By: Tim Notier
The border between Nicaragua and Honduras took a little longer than average, along with a dose of some of the hottest temperatures we had come by so far. All we needed was just a little patience, and I was continuously thankful that Marisa is fluent in Spanish.
When we cross borders throughout the Americas, the form always asks for my nationality. I have to ask myself: “What am I?" We are in the Americas, so American doesn't really specify where I am from. I think it is kind of ignorant to hijack an entire continent and say, “You know, I'm from the America where we play football with our hands."
So, I put down USA... but that's not right either. No one says, “I am England" or “I am South Africa." It is English, South African, Asian, or Irish and so on. I thought about writing down USAish or USAian, because I didn't want to write “A Citizen of the United States of America," but figured that would add to the confusion.
Once we proved we were worthy of entry into Nicaragua, we took an eagle’s eye view of the possibilities this new country had to offer. Volcanos, nature, and some off-road exploring were top priorities on our list.
Due to the fact that we never have a plan in advance, we just went with the flow. Everywhere we looked, there were hostels displaying ads for local trips into canyons, hikes up volcanos, and even a sport we had yet to hear of: volcano boarding. This country seemed to have a lot to offer its new burst of tourists.
We quickly fell in love with Nicaragua. We climbed the ancient volcano Apoyeque to gaze down into the crater lake. It was a hell of a hike in the heat, but both the road to it, and the hike up the narrow path, was worth all of the sweat.
We also found ourselves on a lot of backroads, winding through small villages and through scenery of green pastures with volcanos in every direction. We rode to San Cristóbal down some of these small roads. Wild (or free range) horses galloped on both sides as we made our way down dirt paths in the general direction to San Cristóbal. Photo opportunities were plenty, and we took time to absorb our surroundings, and to quench our thirsts as the heat of the day beat down on us.
Volcano boarding was all the hype around Leon, and is definitely not something that would ever be offered in the states. We signed up for an outing, and prepared ourselves for both the hike up, and the ride down. It turned out to be amazing. I have learned not to get overly excited about certain places or activities, as most of the time it is overcrowded, or just a checklist item on the bucket list of travelers. “You've got to aim low," I always say. “If you aim low, you will be ecstatic for just about anything from bland to amazing."
The hike up Cerro Negro, the volcano that's used for volcano boarding, was relatively easy with many views into the distance of an endless supply of volcanos on the horizon. With the heavy wooden boards strapped to our backs, we made our way up to the summit. Once at the “lanes" that we would use to plunge down the side of the volcano, we suited up in our bright yellow jumpsuits, goggles, bandanas, and strapped our backpacks on our belly before zipping the jumpsuits up tightly. We looked like a group of pregnant minions about to do something mischievous.
My ride down was both fast and furious. Like a shooting star I plummeted down the side, leaving a tail of debris behind me and crash landing at the bottom. Marisa, who is more graceful than I at just about everything, slowly meandered down the side at a pace that allowed her to enjoy the experience.
We spent a few days in Leon trying to survive the heat by day, and fending off mosquitos by night. We then received a message on FB from a couple, Yasenia and Raul, who stated they would love to host us, and confirmed the mosquito population was significantly less in Managua than in Leon. So we gladly accepted and spent four days learning about their paths in life, and exploring the surrounding area. We are forever grateful to those who have offered us temporary homes and embraced us as filthy and smelly as we can be.
Yasenia and Raul were two voices of many urging us to go to Ometepe, and after hearing about it in detail, there was no way we were going to miss it. We set off to Lake Nicaragua, where we loaded our bike onto a ferry, and then headed to Ometepe, an island made from two volcanos protruding out of the lake. There is a road that makes a giant figure eight around both Volcano Concepción and Volcano Maderas, and we explored many of the small towns that popped up along the route.
We found a little family-run farm that also had spaces to set up camp. It was secluded and we were some of the only guests as it was not on the main path of “hot spots" and hostels. It was our kind of place. We camped under a palapa with a view of the lake. It was absolutely wonderful. We explored, rested, wrote in our journals, took pictures, and read books while lying in our hammock. Plus, it was great to be camping again.
Marisa was ecstatic as horses played on the beach just below our camp. Everything was just the way we would have wished. We swam in the water holes of Ojo de Agua and snapped pictures of nearly everything around us as we played tourist.
After Ometepe, it was time to enter Costa Rica. Nicaragua had proved to be an amazing place full of beautiful and friendly people as well as wonderful landscapes and wildlife. We enjoyed every second we spent exploring, climbing, relaxing, and absorbing all it has to offer.
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