It was a nice two day ride from Leon to Granada. We stopped on the Peninsula de Chiltepa and camped out near Lago Xiloa, one of two crater lakes on the peninsula. I had a nice dip in the lake at night and the next morning, we went swimming in the refreshing cool water. We headed for Granada, luckily bypassing the busy capital city of Managua. On the way we met a German cyclist named Knut. He said he was cycling with another German and they started in Canada. We ended up cycling into Granada with Knut, passing the town of Masaya, known for its handicrafts, and Volcan Masaya. The wind and passing cars and trucks kicked up enough dust to make our tans a few shades darker. We settled into the Hospedaje Central, a cheap and colorful hostel with paintings done by guests all over the walls. Granada has the same colonial look as many popular Central American tourist towns but surprisingly the population is under 100,000. While Granada and Leon are some of the central tourist spots in Nicaragua, they are definitely not overrun. The laid back tourism scene drives home the fact that Nicaragua is still a relatively untouched gem in travel destinations. The next day we set out by bike for Laguna Apoyo, a large lake about 15 km outside of Granada set in a deep crater. On our way out of town, I met a whole family of Argentinean cyclists who were on their way north to the US or Canada. The father noticed my bike was set up for touring so he approached me and later introduced me to his wife and three daughters. Wow, amazing, I thought. Granada turned out to be quite the bottleneck for touring cyclists. After the Argentineans, I met a Swiss couple at the hostel who were touring south. We rode out of town and climbed up to the edge of the Apoyo crater and got a nice view of the lake with Volcan Mombacho standing tall in the background. We descended into the crater and to the lakeside town. As we rode along the unpaved road looking for a spot to enter the water, we got a sense of how undeveloped this area was. The lake reminded me of Lago Atitlan in Guatemala, but much smaller and much more uninhabited. As we swam in the lake, the wind pushed up waves reminiscent of the ocean but lacking the salty taste. I picked up volcanic rocks with my feet on the sandy bottom and was amazed how light they were. All those pockets of air I suppose. After our swim, we rode around the lake for a couple kilometers checking out some of the different views of the water and volcano. We wanted to get a ride back up to the edge of the crater, but the ride never came, so we huffed up to the top and had a nice speedy descent back to Granada and rewarded ourselves with a double scoop of ice cream. Later in the night we checked out a couple rock bands at a popular bar and then danced away to some classic hip hop in the after hours. The next day we decided to take a trip up to Volcan Mombacho. We cycled about 15 km out of Granada to get to the park entrance. Here after paying our dues, they took us up in what they call an EcoMobil. They way I saw it, the only thing ‘eco’ about it was that they were carpooling. The truck took us up a steep cobblestone road through coffee plantations to the biological station pretty close to the top. From here we hired a guide to take us on a 4 hour trail through primary forest checking out forested volcanic craters, steaming fumaroles, and in the distance, great views of Granada, Lago Nicaragua, Lago Apoyo, and Volcan Concepcion which is the taller of the two volcanoes on Lago Nicaragua’s Isla Ometepe. Our guide, Julio, was very informative and made the strenuous hike a pleasure. Up on the trail, the wind was pushing hard, but we sheltered most of the time by the forest, trees covered in bromeliads, orchids, and other epiphytes. Accompanying us on the tour was a young couple from Managua, Carlos and Erica. On our way back down the volcano in the famous ecomobil, we had a nice conversation about music and sports. Later on at dinner, I met a cool couple of women, teachers in Oregon. We had some good conversation.
The next day, I decided to be on of those guests who contributed to some of the wall art. The hostel even provided the paints! Most of the day was spent making jewelry and painting the walls with a couple of German travelers. The next day Adrian decided to take off to Isla Ometepe. I wasn’t ready to leave just yet, so I moved to another backpackers’ hostel called the Oasis, a little more higher priced, but included benefits of free internet and calls to the US. The extra perks turned out not to be worth it when me and another non-guest traveler friend of mine, Nathanial, got into an argument with the owner about having him being on the premises. And he was even considering staying there the next night, until our confrontation of course. We didn’t let the bad vibes spoil our night, however. We went out and had a nice dinner at my favorite pizza place in Granada with the two women from Oregon.
I left Granada and had a long day of cycling, riding down to Rivas to catch a ferry to Isla Ometepe. I traveled with my rig across the jade colored waters of Lago Nicaragua. As we came closer to the impressive landmarks of the island, Volcanoes Concepcion and Maderas, and I knew I would be in for some great experiences.
Thanks for reading,