Pan American Adventure [Nicaragua]

March 2nd [Day 162]

Popoyo, Nicaragua to San Juan Del Sur, Nicaragua

San Juan del Sur is the popular touristy surf destination that I decided to make as my last stop in Nicaragua before heading into Costa Rica, I can stay here 2 nights leaving me with 1 day to spare before needing to get out of Nicaragua before my motorcycle paperwork expires.  This is a decent sized village with lots and lots of bars that are all mostly empty because the tourists still haven’t returned in numbers since the 2018 riots.  Apart from taking a few beers with some travellers I already met along the way I didn’t do very much in San Juan del Sur but take it pretty easy.


March 1st [Day 161]

Popoyo, Nicaragua

This morning after breakfast 3 of us on the one motorbike head 1km up the coast to the beginner surf beach for some lessons.  I’m pretty sure I’m not going to have a good time here because I’m not the oceans biggest fan, I can also swim but not very well.  At this beach where the waves break you are already out of your dept and are nowhere near able to stand up in the water.  Also the waves are actually pretty big so you have to roll over upside down in the water for every big wave that passes if your not trying to catch it.  After about half an hour of this I decided I was out and swam back to the shore where I could breath easier without choking on salt water, I am a land creature!

February 29th [Day 160]

Ometepe, Nicaragua to Popoyo, Nicaragua

Today it’s time to leave the island of Ometepe and try and make my way closer to the Nica/Tica border, I have only a 5 or so days remaining on my 30 day motorcycle permit and I don’t want to get hit with the $500 sneeeeeeaky overstay tax that they apply once you’re a day over.  Here they give you a 90 day visitors permit but only a 30 day vehicle permit that a lot of people don’t notice and get stung when they go to leave.

Another interesting story about Nicaragua is that the government has silenced the print media by withholding their paper as a raw material in customs for any reason they choose meaning the newspapers don’t have access to a physical medium to print their newspaper.  Drones are also banned within the country since they turn out to be a pretty good tool to document social unrest from a safe distance, if they do find your drone upon entry or exit, it will be confiscated.  All public protests are banned since the 2018 riots and walking in the street carrying a Nicaraguan flag gets you silenced real fast, I think even the tour guides are afraid to speak negatively against the current oppression for fear that one of the tourists may be a listening ear for the government ensuring the outward image is one of happiness and content.  The current leader here, Ortega, is doing everything he can to stay in power because the people want his head and they shall have it once he’s no longer commander of the forces.

Today’s destination is close to Popoyo which is a less touristy beach surfer destination where Michi the other German traveller is hanging out for a few nights and reports that he’s staying at a pretty nice place by the beach.  The plan is to stay here for a couple of nights and take some surf lessons from the Spanish guy who runs the place.  I got here in time to drop my stuff, buy a pineapple from the passing vegetable truck, and walk down to the beach to catch another sunset 🙂


February 22nd to February 28th [Day 153 to 159]

Ometepe, Nicaragua

I spent a week on Ometepe and loved the vibe, it’s very relaxed with some of the best sunsets of the trip yet.  I met up with Michi a German guy I’ve been bumping into since Mexico and we hiked up both Conception and Maderas volcanos together.  It pissed rain all the way up to the top of Conception and we didn’t see a thing but clouds, the top of conception is a peak where you could see down both sides from the same place at the top if you weren’t stuck in the clouds.  The ground is also quite hot when you get to the top just to remind you you’re on a volcano.

We had much better weather for Maderas, this one has a crater lake at the top surrounded by dense forest and lots of howler monkeys, next time I’ll bring my tent, a buddy, a bag of mushrooms and camp up there for the night.  Both volcanos took us 6 hours up and down.


February 21st [Day 152]

Laguna de Apoyo to Ometepe, Nicaragua

Onwards to Ometepe today which is an island on Lake Nicaragua formed by to volcanoes side by side, the lake is so big that it feels like your on the ocean, the water is fresh, has a green hue to it and apparently contains Bull Sharks that made their way up the San Juan River from the Caribbean Sea and adapted to the fresh water conditions.  If they packed any more people onto this ferry we’d have to start stacking ourselves, I was spitting out other backpackers with each breath :p

I got come pretty nice lakeside camping in for the first few nights on the island, I even got the washer dryer fired up…


February 20th [Day 151]

Granada, Nicaragua to Laguna de Apoyo, Nicaragua

Today was a quick 30 minute ride out of Granada to Apoyo for one night staying at this crater lake, I met quite a few overlanders camping here that I’ve met previously long the way.


February 17th to 19th [Day 148 to 150]

Granada, Nicaragua

Granada is another pretty city in Nicaragua without the student vibe, it’s on the edge of the biggest lake in the country, there wasn’t much going on here either part from a thriving backpacker scene.


February 15th to 16th [Day 146 to 147]

Matagalpa, Nicaragua

Matagalpa doesn’t really have a whole lot to offer except a hike up the local mountain to say hi to Mary who looks over the village 24/7, she’s even lit up at night incase you were ever to forget that she was there staring you down.


February 14th [Day 145]

Somoto Canyon, Nicaragua to Matagalpa, Nicaragua

This is all that happened today…


February 13th [Day 144]

Estelí, Nicaragua to Somoto Canyon, Nicaragua

Onwards to Somoto Canyon in the north end of the country today, I missed it on the way in from Honduras so I’ve back tracked a few hundred kms to get to it.  I found a camping place on iOverlander with a local family in the nearest village to the  canyon, they have some rooms that they let me stay in for free instead of camping if I paid one of them to guide me through the canyon which seemed like a pretty good deal to me.

It’s a 3 hour trail through the canyon where you have to walk and swim with some pretty high jumps into the river along the way.


February 12th [Day 143]

León, Nicaragua to Estelí, Nicaragua

Today I stopped a few km’s before Estelí to camp for the night on my way to Somoto Canyon.  There’s a guy here who’s dedicated quite an amount of his life carving stuff into exposed rock faces on his land that he’s now become a tourist attraction in the middle of nowhere.  He’s either really clever… or just another lunatic and I know where I’d put my money.  It’s always interesting to see how people invest their time here :p


February 6th to February 11th [Day 137 to 142]

Leon, Nicaragua

León is Nicaragua’s second largest city and is pretty popular with the backpackers, tourism in general in Nicaragua has been hit hard by the 2018 riots against the governments proposed social security reform that increased taxes and reduced benefits.  Accommodation prices are pretty low as all the unoccupied beds are vying for the few bodies that are here touring the country.

I did a walking tour of the city organized by one of the hostels which brings you past some of the more significant parts of the city.  This city is the countries education capital so it has a pretty big student population.  We found a cool student rooftop bar where beers were sold by the bucket of 6 and they were cheaper in the bar than you could buy them in any liquor store.

I passed through one of the food markets where they sell Iguanas for meat, I’ve seen lots of people while I’m riding, on the roadside with Iguanas hanging off sticks, I never knew what was going on there but it seems they sell them to the passing traffic.

 

I took a day trip to Las Peñitas from León, about 30 minutes away and took a 3 hour boat ride through a river of mangroves that runs parallel to the ocean that’s only a few meters away.  There was a lot of wild life in here including crocks and all kinds of birds.

I also took a day trip to Cerro Negro [Black Hill] with the other motor bikers I met along the way for some Volcano Boarding.  Cerro Negro is a very new active volcano that first appeared about 170 years ago, its still all black because the surrounding vegetation hasn’t had enough time to colonize it yet.

It’s pretty common here for people to hike up to the top of the volcano and ride down the side of it on a board, there were some pretty great views from the top and the 2 minute ride down was pretty dusty but made for a fun day out.

I bought a new Samsung A30 phone today in León because I tired of the other piece of garbage I’ve been using and I met another guy that bought the same one after his phone was stolen from him on a chicken bus.  The pictures looked pretty good and the phone was inexpensive and I didn’t want to have any more interactions with google.

On the way back to León from Volcano boarding we came across these jesus worshippers setting off fireworks from their hands and carting some shrine on their shoulders.

León is quite the trap, I spend 6 nights here because it was so bloody warm during the day that I didn’t have the energy to plan my way out of it!


February 5th [Day 136]

Playa El Cuco, El Salvador to Leon, Nicaragua

Today was a pretty big day!  I was up at 5:45am for a 5km Sunrise run on the beach before packing up my stuff and heading towards the El Salvadorian/Honduran border for 9am to meet up with other riding buddies so we could ride through Honduras as a group.

I hit the border first and got shuffled along by helpers who do most of the donkey work for a tip, like making photocopies of everything, going to the bank to pay the border fees, lining up at the emigration windows and so on, they make the process relatively painless and they always skip the queues so it’s faster.  This border was painless but it took 3 hours for us all to get through and into Honduras.  There was a guy walking around selling hamburgers while I was waiting on the others to get through so I scoffed 2 of those to keep me going.

After this we had to ride 2 hours or so to get through Honduras and onto the next border crossing of the day, the Honduran/Nicaraguan border, again painless but took another 3 hours to get out of one country and into the next country, two border crossings in a day is not a fun day but it was good to have company through the process!

After this the last hurdle was a 2 hour ride from the Honduran border to León where were staying at poco a poco hostel, we rode south through a pretty epic sunset and then on through darkness for the last hour, breaking the ‘no riding at night’ rule but we arrived safely in León close to 8pm where we parked the bikes inside the hostel, showered, changed into my cleanest dirty clothes, and went out for food and a couple of beers, very happy to have got through that day and León has a very nice feel about it.  I will stop here for a few days to recuperate and wash every piece of smelly clothing I own 🙂


Read More… El Salvador