After a nice days rest in Esteli resting the buns and legs, we descended to the flat lands of Nicaragua. This area, primarily used for agriculture, is flat and featureless except for the impressive Volcanoes that stretch up the west coast. The heat became more intense as we made our way to Leon. We stopped in a small town called Malpaisillo for the night and met up with some fine young kids who had nothing better to do than follow us around as we looked for food. A few of them were fascinated with my hair, touching it and pulling on it. Our night out on the town was cut short by the recommendation of the local police for us to be in bed by 8pm. Apparently this was a dangerous place to be after dark. It was a little hard for me to believe since we were being treated so well. I also thought about what it does to the kids, the future of this town, to talk about how unsafe the town is. I wonder if people think about committing more crimes when most people just expect them to. The next day, we finished up on the flat road of Cental American Route 26 and passed through the row of volcanoes, some actively smoking, and entered the colonial city of Leon. We settled into a nice hotel and met some other friendly travelers from around Europe and the US. We checked out the city during the day, taking photos of some of the large colorful churches. At night, we were amazed how much the city livened up. It must be the heat. Everyone comes out during the cooler night time. We dined with some Dutch travelers, Luz and Yurun, who were also cyclists but were just backbacking through Central America. We exchanged cycle touring stories and ate tasty Lebanese food (Yes, there is Lebanese food in Leon, Nicaragua). The next day we took a trip out to the Poneyola, a small town on the Pacific Ocean only 20 km away. We met a nice Australian couple, Nick and Petra, on the bus who we ended up spending a very nice day and evening with. We enjoyed the water, body surfing the waves and played Frisbee on the dark volcanic sand beach. In the distance was the smoking volcano San Cristobal providing beautiful scenery on a great day. I collected some pretty shells from the beach for necklace making and chatted with our new friends about our travels. Before leaving the beach we had delicious and cheap whole fried fish, cocktail de conchas (clams), and sipped on local beers as we talked and watched the sun set from our beachside seating.
Our last day in Leon was spent relaxing, checking out a museum with a nice collection of photos from the revolutionary period of Nicaragua. We learned some tough history as our guide reiterated how the support of the US government resulted in the many deaths of the Sandinistas by the Nicaraguan right winged government. There were photos of Sandinista men and women posed with guns and others strewn out dead on the streets. These were people with very little opportunity struggling in a losing battle against the powerful and rich elite. They were murdered for fighting for equality in a very corrupt government. Today, while the war is over, the corruption still exists. One of the recent ex-presidents of Nicaragua, Arnoldo Aleman was just sentenced to 20 years and is expected to pay back the millions he stole from his own people. Hopefully the painful history of this poor country can be shared and a lesson can be learned.
Tomorrow we start a two day ride to another nice colonial town called Granada, bypassing the congested, busy capital city of Managua. We will spend a bit of time riding along the first of two very large lakes of Nicaragua, Lago Managua, where we will possibly spend the night on the Peninsula de Chiltepa. There are only a few days worth of cycling left before we reach Costa Rica, but we will be spending some time checking out Nicaragua’s wonderful sites along the way.
Pic: Oh, sweet downhill...