Panama – Part 2

Sun 9th Feb 

A bus ride to the mountains.

Ginette – A really bad nights sleep in the tent. It was really noisy and very hot.  In Santiago, we walked through the town to put some charge on Gary’s phone on route I bought some new shorts and sunglasses ($4 for both, bargain).  As in other cities and towns there were a lot of touts selling lottery tickets, it is amazing how many touts there are and how popular this is with the locals. The game is played differently to the UK, but from what I can gather licensed ticket touts purchase books of tickets and have to return unsold ones at least an hour before the draw to claim their money back. The draw is made during the afternoon, people queue so that they can purchase tickets with their favourite numbers, but this can mean having to queue several times until you find a tout with your numbers.  I can only hope their patience and perseverance is rewarded with better odds than out lottery system.

We took a bus to a small town called Santa Fe at the foot of a mountain range. We took the bus because there is only one road to Sanfa Fe and we intend to cycle back down.
The bus ride however revealed that whichever ever way we cycle we will still have some steep climbing to do but at least heading back we will eventually end up lower than we started.

We didn’t do a lot, a bit of shopping and a little stroll around Santa Fe. The walk from our hotel to the small town is all up hill, it was about 1/2 mile but it was a very steep hill climb.Our room and location is nice, we can hang out in hammocks and enjoy the mountains all around us.

Ginette – we booked the hotel on line, we chose this particular one because it had a kitchen, bar and shared lounge area. However on arrival we were informed that none of these facilities would be available after 3pm. I protested and they reluctantly provided us an electric hob to use in the room.  

It was a very chilled day, we have decided to focus our job search in the Bristol area, so I spent the day writing a job application. I have been offered several interviews across the country, which is reassuring but I have had to reject them as we really would like to return to our home.  That said as we are trying to be good landlords we may need to rent somewhere to allow our tenants to complete their house build, more on this later.

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10th Feb 2020

A windy mountain walk.

We have loads of little itchy bites and the itchy feeling is worse in the middle of the night, We think we now have a new skin as the old one has been scratched away.

We had to cook breakfast in our room using the electric double hob the hotel loaned us as the kitchen was shut.
We took a walk of about 8 mile round trip up to Cerro Tute, most of the walk was on a dirt and gravel road which was very steep in places. There were still small homes all the way up this hill, even close to the top. There was no wildlife to spot or hear but the views were great especially from the very top.

To reach the top view point we walked along a track that became ver narrow and the last stretch was a scramble to the top.

The wind was howling past and it was an exhilarating experience , we made sure we had a safe place to rest and enjoyed the views and played with the wind. We sat next to a ledge and when we threw an egg shell over the edge it flew back up and past us.
The walk down was harder as the steep track was difficult to keep a grip on and we slipped several times.
Ginette  – Gary ended up on his bottom more than once – which was funny, but as I was unable to video him you’ll have to take my word for it.

In the afternoon we walked a short way to a river to swim and cool down, the river was shallow but fast running. I could swim breast stroke and stay still due to the flow.

The evening was spent resting and Ginette managed to book our flights to Columbia.

Ginette – It took at least 20 attempts to book these flights, the cheapest provider by far had a really naff website that kept timing out, and it didn’t recognise England as a country and in addition wouldn’t allow me to book the bikes. However I can be very persistent and after exploring other options I eventually was able to get around the system. I just have to hope when we pitch up at the airport that my work arounds have worked.

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11th Feb 

Down hill up hill cycling and a bus to the city.

Ginette – Another frustrating morning, we had to find the manager to open the kitchen. As Gary was making the breakfast he spotted a large scorpion, unfortunately it had scuttled away before I could see it. Later some Canadian guests arrived and Gary told them about the scorpion. Gary moved the cooker to see if he could see it and it ran out only to be stamped on by the Canadian.  There really was no need for him to do this as the scorpion wasn’t a threat to us, we could have easily relocated to the field.  I was not a happy bunny.

Our cycle ride back to Santiago saw us leave an altitude of 1330 ft down to 175 ft but in the process we managed to cycle 2939 ft up hill. The road was like a rollercoaster of up and downs. We had some great views and enjoyed the initial 26 degrees to the final 42 degrees as we dropped and the afternoon crept in.

Ginette – the road was that bumpy that Gary lost his back pannier several times and mine jumped off once yee hah 
We stopped on route at San Francisco to visit an old church called Iglesia de San Francisco de la Montana, it’s a very old church set in some nice grounds in a tiny town. We had our packed lunch here and enjoyed the tranquility.

Ginette – on route several dogs chased Gary up the hill yapping and snarling, as they turned their attention to me, I let out an almighty roar and much to my surprise the scampered off with their tales between their legs. I guess I can be a little scary when I want to be.

Later in the day a large snake slithered in front of my bike, he was far too quick to photograph but I think it was another Fir de Lance snake – long and skinny but apparently very venomous. 

When we arrived a Santiago bus station a bus was already to go to Panama City so we had no time to do anything other than pack the bikes in the coach luggage hold, it felt a bit rushed but at least we didn’t have to wait at all.

Ginette – we have caught a couple of buses in Panama and it is interesting to note that they collect the fees on departure and we have not been charged for the bikes. The buses are also very cheap we paid $9 each for a 4 hour journey.

Arriving in Panama City we had the difficult navigation out of the huge bus station and busy city, not helped by the 6pm work traffic, not a pleasant ride and we past through some pretty shabby areas. A local man stopped to tell us we needed to cycle fast through the area we were in.

We headed for a hostel which was also down a seedy piss smelling road, the hostel had razor wire and steel fences and two sets of electric doors to pass through. They only had dorm rooms, so we used the hostel WiFi and found another cheap hotel around the corner.

Dinner was pizza in a small takeaway with only one table which we used, the Italian owner let us go to the local mini market to get beers as he didn’t serve it.

Ginette the Italian told us if we were found drinking beer on the street we would be fined, for locals this was a criminal offence. The pizza was excellent, probably one of the best we have had on this trip.

12th Feb 

Panama City.

We headed out for breakfast as there was no kitchen but all the cheap local cafes were all serving similar dishes all involving chicken or meat. Ginette opted to go to the shop and buy stuff she could eat whilst I enjoyed my meat fest.

Ginette – I will never understand how anyone can eat a greasy meat dish first thing in the morning yukkkkk – The smell alone made my tummy heave.

We walked a short distance to a grassy park area that spreads along the bay with cycle, walking and running tracks. There were lots more tourists here most on cycles forming part of large city cycling tours. One group was from a cruise ship that catered for cycling groups so they were touring the Caribbean on the ship but cycling at each embarkation. We bumped into this group throughout the rest of the day.

The views out to the pacific ocean were not great as the tide was out and left the bay looking like a muddy Weston Super Mare.

We spent our time walking around a pretty area called Casco Vieja, this is a peninsula area which was once a walled city. It has narrow streets and museums, churches, cafes and hundreds of like minded tourists all wandering the town. I think there must have been several cruise ships docked in the harbour as there were a load of human crocodile chains following a leader to each destination, the streets are narrow so it was easy to see all these groups.

Surprisingly the churches were all free to enter and all really nice inside especially with as they had sealed glass doors and cool air conditioned interior.  One church had a wooden altar that had been gold plated, we thought this was its main attraction but Ginette spotted a small tour group come out from a rear side door behind the altar. On investigation we found a huge model nativity. This had around 13 different nativity scenes all in model form, spread across a large area. It was very well made and we had the room to ourselves. As we were leaving the church one of the human crocodile lines was just entering so we timed it just right.

Ginette – we stopped in one of the plaza’s to watch a film crew filming Suicide Squad 2, a very famous actress, may have been Margot Robbie, was being filmed entering a building. We were not allowed to video the screen but tried to take some discreet photos.  

The whole area was very scenic but also expensive, the cafes were selling local beer at $3.75 compared to the $1 we usually pay. We were hungry so headed out to find a cheaper area. Within 5 minutes walking, we were in a slum area with poverty and rubbish around such a stark contrast. I had read that the whole peninsula area was a no go area and it had been restored but it looks like there are still some areas in need of some love.

Ginette – in this area we found local women dressed in a different style of national dress, mismatched colourful tops and sarong type knee length skirts with some sort of leg accessories and head covering. Unfortunately the ladies did not want their photos taken so, I’ve taken the image below from the internet – all credit to Steffi Lopez who obviously has more persuasive powers than we do. 

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We continued and found a locals shopping road, it was closed to traffic but you could tell from the shops and shoppers that it was a residential area. We managed to settle in a street cafe for dinner. Ginette had a huge plate with rice, fish, beans and salad so I opted just for a piece of chicken so we could share her plate $7 for both meals (we had seen fish and rice dishes earlier for $20 for one meal.

Ginette – across Panama the food servings have been huge, which might explain why there are so many obese people around.  The traditional dish is rice and beans however both in Costa Rica and in Panama this dish seems to be served with greasy fried chicken or meat lavished in a greasy sauce.  In addition wherever we have been in Central America fizzy drinks are consumed by the bucket load.  We have fallen victim this, it is so hot and there is nothing better than an iced cold soda to cool down. However we are on the go all the time where as the locals, especially in urban areas have a much more leisurely approach to life. 

We collected our bikes from the hotel and moved onto Hostel Casa 33, this place had a kitchen and for an additional $3 we got an OK breakfast.  The hostal was in a nicer area and close to the green area by the coast.

We chilled for the evening, I bought 6 Guinness cans for $0.85 each so was a happy bunny.

Ginette – we are slightly amused to see anti-bullying messages across the city sponsored by Durex. I was curious, it seemed like an odd thing for a condom company to sponsor especially as there were no safe sex messages on the posters.  After a little research it would appear there is a school uniform company in Panama called Durex – who would have thought… 

 

13th Feb 

Panama ship canal.

Breakfast in the hostel wasn’t a great experience, the food was OK with pancakes and fruit but the lady serving was taking her time to sort out the food for all in the hostel so a lot of patience was required. The most frustrating thing was there was no coffee on offer so everyone was trying to boil their own hot water working around the lady doing breakfast so a bit of a farce.

I cycled Ginette’s bike to the nearest cycle store so the rear hubs nut could be tightened up and to arranged for two bike boxes for our up coming flight. The Raki cycle store fixed both these for me, walking around the store I was amazed as it had some really nice bikes with prices of around $5000 (but we would have broken these light bikes with our luggage).
The area had a mall as well as sky scrapers and posh hotels with casinos, it was very affluent and probably the first big skyscraper city we have been in for a long while.
I cycled Nets repaired bike back to the hostel and Ginette and I walked back to the store to get the two cardboard boxes,. Walking back past all the posh places carrying theses cardboard boxes we look like two homeless people with our mobile homes.

In the afternoon we took the Metro train back to the main bus station then a bus to the Miraflores Panama Canal museum. Travelling on the public transport is a bit of an adventure but generally there are locals around to help out. Each country has a different system for purchasing tickets we have learnt to watch and follow. Ginette’s Spanish helps as we can read the instructions but occasionally we still need help.

Ginette – the metro and buses are super cheap, 35 cents for the metro and 25 cents for the bus. The metro is clean, the trains run regularly and are not too over crowded. What are we doing wrong in the UK??? 

The museum cost us $20 each to enter and although the lock is huge and a marvel of engineering the entrance fee was really too expensive for what was on offer. It did have a museum but it skimmed over the history giving a squeaky clean version of events.
It felt a little like a busman holiday as I have been around locks and dry docks with my work and obviously paddled threw a few when training and racing.  I think if the fee was the $5 the locals get charged I would have been a bit happier.

Ginette – we decided to pay for this experience as we are unlikely to return to Panama in the future. However I was really disappointed, I know we talk a lot about money but when we are trying to live on £30 a day it is a huge factor for us. We have turned down a number of other experiences based on cost and we’d hoped for much more from this experience. As Gary said the information provided was a very glossy take on the history of the canal.  All of the information provided could have probably been condensed to one A4 sheet of paper. Perhaps we are biased as we live so close to ‘water elevators’ there are lots of positive reviews on trip advisor and the museum clearly attracts hundreds of people daily.

14th Feb 

Valentines Day 

Ginette  – We woke early which meant we were first to breakfast and avoided the flaffing around in the kitchen.  We could only book 2 nights in our hostal as the room was booked for the weekend. The hostal had dorm beds available but we opted to move to another hostal with a double room. This may have been a mistake, the new hostal had a flight of stairs leading to the accommodation and the air conditioning, is on a timer which is only turned on at 9pm and turned off again at 6am.  

After checking in, we decided to cycle the bikes to the Amador causeway which links the mainland to a set of 4 small islands by the Pacific entrance to the Panama Canal.  The ride through the city was OK but I am always on super alert in built up areas. The ride was pretty, it is only 4km long, the road is lined with palm trees and at times we had amazing views of the city.  The sun played with skyscrapers turning the buildings from brilliant white to a dull silver colour.  We stopped for a beer and chilled for a while, watching the frigget birds and pelicans resting in the shallow water, waiting for their next meal.  We could see several men in military uniforms with guns on the beach but as the sea was out and the boats were stranded we were at a loss as to what they were doing. 

On the way back to the hostal we stopped at the fish market and bought two sea breams, this should have been a simply process but the fisherman seemed to be reluctant to sell their goods. Eventually a local waiter from one of the restaurants persuaded one of the fishermen to get off his fat arse and sell us two fish, but he was clearly not happy. He charged us $1 each for the fish which was a bargain, so we forgave his rude attitude. 

We were both knackered so spent a leisurely evening in the hostal, Gary has downloaded Duolingo and he is practicing his Spanish while I spent the evening brushing up on my management skills.  Not very romantic but it was far too hot for any loving by the time the air conditioning came on we were far too sweaty and irritable for anything physical. I know too much info – lol.

Gary.
On the way back we past through the slum areas, locals shops and tourists streets. The contrast is huge, I tried to liken it to the UK going from the city centre through St Paul’s but the poor here the locals have no windows or doors and the rubbish is in the gutters along with a stream of smelly water. The contrast is a bit like the 5* hotels in India sitting right next door to the slum areas in Mumbai.

15th Feb 

A surprising Sloth spotting.

I packed the two bikes into the bike boxes this morning , padding them out a little with our pillows and sleeping back liners stuffed in bin bags to keep them clean.

We took the metro a couple of stops and walked through the city to Ancon hill.
I was made to eat my words as I had said there was no way we were going to spot any wildlife on this wooded hill right in the city. We spotted a Panamanian guinea pig (like a Capybara or a very big rat),  spiders, our closest viewing of an active Sloth for this whole trip and a thin but long stick coloured snake (Ginette must be tuned into snakes as it was really difficult to see but she had honed in on it).

The sloth climbed right over us along a vine then up and down the trees in front of us, it looked like it’s back had been shaved so maybe it has had some sort of veterinary treatment.

Ginette – I loved this encounter, other tourists stopped for a quick photo and ambled on by, while we stood transfixed. Sloths are beautiful, slow exotic creatures, I could have watched this one all day.
We took a metro into the new city amongst the sky scrapers, a stark contrast to the area we are staying in. We had researched roof top views and entered the W building taking a lift to the reception area. Here there was a pool area terrace with well dressed semi naked sunbathers in huddles around the pool and bar, oh how the other half live. We was going to buy some beers but when the bill for one can came to $5 we handed it back and quickly left.  This would of been an extravagant purchase when we can exactly the same  cans for $5 but for 6 cans in the supermarket.

Ginette – I wanted to stay and play with the jet set youngster but my principles wouldn’t allow me to part with $5 for one can of national beer.

We visited a gothic looking church, gothic from the outside but light and airy and air conditioned on the inside. I like the way the churches in Central America all seem to be much brighter than our churches back home.

Panama – Part 1

 

Sunday 1st Feb

Panama, hats off to you and lots of horses.

We were both awake very early again, so after breakfast of a pack of red refried beans and scrambled eggs we was on the road (I am becoming a fan of these refried beans).

Our cycle ride through the last bit of Costa Rica to the border of Panama at Paso Canoa had a few hills but other than having to cycle back on the Pan American highway with the added traffic was pretty uneventful. We stopped at a shop for a cold drink, the owner had a half open banana hanging on a string and a medium size iguana was hanging on it and swinging around. Speaking of Iguanas a large one was lazily ambling over the road but as we approached a car also came from the opposite way. The iguana hot footed it away narrowly missing the car, these animals look hilarious when they run, it is like they have extended there legs, lifted there skirt up and ran like it’s the first time they have tried it

We did see quite a few road kill Iguana a today so they are not all so lucky

The border crossing was straightforward as border crossings go, we needed to prove our exit details but showing them a hotel we had booked in Columbia seemed to suffice.

 Ginette – I was amused by the fact that we had to pay a departure tax through a window that was opposite the main visa office, as we approached we could see the counter assistant was about 5 years old, she smiled sweetly, but thought it wise to wait until her dad materialised to hand over our $16 dollars.

Once in Panama the American highway became a dual carriageway, which at first was ok as it had a hard shoulder, but the hard shoulder occasionally disappeared so made some of the ride a bit more hair raising

We have seen ladies in long pretty Sunday dresses, perhaps this is just for today. The people seem friendlier as we are now getting more hellos, toots and cheers, mind you I have a hole in my shorts so maybe this is why.

After the border crossing we decided to push on knowing there was not a lot of accommodation until another 16 miles, but it was still only 1pm so we figured we had time.

We reached the town of Conception, there was clearly an event going on as we had seen fireworks in broad daylight for a while and lots of police controlling traffic.

One of the hotels we had aimed for turned out to be $55 dollars a night and the lady was not the friendliest, we decided to try to find a place in town.

Cycling into the main town the plaza area was packed, asking a policeman if he knew of any habitation nearby was thwarted by our poor Spanish but luckily a passer by had great English. Unfortunately no knowledge of any other hotels in the area but did explain that today was the end of a 4 day annual festival and it involved a horse parade.
Ginette – I am of the believe that if someone doesn’t know the answer to the question or thinks it will be too difficult to answer they simply pretend they can’t understand us. Asking for a hotel in spanish is basic but the policemen just looked bemused and shook their heads.

We parked our bikes next to the policemen and spent a short while taking in the atmosphere as hoards of horsemen and women paraded around the plaza from way back down the street. There didn’t seem to be any organisation behind this just a load of horse riders having a lark in front of a huge crowd of onlooker. Fire crackers where being set off and other riders were whipping their mates horse, this startled the horse and left the rider struggling to keep control. There was a fence protected the hundreds of spectators but it was clear by the way the spectators leapt back from the fence that sometimes the rider failed to control the horse.
All in all it was a fun spectacle to behold but Ginette has an allergy to horses so we didn’t hang around too long.
Ginette – I think horses are magnificent creatures and I didn’t like the fact that they were being used in this way to entertain the town.  We didn’t stay long but, long enough for the itchy skin and sneezes to kick in.

We found a huge modern love motel, looking brand new. This place was so modern we couldn’t work out how we could stay there. It had about 25 rooms all with brand new electric roller shutter doors and a price stating €15 per hour. But there was no one there to see to us and no office. We cycled around, banged on shut doors and Ginette inadvertently pressed the shut button on a roller shutter door, fortunately she escaped out of the garage before getting locked in. I am guessing that the room payment and access is via a phone, but I need to research this.  We can only presume this was a posh modern love motel.

Ginette – I am also pleased I escaped in time, I can only imagine what they would have thought if they’d found a very sweaty woman, dressed in cycling clothes, on her own in a place like that.

We had no choice but to cycle on another 3 miles to another place shown on the map, it was dark when we arrived but “Little Italy” B and B was a godsend. We had our own little apartment with a kitchen diner and separate bedroom with he added bonus of breakfast all for €45 so a bit more than we would prefer but better than the two previous options we had turned down.

Ginette jumped in the shower to relieve her itchy body and spent 20 minutes sneezing her horse allergy away.

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2nd Feb 

Bus to the mountains.

A good nights sleep and breakfast included.

The cycle to David along the Pan American was again just along this busy road but at least it was mainly all downhill. I really don’t see the appeal of having to ride down this road, which is what the end to end cyclists tend to have to do.

Ginette objected to my carol signing Once in David City, I don’t know what her problem is as Christmas is only 11 months away.

David is just a big town with from what we could see very little appeal to tourists. The people are friendly and often first to try to start a conversation. Some of the ladies and young girls are wearing the long frilly dresses we saw yesterday and the locals look a lot more indigenous. We visited the main plaza, where I had yet another puncture to repair but this time on the front wheel. Cycling on the hard shoulder is a safe route but it tends to have patches of broken glass and burst tyres. The burst tyres are the worse as the tiny wires are often the cause of the puncture as was the case this time.

We also visited Torre Campanario de la cathedral. This place is in a quiet and colourful area of the city and has been rebuilt but a old bell tower left as original.

We decided to take a bus up the mountain to Boquete, the bus trip was easy and cost us $10 for both us and the bikes. The town had a nice feel with pretty buildings and is home to a lot of retirees from the states. We settled in a hostel and have had a mooch around town.

Most of the trips from the town go further up the mountain and involve walking, waterfalls and coffee plantations.

Ginette  – The national traditional dress for women is a long, full cotton dress decorated with colourful embroidery called a pollera. They come in lots of different colours but the design is very similar.  One of the tourists we met in Boquete claimed she only saw women wearing the pollera in Boquette but we have seen women all over the country wearing this dress.  Maybe we are more aware of these women because we’re on the bikes and we cycle in more of the rural areas.

3rd Feb 

We decided not to explore Boquete any further, the walks looked appealing but the entrance fees off putting.

We headed to Gualaca, which meant we had a very pleasant 23 miles of pretty much all down hill. The views of the surrounding mountains and the wind on our backs made this part of the ride easy. Not much wildlife other than a few Iguanas daft enough to cross the road.

Reaching Gualaca we headed to a local waterhole. This water hole is on a river with a deep canyon cut into the rocks , we were able to join in the fun jumping from the rocks into the water. The local boys were much more showy with flashy dives and backflips.
It’s a well used area but stinks from the black bags full of smelly rubbish and unfortunately this is the first thing you are greeted with.

Ginette – we met some english tourists in this off the beaten track watering hole, they were there with two Canadians although they were adventurous jumping from the highest height they were no competition for the locals, who were real daredevils.

We cycled on not really knowing where we would be staying the night. Unfortunately we had to get back on the Pan Am highway, after all the mornings nice quite roads this highway is a pain but can’t be avoided.
Very hot and tired we made it to a small town called Hornconcitas,  ioverlander (our go to app for places to stay) we had a small guest house marked here. We found the house but the owner was away and the property was locked up. A local man suggested it would be OK for us to camp near the towns football pitch but on inspection there were a load of teenagers playing football and we would have no privacy. We opted to cycle back a mile or so to a spot I had noticed on the way in.

It was getting dark by now so our options were few, Ginette was not happy with this pitch but other than cycling anther 11 miles there was no other places to stay. In the end after a little huffing and puffing the tent was erected and we settled down for the evening. After dinner as we cleared away we were eaten by little flies, luxury.

Ginette – I didn’t enjoy today, in hindsight we should have stayed at the watering hole and booked somewhere in town.  Our camping spot for the night was right next to a road, there was absolutely no where to go for a wee in privacy, I had to wait until it was dark. The drivers and walkers that passed by were friendly but it was rather unsettling being so out in the open. Wild camping is so much better when we are hidden away out of sight. I was not a happy bunny.  As you know, I have never been a great fan of camping but now our kit is failing us I am really dreading each time we have to put the tent up. We are currently down to one chair, this means I either sit on the floor or on a pannier (Gary has a bad back), the fly zip is broken and one of our air mattresses leaks and the other has two very large bulges, which makes sleeping on it impossible. 

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4th Feb

A hot sticky night and a rest on an Island beach.

Man it was a hot night in the tent, I have been eaten alive by bugs even with the fly screen up, I had to sleep starkers so sweating away in my birthday suit I became food for the bugs, that had managed to sneak in while we were setting up camp. Today I look like a teenager with full blown acne all over.

We cycled the 11 slightly bumpy miles to Boca Chica not really being sure what was here. On arrival in the small fishing port we managed to find WiFi and discovered that there are a lot of islands to boat to, some very exclusive and one island close by which we could get to be ferry for $2 each.
We booked into a hotel/ hostel called something like Residencia dela ma in Boca Chico port. We then jumped on a small boat to cross to the island of Boca Brava (monkey island). A short walk to a beach on the other side of the island with a young Hungarian couple and we spent a few hours sunbathing and swimming. The beach had only 6 of us on it so it was an isolated spot. The snorkelling was poor with bad visibility and hardly any sea life. The water was warm, sometimes like a bath. The sun was too hot and we left the beach by 2 pm.

Ginette – I know you are going to have very little sympathy but it was that hot, I could almost feel my blood boiling.  We spent a good 4 hours enjoying the sea and chilling before returning to the mainland. The Hungarians were much more hardcore and spent a further 4 hours on the beach.  
Chilling out on Boca Chica for the afternoon, writing job applications and watching the sun go down.

We ate out in a locals cafe as it had been recommended and both ordered the Langustine, we at first thought we had ordered a prawn dish but we had ordered lobster.

The bill was $24 dollars, good for lobster but more than we had hoped to pay.
Lobster is one of the fussy expensive foods which I don’t really see the point in, it tastes OK but not worth all the fuss.

5th Feb 
I slept well apart from the itch bites but Ginette was a bit hot and had to take a couple of cold showers whilst I slept on obliviously.
When we arrived at our accommodation the lady told us her kitchen was under repair but this morning she was cooking for the other guests on a fully working gas hob. She offered to let me share but it was a bit awkward so I asked if she minded if I used my own stove. It felt a little odd cooking and eating our own food while the other guests sat on another table being waited on.

Ginette – the joys of living on a budget, the other guests had fresh fruit, juice, eggs, toast and coffee, while we made the most of bread eggs and fried beans. 

Our initial cycle ride was back over the steep bumpy section to the pan american highway but once on the highway the going was easy. It was not very interesting but it was safe on the hard shoulder. It felt like we were just rolling the miles under the wheels with no real experiences.
It was a hot day my Garmin recorded 42.5 degrees whilst we were cycling.

We turned off the highway and headed to the beach resort of Las Lajas.
We pitched our tent under a straw roof on the sea edge outside Johnny’s hostel. We paid $10 for the use of the kitted out kitchen, toilets and showers.

We spent the day swimming in the bath warm sea and sun bathing.

Ginette – we met a couple of tourists in the bar from Yorkshire, unfortunately Joanna broken her ankle on the second day of their holiday in Panama and needed surgery. Their insurance company had paid for a car so that they could get around and they’d spent most of their time in the beach resort.  It was good to talk to them, but it made me miss home. We also met another hungarian lady cycle tourer who had cycled from Alaska to Panama on her own.  I can’t imagine cycle touring on my own, I would be constantly on edge and would find the evenings very long.  It was worth paying the $10, we could leave our stuff safely on the site while we played in the warm sea finishing the day with good company, and access to the facilities.

7th Feb 

Lonnnnnnng day.

Ginette got up in the night for a wee and came back with dozens of little sand fly bites on her feet. The zip on the tent decided that this was also a good time to break again and once finally fixed we spent some time chasing little critters around the tent in the dark.
In the morning I had a soak in the sea after my short gym session and a cold shower all before breakfast.

Ginette – when I got up for a wee, I walked out onto the beach bare footed (which is not unusual) but within seconds I had a strange sensation, no sooner had I started to wee than the burning turned to a stinging nettle feel and I realised my feet were being eaten alive. I quickly moved but to no avail. I ran back to the tent shaking my feet but the damage had been done, my feet were covered in tiny bites – the buggers.
The cycle from the coast to the bus station was an easy 12 miles, on route we met a Panamanian who had taught at Oxford and who’s two sons are currently in London, he is a keen cyclist and was able to advise us that Route 5 was a sealed road and a good alternative to the Pan Am.

Ginette – he also pointed out that this route would be very hilly and he wasn’t wrong

We had disappointment at the bus depot, it was not a main terminal and there was no information desk, another couple of backpackers helped with some translation and it appeared a bus arrives every 2 hours but there was no guarantee we would get our bikes on board.

Ginette wasn’t happy, she was a bit tired and didn’t want to wild camp, which we thought was going to be our option.

Ginette – I could have cried, I was tired, saddle sore and my feet were really itchy. I hadn’t slept very well (several bad nights) and I’d really hoped we could get a bus. Instead I braced myself for 2 days on the bike with climbing in excess of 7,000 feet.

I had another puncture on route and we agreed to stop at another bus stop, we waited for half hour, when a bus going our way did turn up it had plenty of room on its roof rack but the conductor decided it was far too much trouble and set off without us.

Net resigned herself to having to ride and wild camp but I could tell she was not having fun, it’s a shame as the route 5 is a nice quiet road with some good views across a large inlet shrouded by mangoes and woodland. I enjoyed the cycling, I was hoping to spot more wildlife but other than cows horses and a few budgies it was sparse on wildlife.

The road did climb and drop a lot, the climbs with gradients over 10%, at one stage the hills kept coming and we had slowed down to a crawl. With the hills at midday came the extra heat, my Garmin read 43 degrees C, at this point Ginette’s body was struggling with the heat.
We came to a small settlement and bought a large bottle of cold water, Ginette was not in a good way and I sent her forward to rest in the Plaza, she cycled straight past the prettiest stop with shade and full views over the estuary and plodded on past the town. She eventually stopped at the bottom of a hill by a road bridge, we had lunch sitting on the roadside with no views at all. (It was a nice opportunity missed).

Ginette – My head was all over the place, my heart and head were pounding, Gary had told me to ride to a plaza. I had imagined a square with shade, shops and possibly somewhere to rest for the afternoon.  Unfortunately there was no plaza and I wasn’t going to cycle back up the hill. I did invite Gary to do so, but he chose not to – I agree it was a missed photo opportunity as the view was very pretty.

The locals are really friendly and seem surprised to see us cycling through their villages, we have seen huge well built homes, wood houses with thatched roof and tin shacks. We have also seen a lot of farmers on horseback, this isn’t the first time we have seen this but here it is the norm, you pass through houses with the horse parked outside like a cowboy film.


By 4pm I was knackered, Ginette was coping much better and was cycling strong but I needed to stop for fluids and food.  We thought about wild camping where we stopped but it was the driveway to a farmer’s field and not really practical.  For the next hour we attempted to find a wild camping spot but we really struggled to find any clear and suitable sites which were not already lived on. It’s not that there a loads of houses it just that when ever the land gave a nice place to stop some one else had beat us to it.

At sunset we were 15 miles from the town, we could have found a spot if we had to but it would have been
1, a tight squeeze by the roadside
2, climbing over someone’s barb wire fence into a cattle field.
3, setting up tent in a village with the locals permission.

In the end after eating a wrap to boost our energy we opted to cycle in the dark to the town of Sona.  I quite enjoyed cycling in the dark but their were lots of bugs so our eyes were playing catch the fly, we stopped with 7 miles to go to apply repellent. As we arrived in town we found a motel just as the heavens opened.
We ended the day tired, but were able to clean ourselves and treat ourselves to a Chinese. Well it was supposed to be a Chinese restaurant but we ended up with rice beans and coleslaw and chicken for me. Not really a Chinese but it was cheap quick and filling.

In the town there were a large proportion of drinking bars, each one with a panel across the front of the doors to try to stop passers by seeing inside. In the bars were mainly men and it felt very Cowboys film again.

Ginette – It was a really long, hot, tiring day. I find cycling hills in the heat almost impossible. By the afternoon, I was fine the cloud coverage made all the difference even though it was still 30c + 

I would have happily stopped mid afternoon as Gary was clearly wiped out but fortunately after a bit of food and drink he dug deep and found enough energy for us to end the day in a Motel.  I really appreciated this because I was dreading spending another hot, sticky night in the tent.

8th Jan 

Ginette – I slept really well for the first time in days, I woke feeling really rested. We had a leisurely start to the day doing various IT tasks before setting off to Santiago. It should have been an easy 30 miles but route 5 continued to deliver hill after hill. The route was pretty but there was little wildlife and the road was busy so I mainly found myself watching the road and listening to my podcast. 

We arrived at our hostel at about 1.30pm and booked a ‘tent’ for the night. Yes, you read that right we have paid to stay in a tent provided by the hostel.  The alternative was paying twice the price for a bunk bed in the dormitory or much more for a hotel.  

I spent the afternoon writing the blog and booking flights to Colombia (very time consuming because of booking the bikes on line). Gary went shopping for much needed supplies. 

Gary – I went for a walk around the busy little town, I think it’s a city but to me it’s more of a town. It is a lived in town with no real tourist attractions but lots of shops and locals making the most of the weekend.
I also did some food shopping and spent ages in a large supermarket looking for the stuff we need whilst passing all the stuff we can’t carry or keep with envy.

Ginette – We are going to take a bus to Santa Fe and spend a couple of days hiking. Yayyyyy

 

 

 

 

Costa Rica – Part 2

25th Jan

A really hard morning but a waterfall swimming bonus.

Ginette was well enough to cycle so we set of after cooking breakfast of scrambled egg and beans on the camping stove, the kitchen was so unhygienic we didn’t use any of their kit.

We had hoped to cycle 50 miles to the Pacific coast,  we had planned on doing some hill climbing in the morning then it should of been all downhill. However we only managed 20 miles.

The hill climbing was much harder than we envisaged with another 10 miles of very steep hills, I had to keep doubling back to push Ginette’s bike up the steeper sections to try to save her arm a bit.

Ginette – the hospital had advised me to rest my arm, keep it elevated and use ice packs. Instead I was doing a full on gym session, cycling up hills and pushing my bike up and down really steep off road tracks. Added to this I was chased several times by local dogs. They seem to be pretty harmless in Costa Rica but it is rather disconcerting cycling and having dogs growling and barking by the side of you. The locals usually come to the rescue either calling their pets, or throwing stones at strays, passing cars will also honk their horns to try and dissuade them.  
Near the top at Berlin a driver stopped for a chat, he warned us how the road in front became only fit for donkeys. Fortunately our plotted route followed his directions, but at Llano Brenes the tarmac stopped. We then had an estimated 3 miles to go to the next main road so we decided to keep going. With no iphone we could only try to follow the tracks on the ipad maps but with no location to show where we actually were.

A Canadian trial biker passed us a few times advising us the road ahead was bad, but we had come down some very steep gravel tracks by this stage and decided to push on. At least this guy was making there and back on his trial bike so after a while he accepted we were daft enough to continue and he popped back a few times with advice on which turn to take.

This stretch of track was very hard, it was incredibly steep, like 30 degrees plus in places and loose big rocks.

Eventually we stumbled upon some parked cars near a bridge and stream. We had found a locals swimming spot in a fast running stream with several cascading waterfalls. The good news was we now knew a proper road was nearby.

We spent a good 2 hours relaxing and swimming in the cool water. The water filter we have been carrying for the year had its first outing, we were both thirsty so used it to enable us to safely drink the stream water.

Ginette – this was heaven, I could have stayed in this spot all day, but we still had some hill climbing ahead of us and the only fluid we had was the filtered water and I wanted something cold and fizzy.

When we left the area we had another 800 metres of hard climbing up gravel roads until we found the tarmac, then it was an easy downhill stretch to Ortina.
We stayed in a cheap but grimy hostel in the town, but as a treat had pizza and beers before settling down.

We ended the day knackered but happy, we really did get to see the “real native Costa Rica” and the waterfall area was not only free but well frequented by local families, they were in large groups of grandparents to parents and grandchildren swimming and cooking BBQ food. It was a delight to share this area with them.

 

26 Jan 2020

Oh I do like to be beside the seaside.

A 30 mile cycle finishing at the Pacific seaside resort of Jaco.

Shortly after leaving the town the turning we needed to take had signs forbidding cycles, a quick check for an alternative route showed a hilly longer diversion so we opted to take the main road. It wasn’t too bad and had a hard shoulder we could stay in, we were on this road for only a few miles for our turn off.

Ginette – this main road happened to be the motorway!

We stopped at a bridge over Rio grande Tarcoles, along with nearly all the other drivers on this route. From the bridge we could see a load of large crocodiles swimming and basking in the sun. We took our bikes along the footpath which turned out to be a mistake as the footpath was a dead end so we had to push them backwards from the centre of the bridge back along the path with all the other tourists coming from both directions and having to squeeze by us.

We Met a Californian cyclist who had started his trip in Alaska and was soon to finish in Panama, he rode with us for a short while but whizzed ahead on one of the downhills and disappeared in the distance.

We had a bit of a sting in the tail with a hill climb with 10 miles to go, it was very hot and Ginette was struggling so we took a shade break on the hill. The temperature cycling up was 40 degrees. After our break the bikes had been left out in the sun and my Garmin read 49 degrees.
Reaching the coast the winds bought the temperature down to 36 degrees, hot hot hot.

Ginette – the climbing on the bike was fine, it was the heat, my body really can’t cope. I felt my heart working harder and harder and from past experience I knew the wisest thing to do was stop and find some shade. Gary was a star, he has been really patient and supportive – love him to bits.

We are in hostel in Jako, we were offered a camping spot for £6 but Net opted for a room for £23.

Ginette – to put this in context, we would have pitched the tent next to the kitchen area of a very busy, noisy hostel. The shower would have been a public shower next to the kitchen and the toilets a good 50 meters away by the reception area. 

We dropped our smelly clothes off at the launderette and spent the afternoon drying out our wet kit (tent, bags etc) which was most of our stuff then had a while on the beach.
The sea was really warm and a pleasure to enter, the waves were good as it is a surf area. The town is busy and touristy but not just for us foreigners also for the city folk of San Jose as this is there nearest beach resort.

27th Jan 

Happy birthday Hayley.

Our clothes were in the laundry so we chilled out in the morning doing admin and in Nets case a job application.

We managed 43 miles despite not leaving our accommodation until lunchtime.

The road was mainly flat with a small hard shoulder to cycle on most of the time.
We past jungle and lots of palm oil plantations.

Ginette – even though I am against the mass production of palm oil,  it was interested to watch the locals cultivating it. 

We stopped to see what a couple of van loads of tourists were gawking at and saw a couple of large Macaws playing kiss chase in the trees.

 

I heard and Ginette saw a large snake slither away from us in the verge as we cycled past.   We also saw a poor road kill mammal with white fur and a black stripe down its back, a car stopped but then continued, I wonder if he was thinking of a nice edible road kill for dinner.

Ginette – it is the rain forest, which unfortunately means on a daily basis we smell and see dead animals. It is not as bad as Tasmania but in the heat it can be a little stinky.

The temp varied from 38 to 32 degrees depending on cloud cover, as the evening drew in the clouds showed signs of a lot of rain to come.

We reached Quepos near dusk, the free camping spot we aimed for was not a good place for a tent (we found it on I overlander and this spot would be ok for a vehicle). It was late so instead of trying to find another spot we opted to book into the wide mouthed frog hostel (you need to say this name with your fingers stretching your mouth open) we had two beds in an 8 bed dorm. The place had a pool and a kitchen and for £12 each we even got a free breakfasts.

Ginette – it was great to end the hot day with a dip in the pool. Hostals are great because you get to speak to other people on their travels, however I am not keen on sleeping in dorms. Gary and I slept, in bunk beds (Gary on top and I was in the bottom bunk), which meant the first face I saw in the morning was a strange man I had never met before, in the bottom bunk next to me, which was rather disconcerting. The dorm beds in Costa Rica have not had curtains around them which means you have little privacy. 
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Tuesday 28th Jan

Whale tail beach.

Breakfast included in the hostel, just as well as cooking in the kitchen with so many others around would have been problematic. It had rained a lot in the night so we made the right decision not to camp. We managed 40 miles along a mainly flat road, my body was tired so I was glad when we called it a day.

 

The ride was a mix of palm plantation and wild forest, the forest stretches we cycle on high alert waiting with anticipation in the hope to spot some exotic species.

We saw plenty of birds and one large iguana crossing the main road. There was about 8 vultures making a meal of a (recently killed) dog.

We stopped at a campsite called El Chaman in Uvita next to the Parque National Marino Ballena.  The campsite cost £13 for the pair of us, we had a shelter over our tent, electric hook ups and our own sink. We had use of the kitchen.  The site also had a turtle egg hatchery in the grounds.  Another benefit of the site was we could access the National park beach area without paying the £6 each entrance fee.

We would have been a little disappointed if we had paid to enter this beach,  although it was pretty it was no better than all the free ones we had stopped at along the coast.

When we arrived at the campsite it was still 34 degrees so we laid out the tent but didn’t put it up so as to keep it cool. The beach area is famous for its wildlife and whale tail shaped peninsula, unfortunately when we walked to this feature the tide was rapidly coming in so the feature was underwater with the sea looking like it was having an argument. This is where two seas merge into one.

As the sun set the locals came out in force, (the staff that collect the entrance fee all go home at 4pm) the car park filled up and the little bit of beach areas that the incoming sea had left was busy with families larking around in the sand and sea. The sea was really warm so bathing this time of day was heavenly.

It rained again but with the shelter over our tent we hoped to stay dry, we also hoped it as it had cooled down we would have a comfortable nights sleep.

Ginette – When we first arrived at the camp site we were offered a pitch site next to the toilets, in my best spanish I expressed my concern and we were offered a better site.  However this was next to a hillbilly family, who were really helpful, they helped blow up one of our air mattresses and showed me where the toilets were. However the teenage boys returned to the site very late, drunk and proceeded to have a burping competition. Gary was fast asleep but I laid there hot and sweaty waiting for them to go to sleep. No sooner had they settled down than I could hear their dad snoring loudly urgggg!! That was my party trick, although I’m competitive, there was no way I could compete with the noise coming from their tent.

Wednesday 29th Jan 

Short day for two tired bodies.

It was very hot in the tent last night, sleeping naked and the sweat dripping off our bodies.

Ginette – added to the noise from our neighbours tent, barking dogs, the heat, I had agreed to sleep on the air bed with the big air bubble, which effectively meant I spent the night trying and failing to to get comfortable. I was glad when the sun came up and I could finally leave the tent.
We went for a swim in the sea before breakfast and then a shower to cool down as the sea being warm didn’t chill our old bones. It looked like rain with big black rain clouds above but after a short while of cycling the sun broke through and started to cook us again.

Not a lot of wildlife spotting today but we did hear the howler monkeys. As we were both tired we stopped at Palmer Norte, a small town where our road joined the Pan American highway, we arrived at around 1pm so an early stop.

 

If we had continued the only places we knew of to camp would have been behind two petrol stations, and being both weary and hot we had, had enough for the day.

I had a hair cut in the afternoon, whilst Net had a nap. In the evening we had a meal in our room I had a chicken take away dish and Ginette had cheese on bread we washed this down with some nice cold beers (beer from the supermarket is the same price as soft drinks). The room in the motel had air conditioning so we had a relaxing afternoon, doing some job searches, looking at routes and downloading books.

Ginette – this sounds pretty boring but it was a really enjoyable afternoon, it gave our bodies some time to relax and recover from the hot sticky nights in the tent and hostel.

 

30th Jan 

Confirmation that Ginette is a witch.

Feeling rested after an afternoon and evening in an air conditioned room.

Our first 15 miles was along the Pan American highway, it wasn’t as busy as I thought it would be, but was busy enough that we had to concentrate on the road.  We had more hard shoulder cycling on the previous road, where as this road had none now so basically we spent the day getting in peoples way. However we passed a combination of palm plantations, forest and well kept homesteads so the journey was still a pretty one.

We turned off at Chacarita which is the road heading to Puerto Jimenez and the Corcovado peninsula. The traffic was much lighter and we could relax into the cycling.

We ended the day cycling up and down some steep but short climbs with forest all around us. It was a hot day at 35 degrees but it felt hotter as the hill climbs slow us down so we had no wind chill.

All around us I am sure we have loads of wildlife but the Cicadas are hot and in full song so we can’t hear anything else over there high pitched droning.We did see a couple of Macaws kissing one minute and fighting the next, a couple of large iguanas and sergeant birds.

When cycling in these hot forests I find myself switching between studying the trees and banks for wildlife and head-down hill climbing disappearing into my own thoughts. You know the feeling when you are driving to work and you have to ask yourself how did I travel the last 5 miles? Well it’s the same on a bike.

We camped at El Chontal. It’s a dedicated campsite next to the gulf sea. Intially we were not happy with the $20  charge but negotiated this down to $16 with use of a double kayak.

 

By the time camp we set up camp it was dusk so kayaking had to wait until the following morning. There was a large group of American tourists staying in the cabin but not your usual bunch, these guys are members of an over 55 learning club from north Florida, and were staying on site as part of their kayaking trip. One of the ladies was from Colombia and gave us some great tips of places to visit for our Columbia trip.

Oh I nearly forgot, Ginette was stung three times in her chest by possibly a Wasp, hence the confirmation that she is a witch as I have just checked and can now confirm she has 5 nipples.

Ginette – the American’s were really inspirational, the guys I sat and talked to were all in their 70’s but looked much younger. They had such an excellent outlook on life. Their guide was from the Netherlands and later in the evening we had a good chat with him. He told us where to kayak and offered us a couple of shots of rum. 

31st Jan
Meeting bits on Brexit day
The zip on the tent broke in the night, I was unaware until morning but had a good night cool sleep and no bites (could have been the shots of free rum our friendly Dutch guide let us have).
Ginette – We both fell asleep really quickly but I woke in the night because a 4 by 4 drove into the car park near our tent.  Once I was awake I needed to have a wee and as I tried to get out of the tent broke the zip even further.  It was a beautiful night with lots of stars but kind of spooky. I could hear animals moving around and I could hear the howler monkeys which have to be heard to be believed.  On my return to the tent I tried to fix the zip, failing miserably I used a blanket to try and keep the mosquitoes out. Through out all this, Gary slept never stirring while I laid awake for the rest of the night listening to the rustling of animals moving around the park and the monkey chorus. 

 

I have managed to get the zip working again but for how long?

We had a cup of tea on the pontoon and watched the sunrise before taking two man kayak out across the bay to some mangroves. We followed a route one of the Dutch kayak tour operators kindly showed us.  This was a loop through the mangroves through a narrow channel, at one point we had to manoeuvre around a fallen tree partially blocking the way.

This was a cool experience, the jungle was close on either side and we spotted lots of birds, we were even lucky enough to spot a turtle coming up for air in the open water.
The kayak was uncomfortable so we both had aching backs when we had finished.

We said goodbye to the America Kayak tourers and again the Dutch leader helped us with more kindness by letting us have a beer and remains of a proper bottle of red wine. This camp site had turned out to be a good one for us.

We cycled 22 miles, it was flat but felt like hard work, we were both a little tired and the heat took it out of us. The last 5 miles was on an unpaved road to Dos Brazos, it was once a gold mining town but a new walk into the Corcovado national park has led to a few small entrepreneurs with B & Bs setting up in the area.

Ginette – the heat really got to us, it sapped all of our energy, Gary had another puncture on route so by the time we arrived in the very village we were knackered and hungry. We stopped off for some food before finding somewhere to spend the night and almost fell asleep waiting for our food to arrive.

We camped in a Cabina B&B called Yejos, our camp pitch was under a shelter but not pretty, however the rest of the site was stunning. A little paradise with a small garden with exotic flowers abound. As I write this the frog chorus is playing a tuneful melody from the various species calls.

We met some of the other guests and shared stories, one couple were from Kent, Kenny a Scotsman and a Tracy a Kent girl. They do a lot of travelling to places like India, Sri Lanka, Thailand etc so we enjoyed there company. They are big brexit fans so wanted to celebrate the Brexit signing with a few beers.

During the course of the evening the hostel owner called us all over to see a snake. A viper called Flue de Lees was sitting on top of a fence in a coiled ready to strike position. This snake is highly venomous. We took some photos, and hopefully you can see behind the fence is our tent! A stark reminder of how close we are to these potentially fatal animals.

Ginette – this encounter was a little worrying, I had thought if a snake sensed our presence it would scuttle away, but this snake stayed put, ready to strike. 

As the night drew on the conversation turned to politics and religion, I confirm that these subjects should be avoided especially when dealing with a couple that feel that everyone is entitled to there opinion.

Ginette – This was unfortunate the couple were lovely, very generous and outgoing. They made an effort to include everyone in the conversation but they held strong views regarding immigration (which were not in line with the rest of the group or relevant at all to the discussion on Brexit).  In retrospect we should have tried harder to change the subject or better still not to have engaged at all. As Gary says it is not wise to mix alcohol with politics or religion. Fortunately we live in a democracy and we’re all entitled to our opinions and although the evening came to a close early the following morning we were all pleasant to each other.

 

1st February

into month 12, south east Costa Rica.

A pretty good nights sleep and no more visits from nasty snakes.
We had an old, stray dog guarding our tent, this has become the norm for us and we were glad he was around.


We went for a hike to a mirador and waterfall through the jungle of the Corcovado national park, there was no gate or signs so we didn’t have to pay an entrance fee of have a guide for the advertised €75 dollars a head. The walk was up a steep and narrow muddy track through the noisy forest. Noisy because of the chicadia keeping cool. We didn’t really see much other than a few birds. The mirador was an OK view and the waterfall was only just visible through the trees. I am not saying it wasn’t a nice walk but I wouldn’t go out of my way to do it again.

It was nice mixing with the other guests, even the opinionated Brits who with less beer in their belly were back to the calm pleasant people we first met. The conversation last night played in my head all day. It’s hard to understand how a couple can have such racist views but still travel the world. This couple held strong views against muslims and yet had a second home in Turkey,  a Muslim country home to a religion that they believe to be full of terrorists.  We couldn’t have said anything to effect their views so as mentioned in yesterday’s blog we should have moved them away from discussing politics and religion.

We only had to cycle 8 miles to Puerto Jimenez, we had an hour to wait for the ferry so spent some time in a cafe catching up with friend’s and family on social media.
The ferry ride was about 40 minutes and cost £13 for us and the bikes. We sat chatting to a Canadian couple from Vancouver island that have settled in Costa Rica to retire.

Ginette – I also spent some time talking to some young 20 year olds who were working on a big ship for 2 months.  500 students from their area in the USA were on the boat learning various skills.  Their families paid for the trip and on successful completion they would receive 6 credits each. They were really interested in our bike trip and I almost felt like I was being interrogated, they had so many questions. It was great to see their enthusiasm but it was exhausting. 

Reaching the port we headed to a place the couple had suggested, it turned out to be a complicated booking in process. We met Jim a lovely old American guy that owned the place, he used to sail yachts for a living, has done cycling touring trip in California and spoke slowly about his memories, he was not in the best of health but he took time to share his (disjointed) yarns with us. We had to wait 2 hours before our room was ready but we felt rude to move on elsewhere.  Our patience was rewarded as we stayed in a nice little apartment with a view across the bay. As we wrote the blog for the evening we had a glorious red sunset in front of us.

 

 

 

 

Costa Rica part 1

9th Jan

Costa Rica round one travel day

We cuddled Hayley goodbye at the airport even though she dislikes cuddles from her Dad.

Ginette – Hayley has never liked to say goodbye when she was little she would run and hide so that she wouldn’t have to give us cuddles when we left.

Our first leg of the journey was a three hour flight to Mexico City, we had a 4 hour layover then a three hour flight to Costa Rica. We arrived after a short taxi ride at our hostel at 2.30am.

Ginette – What a contrast this hostel was to our luxury, executive accommodation in San Jose. I think on reflection I would prefer to be travelling 5 star (on the bikes) rather than budget style. I suppose on the upside it makes you appreciate the little treats rather than taking them for granted.

10th Jan.

Alajuela

We had a walk around the town, it was warmer and I enjoyed the vibe of the place as I felt that we were in a foreign area, compared to the very western feel that the Cabo peninsula had, although the town was modern and old with mixed architecture with some westerners around.

We found a free museum with a confusing history about a William Walker, I had to research him again later to get the missing information. We have come across him before but he is only mentioned in passing in a museum in Leon, Nicaragua. It would seem he had a fair part to do with Nicaragua troubled past but he was barely mentioned in Leon’s museum.

San Jose.

We took a bus into the city of San Jose to a hostel Del Paseo where we had a couple of beds in a 6 bed dorm. The hostel was clean and modern and over 5 floors. The top floor was a large open space games and tv room, the kitchen was however tiny, so we decided to eat out.

Ginette – we had dinner in the local Pizza Hut, we chose it because of the free salad bar only to be told to have food from the salad bar we would need to pay an additional £3 each.

San Jose central area was closed to traffic so there was a nice shopping and cultural area to walk around. We sat in a park in the sunshine watching the parrots in the trees then had a couple of beers. We get the impression that Costa Rica is not going to be a cheap area to travel through as the National parks seem to charge $40 dollar entrance fees however the beers we had were £1.80 each for a small beer and the hostel rooms were £6 each so it may not be all bad.

11th Jan

Travel to Nicaragua.

The hostel last night was very clean and modern but due to all the tiled floors and open areas it was hard to get to sleep until everyone else was asleep due to the noise travelling around the hostel.

Ginette – I had no problem, I was knackered and as soon as my head hit the pillow, I was out for the count.

Caught the 7.30 Tica bus , these are air conditioned 52 seat coaches so the ride was comfortable. We met a lass from Manchester only 2 weeks in on her trip, she was travelling alone and with no fixed plan.

Ginette – We spent 9 hours on this bus, which had very little leg room so I am not sure I would use the word comfortable. Fortunately the time went by relatively quickly. The Tica bus runs throughout Central America, jumping from one city to the next.  It is a well set up operation, they process what ever visa requirements they can in advance for a small fee and are at the border control with you so if there are any issues they can assist.

It took about an hour to get through the border and we arrived in Rivas at 4.30pm. We opted to ride a cycle tuk tuk to the hotel we had booked, this was Murphy’s shack, which turned out to be Julieta Hostel where we stayed before, but slightly cheaper (£11).

The Rivas plaza was just as busy as it was before Christmas, there was a dance demonstration going on by lots of groups of young girls in long flowing bright dresses.

Later the same area was set up with a karaoke machine and the locals where belting out some songs.

It’s nice the way the plazas are so well used by locals, and the old dance customs are being kept alive.

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12th Jan

Reunited with our bikes.

We took another cycle tuktuk to the Rivas bus stop and caught the local chicken bus to San Juan de Sol.

We had a bit of confusion over the various currencies, we had just changed from Mexico, Costa Rica and into Nicaraguan in 3 days and the currency conversion for each was very different.

In Rivas Nicaragua the tuktuk man wanted 4 American dollars but we wanted to pay in Cordobas. Then at the bus station we had to deal with the 8 year old conductor to pay our fares. We struggled to understand the fee and then to get our heads around what we were actually paying. This part of travel can be frustrating, you don’t want to be ripped off but this morning we felt a little overwhelmed. It’s easy to think that all you need is to know the currency conversion but it’s not always that simple, the actual notes are also confusing. For example we have a note which states it’s 10 mil. But is actually 10 thousand , and is worth approx £14.  Once we have been in a country for a while it becomes easier but today due to the many quick changes in currency we have been left a bit bewildered.

Ginette – It is my role to manage the money and usually it is not a problem, but on this particularly day I confess to feeling flustered. We didn’t order a tuktuk it stopped outside of our hostel and offered to take us to the bus stop. He refused our American dollars because they had slight tears in them and I couldn’t remember the Nicaraguan conversion rate. Later on the bus, as I didn’t understand the conversion rate I had no idea if the young boy was asking for change for helping us load our bags or the fee for the bus. Fortunately, we were able to laugh about the situation but it was frustrating. It would be so easy to be ripped off in these situations.

Arriving in San Juan de Sur we booked into our hostel who kindly looked after our bags until a room was ready and we set about retrieving our bikes. With a gift of cake and $10 we thanked Wouter and his friends for keeping our bikes safe.

The day was then spent checking the bikes out and repacking the panniers.

Some sunbathing and beer time was also had, it’s a hard life.

13th Jan

Blown off course.

After a windy night and still a very windy morning we decided to take another day off the bikes, this gave us a bit more time to look at our route through Costa Rica.

A walk along the beach was a blowy affair, not too pleasant when the sand was blasting our skin but at least it was still warm.

We hoped to move on the following day as we were getting restless, the forecast was not great in fact there were warnings in place that by this time next week the winds will be even higher and at dangerous levels by Monday.

We can alter our route and divert to a town if needed, the following day was the only day where we had planned to wild camp so hopefully the winds will be kind to us.

It’s not just the effort involved in cycling in high winds that’s the problem, it’s trying to keep the bike straight in the cross winds especially when traffic comes past and creates a mini vacuum, which sucks us into the road.

We moved again to another hostel, it’s cheaper than last nights and smaller, but a little cleaner. In our previous hostel I had two mice encounters with the little scamps running right across the top of the kitchen worktop.

14th Jan

Blown to Costa Rica.

Breakfast took ages to prepare this morning as the gas stove in the hostel kitchen had such poor output it took 30 minutes to boil our water.

It was very windy again and there was a weather warning on one site that the winds are going to get worse, but not all the weather sites agree.

We opted to set off as we were both restless, we stopped for a bit of shopping and bumped into our Belgium friend again so managed another set of farewells.

To get out of town we had a hill climb to do, this was all into the headwinds making it hard going, the bikes were buffeted sideways so keeping control was not easy at least there was not a great deal of traffic to worry us.

Ginette – I was blown into the barrier twice, there is a fine art to cycling in the wind, and it took me a while not to overcompensate for the 50 mile an hour gusts.

The border crossing was straight forward with only a short queue to deal with.

I found the afternoon hard work with weary legs and my feed stops all out of sync.

After one short break I had a flat on my back tyre so replaced it with a spare tube.

We camped in a cabin and camp site area called Finca Canas Castilla, we arrived just before dark but first impressions were good. The area in the jungle and had cabins and camping spaces.  We had not long been set up long before we were entertained by a woodpecker and as it got dark we could here the jungle coming alive with lots of noises all around us. I think the noisiest was probably the frogs calling to each over, it’s sounds a little like a load of jackhammers working in the distance.

Ginette – when we arrived on the site we were met by two German Shepherds, you would have thought they would make excellent guard dogs but instead they greeted us with wagging tails. The older of the two took a liking to us and followed us everywhere, he even slept by our tent and barked if anything came near us. As soon as we moved in the tent he would try and get in the tent, he was adorable but I wouldn’t have wanted to upset him.

15th Jan

Wildlife encounters and never smile at a crocodile.

It rained a lot in the night, not that Ginette would know as she slept like a snoring log.

She woke me up around 6am declaring this was the best time to spot wildlife so off we went, with no breakfast to hunt.

We did the shorter yellow route, it wasn’t the easiest to follow at first but we managed it after a few wrong turns. We spotted lots of monkeys, mostly spider monkeys but also heard the very distinctive sounds of howler monkeys. There was a lot of bird life as well, all in all these walks are great due to the anticipation involved in the search for the exotic wild animals.

I was still pretty tired from yesterday, all this non cycling rest has worn me out, and I ended up going back to bed.

Once up we set off on another walk this time on the red route, much easier to follow but a longer route. We spotted more monkeys in the trees, they are fascinating to watch and they sometimes just sit and watch us, like we are the exhibits in a zoo.

We bumped into a young couple with their baby, the lady was a little distressed as she had just been shat on by a monkey and wanted to clean the mess off.

We walked slowly in the hope we would spot a sleeping Sloth but no joy today.

Back at camp I got the fishing gear out, my gear is now depleted as we had to lose some weight for the flights we have taken and it’s a long time since I tried to use it. The spool is not running free so I have tried WD40 to see if it will improve. My fishing attempt saw me spendings more time trying to get the tackle together than actually fishing ( Not that I ever catch anything) when I finally started training the bait how to dodge fish the nice German camp owner came and politely mentioned that maybe I should fish a little further down off a higher bank so that the crocodiles don’t see me as prey. It made the fishing more fun, not such a boring sport when you are on crocodile alert.

We spent the evening chatting to a French couple that are currently living in Canada, they have done a fair bit of travelling and had a good attitude to life, it was nice spending time with them.

16th Jan

A Slothly day, not.

We moved our tent yesterday to a spot under a tin roof so the tent would be dry to pack away in the morning. We did this by carrying it across the track with all the bedding still inside so it was a quick affair.

This morning we took the last loop walk by the river, the white trail. We were hoping to find a sloth and luckily we spotted a well hidden, fast asleep sloth in a trees branches.

Following this encounter one of the camp Alsatian dogs disturbed a crocodile that was sunbathing right near where I was trying to fish yesterday. Then a troop of spider monkeys paraded acrobatically across the trees in front of us.

With all this going on around us we decided to stay another day, we had already packed the tent away so needed to put it back up again.

Ginette – We wanted to see the sloth when it was awake so needed to wait till dusk. It seemed a shame to rush off when we had so much wildlife around us.

After chilling for a while we took a cycle ride out into the hills with no luggage, the owner of this ranch had no English but had encouraged us to cycle to a view point.

This route was hard going, all on hard packed soil and stone roads with some very steep ups and downs, too steep to cycle, it’s just as well we didn’t have our bags. The last 1.5 mile to the view point was a return route so we locked our bikes to a tree and walked to the top. Ginette didn’t do the last stretch as the track had stopped and she wanted to avoid any snakes that could be in waiting.

So a typical rest day, spent tiring ourselves out.

Ginette – a day of taking our bikes for a walk, I don’t think the German owner understood us and was encouraging us to walk the trail not cycle it!  We pushed just as much as we cycled. As we have been sitting around the camp site we have been reading about Costa Rica and it’s wildlife including numerous deadly poisonous snakes. So when Gary decided to walk across a remote field with high grass I decided to give this a miss. To be honest I thought he was bonkers, he had shorts on, which meant he had no protection for his legs. I expressed my concerns but he was determined to walk to the top of the hill, and anyone who has met Gary will know that when he sets his mind on something there is no stopping him.

Back at camp we did get to watch the Sloth make slow movements through the tree and was shown another Sloth, a smaller female sloth with her baby and this was right in the campsite.

Ginette – We spent most of the day looking up at the trees trying to find the sloths, we were really excited when we found them but unfortunately our camera was not sophisticated enough to photo them.

This place was a great find, so much nature all around.

17th Jan

Windy start, rough afternoon and lost wallet.

A fairly leisurely start to the day, we went on another hunt for the Sloth we spotted yesterday but it was in vain but the one in the camp was still nesting in the same spot.

Ginette – We met a couple from the UK who are touring Costa Rica on a much bigger budget than us, we haven’t met many British tourers so it was great chatting to them. They share our ambition of being able to work 9 months and holiday 3 months a year. They own a guest house so are a little closer to the dream than we are.

The wind was really strong in the morning, it blew me into the verge a couple of times, we had about 10 miles on the PanAmerican highway then turned off onto route 4. We weren’t sure it was fully pathed so was pleased to see it was tarmac.

The traffic was less on this road but the wind was very strong north eastly making it really hard going.

Ginette – I wish in hindsight, I had stopped and videoed Gary, I had to stop several times as I thought it was reckless to cycle on this stretch of road with the strong winds. At one point we were both blown off the road, to avoid landing on Gary, I swerved back into the road, had there been a vehicle behind me, I dread to think what would have happened. I couldn’t stand the thought of seeing Gary being blown under a truck so in fear/anger I cycled ahead and stayed in the middle of the road. Every time I saw a vehicle approaching from the opposite direction I would check to see if there was anything behind me, if there was I cycled to the kerb and stopped the bike. At one stop I turned round and couldn’t see Gary, it was probably only a minute or two but my heart stopped, had he fallen off? had he had an accident? Our last words would have been Gary ‘this is exciting isn’t it’ – Me ‘No this is STUPID’. Fortunately the wind died down and by anger/fear with it.

After reaching Santa Cecelia the road changed direction and fortunately the wind also died down, the road surface however had become just hard packed mud and stone. It wasn’t too bad to cycle on but no where near as easy as tarmac.

The route took us toward the Caribbean side of Costa Rica around a large volcano that was fully shrouded in cloud so no scenic views. We passed fruit tree plantations mixed in with rainforest, some workmen were trimming the verges and there where Howler monkeys competing with the noise and winning! They are incredibly loud.

This route was off the tourist track and the small towns were few and far between. At one of the towns we stopped for a drink and while we were chilling a cheeky dog pi**ed all over one of Gary’s panniers, I tried to suppress a laugh to shout at him when much to my amazement he wandered over to my bike and promptly pi**ed all over my pannier.  Gary and I were in stitches, the cheeky mutt.

Later we stopped for another drink only to find the wallet was missing.

Ginette – I am in charge of money, so this was fully my mistake. At the last stop I had checked the currency exchange rate and had left my wallet on the top of my pannier. I felt so silly, but it is an easy mistake to do, we have cycled off on numerous occasions with helmets, glasses, drink bottles all left on top of the panniers. Fortunately we usually hear them when they land on the ground. However the road condition was really bad, with lots of ruts and loose stones so I simply didn’t hear it when it fell off.

I left Net with all the bags next to a shop and cycled back the 9 miles to where we knew we last had it. I searched the road and ditches but no wallet. Luckily we later found all the credit cards in another wallet so we only lost about £40 and possibly Ginette’s driving licence. It was a worry as we thought we had been left with only one card and we weren’t sure how we would go about getting new cards from the UK.

Ginette – Fortunately I don’t keep all the currencies in the same wallet and I separate the cards so that in circumstances like this we are covered. I also keep all the loose change in a separate purse which meant we could at least have a drink.  When Gary returned empty handed, I asked the lady if she’d accept American dollars which she kindly agreed to and gave us the change in Colones. If we had lost the cards it would have simply meant waiting in a town for a week or two, not the end of the world but not ideal either.

It was now getting dark so we managed to get the locals to agree to us pitching next to the shop and an empty house, we cooked boiled potatoes, carrots and broccoli and spooned in some soft cheese all in the porch of the disused house. It was pitch black, raining intermittently and the mozzies were buzzing around us. All in all a poor end to the day and the camp spot a stark contrast to the beautiful camp we left that morning.

Ginette – this was awful, as Gary prepared dinner, I couldn’t help the tears from falling, we had no wash or toilet facilities. The locals sat outside the shop drinking and talking which meant we had no privacy and we were surrounded by long grass and discarded rubbish. All because I had been careless. We had intended to cycle a further 20 miles and find a secluded spot to wild camp instead of being the local attraction, in the wet discarded waste land.

18th Jan

5 punctures and heavy rain.

Up very early, the site we had blagged was in a small town, so going for a poo was not possible in the open. We found a nice wild poo site a little further down the road.

Ginette – By ‘nice’ Gary means a very wet muddy field, with lots of flying insects. I later learnt one had bitten me and it was not on my bum.

No wind to battle but we had lots of heavy showers, the sun dried us off but no sooner were we dry and it would pour down again.

I had 5 punctures on the back wheel, I had run out of new inner tubes and was finding the patch repairs were failing, we had a similar issue in Turkey. I even changed the tyre for the spare in case I was missing a thorn but had two more punctures, one was a hole next to the valve on the inside of the tube, the other was actually a thin tire wire puncture so neither were related.

The route 4 road turned back into a tarmac surface after 15 miles so the cycling when the tyre was up was quite good. We spotted and heard lots of birds , one black colour bird had a beak like a Toucan.

Ginette – I enjoyed the ride, there were so many different brightly coloured birds. This would be a twitchers paradise. Although it was very wet, it was warm so it wasn’t a real problem.

We managed to get some cash in Upola after trying 4 banks, we sat and discussed the afternoons route and opted to continue along route 4 instead of heading up the hill to Bijagua.

Ginette spotted a cycle shop along route (a lucky find as there is really not a lot along this road) so we now have 4 new inner tubes, well we did until the 5th puncture meant I needed to use a new tube already.

We have treated ourselves to a hotel room at 10,000 colones (£13) a night, the manager wanted a further £6 to use the kitchen so we opted for a cold supper. We had a big breakfast at about 11.30 and neither of us felt very hungry.

19th Jan

Very hilly and wet day.

We set off from San Raphael heading inland to Lake Arenal, we knew we had 15 miles of uphill to contend with. The climbing was OK but some sections were too steep and even to cycle so we had to push the bikes. The road was tarmac for only 50% the rest was gravel and dirt, unfortunately the steeper sections had the worst stones.

When we set off it was 28 degrees but cloudy, by the time we finished it was 17 degrees pouring with rain and we were cold and wet but still in tee shirts and shorts.

We called into one of the many cafes at the small town of Arenal and used the internet to book a room for £23 as camping would be no fun.

Airlibre homestay turned out to be a great find, it looked poor from the outside but inside we had in effect a shared home with three bedrooms for guests and a large lounge and kitchen. The owner María was a friendly and knowledgable host, she was most welcoming and once we were settled in gave us lots of useful tips for our stay in the area.

The garden was a real treat as there were humming birds hovering within a few feet of us, we’ve had lots of hummingbird sightings but none this close and for so long.

We had a walk around town and down by the lake while the rain stopped for a while, the town had a mix of Tico (the term used for locals) and gringos, some of which have made this town their permanent home. It’s a small town but well equipped with lots of cafes and grocery stores all in a short walking distance.

Monday was pouring with rain and we decided to book another night in Casa Airelibre as the accommodation was really nice and the host equally so.

On our host María’s recommendation we took a short cycle ride and walk to Laguna de Cote, this was pretty much a wash out with pouring rain and misty clouds restricting what is supposed to be a beautiful view of the lake.

This lake is famous for a UFO photo that was taken while a geography aerial survey was taken, it’s recorded as the best UFO photo ever taken and is easy to research on the internet. We couldn’t even see the lake let alone the UFO.

Our thoughts have turned back to the return to the UK so we took the afternoon to do a little job seeking.

Ginette – we have phone issues again so limited capacity to take photos, but we couldn’t resist taking pictures and video clips of the humming birds they are amazing to watch.

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20th Jan

We set of with 32 miles to cycle around Lake Arenal over to Fortuna. The route was on good tarmac roads and was very up and down around the lake. The road was slightly inland from the lake edge and as it’s a volcanic area there were not a lot of flat areas, the area between the lake and road was fenced off and still jungle so we had a ride of anticipation searching the trees for Sloths and monkeys, we didn’t spot any by the lake but could hear the howler monkeys distinctive calls.

We passed a large group of cyclists going the opposite way, the first we have seen for a while, they had no luggage and a bus was following from behind.

Once we left the lake it was more of a downhill section with still a few short climbs to punish us. We cycled past the entrance to Arenal volcano park, even this close to the volcano we couldn’t see it as the whole area was covered in cloud, we are at a high altitude so actually cycling along inside the cloud cover.

We past several hot spring resorts, very expensive looking places. We knew of a free hot spring the locals used but didn’t stop as we hadn’t set off till early afternoon so didn’t want to run out of daylight.

Ginette – added to this it was pouring with rain

As we neared Fortuna we did have a Sloth sighting, several tourist buses had pulled other and the passengers were free gazing, so we stopped as well and was pointed towards the Sloth in the tree. As we descended we broke free of the cloud cover and even got a view of the bottom of the volcano, it’s middle to top still fully buried in cloud cover.

The road from the hot springs down to Fortuna was much busier with traffic and the bill boards, hotels and cafes were in abundance, this area is a big draw for tourists visiting Costa Rica.

Our accommodation was booked for two nights, we have a nice room and a shared kitchen and lounge, it all looks nice and tidy but with the other guests using the kitchen late and sitting in the lounge it is not a quiet place to stay.

The weather was wet, yes it’s a rainforest area however there was a big problem in the area which meant a storm on the Caribbean side was passing through and another storm on the Pacific side was hitting the area. This is supposed to be the dry season so the weather is unusual for this time of year, it looks like we have at least another 4 days of miserable weather to endure. Camping and cycling in this weather is not a lot of fun, plus with the poor visibility we are not getting to enjoy the area.

We are thinking of settling somewhere for a few days as they say ‘to weather the storm’.

Ginette – we cycled to this area so that we could see the lake and volcano but we have not seen much of either due to heavy cloud cover. It is a little disappointing but still better than being stuck in an office 9 to 5.  On a positive the area is very clean, Costa Rican’s have nailed recycling and waste management, we have not seen any of the usual piles of rubbish by the side of the roads which is a real bonus. However there are lots of biting insects and we are covered in itchy bites.

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Our shoes are wet through, so each day we are cycling with wet feet, yuk and ouch!!

 

Wed 22nd Jan
Had a day off the bikes mainly due to the bad weather forecast, there is a lot to do around the area of Fortuna. White water rafting for $85 each. Walking the base of the Arenal volcano, entrance fee $15 each. Short walk to Fortuna waterfall $15 each. Loads of other things but all for a big fat fee.
We are not saying we have seen it and done it all but we have completed similar trips to the ones above above for no fee and with better visibility. We opted to just go for a walk around the town and local area.
We headed over to a spot on the Rio Fortuna which has a rope swing for the locals and hardy backpackers. No one was in the water as the river was in full flow, the swimming area and swing were under a small waterfall drop, it was easy to access just off the road and down a short muddy path.
We then walked a loop back up the hill and around into Fortuna. On route was a chocolate plantation with a welcoming sign, we popped in and and read the many information boards. We now know that the small black bird with the bright red back is a sergeant bird. Just as we went to venture into the wooded area a lady came and called us back, it turned out that the tour was not free, it was a whopping with $25 dollars a head, bugger that.
The walk around the town was actually quite nice, a mix of locals homes and small hotels interwoven in the forest. We got to see squirrels, Toucans, sergeant birds, turkey vultures and many other colourful exotic bird species.
Fortuna town has loads of bars and cafes and tourists shops, we stopped in a local cafe for some lunch.  I was offered some of the best cocaine in the area but declined the kind gentleman.

Ginette – Even without the beard Gary is offered drugs everywhere we go, I’m not sure what this says about him…

Thursday 23rd Jan

The weather yesterday was not as bad as the forecast so today we chose to do a 32 mile stretch along our plotted route, it was downhill and flat for the first half then up hill for the second half ending in a large town called Ciuadad Quesada.
On route we spotted toucans, or as there were three in a tree threecans. We saw a sleeping Sloth and also a huge Iguana resting high in a tree branch.
As we climbed to to the town we disappeared into the clouds again and the drizzling rain soaked us through.
Our IT systems are playing up again, I think this damp weather is getting into the devices.   The iphone won’t hold charge and the volume is going up and down on its own, you have to force it to shut down as the normal button has no effect.  I have bought another couple of charging cables, these cables don’t seem to last very long. The I phone is now packed in rice to hopefully dry out.

Ginette – apologies for the lack of photo’s we are unable to download them from the iphone.

The room in the current hotel Casa Mariana was really nice, a big room with neat decor and full wet room.

24th Jan 

Ginette hit by a lorry.

Today we were headed up and over the central mountain range with a view to make it to the lower hills on the other side.
We had a morning of climbing, we cycled for 10 miles all up hill having to use our lowest gears to plod up the steep climbs. The weather was wet and misty with very poor visibility at times. This was a great shame as the 10 miles up hill could have been just as well been a hard workout on a tread mill as there were no views to enjoy.
The traffic was busy with some large lorries using the same road, you could hear them well before they passed us, most gave us room but some of the winding bends meant the longer lorries had to take the bends using both sides of the road.

We reached Zapotec when the traffic slowed to a near halt, but one of the long lorries pulled back in too early and swiped Ginette with its rear wheels.
She wasn’t knocked off the bike but was thrown to one side and a saddle bag was ripped from the bike. Ginette forearm came up like a balloon instantly, the truck driver stopped but we didn’t need his assistance so sent him on.
As we were  opposite a local shop Ginette went over to get some ice for her arm. The lady shop keeper was very attentive and concerned, she called in the local nurse to take a look at Net. An English speaking lady, Beatriz, helped translate for all concerned.
We agreed that Ginette should go to the hospital to check her arm, it swelled up the moment she made contact with the lorry.  Ginette and I didn’t think it was broken but as she would be cycling with this injury we needed to be sure. The nurse was keen to order an ambulance but Ginette would not hear of this, she was fairly certain it was simply bruised.  Beatriz found a taxi that would take us and the bikes but it was going to be $45 and we did want to spend that much. Beatriz kindly offered to take us to the taxi reducing the cost to $26 dollars.
Beatriz left and returned 1/2 an hour later with her pickup and all of her family, Ivan her husband and her 10 year old Daughter and 6 year old son.
This family then loaded us and our bikes and took us all the way to the hospital in San Ramon (approx 15 miles a way).  The kindness of strangers is a wonderful experience and makes this trip all the more worth while.

I left Ginette in the hospital whilst I found us a hotel, by the time I got back she was all done and waiting for me, no bones broken.

Ginette – the things I do to keep this blog lively, my arm is very bruised and swollen but no serious harm,  I was really impressed with the hospital,  I was in and our within an hour at no cost to us at all.  
The kitchen in the hostel was poor so we ate out but it was not great our Chinese meal was covered in some sort of gloopy gravy.  When we got back to the “villa hostel” the gates were closed and it took 10 minutes to get anyone’s attention.
All in all a pretty miserable day other than meeting Ivan and Beatriz.

We didn’t even get to cycle the 15 mile downhill section.

Ginette – as they say tomorrow is another day, hopefully we will make the seaside and the sun will shine.  We hope you are all well and enjoying 2020.

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Christmas and New Year- Central America

Christmas Day in a hotel in San Jose los Cabos and on the beach sunbathing, we cooked our own dinner and swapped the few presents we had for each other. I am really pleased with my two new tee shirts, one is covered in tweety bird cartoon pictures.

We split on Boxing Day, Ginette to the airport to meet Hayley and me to the next apartment in los Cabos up on a hill.

The apartment was in a complex with a small gym that didn’t work well and a very cold but pretty swimming pool.

We spent the 5 days here walking, sunbathing, swimming and window shopping.

Ginette – Hayley and I struggled to find the apartment as our mapping systems would not work. We decided to jump off the bus in the town and flag down a taxi, this step was easy but it took the taxi driver a further 40 minutes to find the apartment. this was in despite of the fact we had the address and a map.

Ginette lost on New Year’s Eve. 

She left Hayley and I on the beach while she went back to the room for a kip,  hours later we arrived with no Net in sight. I found her at the marina and guided her back. She wasn’t lost she says, she just couldn’t find the accommodation?

Ginette – I wasn’t lost, I knew where I was, I just couldn’t find the apartment. I realised after about an hour of wandering up and down the streets from the beach that Gary and Hayley would be worried about me. So i gave up the search and headed back to the beach where I was sure they’d look for me.

New Year’s Eve spent in a restaurant with audience participation liveshow, Hayley was hung upside down and fed tequila shots, we saw the new decade İn one the beach with thousands of others watching a huge fireworks display.

On News Day we paid for a Boat ride to lands end to see some rock formations and arches, also some sunbathing seals, this is where the Pacific Ocean and the sea of Cortez meet.

Cabo San Lucas is very tourist with lots of North Americans either on holiday or living as expats. It’s not really to my taste but I can see why people would use this area for holidays. In the marina entrance boats of all sizes make the way in and out all day, the fishing charter boats have Seals jumping on the stern for a sneaky fish feed and camera shoot.

We hired a car so we could explore further afield plus we could reach wild camping sights to keep the cost down.

Chaco hot spring is down a dusty washboard back road and has camping near a hot spring. The hot spring is fed from under the sands so there are a few pools of warm water but the rest of the stream is pretty cold there is a walk further up the stony riverbed to a waterfall, we tried to find the waterfall but couldn’t find a safe way up past a narrow water filled gully so turned back.

In the lower stream under the small dam I saw a snake in the water and later we all bathed our feet in for a fish foot spa.

The camping was a better experience as we were allowed open fires and there was plenty of firewood around, we cooked all our food this way as well.

Unfortunately I lost one on my hearing aids here, we searched for ages but it’s gone.

Ginette – this was my fault, Gary gave them to me for safe keeping and I put them in my pocket. I felt so guilty I spent the best part of the morning trying to find them amongst the beach and wooded areas we had camped on the night before.

We then moved onto Cabo Pulmo National park which was down about 10 miles of dusty washboard roads, we visited the tourist information and were directed further down the coast to a sheltered free campsite Frailes playa

To reach Frailes Playa there was a pretty bad stretch of potholed road full of water, if it wasn’t for the fact we had seen two wheel drive cars come back the other way we may not have attempted to drive through. 

This area was great with a long sheltered bay and no facilities, we had to improvise a bucket and rope to access water from a deep well.

We went on a Hill climb walk which was a bit hazardous, we had been told about the route but we never found a path so scrambled up and other the rocks and cacti to the top of the hill. Hayley found some of the sections especially hard as she has been trained to climb with harnesses and guy ropes, we were free styling which was rather silly.

The snorkeling was good with plenty of large and small fish of numerous species.

Again we had open fires which does add to the adventure of outdoor camping.

On the way back we again made it through the puddles to playa sirenas. We didn’t camp here but walked along the small cliff tops to a sheltered snorkelling area which again had a large number of large and small fish, the Barracudas where about 3 foot long. We chatted to a family with two kids around 8 years old from Minnosota, they were a lovely family.

We headed out of the washboard road areas back onto the main roads and ended up camping in posh beach side site at Los Braille’s, this is a windy beach so has been adopted by all the kite surfers.

We went to a pub and after just two margaritas I was struggling to stand and by the time we got back to camp was sick and crawling so as not to fall over, I am not sure if my drink was spiked or it was just really strong but either way my body didn’t like it.

Ginette – it was really worrying watching Gary in this state it was like he was paralytic but his speech was not affected and he suffered no hang over.  I am sure his drink was either laced with something or spiked. Hayley had the same drink but although tipsy she seemed less affected.

The next day, slightly jaded but not hung over we headed to La Paz.

On the way we stopped at El Triunfo, an old mining town. We looked around the mine ruins with its large chimney and had a packed lunch in a nice churche grounds followed by ice creams.

La Paz is a clean city, it is by the sea and quite, which is unusual for a Mexican city. We had hoped to show Hayley a more authentic side of Mexico but La Paz was not like any other Mexican cities we have seen on the mainland.

We stayed in a hostel in a 6 bed bunk room with all beds taken.

In the morning Hayley went on a boat trip to snorkel with whale sharks which I think she really enjoyed. 

We drove to Todas Santos and spent some time looking around the gift shops and galleries, then made our way to a free camping beach area that I overlander had on its map.

We camped near the beach, again we had an open fire. Unfortunately the area around us was littered with waste, the area seemed popular with surfers that seemed to have made temporary homes for themselves but had made no attempt to dig a latrine.

There was a beach bar, we met a nice couple. A Mexican man and Danish lady, it was good chatting with them, we had a really pleasant evening.

Hayley didn’t feel too well in the morning so we skipped the planned body boarding and headed to San Lucas to a really nice condo apartment so we could relax, Wash clothes and get ready for the next days flights. The condo felt really luxurious (as it was luxurious) especially after the camping and hostel stays.

Ginette – Hayley coped really well with the holiday, it was quite demanding on her poorly body. We did contemplate two weeks on the beach but she would have been bored to tears. She is definitely Gary’s daughter.

And back to Mexico

Sunday 15th December

Motorbike ride to nature encounters.

After yesterday’s little cycle ride we wanted to see more of the island but decided the best way to achieve this was by hiring a motorbike to ride.

The island has a road that goes all the around it in a figure of eight around both volcanoes but only the east side of the main volcano is sealed. We headed around on the sealed road to a town called Altagracia, we thought this town may be bigger but it wasn’t. We only had a short wander around the main plaza and I managed a second breakfast of chicken and chips.

Ginette – Gary really has got hollow legs, we rarely go more than 2 hours before he declares he is hungry.

We headed to a waterfall walk another couple had told us about, this was on the east side of the second volcano and we had about 10 miles of bumpy dirt road to contend with.

The waterfall walk to Salto San Ramon was a bit of a climb which translates to a 3 hour round trip some of which was over a rocky stream bed but also through a rainforest. The waterfall was very high and up a steep cliff so it made for an awesome sight. To reward our effort there was a small shallow pool to cool down in.

The nature on the walk was the best bit. We had 4 or 5 encounters with Monkeys of different breed and we could hear a howler monkey in the forest. The bird we have been trying to take photos of around the island put a photo shoot on for us and we know now it’s called White crested Magpie Jay. We also watched an army of ants on the move, there was so many you could hear them.

We had our packed lunch at the lakeside on a jetty watching a young teenage boy heard his few cattle down for a drink on his horse.

To break the journey up going back we had a break on a hilltop cafe with views over the lake and the second volcano. And finally we stopped at Punta Jesus Maria again, the black sandy outcrop to watch the sunset.

Monday 16th December

A trip to the seaside.

We grabbed the ferry back to the mainland and while in the port town stopped at a hotel offering parking to check whether they would keep our cycles for three weeks while we travel back to Mexico which they can.

We had a 10 mile ride down the Pam American highway then another 10 miles across to the coastal town of San Juan De Sol. I was hungry and we found a shop on route and devoured a pack of biscuits.

Ginette wasn’t feeling well so took to bed for a rest, I had a spot of sunbathing and sea dips in this dead calm horseshoe bay. I was busy reading and only just noticed the tide lapping at my feet in time, by now the local bar had some beers with my name on them.

Ginette – I had another kidney/urinary infection, not pleasant but nothing serious. Once the drugs had kicked in I was able to join Gary for a beer to watch the sunset.

Tuesday 17th December

Exercise by the sea.

Ginette was not well last night, she has a kidney infection so after breakfast went back to bed.

I found a fish market and having purchased some prawns left them marinating in chilli and garlic.

I went for a walk up a hill to the left of the beach, not vert pretty at first as I had to walk past some very poor homes with barking dogs on leads lots of rubbish and smelly waste water running down the mud track. The track was trodden but you could tell it was not a popular walk. There were some view good viewing points of the bays at the top but the paths were overgrown and I had to walk along with my anti spider web branch in front of me and was on constant snake look out.

I met Ginette on the beach were she was recuperating.
After lunch restless me had another trip, this time I ran to the right side of the beach up to a large Christ statue, the hill climb was pretty steep and my run was not much faster than a walk but I made it to the top. There was a charge to go in to the viewing platform at the Christ statue and I nearly didn’t bother but after the effort getting up the hill I paid the fee. There were some good views across the bay and some information about the statue but all in Spanish.

I finished the run with a work out and stretching session on the beach, normally I wouldn’t do this in such a public place but there was hardly anyone around and one of the ladies nearby was already into her own routine. It’s great to be able to run into a warm sea to wash the sweat off.

Ginette – It can be hard work having a puppy for a husband, I felt exhausted and washed out and he was boucing all over the place. At least he was a good boy and took himself off for some exercise. I managed to finish my book in piece.

Wednesday 19th December

Up at 5.30 to ensure we caught the bus, as it happens we were hustled onto a bus as soon as we approached the bus stop getting on in a rush only for the bus to stop in another street and wait till 7am to set off. This bus took us straight to Managua so all good.

We took a taxi the 4 miles across the city to our next bus station (we had a big bag which wasn’t easy to carry).

We arrived at the bus stop 30 minutes before it was due to leave but unfortunately the bus was full. We enquired whether they had spaces for the following day and was informed there were no free spaces until the 24th Dec.  We were directed to another bus service but on arrival we found that we full too,  luckily we had an English teacher from Salvador also searching for a bus and he took us to another bus station in his pickup.  Fortunately this bus had seats but would not be leaving until 2am YUK

We finally found a hotel to book into after haggling them down from 33 to 25 dollars.

Ginette – this is one of the jobs I find really difficult, especially as I know Gary feels uncomfortable with the process. On this occasion he was patient even though he was starting to feel Hangry. On this occasion I knew there was a hotel within a few miles at 20 dollars so there was no way I was paying $33.

Walking around the city was far better than our last visit. We wandered down a Main Street with about a mile of scattered nativity scenes of quite elaborate designs, took a stroll around plaza de revolution where there are Christmas decorations and 2020 new year signs. We found a park with a whole range of family entertainment such a merry go rounds, boating lakes, roller skating, baseball pitches, basketball areas and an assortment of play areas. A fantastic open space for the families to come and play.

We stayed around the park and Royal palace Plaza people watching, it was clear that a show was being prepared for in an open auditorium. The show included lots of different dance groups of various ages, we sat for an hour watching the dancing.

Once it got dark we walked back up the main road past all the nativity displays which got us into the Christmas spirit with all the lights and carol songs, it was almost as if each display was competing for the most attention.

We found a restaurant on this strip which had a live band and the guests were already up and dancing (it was only 6pm, but felt much later), after a beer and a rum (Rum was 50p beer was 87p) we joined in on the dance floor. Watching the locals dance was entertaining as all ages were up to very modern fast beat music (the type that usually gets rid of us old farts and only the youngsters stay on the dance floor) the men and women really know how to do the bum wiggle, some of the bigger ladies bum movements were quite hypnotising.

Ginette – It was a really enjoyable day, a big apology to El Salvador it has far more to offer than we previously thought. 

Thursday 19th December

LONG travel day.

Up at 00.40 am and a walk to the bus station for the 01.30 check in for the 2am bus to San Salvador.

We reached the first border between Nicaragua and Honduras and had a queue to contend with. Along with our 52 seater there was also another coach, when we reached the desk we were lucky to have Hector (El Salvadorian teacher we had met at the bus station) around to help smooth over the language issues, once through the exit process at Nicaragua we then had to board the coach to travel the 100 yards to the Honduras border to repeat the queuing.

It turns out the Friday before Christmas weekend is a bad day to travel as every man and his dog was going home for Christmas so the checkpoints and roads were very busy.

Another hour or so later in Honduras the bus broke down, we sat by the side of the road for a couple of hours for a mechanic to bring along a new fan belt.

Later in the journey we pulled into a police checkpoint and had to empty all the hold luggage so they could check our baggage, this didn’t take too long and the search was a bit half hearted.

Reaching the Honduras El Salvador border we had an epic Alton towers type queue snaking inside the immigration office and was there well over an hour.

Back on the coach to El Salvador this time the Salvadorian police boarded the bus and collected our passports so the delay was not so long.

Later we were pulled over by the police again and the coach was searched by sniffer drug dogs.

Ginette – We finally arrived in San Salvador at 9pm, 6 hours later than scheduled, exhausted but chilled. We tried the first hostel, the only bed available was a double in the dorm room. I wasn’t keen on this, I imagined a double bed in the middle of the dorm with no privacy. So I dragged Gary across the road to look at another hotel this was priced at $60 a room 3 times the price of the double bed in the dorm so we returned to the hostel tail between our legs and booked the dorm room.  It wasn’t anywhere near as bad as I feared, the bed had a curtain so we had a little privacy and the hostel sold much needed beer.

Saturday 21st December

A flight to Mexico City.

We slept well in the hostel, it was a small dorm room but the built in bunk beds had curtains across them so we had a little privacy. There was a man snoring a little louder than Ginette, when I mentioned this to her in the morning she said if she’d have known she would have tried harder, not that she’s competitive!

We did a dummy run of the bus journey we would need to take to reach the bus station for getting to the airport, it was near the historic centre so was not out of the way. The local bus cost peanuts but was really packed.

The bus dropped us off at the Center into the throng of a very busy market which looked as if it had expanded into side streets and what should be plazas, it was extremely busy with Christmas shoppers. We realised that this journey would not be possible with our bags and that we would need to get a taxi.

The market experience was unexpected but a good experience, some of the stall owners actually grabbed our wrists while talking and trying to get us to look at their goods. Ginette wasn’t keen on this but it was harmless and when they realised you couldn’t understand them they had a good joke with their friends with giggles.

We broke out of the mayhem in front of the Palace and cathedral, a pretty area with Christmas decorations all around.

Back at the hostel to collect our bags we decided to see how much a taxi would charge to get us to the bus, fortunately it was only $8, not cheap but it would save us the hassle of navigating the market.

The bus was packed and we had to stand for the 45 minute journey, we were the only Europeans and the only two to actually get off at the airport.

Ginette – the children on the bus were mesmerised by the two of us, we are much taller than the average Central American and of course with my blond hair and Gary’s beard we make an unusual sight.

Our flight left at 9.30 pm, we had a couple of hours to kill in the airport and only just managed to get something to eat as all the shops and cafes were closing.

We booked into a hostel Zocola, we arrived at 1am by taxi as public transport stopped at midnight, first impressions were not great. There was no sign at the front of the building,  our room has three steel framed singled beds and looks like something from a prison TV program. Fortunately it’s so late that Ginette has just settled into bed before the guards come around and put her in the jankers

Ginette – If I hadn’t been so tired I would have kicked off, I had booked an executive double, but apparently there were none available.  It had been a long day so I put a positive head on and found some positive points : 

3 beds meant we had one each and one for playing in

breakfast was included

we had a roof terrace and the hostel looked clean and was in a central area of the city

Sunday 22nd December

Mexico City and the missing link.

We used the metro, which is a great cheap way to get (at only 25p a ticket to anywhere) to the museum of Anthropology which is set in a large park. The walk through the park saw last lots of street vendors and cafes. It was a chilly affair as the temperature was around 14 degrees and we are not used to being under 30 degrees.
The Anthropology museum is huge, it is well laid out and you can move from each exhibit in a near chronological order of history. However we were both tired from the trip from Nicaragua and lack of good sleep so we got bored of trying to concentrate after 2 hours, you could easily spendall day in the museum if you had a mind to.

Discussion point.
Something that Is becoming glaringly obvious as we visit all these ancient sites and museum is the lack of real evidence of how the human race evolved. We have the theory of evolution and the experts are still arguing about whether we are evolved from Gorrilas, Chimpanzees or Orangutans (I have researched this and there is still no agreement) I have noticed that the older (1000bc ish) clay ornaments have humans depicted with large eyes and strange body shapes and feel the scientists are ignoring the obvious answer is that an Alien life came to our planet to breed here. Hence the reason no missing link or LCA last common ancestor has been found. I am not saying evolution and survival of the strongest is not a true theory but surely looking at the ceramic evidence and sudden leap in technology with pyramid construction how can the alien concept not be considered.
Also it would go a long way to explain Ginettes uncanny ability to know who it is that’s calling before answering. Experiencing pain when Hayley is in pain and predicting things that are going to happen.

I am not saying this is what I believe, I just think that if this was the angle the scientists took then it would be really easy to make a museum with a timeline that could be made to give strong evidence to back up its theory (bac to the ancient pottery of alien figures) after all the current belief is still just a theory.

The streets and parks were full families, friends and lovers, we took a busy metro to the centre getting off near the Palace and main plaza. The plaza has a stage set up and the buildings nearby which in their own right are great looking architectural sights have been spruced up with Christmas decorations.

We wandered the central area being bumped and jostling along in the crowds. There was a lot of street entertainment round, we particularly enjoyed a street blues band and watched them play for ages along with a large crowd and two couples dancing. In each couple the man was elderly but sprightly and with great rhythm, I estimate one at 70 the other at 80 years.

We hung around till dark so we could see the main plaza lit up, as we reached the plaza the stage and stands either side was being filled with children all dressed in white. By 7 the music started in the form of a small orchestra and all the children singing and moving in time. It was lovely to watch and listen to this free show along with a huge crowd filling the plaza.

Unfortunately as we are both pretty knackered we had a little spat this evening, we don’t have them often and they are never big but all the tiredness from travelling the last few days takes it toll.

Ginette – You will be glad to know as I write this we have kissed and made up, it is Christmas after all. 

We hope you all have a lovely Christmas, the next blog will not be posted until the 12th January as we are taking a break from our adventures and spending time with Hayley in Cabot San Lucas.

 

 

Nicaragua

7th Dec

Cycle breakdown and a festival town.

Woken this morning before dawn by fire works and truck loads of singers passing the hostel, this is part of the celebrations we experienced last night.

Christmas Season in Nicaragua is a celebration that everyone in the country looks forward to, and it begins early in the month of December. On December 7th, Nicaraguans celebrate “La gritería” to honor “La Purisima”, the purest and Immaculate Conception of Mary. This is a boisterous tradition paying homage to The Virgin Mary. For this event, thousands of people in the country, especially children, go from house to house singing Christmas hymns and carols of The Virgin Mary. The houses where the carolers perform rewards such singing and praises by offering treats like rosquillas (doughnuts), leche de burra (a candy called donkey’s milk), oranges, and other sweets

My bikes front wheel has some nasty creaking and crunching coming from the bearings and the wheel has tight spots, I found a cycle mechanic but he couldn’t fix it as it’s too far gone and now it is even worse.

We had to take a chicken bus to Chinandega, we found a line of cycle shops in the market but no new wheels in my size. We jumped on another bus to Leon, the logic being that it was a more touristy town and we hoped we would have more luck, plus we had some sights to see while the bike was being fixed.

On the second bus ride one of the other passengers noticed we had been overcharged and must have complained on our behalf as the conductor came back with some more money for us, the fare was still approx £5 for us both and our bikes.

Ginette – when we were offered the bus price by the tout, I had started to negotiate, I knew the price was too high but Gary just wanted to get to Leon, so I let it go, without making a fuss.

Arriving in Leon, we found it was pretty busy, it wasn’t until we found no rooms in any of the hostels that we discovered the town was enjoying the special festival day in a big fashion. After having no joy in a few hostels we restored to searching on line using one o fit hotels ultra slow wifi connections. the only place we could find was a hotel on the outskirts 4 miles away. While we were searching a German backpacker told us he was also looking for a room and having no luck.

We didn’t want to cycle out of the town and miss the fun and fortunately as we were searching the internet outside another hostel a couple agreed to stay at a beach hostel they were volunteering in so that we could have a bed for the night. The situation was not ideal, we were in separate bunk rooms with a very young clientele.

We had a quick wash and ventured out to enjoy the fireworks and festivities, a lot was going on so to summarise:

The cathedral was lit up and had cheery music playing, the priest in his refinery was having selfies with the public.

A group of tall puppets with people inside were dancing to a massive crowd.

There were well decorated and lit religious displays around the plaza, inside shops and houses

Large 30ft tall dolls decorated the plaza (puppets held on sticks)

there was a queue of people young and old all around a large church waiting to stroll past a line of tents with religious displays with people giving away sweets.

There were several shops and houses with Virgin Mary displays that were also handing out free sweets to queues of people

All in all a very festive and friendly feel to the evening

Ginette – it was a great evening, with the added bonus of finding a local restaurant and having a buffet lunch for the equivalent of £1.50 each. I noticed there were a couple of these restaurants around the city, the portions are not great but at such a low price it was not a problem.

On 8 Dec 2019,

Another bus ride.

We was up at 6.30 having breakfast of poached eggs while the other hostel youngsters were sleeping off the 4.30am return to the rooms which they did very quietly but still woke us.

Ginette – I had thought I would have had a troubled evenings sleep, I am not keen on sharing a dorm but I surprisingly slept very well. Sleeping in the top bunk brought back memories of being a child and sharing a bunk bed with my sister.

We did venture back into the centre of Leon, it’s a pretty city with 70 churches, and the streets were already cleaned from the previous nights festivities.We had a guided tour of a revolution museum with two German ladies. One of the guides was a soldier from the revolution the other an English speaking lady, but one of the German ladies had excellent Spanish and English and did more translation than the guide.

It was hard to follow the Information about the revolution so a bit of self researching was required to fill the gaps. The most striking feature of the tour (although I suspect the soldier was more interesting but I could not converse with him properly) was walking on the roof of the building on a corrugated steel structure flexing under the feet with rusty holes in it, the guide warned us to avoid the holes so that made it all OK (Health and safety at your own risk).

Ginette – it would have been helpful to have a time line, the murals were interesting and informative but clearly displayed from the revolutionists perspective.

We moved onto the city of Managua by bus, it’s a bigger city with better scope for cycle shops (Trek and Specialised have stores here). We arrived on Sunday so most of the shops).

As we arrived at the bus station we had the usual touts coming to us to see were we wanted to go, if you are ever in this area of America you don’t need to worry about finding your bus as the touts find you plus the destination is written on the buses. The first tout wanted to charge us 300 and wait an hour on an empty bus. We walked away and found another full bus ready to leave that snapped us up loaded the bikes inside and was off within 10 minutes all for 200 (£5 for both us and the bikes).

Ginette – this sounds so simple, but the reality is, we often feel hassled, and had to negotiate with the touts. This particular tout was quite stroppy and as we walked off he threw his hands in the air ’not my problem’.

The bus we eventually took was a rust bucket, we could see the floor under our feet. It was rammed full, many people standing for long periods. It took about 1 hour and a 1/2 to cover 50 miles, stopping often to pick up passengers, one passenger was even carrying a life chicken. Riding on the local buses is not for the feint hearted but we find them interesting if not a little uncomfortable. At one point an older lady sat her big bottom on Gary’s knee, you should have seen his face.

9th Dec

Curse of the bank holiday

Just our luck, the city is celebrating a bank holiday so nearly all the shops are closed, we have managed to get groceries but the cycle store we came to the city for was closed.

Ginette – although most of the shops were closed we did pass a market with about 10-20 vendors all selling fireworks.  Celebrating Christmas in Nicaragua is a big thing and includes fireworks most nights, parades and lots of nativity scenes and sparkly lights.

We had a 6 mile wander around the part of the city, and we have nothing really to report, we did spot a family playing baseball in the middle of a side street.

At least the accommodation is OK so we can sit around and read and WiFi.

10th Dec

A bus ride to Grenada.

I finally managed to find a bike shop that was open and willing to help on the third attempt.

The city of Managua did not hold much appeal to us so we decided to move on to Granada, my bike however remained at the bike shop.

First impressions of Granada are better than we had for Managua, it has some nice plazas with grand churches and is by a large lake. By the time we settled into our hostel we only had a few hours of daylight left so took a quick stroll around the main plaza and a nearby market. Granada has some rough edges and at night there are a few drunks around so is not a perfect tourist spot but there are several tours we can do from here so we have some decisions to make on whether we want to spend any more cash on trips.

Volcanoes trip by tour bus right to a molten crater viewing point

  • Volcano hike through a forest with possible animal encounters.
  • Boat ride to the nearby lakes scattered island feature to see wildlife and locals.
  • Hire a canoe and do the same trip under our own power

The problem is these are all expensive, $20 plus each, are they worth spending money on when we get to see some of these things on our bikes for free

11th – 14th Dec

Living on an Island, oh boy we’re having fun, but not getting high.

Grenada is a pretty city and not too busy. We had a day wandering around by the lake, the market and up a church bell tower to take in the views.
In the afternoon I decided to jump back on the bus to Managua as I had received a whatsup message saying the bike was ready.

Arriving at the bike shop I found they had a front wheel, it was second hand but at least it was fitted with a tyre and inner tube, but they hadn’t been able to fix the rear derailer as the parts hadn’t arrived. I took the bike back to Granada by bus as I hoped  I could get it fixed in Granada!

Next day I had no joy with the Grenada cycle shops and was wondering what to do. We met a Canadian couple of cycle tourers at our hostel in Granada, it’s good to share stories. Even better as he took a look at my bike with me and suggested I try a new chain as I haven’t been able to have the rear derailer cog changed. Turn out this has done the trick.

We had been off the bikes for a while and hardly cycled any of Nicaragua so was itching to get going again, in a way it’s a shame as another day with the Canadian couple wouldn’t have been a bad thing.

We cycled up over a small climb and headed towards the town of Rivas. An uneventful ride other than Ginette having issues with her knee. On arrival a young man called us over as he was also a cycle tourist from Argentina, he took us to the place he was staying and I suspect we could have also stayed there but the language barrier and body language of the owner left us in doubt. We booked into a hostel, pretty tight packed little home stay but cosy enough.

The town was celebrating another religious ceremony and had a festival feel to it, the kids were dressed in fancy costumes and the plaza was well lit with Christmas lights.

Next day we cycled to the ferry in San Jorge to go over to the Isle of Ometepe. It was a strange protracted process getting the tickets, one till for the tourist tax, one till for the ferry ticket then another for the cycles tax. Topping that off we also had another fee for the bikes once on the ferry. After all these fees it still only came to approx £6 in total, but one desk and one fee would have been far easier.

Ginette – it was fascinating watching the locals load the ferry, we were all crammed in like sardines. As we waited our turn (last on, even though first to arrive, this was to protect the bikes) we were surrounding by a swarm of wasps, fortunately not they were in a good mood.

We are now in a hostel called Casa Mauro, on the Isle of Ometepe. It’s a nice place with a big kitchen and friendly owners. The island is made of two large volcanoes so the main activity here is walking up one of them. We are not sure if we will do this now, Ginette has not climbed one on this trip but reading the reviews now we are here it sounds like a hard trek with a high chance of cloud on the top. Since we have been here the volcanoes have been shrouded in cloud at the peaks so paying the $20 dollars for a guide each to the top doesn’t seem worth it.

Ginette – The walk would take 10 hours, I love walking but I think my knee would definitely object to a harduous climb and descent. Hopefully we will get to climb one of the volcanoes in Costa Rica or Panama.

We have taken a short cycle around our side of the volcano to try to find a beach by the lake to bathe on, we did reach a few. One was really just a place for cattle to reach the water. The other was used by the locals for laundry, the third was another 6 miles so we decided to head back to the hostel, hammocks and beer.

Ginette – We are passing time until we head to Mexico, we don’t want to cycle into Costa Rica until after Christmas as the cheapest flight we can find is from El Salvador. This is not a problem although it does mean each day, I have to find something to entertain the puppy (Gary). 

bees, there are a lot of them on the island

Just after I took this photo, the cow knocked over the bollard and the cows scattered in all directions. I had to wait until they’d calmed down before I could catch Gary up.

Pink chickens

one of these is a real moth and one is for decoration