to be no drama at the border, and two long days of cycling was to bring us to to our fabled Leon...

Nicaragua. There´s something inherently sexier about Nicaragua than Honduras. I can´t say what exactly, maybe it´s way it´s pronounced, maybe it´s the legacy of the Sandinista revolution of which there are signs of everywhere, or maybe there's just more to do and see here. Whatever it is, I´m going to figure it out. We plan on seeing some sights, soaking up the sun, and basking in the faded colonial glory of the cheapest (and poorest) country in Central America.

*With Willie gone, and Brian stuck in the stone ages. I really and truly am without means to post photos. I'm flirting with the idea of buying a new camera...