It was nice to be back in the mountains, away from the heat of the coastal lowlands and away from the rainy season. We had loads of clothes to wash up and I had lots of cleaning to do on my bike, which had recently suffered through lots of rain and mud. Clarissa invited Adrian and I to a BBQ where we met a lot of her friends and had loads of tasty grilled meat. Chipi took us on a tour of the big mall which looked just like every other mall in the US, same layout, even some of the same stores, everyone in their Christmas consumerism frenzy. Clarissa took me and a few of her friends out dancing one night. It was a lot of fun, though much of the night was spent trying to decide where to go. Our first stop was a bar sponsored totally by one of the countries beer companies. Picture ĎBudweiser Barí. There was a rock band, but we wanted something more danceable, so after getting a massage (complimentary with admission), we went to the club for some bumpiní and grindiní.
Sunday, Jose was free from work, so on Saturday, Jose and Marieli took us to visit Marieliís family in El Paraise near the border of Honduras and Nicaragua, a few hours away by car. Her father owns land in the mountains where coffee is grown. Marieliís father is in his 80ís so he doesnít actually do any of the work, but there are workers who live on the land and do all the preparation and harvest of the coffee. Jose took us out to the finca (farm) to show us around. We were guided by a few young kids through a slippery mountain trail. At this time of the year, the coffee fruit has turned from green to ripe red and the campesinos are harvesting. However, today was Sunday, so we didnít actually see anyone working. I took lots of pictures of the coffee plants, shaded by tall trees and banana plants. Apparently, coffee grows best with shade. It was amazing learn so much more about the beginning of this product that so many Americanís take for granted. The people who work on these farms live a simple life in simple homes and have very little money, unlike the land owners. They are responsible for growing, cleaning, and drying the coffee. The beans are then shipped off to be roasted, ground, and consumed elsewhere.
After spending a little more time with Marieliís family, we were back on our way to Tegucigalpa, retracing the route Adrian and I would be cycling to get to Nicaragua. We realized there would be some climbing to get from Tegucigalpa to the border. When we got back to the city, we prepared our things and got ready for some cycling after about 3 weeks of rest. Clarissa was getting ready for a nice month and a half vacation in Miami. I set her up with my familyís information so she could meet up with my brothers and they could show her around. I got my mother on the phone for the first time in some months and caught her up on my trip and how Iíd been doing.
Facing busy city roads and big climbs, Adrian and I left Tegucigalpa and entered the more remote pine covered mountains that surround the city. It felt good being back on the road. Of course the hills were punishing and the legs were under lots of strain. The bike felt heavier than normal. One unexpected surprise we encountered was meeting two French cycling tourists halfway through the day who had left Tegucigalpa in the morning as well. They just ran into problems on the road when Nicolas had run through a large pot hole in the road that was covered by the shade. He put a notch in both of his rims and they were twisted pretty badly. He and Angelica were ready to hitchhike to the next city to try to find replacements, but I told them Iíd take a look at it first. I have been breaking spokes with quite some frequency on my back rim since Guatemala and have become quite the rim truing expert. I spent an hour or so messing with his rims and got them back into working shape. We sat and chatted for a while, sharing trip stories. They started in Quebec and are heading for Peru. What is most amazing about them is that they are traveling with their dog, a 70 pound husky type that sits in a baby trailer that Nicolas pulls. And I thought I was overloaded! We talked about camping together a ways down the road and then continued the ride. The road gave us some unexpected and tough inclines that slowed us down a bit. Adrian and I didnít end up reaching our goal until after dark. Both of us were cramping up and had to take frequent breaks. After 52 miles, we arrived Las Crucitas, a small town in the mountains that was recommended to us for camping by Jose. We talked to a policeman about camping next to the station near the road and he said it was all good. Nicolas and Angelica never showed up. The next morning we found out they camped out a couple kilometers before us because of the dark. We ate breakfast together, they took off and we never saw them again. We rode all day under the hot cloudless sky. I had to stop to change my back tire which finally gave out and started showing lumps. We continued on and arrived El Paraiso in the afternoon and spent a couple hours visiting Marieliís family before cruising to the border. This border was no different from most, high up in the mountains. We crossed pretty easily and then had a sweet 10 mile descent.
My first impressions of Nicaragua were that the people were a little more timid, at least in the countryside. The scenery was very beautiful but there appeared to be a bit more deforestation near the border on the Nicaraguan side. The roads were surprisingly smooth and there is even a shoulder! The money is now Cordobas. Our first city was Ocotal, about 33,000 people. We took a hotel and cleaned ourselves up. People look different here in Nicaragua. They are darker skinned, and have slightly different facial features, perhaps there is more of an indigenous influence. We are still stared at around town, as large bearded red headed fair skinned gringos are probably rarely seen. I have also noticed the Nicaraguans take great pride in decorating their central parks and plazas with beautiful flowers and plants.
Our third day from Tegucigalpa was another long day with some tough hills. We ended it in Esteli after our third 50 mile day in a row. Our legs and butts were sore and we were in need of some rest. We decided to take an extra day in Esteli to rest up, clean our clothes, and work on updates. There is no sense in busting our asses after such a long break from the bikes.
Our next stop is Leon, a nice colonial city near the Pacific coast. It will take us a couple days to get there and then weíll be almost half way through cycling Nicaragua, the largest country in Central America. We hope to check out Leon a bit before moving on towards the capital, skirting one of Nicaraguaís large lakes, Lago de Managua. It is clearly Christmas time around here. The decorations are up and so are the fireworks stands. It should be a loud and colorful month!
Thanks for reading!
Peace and Love from the road,
Happy Holidays, try not to get too caught up in the consumerism!
Show your love with some community service.