Monthly Archives: December 2019

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

 

 

El Salvador to Honduras

Nice and short blog this week – with photo’s

30th Dec 

A hard, hard afternoon, knackered.

We had an easy day planned of a 45 mile ride to a beach area with just a 1000ft climb in the middle, we planned a short stay in this beach area for a break.

The morning was along a main road that turned onto a side road to a beach area called playa Del Espino. The road was sealed and had light traffic so was ok to cycle, the 1000ft climb wasn’t too bad but we were a bit weary from yesterday’s long ride. At the top we met a rare group of other fun cyclists (we see lots of locals on bikes but these few are the first MAMEL Lycra clad ones), one had good English and when we told him we were heading for Playa Coco his and his friends reaction was a bit of a shock, he then reassured us that the road was bad but we would be OK on our bikes as we had wide tyres. I wish he had been more pessimistic and warned us off.

Ginette –  it felt pretty good cycling up this stretch of road on our fully laden bikes to see ‘fun cyclists’ struggling to climb the hill. 

We cycled down the other side of the climb which was pretty steep but didn’t get to the beach area as our turning was up from the beach area. We could see that the road we needed to take was now a gravel one. We could have gone further down to the beach area but we knew we still had to either take this road or go back up the steep climb the next day so we opted to continue, how hard could it be!

The answer turned out to be very hard, we had 16 miles of off-road conditions which at times deteriorated to a single track with huge round stones making cycling impossible. We did manage to cycle about 60% of the route but this was a lot of getting on and off the bikes. Some of the ups were steep and pushing the bikes up over the rocky ground was a real effort, we both dropped our bikes a few times losing control of them. Ginette has now lost her teddy that has traveled with us all the time.

It was dark as we arrived at Playa Coco and the first accommodation we had marked from ioverlander (an app that identifies accommodation for campers) was near the small town and the room was a bit poor, The road improved and had tarmac so even though we were tired and tetchy we cycled on past other hotels (we asked at one and the price was to high we didn’t bother with the others) which meant another 3 miles to another ioverlander recommendation.

We finally stopped at Adelas restaurant and hotel, we opted to pay $25 for a room and ate in the restaurant. It was pitch black and late and we were both knackered. 

Ginette – this was a really hard day, it is days like this that really test your relationship. It was hot, we were tired and having to work together to get the bikes from A to B.  Fortunately we survived, but I do recall at one point telling Gary to ‘go away’ he was annoying me (he had chosen this route even if he didn’t know it was going to be bad and he was grumpy) and in fairness I was annoying him (I dropped my bike several times and I struggled to push it up the steep hills and I was grumpy). It can be incredibly challenging spending 24/7 with anyone, even if it is with the one you love. 

2nd December 

Sun sea and sand.

A nice lazy day sunbathing swimming in a safer rolling wave Pacific Ocean and a walk to town.

We are still in Adelas but have moved out of the room and have set up the tent right by the beach, we have the place to ourselves and the rest is very welcome.

Ginette – we decided we had too many white bits so we spent the day trying to fill in our patchwork quilts of bodies. Would you believe it we had to do this on an empty sandy beach, with bright sunshine and a very warm sea to play in – do I hear the violins : ) 

3rd December 

Unlike Sampson Gary is still strong 

The tent has been put up with the vestibule off the ground to let more air in, it helps but it’s still hot in the tent at night but ‘almost’ bearable.

Another day on the beach, a bit of bike maintenance, a short ride to a nearby town as a recce for when we leave, resulting in a good but steep road that cuts 10 miles off when we do leave.

I have had a haircut and the bearded has been lightly trimmed, it feels so much better to have short hair again. The barber had a job on his hands as he tried to use a comb in my hair which would be the first in 7 months. 

Ginette – it feels like I have a new man, very sexy but I’ll be glad when the beard goes.

I really enjoyed waking up to the sound of the sea, doing yoga on the beach and having time to read. 

We have both been looking at the UK political party manifestos and trying to work out who we should vote for. We have applied for a proxy vote but after several days of reading and discussing the options but we are still no wiser.  What a mess…

4th December 

Honduras.

After 3 nights at Adelas on Coco beach front we packed up and set of for the Honduras border which was 45 miles away.

We had a couple of hill climbs at the beginning of the day then the rest of the day was spent going up and down much shorter climbs. 

Ginette had a slight twinge in her knee and had a constant thirst on today, I thought she would want to stop at the border but we pushed on past for another 20 miles into Honduras, so a long ride today.

  Ginette – both of these comments are an under statement, my knee, thumb and other parts of my body ached, my knee was quite sore for the first 10 miles. I think this was due to the fact I was dehydrated, I had a constant thirst on for most of the day. At one pitstop I managed to guzzle a 1.5 litre of water and a fizzy drink.  

The border crossing was relatively pain free, we changed €60 US for 1380 limpiras, these high number currencies are really hard to get your head around. For example I bought a beer later and thought I was being overcharged as they wanted 20 limpiras, when this is actually less than a pound.

 Ginette – as the banker in our relationship, I really struggle for the first couple of days, in Honduras we only had two days so I didn’t think it would be an issue but by the end of day we had virtually spent $60. I had hoped this would last two days, but it only provided for lunch, visa payments, hotel and evening meal (which sounds like a lot, but really isn’t in Central America).  

We had lunch just past the border control of rice and prawns and lots of drinks to sate the ever thirsty Net machine – all for £6

The 20 mile ride in Honduras was on the main Pan American highway but with good lanes for us to cycle in off the main road. Lots of calls of Gringo again and the people are quicker to shout hellos to us. For a country with such a bad reputation so far we have felt very welcome. 

Ginette was not impressed with the love hotel we had made our way too, it was not as good a quality as the others we have been in. She is getting fussy and didn’t like the cockroaches and army of ants in some of the rooms. We cycled another 1.5 miles and arrived at Hotel Sunset exactly as the sun was actually setting.

  Ginette – We were tired, hot and sweaty and it was dark.  Gary would have stayed in this ‘hotel’ but no matter how many rooms they showed me I really couldn’t. The rooms were motel style, the first was covered in giant ants, all over the floor and in the bathroom wall was covered. As we opened the door for the second room, a big black insect, probably a cockroach scurried under the bed. In addition to the wildlife the toilet only had a plastic curtain around it and the door for the rooms was metal and had a bit gap under the door. I think you had to be there to see it. The next hotel we visited was cheaper and far better but still had a curtain to cover the toilet (this apparently is the norm.)

Dinner was a pizza cafe found after a short walk into town, it was a messy affair and probably the worse pizza we’ve had for a while but it filled a hole.

We past the young lady waiting outside our hotel for a lift! In a really short skirt outside our hotel. She was still there when we got back so business must be a bit slow tonight, seriously though it’s a shame to see these young girls having to make a living this way.

6th December

Goodbye Honduras hello Nicaragua.

We left Nacaome fairly early, we had decisions to make on route as to our final destination as the mileages to known accommodation did not work out well, so we would have had a short day or a long day.

We reached San Lorenzo and as it’s roads were busy we opted not to attempt to go to its centre and continued past on the main road. We did stop for drinks and fruit, the locals were friendly and curious about us and we felt pretty safe.

We have been raced along the road by a couple kids giving a backie all the time the one doing the pedalling having to work frantically whilst his passenger kept looking back at us smiling and geeing on his mate.

We have seen lots of horseback cowboys herding cattle in the fields and along the road, I am no rider but they have a different posture and riding style, just like the cowboy films.

Ginette – several of these ‘cowboys’ are very young children, we have been fascinated by the way they heard the cattle (horses and cows) along the grass bank right next to the main unfenced road.  Poverty levels are high, therefore many children do not attend school and help in family businesses. 

It appears to me that the collection of wood for fires is a chore given to the elderly as you will see them struggling along with their wood loaded on there backs or in wheel barrows.

We are still getting shouts of Gringo but also American sayings thrown at us “how you doing “ “what’s up man” but all in good jest and lots of waving. There are still a few that like to ignore us as we wave and say hello but mostly the locals are nice.

Ginette – Although we have a very wide hard shoulder to cycle on several vehicles have overtaken on the opposite side of the road and have had to use our hard shoulder to pass. It is quite disconcerting cycling along with a vehicle speeding towards you. With the exception of one vehicle they all were in total control and there was no risk to us but this would definitely be classed as reckless driving in the UK.

I have struggled today, by 11.30 at Choluteca I wanted to stop, we planned to do just that and used a cool air conditioned Wendy’s to have lunch and look at hotels. After a long break in this cold environment with food and three large fizzy drinks in me I felt a lot better, it was still early in the day so we decided to continue to the border which was 32 miles away.

The afternoon was better for my body but I was still not firing on all cylinders, the heat played it’s part as it reached 38 degrees so pretty sapping.

Ginette – the previous day I’d struggled to keep up with Gary, but today I felt like I was pushing him most of the way. It is amazing how the body works. 

Approaching the border we past a queue of lorries 1.5 miles long. It was late but still light, the exit out of Honduras was straight forward but entry to Guatemala was not. We had to jump through a few hoops and wait around to be processed which took at least an hour, which meant when we left it was pitch black.

Ginette – I had not been looking forward to Honduras we had heard so many negative things about the country (drug gangs, one of the highest homicide rates in the world etc, it had been under a military coup only 10 years ago). But in our limited experience it did not feel that different to any other Central American country. The people were more friendly than they had been in El Salvador, we were instantly met with people happy to see us. Vehicles on the road gave us plenty of space (most of the time) and the road conditions were fairly good with a wide shoulder for us to cycle on. There’s still alot of rubbish by the roadside (my pet hate) and there was also a lot of dead animal smells.  At one point we cycled past vultures eating a decomposing cow. The main food source seems to be corn and chicken, the weather conditions allow two crops of corn a year so it is a staple food for Central Americans. Personally I don’t like the smell and corn bread is served with everything. People are dressed in western clothes however women wear pinnies over their western clothes and in some areas wear a white scarf over their heads. There’s still lots of stray, very timid dogs, many of them look very ill (Julie you would hate it) we’ve bought dog biscuits to give out whenever we stop because Gary thinks they need fattening up.   

During our very short stay we felt safe and welcome and would not hesitate visiting again. However I am not sure how I would feel as a solo female, I cycled ahead of Gary for 5-10 miles and during this time I was wolf whistled and blown kisses and received lechy looks from drivers. This has happened in other countries but was much more noticeable in Honduras. We also avoided cycling in the north of the country where apparently the crime levels are much higher.

We are now in Nicaragua and our chosen hostel Santa Cruz was only 4 miles from the border so we didn’t have to cycle far in the dark.

The border town was in full celebration, several streets had small parties going on and they all looked to be religious in nature. The plaza had a large Christmas tree and all in all the place had a lovely feel to it, surprisingly so for a small border town.

El Salvador

27th Nov

Ginette playing dropsies. El Salvador.

We had breakfast in one of the towns small roadside cafes, (scrambled eggs, mashed black beans a little goats cheese and some French bread) the lady was really smiley and attentive and made us feel very welcome and all for £3 each.

Ginette – the lady had a lovely smile and reminded me of my Aunty Jenny, as kids we spent a lot of time with this amazing woman and her family.

The ride to the border was mainly down hill but we still had a few climbs to do, the road conditions varied greatly and we had to be careful on the downhills due to pot holes. This area is lush green and we had had some great views today.

Stopping for a picture Net lost control of her stationery bike and did a slow motion crash, no harm done other than breaking her headphones cable and a few bruises.

At one of our drink breaks a young man came over to us as we were about to go and gifted to us a cold sports drink, these guys don’t have much themselves so it’s lovely when something like this happens to us.

For dinner we aborted our attempts to order food in one cafe, the lady was a real “computer says no” type of person so we walked out. In contrast we ate a Chinese meal from another street cafe and witness the lady cross the road to a shop to buy the drinks we ordered.

Ginette had some Guatemalan spare cash so treated us both to new tops, however these only cost £1 each so didn’t use much of her money.

Ginette’s bike must be tired because whilst we were shopping it did another kamikaze dive, a local lad came over to point out Nets bike playing dead across the road. 

The border crossing was so easy we were worried we had missed a station, we were stamped out of Guatemala but there was no office on the El Salvador side, we had to check with a policeman that we didn’t need a stamp entering his country.

We had 8 miles to cycle to a known love motel and this was all up hill, climbing approx 1200ft.

The Love motel was actually quite nice, the shower room was fully tiled, spacious and clean. The best we have had for a while and at £11 not a bad price.

Ginette – first impressions of El Salvador, we have heard/read so many negative stories about this country that I jumped out of my skin when a car back fired, I seriously thought we’d been shot at.  The people are less smiley than Guatemala, I suppose they have a lot to be wary about, as the country has a very high homicide rate (mainly drug related).

28th Nov 

Day one El Salvador and a very hilly start

We had a meal of Pupusas last night. Pupusa is a traditional dish in El Salvador of corn bread flatbread stuffed with your choice of ingredients, it’s served very hot and you eat it with your hands, hence you need to wait for it to cool down. The corn bread has the same off putting smell as the Mexican and Guatemalan corn bread but the addition of the ingredients inside seem to help as we actually enjoyed them and they only cost us 40p each.

Ginette – the pupusas were OK but as I looked at the chef, her daughter and granddaughter I couldn’t help thinking, about the calories contained in these little snacks. After dinner we wanted something sweet but the only shop available was behind bars, I find it really restrictive asking/pointing for what I want without being able to browse the shops. We take it for granted in the UK walking around shops/pharmacies, but in South/Central America especially after dark it is rare to walk into a shop.  Even if you have this luxury, it is highly likely there will be an armed guard by the till and the door.

In the morning we made our own coffee on the stove as usual, cooking in the room but had breakfast in the nearby town of Ahuachapan as we needed to find WiFi to decide on our route options. First stop in town was to purchase a SIM card as my phone had no signal using the Guatemalan sim. The small shop I used set this up for me but between us we couldn’t communicate so stopped at another Claro store where they set me up with credit and WiFi as well.

Ahuachapan is a fairly large town and had a good feel to it, lots of stores and busy streets so a good place for sorting the phone and breakfast. We decided to cycle the Route De Flores, it is supposed to be very scenic and have a few pretty towns to pass through, we are then headed down to the Pacific coast to have a break from the mountains.

Today we have been climbing again up hill’s ranging from 5% to 8% with very little in the way of flats and downs for breaks, cycling up these hills in 32 degrees is hard work especially as it took us nearly 3 hours to reach the first town where we finally bought some cold drinks as we were parched.

Conception de Taco, the first town, was kind of touristy. It had the usual souvenir shops and even a tractor drawn carriage ferrying tourists around. There were some westerners here but most of the tourists were South American. I am now the proud owner of a new shirt to wear for New Year’s Eve and other occasions, all my other clothes are far to shabby (like me at the moment).

Ginette – the town had lots of colourful murals on the walls and cobbled streets.

We cycled up again to the next town of Apaheca, this was not so far but by the time we reached there I was feeling pretty much done in, Net suggested we stop here so we stopped in small hostel. One double bed and two single beds in our room, it’s a bit squashed but at least we had it to ourselves. It had a kitchen we could use but it was open plan next to the living room in which granny was sitting watching telly. This place was more an air B and B but without the hosts leaving.

A small parade passed through the town of men women and children all on horseback with music fireworks and gunshots. The town had an eating area a bit like a Butlins / superstore cafe area, we again ate the local Pupusa dish, this and two beers for $4.

A dog had taken a liking to me, resting his head on the chair next to me and eventually resting his head on my lap.

Ginette – we stayed in the Butlin like resort longer than planned as it was raining, Gary had a double banana split desert which was easily big enough for two but he managed to wolf it down.  

 

29th Nov

We can see the sea.

We were woken up at 5am by the same group of horseman and drummers, parading at 5pm singing and blasting guns and fireworks 

I used the kitchen to make coffee and cereal and the old lady of the house appeared and kept an eye on me. She was muttering to herself and when she went into the loo was having an animated conversation with herself. I suspect she is not particularly well.

We had an easy ride today, the first 18 miles was all down hills of 4 to 8% we hardly needed to use the pedals. We had some good views across the valleys and of the volcanoes. This road is called the Ruta des Flores, the route of flowers. Lots of roadside blossoms all down the hill.

We stopped at Sonzacate, a large town bustling and noisy. We find the Central American shops are competing for business by seeing who can play the largest speakers from the doorway. 

El Salvador has a bad reputation for the amount of crime and murders committed but we feel safe enough around these people some are outwardly friendly but I have noticed it is harder to achieve any smiles.

The ride after this town was on the main roads as we had left the ruta des Flores, the large main road had heavy vehicles but a hard shoulder for us to ride on. We turned off as we headed for the coast and are cycled on a B road that was pretty flat and we were close to sea level (this morning we were higher than Ben Nevis at over 4400ft).

An impoverished woman with hairy patches on her arms and her 6 year old filthy dirty son with soil encrusted hands (this is not a judgment, just trying to show the condition of this little family) came and tried to talk to us, she mentioned comer(food) well as we were sitting eating our packed lunch we could hardly let them go without so shared food and sweets with them, along with a few dollars.

I will point out that there were others around who didn’t look so poor so there was also a healthy community here.

We camped on the beach at a poor campsite, the owners live on a beach in a straw shack and cooked us dinner of prawns rice and salad (we enquired about buying some fish for us to cook but ended up with them cooking for us) there were a few other local shacks around, a bunkhouse and a posh resort hotel 50 metres down the beach hence we are the poor neighbours.

The sand was black and the sea was warm with big waves to play in. We arrived early afternoon so had had a good refreshing play in the sea.

The beach area was nice, The campsite was cheap and functional but there were few grocery stores or bars so we decided to take a risk and move on to the next cluster of beach surfing towns, hopefully this will not be the wrong decision 

Ginette – this was a lovely quiet area but the facilities were very basic, the toilet had a door but it didn’t lock, there was no shower facilities and at times no running water to wash our dishes or hands after using the toilet.  It was interesting watching the local families living what appeared to be a very simple life of fishing, eating and chilling, but their houses were very shack like and vulnerable being so close to the sea.

30th Nov

Should have listened to our nagging doubts.

A very hot sweaty night, our tent is not good in hot climates, the Hilliburg is a good quality tent but we had not researched how it would cope in hot weather.  Sleeping outside in the fresh air is a nice idea but the only way to enjoy our tent is to keep all the doors open and unfortunately although this makes it bearable, the insects think we have invited them to dinner.

We were in two minds weather to stay another night as the area was quiet, the beach was nice and we could put up with the ropy campsite. However there was a surfing resort 28 miles along the coast with loads of backpacking places so we opted to cycle on so we could settle for a couple of nights in one place.

The ride was hilly with several climbs and descents to contend with, we climbed over 1800 feet but never higher than 100 feet in altitude. We did have some good views of the Pacific Ocean and past a few other beach areas, most were lower down the cliff faces of this rocky coastline.

Arriving at our destination of El Tunco we found a week long surfing contest taking place, loads speakers broadcasting on the beach and a busy resort. The place was at odds to everything we had seen elsewhere, it had loads of cafes and hotels all squeezed in a small area protected by security gates at each entrance. We quickly realised that all the prices were hiked up in this area and knocked on a lot of hostels and hotels to try to get a good price. We did find rooms at 25 dollars, and a really rough camping pitch for 5 dollars but the cafes and shops were also overpriced. We soon regretted leaving the last site.

We moved on another 5 miles to a larger town called El Majahaul, but we had the same problem trying to find a discount hotel as the town was close to the main city and it was Friday so it was due to be busy for the weekend.

We cycled on again to Playa SAN Diego, it was now getting late and we ended up still paying 25 dollars for a room, but we were at the beach and we had a pool even if the hotel was a little tired itself. 

The sea was well fierce and we had a little play in the waves but we didn’t venture too deep as it looked and felt risky.

There was not a lot else in this area to keep us there another day so we made the decision to move on again, this meant an inland trip of another 110 miles till we can reach another beach resort.

Ginette – a very frustrating day, we have a tight budget and know that outside the resorts we can find accommodation for under $15 so resent paying more but towards the end of the day we decided to give in and pay the extra money. On the upside we had a balcony overlooking the pool and sea on the downside we shared the room with spiders, a colony of ants and god only knows what other wildlife. The air-conditioning didn’t work, the springs in the bed were poking through the mattress which was exceptionally saggy and we had limited water for the sink and toilet. Not great but we’ve stayed in worse. 

30th Nov

A day of head down cycling.

We covered approx 65 miles on main roads of varying quaility, we had 110 miles to go to the point of interest so that meant the days riding was about covering ground.

We did stop at the 30 mile point at a large town called Zacatecoluca (not an easy one to pronounce), it was the usaul busy noisy town that we are used to. We completed some food shopping and had lunch and took some photos by a large christmas tree and snow men.  I am not even sure if they ever get real snow here.

I was getting weary with 18 miles to go so had to stop more often for drinks but a shot of coffee sorted me out, Ginette was doing fine but flagged with 3 miles to go and stuffed her face with dry biscuits and warm water.

We spent the night in an Auto motel, or as we prefer to call them a love motel, charges are by the hour as well as all night fees. They are usualy clean tidy and roomy and this one was one of the better ones so we were happy with it especialy as it was only $10 a night

If you are aware of how jumpy Ginette can be then you will find this next bit funny. We were just starting to settle into the room when Ginette thought she heard a knocking, when she heard it again she searched for the source, lifting the lid of a box by the side of the bed she jumped out of skin when a hand poked through with a TV remote control, towels and some soap.  There are now finger nail marks in the ceiling that will tae some explaining.

Ginette – This was hilarious the man kept on talking to me but I was reduced to a fit of the giggles. Can you imagine opening a box next to your bed and a hand poking through?? These Love Hotels are really quirky, they include mirrors and tissue boxes above the bed but they are so clean and roomy. I love them.

More pictures from El Salvador