Somoto Canyon, Nicaragua to Lake Arenal, Costa Rica
June 1 – June 11, 2014
Kings of Leon
After a very pleasant introduction to Nicaragua, our GPS once again led us unknowingly to the dirty route down to Leon via El Sauce. The views were vast and beautiful and the stones manageable (my skills are continually improving) but since we were not expecting to find ourselves off the beaten path we were low on gas. I began to nag the Wolf to stop and ask someone to sell us some, but in his ever-confident and unflappable manner he said he thought we would be fine, and of course, as always, we were as we bumped into a gasolinera about 5 miles before the Wolfmobile choked. With a sigh of relief and the last fractions of daylight we rolled into Leon and checked in at the Lazybones hostel. It lived up to it’s name as we found ourselves to be remarkably lethargic while there. The fact that the hostel had a swimming pool, combined with Leon being a special kind of sticky and hot, meant we never left hostel for more than an hour or two at a time, and the majority of our exploring was done after dark. In our nocturnal wanderings we bumped into a remarkable French restaurant named “Le Turon” managed by Yann and his associate, two French castaways. The food was the best we had in a long time bringing a touch of luxury to our rough travels.
A tale of two volcanoes
Once we had come to the conclusion that we were incapable of being effective in the heat of Leon, we loaded up the bikes and headed for the heat of Ometepe island instead, bypassing Managua and Granda in the process. We didn’t know that the island heat would come with a generous topping of miggies (South African for midges) When we arrived at the ferry dock, I thought it was raining at first, until I opened my visor a crack and found my nose, mouth and eyes full of the foul little flies. They were blowing past in veritable clouds, and despite my optimistic hopes, they were all over the island as well. We eventually got used to the plague and even managed to relax in Playa Santo Domingo for a day with our books before taking a tour on the dodgy dirt road around the volcan Maderas. After we had our fill of volcano views (we never mustered the motivation to actually climb one, which would have taken at least 8 hours!) we headed back to the dock to ferry ourselves back to the mainland and the road to San Juan del Sur. The schedules were confusing and prices seemed to change based on who you asked, so we eventually found ourselves to be the sole tourists on a ferry that had been chartered by the church. It was more of a chicken-ferry than anything else and the Wolf and I looked at each other incredulously as chickens, pigs and parrots boarded with thousands of people and soon all parts of the Zebra and Wolfmobiles were footrests, bag holders and everything short of chairs.
A plush pause
In San Juan del Sur we were determined to find a cheap beach spot to stay, but we also wanted it to be nice. As a result we entered our usual loop of try to make the other one decide and looked at about 8 places to stay before saying: “screw it” and checking in to the slightly pricey (although they gave us a deal!) and super plush Hotel Liri. Managed by a family from Barcelona, it’s on the beach, with a swimming pool, and most importantly after our past few stays, air-conditioning. I used to be one of those people that was mildly opposed to air-conditioning, arguing that it was better to just adjust to the temperature. That was before I traveled Central America by motorcycle. We enjoyed a few days of carefree swimming in the ocean and exploring the coastline – at least the parts that were not closed due to the latest episode of Survivor being filmed in the area.
Cruising into Costa Rica
When the time arrived to finally cross into Costa Rica we took the coastal road, that is supposed to turn up and head to the border at Penas Blancas. The road does indeed do what we expected, but what Google or our GPS didn’t tell us is that a military camp is in the spot where the road turns. It might not have been a problem if an exercise was not taking place that same day so we were firmly but kindly turned around by two Nicaraguan army guys and forced to take the normal road to the border. The poor Wolf was shattered. After the usual border crossing saga, we bombed down to Bahia Salinas – another spectacular crescent bay. You can read more about what happened next in this post. After our bundu bashing in the hills of Costa Rica we stopped in to see Debbie and Andy in Playa Flamingo for a much needed visit with friends, some time to catch up with the inter webs and an opportunity to wash everything after many weeks of sweating in Central America. We were sad to say goodbye, but after a week we needed to get back on the road and we were eager to finally see Lake Arenal.
Tony Parsons, a friend kite instructor from the Bay Area, had sent us in the direction of the Lake Arenal Hotel and Microbrewery which will only be there for another month before moving to a new location in Tamarindo – so go visit soon! J-P welcomed us and gave us shelter from the rain, and we have to say, that this was the best value hotel we have stayed at so far – the views of the lake are postcard-perfect.