Thursday, 7 June 2018

Nicaragua – volcano islands and undemocratic poverty

On a 4 day bike ride in Nicaragua I explored an island volcano and biked to the Pacific.

I had an 8 day holiday in Nicaragua and Costa Rica biking through the two countries. The holiday was organised by Exodus. There were 9 of us biking (age range 50-72). We had an excellent guide Guilermo Sanchez who was very keen for us to have a memorable central American experience. The route was well thought out and we ate at small cafes for lunch. I had an extra day in Granada before the biking started. 
Granada is a beautiful old colonial town with houses arranged around central courtyards. There is a central plaza and a huge cathedral, with large modern, unattractive frescoes. The old convent was more atmospheric. The convent museum had an extensive collection about the many local Catholic traditions, and also pieces of the pre columbian rock carvings and the local primitivist art. We explored the city and walked down to lake Nicaragua. We lunched in a cafe and explored shops, including leather shops with high quality work. We had fresh fish supper in the Garden cafe with a lovely tree filled courtyard.

We drove up to a tourist viewpoint, Mirador Catarina with fine views over the lake. The many shops sold colourful tourist tat, including pottery hens and hammocks. At night the Masaya volcano mouth has red larva glowing and smoke rising, it felt v alive with bats swooping around.

We spent a night on the isla Ometepe with its two beautiful volcanoes rising above the lake and covered in cloud. The ferry from San Jorg to the island was crowded with people and tourists and I watched Nicaraguan daytime TV. We had a hot strenuous post midday ride across the island up 5 steep slopes with a lovely fruit stop at the top of the hill, big chunks of pineapple and water melon to nibble.  We descended to Ojo de Agua resort to a fabulous outdoor swimming pool surrounded by trees and with large rocks on the bottom. I got a lift to the top of the hill and then biked down to our hotel, a lakeside resort with palm trees around the huts. I enjoyed the sunset with Geoffrey and Geena followed by an excellent supper of grilled fish and jalapeño sauce.

I started the day with yoga on a stone platform overlooking the lake, the most beautiful setting for stretching and thinking. We biked across the island to the ferry port and I enjoyed seeing the countryside. I  enjoyed the ferry trip back to San Jorge. From the top deck and appreciated the islands double volcanoes much better, though there was again mist on both of them. A brief rain squall drove me inside for the last 10 mins of the crossing. We had a lovely afternoon ride across rolling countryside. Many homes had pigs and chickens and someone resting on the verandah.  We saw a bike being carried on a horse. We climbed up and had a fruit stop at the top, We had a beautiful descent to San Juan del sur. We biked across a river and onto the beach just in time for sunset. It was a wonderful way to end the day and we had a beer there. We had supper in a beach hotel I savoured octopus with garlic sauce. I walked round the town quickly, I was tired after our exertions.

People are quite poor and still doing some harvesting by hand.  The animals are quite thin, there are crops of sugar canes.   Nicaragua is visibly poor and the gdp    (5.755) is much lower than Costa Rica gdp (48.2).  Ortega has just won his third consecutive term of office. Democracy is not as developed here as it is in Costa Rica where they have enjoyed uninterrupted democracy since 1948.

Nicaragua was wonderful to explore by bike.  The volcanoes were unforgettable.  It was interesting to then be in Costa Rica which has a much stronger democracy and social systems with free health care for all citizens.

Feb 2018

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