Tuesday, March 29, 2011

3/28 Granada, NA - San Juan del Sur, NA: 60 miles, 1.5 hours

Spent the last few days in Granada checking out the sights, churches, etc. Weather is getting even hotter, and was glad to have stayed at Oasis, a hostel with a life-saving pool. Sprung for a private room for 13 bucks a day, well worth it. Visited the cemetery (very cool), took a short boat tour of the Islas de Granada off the shore of Lake Nicaragua, and took a day trip to Laguna de Apoyo. Supposedly the cleanest water to swim in in the country, this collapsed volcano crater lake did not disappoint.One thing that sticks out in my memory is a guy who asked me for food while I was eating a plate of chicken and rice. He was totally out of it, drugs, mental illness, I'm not sure. I set some aside for him and he jammed his hand forward and picked up some food I had off to the side of the plate. It was some chewed up fat and gristle that I had set aside for a dog or the trash. I told him that that shit had been in my mouth but he adamantly insisted that it was ok and popped it all in his mouth before eating anything else.
Granada is a small city, touristy and although I was planning on staying here longer, I was pretty ready to leave after a few days.I went to the dock on the lake to buy a ticket for me and my bike to cross over to the Islas de Ometepe. The ferry leaves from here twice a week, so I went early that day to make sure everything was cool. Bought a ticket for $4.50 (mandatory 1st class for foreigners) and went to talk to the lady controlling the cargo area. She informed me that it would be 7 bucks for my bike and then hit me with the bomb: I had to have no gasoline in my bike before boarding. I had just filled my tank. Where would I dump the gas, and how would I get anywhere once I got to Ometepe? I realized I was not willing to go through all that, so I was refunded my ticket money (after a little begging) and was going to be headed to San Jorge, 60 miles south and a much shorter and less restrictive ferry ride to Ometepe (no need to dump "combustibles"). I checked Facebook before I left and 2 travelling friends frm Costa Rica, Tali and Aki were at the beach ay San Juan del Sur, not far away from San Jorge where I was headed. Tali suggested I come hang at the beach for a night and then the three of us could go to Ometepe the next day. Sounds good, so I head to San Juan, find the hostel they are staying at, and hang out in the cool little surf town until they arrive from surfing all day at the beach a couple of hours later. It's a cool reuinion and I'm glad I came.
We decide to stay an extra day and I ride the bike 17 kms down a bad dirt road to a remote beach, Playa del Coco. I went solo because there is no public transport that goes there, and I plan on meeting my friends afterwards at another beach closer to San Juan. It is amazing, and there is NOBODY there. I soak in the solitude for a while and head back down the dirt road to Playa Hermosa, the beach my friends went to, and hang out there. There is a gate and a $3 entry fee, and I end up picking up a lady with an armful of computer equipment there to take her the 3 kms to the beach. The road is terrible, with multiple river crossings and its all I can do to control the ride. I apologize for soaking her legs in river water. She is just happy to have a ride and I am happy to make it to the beach without dumping the bike. I meet up with Aki and Tali, and we hang out for a couple of hours till sunset, and I ride back to the hostel and meet them there later on. Dinner on the rooftop of the hostel is great, chicken burritos and kebabs and now, I'm sitting here typin this getting ready to go out and drink some rum. Tomorrow the three of us head to Ometepe for a few days, and where we are all looking forwards to splitting a room with some AC. Did I mention its hot here? Really hot. But Im not complaining.

Friday, March 25, 2011

3/25/11: Playa Tamarindo - Playa Guiones, 2.5 hours, 50 miles. Playa Guiones, CR - Granada, NA - 180 miles, 8 hours

Last day in Playa Tamarindo, wake up early to go get my pannier frame welded. I head outside of town using a map drawn by the owner of Oveja Negra which leads me down a dirt road into a scrap yard in the middle of nowhere. Kique, the Colombian owner with a wild afro is the only aluminum welder around, and he gets to it. In the meantime, I'm hanging around in the hot ass sun and talking to his friend/helper who apparently lives in a closed off section of the shop. A couple of hours later and I'm finished and rolling back to the hostel. Diego, Tali, and now another Uruguayan, Nacho, who is a bad ass surfer up here doing his thing catch the bus to Playa Guiones, where me and Aki (who is renting a dirt bike locally) will meet them later on. They need to switch buses 3 times to go the 50 or so miles to the beach, but me and Aki on the dirt bikes figure on being there in an hour or two flying along the dirt roads which hug the coast.
We set off and I am rewarded with the best riding of the trip. Remote dirt tracks, little hidden villages and glimpses and close up views of the Pacific Ocean are all in the mix. Not to mention the 2 or 3 water crossings, one of which is a pretty deep stretch of river. There is a bridge closed to traffic above, but a worker attempts to wave us onto the bridge. After signaling that we want to go the hard way, he just shrugs his shoulders and puts his hands up as if to say " you dumb-asses are on your own." Aki, on his unloaded little Honda 250 makes it across, and then of course I HAVE to try as well. I stall out in the middle like a dumbass, and the worker and Aki have to wade in and push me out. We have no choice but to tip the guy at that point, and he seems cool with it. My plugs are soaked and I get it started 20 minutes later after they dry out a bit and 45 minutes later, we roll into the remote beach of Playa Guiones in the dark and check into Kaya Sol, a local surf hostel. Me and Aki head out to eat with Kai, a surfer living in NYC and Heidi and Sam, two acquaintances from NYC all hanging out in the same spot for a while. Over some awesome fish tacos, I get the surprising heads up about this place, which is that it is an over-priced tourist trap filled with rice American ex-pats. I'm pretty sure I'll be heading south pretty soon, but I'm going to enjoy this place while I am here. I get online and I've got a message from Diego saying that the three of them got stuck in Samara, a beach town 12 miles south, until the morning when they can catch a bus out our way.
Next day, me, Aki and Kai are chilling by the pool when our friends show up, 40's in hand and ready to hit the beach., They have checked into another surf hostel down the street as they met the owner in Samara and she insisted they stay at her place. Spen d the rest of the day at the beach and everyone got together at the other hostel to cook a big ass meal, and finished of the night drinking. Typical beach day, typical beach night. Tomorrow is everyone's last day together as a group, as Diego is heading for San Juan the following day and everyone else is gong their separate ways as well. However, I have pretty much made the decision to leave to spend a day at Playa Samara, and then back to Nicaragua the next day. Having gone halfway around the Nicoya Peninsula, I still want to go and do some things in Nicaragua that I had planned to do before I had to leave. I'll come back to this place in a couple of weeks and finish the rest of the peninsula, take a ferry across the bay, and spend a day or 2 in San Jose before heading down into Panama.
Next morning I get the bike fully loaded, get all my gear on, clean and lube the chain and notice I have a flat rear tire. Fuck. After some running around in the heat, frustrated as hell, I get some air in the tire, go to a gas station 10 minutes away, and get it repaired for less than 2 bucks. Problem solved. But I'm definitely not leaving today. I'm actually kind of glad, since it is everyone's last day together. We spend the last day doing more of the same and I get mentally prepared to do a straight shot back to Nicaragua tomorrow.
Wake up, say goodbye to everyone and me and Aki head out. Aki is riding part of the way with me, before turning off in Liberia to return the bike back to Playa Tamarindo. The ride is once again great, dirt roads for the first 30 miles and then smooth, paved asphalt winding through small towns. Aside from me dropping the bike once, things are pretty uneventful and we hit a local cafeteria we know in Liberia before Aki takes off for the beach and I head north to Nicaragua. An hour later I am at the border and I get through the CR side quickly. I am moving through the NA side quickly as well and smiling at my luck, when the last stamp I need to clear my bike is not happening for some reason. The cop on duty has decided to take a break apparently and me and 5 other truck and bus drivers are just sitting on out asses as the sun goes down. I'm starting to get seriously annoyed, as I was hoping to get to Granada before dark which is not happening now. I ask one of the guys how long before we get hooked up and he says " en infinitivo". Not what I wanted to hear. Luckily, 45 minutes later the lady shows up and I am good to go. I roll into Granada a couple of hours later and check into Hostal Oasis, cause it has a pool and that's good enough for me. I spring for a private room and settle in, head out, eat, all that stuff. Plan on spending a few days here checking out the town and surrounding area, before I hop on a ferry and head to Islas de Ometepe in the middle of Lake Nicaragua.