A Few Days in Nicaragua

The last few days of my bike trip were spent with my friends Deb and Ron in Ometepe Island, Nicaragua. We met through our blogs, and Joel and I house sat for them last September for 3 weeks and absolutely fell in love with Ometepe Island. It is a unique and beautiful place, and in a short time we had friends everywhere.

I almost felt like I was coming home as I returned to this beautiful island. I remembered my way around, and I remembered the people who lived in the various houses I passed between the ferry to my friends’ house.

I stayed an extra day because Monday was Ron’s birthday. Festivities were planned and they sounded like fun. There are a few back stories to this event, one of which is told better by my friend Deb in her blog. Click on the link to learn how the neighbor’s doctor came to spend his vacation staying at her house with his mother and two sons, and a bit about what it means to be a doctor in Nicaragua (hint – a doctor doesn’t earn enough to afford a hotel for vacation).

There is also a post about the neighbor’s house, and the new addition they put on for the doctor’s visit. It has a cement floor, a step up from the dirt floor in the main part of the house, and they hope to afford doors someday.

The last photo of Petunia and her piglets. There is also an interesting story about her mastitis and the treatment in Deb’s blog here. I had never heard of using a toad to treat infection and swelling so I mentioned it to a few people here back in Panama. One said oh yes, she knew of someone who had an infected and swollen leg, and rubbing a cane toad on it helped her a lot. Another said his wife has very swollen legs when she was pregnant. A friend brought a toad, rubbed it over her legs, and the next day the swelling was gone. Apparently something about the toxic skin secretions of the cane toad are very healing to these problems (thought there is no mention of this in the Wikipedia article). Who would have thought! There is always something new and interesting around here.

Oooh, I must remember to include the happy birthday song!

But, like all good things, my visit came to a close. I biked to the ferry which took me across the lake. By the time I got off and got my bike back, there were no taxi’s but it was easy to just bike to Rivas, the main town just a few miles away. It took me a little while and a bit of help to find the bus station. I wish I could have taken photos of the dozens of streets clogged with street vendors, cars, bikes, pedestrians, horse carts and everything you could imagine. But, I was very busy trying to follow the nice lady with her little girl on her handlebars who was leading me to the bus station.

I feel like I have barely scratched the surface of Nicaragua, and I hope to come back again. Even on this visit it was very interesting to see more of Rivas, and there are many other cities and areas I haven’t seen at all.  There is so much to see and do in this world, and even just in our own area.

 

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Guess Who Came to Dinner?

Kris Cunningham:

This is a post by my friend Deb in Nicaragua. I am glad I got to meet this sweet, gentle doctor while I was there.

Originally posted on Rewired and Retired in Nicaragua:

doctorsMarina was diagnosed with Hashimoto’s Disease over two years ago. Her journey through this condition led her to a public healthcare surgeon in Managua, who removed her diseased thyroid in two operations a year apart. Gloria, her daughter, brought the diseased thyroid home in a plastic cup for all to see before taking it to a private clinic for a biopsy report.

I shook my head in disbelief.

What kind of pubic health system allows patients to bring a diseased body part home, then asks them to pay a private clinic for a biopsy report?

For Ron’s birthday, we decided to make a North American meal for 15 of our Nicaraguan friends and neighbors. Marina said, “My surgeon and his family are vacationing at my house for a week. Can they come, too?”

“Of course,” I replied. Again, I shook my head in disbelief.

Why would a surgeon want to…

View original 556 more words

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A Thousand Thank You’s

As I have accomplished my bicycle trip I have been so thankful and amazed by all the support, encouragement, congratulations, and good thoughts that have been sent to me. I appreciate each and every one of you who have helped me along the way!

Thank you Elza for being my biking partner for the first few days. You are just the BEST! You are young and strong and can bike rings around me, but you stayed by my side helping, teaching, supporting, and encouraging all the way. I didn’t have the experience or courage to set out on my own for my first extended trip, but with your help I got my act together and was able to successfully complete the rest of my trip. I will be watching your progress on your trip and wishing you all the best in everything you are doing along the way.

Thank you Steve and Martha for sharing your home with me in Playa Hermosa. It was great getting to know you and having such a comfortable place to take a break. Thank you for putting me up, for the great food, for the ride to the bus station, the tour of the area, and everything else you shared with me. I am looking forward to seeing you again when you are in our area.

Thank you Deb and Ron for giving me a home away from home on Ometepe, a magical place I quickly came to love also. Thanks for all the encouragement, for taking care of me when I arrived, and for being all around great friends. It’s wonderful to see you again and I am so happy to be here.

Thank all of you also, too many of you to mention – the fellow cyclists who have taught me and encouraged me, the friends who have supported me, the emails, Facebook messages, the blog comments, and the multitude of other ways you all have been here with me. Every one of you has helped me along the way.

If course the biggest thanks goes to Joel, my husband, who has always encouraged me to go for my dreams, whatever they are, no matter how crazy they may look! It is a beautiful thing to have a partner who gives you both roots and wings. I am a very lucky wife, and I appreciate you very much.

I will spend a couple more days here enjoying this wonderful place before I head home again, where life will continue. Who knows what other adventures and interesting things are in my future.

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The Destination is Reached!

After all the dreaming, preparation, training, cycling, and traveling I could hardly believe it when I crossed into Nicaragua, and I can hardly believe now that I am here. The last leg of the trip was also the best – really beautiful, fun, exciting, and an easy ride after the longer days I had done before.

I left the Nicaragua border behind me!

I left the Nicaragua border behind me!

it was a great day with a cool breeze, not too much sun, and a lot of happy feelings.

I know from hosting cyclists that there are many others on the road but up until now, I hadn’t seen any. Today though, I saw two, one from Chili traveling to Alaska, and another from England traveling down from Toronto to Argentina.

As I pedaled along the lake, there was a welcome cool breeze coming from the side, and sometimes a bit from the back. It is unusual for it to be so windy at this time of year and I was thankful it wasn’t a head wind.

Something I find very interesting in this area are the dozens of windmills along the lake. I have never had the opportunity to see them at such close range.

After a while the road went farther from the lake, went over some hills, and then came into Rivas. From Rivas I had to make my way a few more miles east to San Jorge and the ferry dock.

I was lucky at the ferry. They were loading up and left not long after I arrived.

It felt like I was coming home. I got off the ferry, proceeded up the familiar main road into town, turned down the other road towards the airport, made my way through the neighborhood, turned left at the school, and then through my friends’ neighborhood to arrive at their house.

Home!

Home!

Debbie, a fellow blogger, and her husband Ron are good friends. We house sat for them for three weeks last September and took care of their dog and cats, so I feel very familiar with their home, neighborhood, and neighbors. It does feel like coming to my Nicaraguan home, and I can hardly believe I actually made the goal of my bicycle trip!

I plan to spend a few days here, and then I will catch a bus back home.

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Leaving Costa Rica

I had been cycling for many days, occasionally taking a bus but mostly making my way on the bike. When I started it seemed like it was going to take a long time to get anywhere, but later when I checked a map it was hard to believe I was in the middle of the country, and then I was getting close to the Nicaragua border.

The last leg from Playa Hermosa though looked questionable. I knew it was more than I could bike in one day but there didn’t look like there were any towns or possible places to stay along the way. I have a tent for emergencies, but spending the night in the countryside in a tent wasn’t really what I wanted to do. So, I decided to take a bus to the border.

I was very glad I had made this decision. I was correct that there was nothing out there but untamed land. There is the Parque National Santa Rosa, and then the Parque National Guanacaste. Beyond them is the town of La Cruz which might have a hostel or two but was definitely farther than I could ride in a day. I was safe and comfortable on a bus that would get me to the border in plenty enough time to bike from there to the ferry to Ometepe Island.

We made it to the border in a couple hours, a distance that would have taken me a couple days to cycle. It was also hot, windy, and sunny so I know the weather would have been a challenge. With the bus though, I was at the border fresh and ready to go.

The border crossing went wonderfully smoothly. I paid my $7 exit tax out of Costa Rica, took the receipt to customs where there was no line, and was stamped through immediately. Then I rode a short ways to the Nicaragua border where I was shown to the first stop. They took my temperature by shining a little red light on my wrist, pronounced me fine and gave me a small piece of paper. Then I was sent to customs where I paid $1, I am not sure for what. I took that receipt, the filled out customs form, my health paper and again with no line, gave it all to the agent who asked me where I was going and stamped me through. The next stop was baggage check where they took one look at my loaded bike and just waved me through. The final stop was leaving the area for the open road where an agent checked my passport, asked where I was going, and welcomed me to Nicaragua as he sent me on my way. I don’t think it even quite noon and. I was ready to get rolling!

 

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Playa Hermosa at Sunset

I had a really good time at Playa Hermosa, nice friends, comfortable home, beautiful area, what’s not to like! Of course while I was there we needed to walk down and check out the beach. Sunset is my favorite time because it is beautiful and the setting sun doesn’t threaten to burn me.

Playa Hermosa is one of a number of lovely beaches in the area. There are also resorts and many expat homes here.

The setting sun was really beautiful and peaceful.

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We passed by a hotel to wash the sand off our feet. I loved how they had built the hotel around the huge trees.

I really enjoyed my time at Playa Hermosa with my new friends. Sometimes it is interesting to find out how much you have in common with someone. Steve and I were both in home health, had made side roads into computer work, and we enjoyed photography and art, to name just the highlights. He and his wife wanted to meet on their visit to Panama but I had already left on my cycling tour. Who would have thought that we would meet in Costa Rica instead! Check out their blog here http://stevesexpatblog.weebly.com/

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Nicoya to Playa Hermosa

Wednesday, my objective was to bike from Nicoya to Playa Hermosa where some friends offered to host me for a while. I was so tired the night before that I fell asleep before 8pm, so I woke up shortly after 5am. I packed, checked emails, but wasn’t feeling like eating at that early hour so I was on the road a bit before 6am. It is nice to get such an early start in the cool morning air. I was almost chilly the first hour, and I tend to look around a lot more when I’m not trying to keep my face out of the intense sun.

It was interesting to be out so early. There was some traffic on the road, but if I had any ideas of stopping for breakfast in an hour or two I was out of luck because nothing was open. The cool air was really nice though. I had also been warned to get an early start because it was expected to be windy in the afternoon. I could already feel the wind picking up by 7am. This is unusual because this is not the season for wind.

The time went by, the miles went by, the sun became higher, and the wind got stronger and stronger. Thankfully there was only a few spots where I was facing it head on. Most of the time it was partly or fully from the side and at least the terrain was quite flat. I listened to Seven Years in Tibet on my MP3, and his account of escaping from a prison camp in India by trekking through deadly cold conditions in the Himalayas, often with minimal food, that made my heat and saddle soreness seem quite insignificant.

Today was a 50 mile day which went very well, but the last few miles were the most challenging. As I got close to my destination the road began to climb, and climb, and climb while I was hot and tired. Another cyclist gave me a big cheer of encouragement, not knowing that I just walked the last section. But, eventually I reached the top but then faced a really intense downhill. I took it a bit slowly and checked my bike part way down, and my rims were too hot to touch. I waited a while until they were cooler and the discovered, thankfully, that I was very close to my destination. The directions to my friends’ house were excellent and I didn’t have any trouble finding them.

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There was a great reward at the end of the day – good friends, a very comfortable house, and even a pool!

I can’t believe I have made it to the other side of Costa Rica! The plan now is to rest for a day at my friends’ house. Then I will bus to the border rather than risk a need to spend the night in a rather remote area. Once at the border I bike into Nicaragua to Rivas and catch a ferry to Ometepe Island, my destination! I am really excited.

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The Ferry to the Nicoya Peninsula

Tuesday morning I woke up in Puntarenas bright and early because my plan was to take the 6am ferry across to Cabo Blanco, and then bike to Nicoya. There was a lot of rain the night before and the morning was cool, calm, and soft in the gray light.

The passage across the water was really nice. I was glad my friends gave me the idea of taking an early morning ferry because if I had landed over there late in the day, there might have been a problem finding a place to stay. It is a beautiful place, but not exactly a tourist destination with hostels and cabanas.

All good things come to a close. We docked, I walked my bike off the boat and proceeded on my ride of the day. This part of Costa Rica reminded me more of Panama. There were a lot of open spaces, agricultural farms with rice and cows, and a lot of the vegetation was very familiar.

The ride went well, though it was long and pretty hot by the time I rolled into Nicoya after just over 47 miles. Nicoya isn’t an especially interesting town, IMO, just a working town with the usual essentials. I was lucky to find a really nice place to stay though for 1200 colones (about $22.50).  I showered, had something to eat, spent a bit of time on line, and fell into bed about 8pm. Before I went to sleep though I took my tablet out by the pool and enjoyed this beautiful evening sky and then the rising full moon.

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Exploring Jaco, Costa Rica

When I land somewhere for the night, I am usually too tired to do any exploring or anything not essential. In Jaco, however, I knew I was facing a couple major climbs so I decided to take the day off and bus to the next destination. This allowed me some free time to look around the town and take my time. I also needed to find some inner tubes for the bike.

I like Jaco. It is obviously a destination for tourists, but it is an attractive town with lots to do and lots of fun things for visitors. I biked down the main drag, and then headed down a side street leading to the beach.

After the beach, I biked through town a bit.

I learned there was a bike shop it town, but it didn’t open until 9:30. When I arrived, the guy was just unlocking the shop and starting his day. He didn’t have the size tubes I needed but he directed me to another shop nearby. When I arrived that guy was also just arriving. Thankfully he had exactly what I needed, and I bought three just to be sure. He was a really nice guy and we ended up talking for almost a hour!

After I bought the tubes I headed back to the hotel, where I was told the bus would be by around 11:15. I think I have very bad bus karma! I waited, and waited, and waited…..   Another family arrived at the bus stop about 12:30 and said the bus was expected at 1:00. There was no covered bus stop and I got sunburned. But, I also got to watch the spectacular macaws. They were in the trees making quite a racket and occasionally flying around. When they fly they are fast and only silhouettes against the sky, and when they are in the trees they are hidden in the leaves. But, one time I was lucky and spotted a pair I could actually see!

Eventually, at one minute before one, the bus arrived, my bike was loaded underneath, and we were on our way. When I saw the couple long and high hills we had to climb I decided the wait for the bus was well worth it. This was the first day I didn’t bike and I (and my sore seat) needed the rest, and with the bus I would easily make my destination in time for a good night’s sleep. And, I had a lot of time to watch the wild macaws which was a real treat.

 

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Costa Rica, going to Jaco

I was in Quepos under orders to take a rest day. I spent the evening there doing pretty much nothing, but woke up early the next morning feeling much better. By 7AM it was clear that I wasn’t getting back to sleep, and I could not see spending a day lounging around. I was anxious to get back on the bike and figured if I really did need a day off, I could rest at the next destination.

It wasn’t long before I found myself peddling past miles and miles of palm trees.

I was getting tired and thirsty, so I was happy to see this ahead. When I got close though, I could see there was a lot going on! There were horses outside and tied up across the street, some of them with guys on them, women were arriving in their best cowgirl outfits, live music was inside, and the place was packed!

imageThere is a Playa Hermosa just before Jaco, another tourist oriented beach area. Do you see the sign in the middle for the Katlin Hotel? Right above that you can see two bird silhouetted against the sky. They are scarlet macaws! They are hard to photograph because they are fast in flight and hidden trees when still, but you sure can hear them. They are very noisy, and very spectacular if you can see their colors! I will keep working on catching them with my camera.

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I left the macaws behind and peddled on, climbing higher and higher. Once I saw the views from up there I was happy to have done the work. It was gorgeous with a number of different lookout points!

I like this area a lot, and I liked the town of Jaco. I need to go fetch photos from the camera and put something together about it, so stand by for more.

 

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