El Sal, Honduras, Nica, & Costa Rica!

 

Highlights from our travels through El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, & Costa Rica! Good people strange places!

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From la Isla Ometepe, through Costa Rica to Panama and everywhere in between

Its been a while! Lots of craziness since we got off Volcan Telica in Leon Nicaragua. We ran into Tommy and Bradie and gave them the beta for the volcan hike! After relaxing for an afternoon we packed up from Hostel Albergue (highly recommended) and hit the road towards Rivas. We smashed over a hundred km into some windy conditions near the shores of Lake Managua. We took lunch and went swimming in the lake it was awesome!

Toña and Bananas. Nicaragua lifestyle

Toña and Bananas. Nicaragua lifestyle

We decided to bypass the capital city of Managua and go into the mountains around it. Towards the end of the day it was very hilly. We skitched on the back of a dumptruck up the big hills and ended up in the town of El Crucero right on the ridge of the mountains. Beautiful views from both sides of the ridge as it wound gently downhill. With minimal light and no where to spend the night we asked the policia if we could camp in the back of their station. They informed us that it wasn’t a campground. We told them we weren’t looking for a campground but a place to lay down for the evening. It was completely dark and we don’t cycle at night so they finally let us stay. Under one condition, we had to leave at 5am! We didnt even set up tents which was a mistake. It was very windy and clouds were drizzling over us as they pass over the mountain. Irregardless we were on bikes at 5am. Jackets and lights on we descended into the darkness hoping for the arrival of the sun. Once it got light out it was much warmer. We smashed 80km by noon and made it to Rivas where we could take a boat to the island!

Sunset view from the mountains. Pacific ocean barely visible

Sunset view from the mountains. Pacific ocean barely visible

We took the ferry from San Jorge to the island of Ometepe located in the middle of Lake Nicaragua. This fresh water surrounded land mass was an amazingly lush oasis. With 2 volcanoes looking over the island, it was easy to navigate as the two points acted as reference cairns while riding around the green farm country.

View of Ometepe from the boat

View of Ometepe from the boat

Permaculture farms were abundant on the island so we were excited to check out the farming techniques practiced here. Traveling down the concrete brick road felt like a wide bike path with few vehicles and locals biking all around. Seeking a farm to help out on and stay at, we ran into Salvador who was a Nicaraguan that moved to Ometepe a year prior with his Volkswagon bus and was living on this small farm on the lake. He told us we could stay there so we followed him down a sandy washed out road till we found Finca Samaria. Locally owned and operated, Samaria was a nice hideaway on the lake covered in fruit trees with a beach bar and everything!

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Samaria garden

We made a deal that we would work the following morning for a free night stay at the farm. The work consisted of collecting trash and washed up sticks on the beach and raking the property in front of the garden, which felt great to help out a bit! OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

There were many great permaculture ideas that we were able to practice at this farm along with the other farms on the island. Compost toilets turned out to be more common than hot water!

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Compost toilet at Samaria

Next day we cycled to the other side of the island where we ended up at a larger scale permaculture farm and hostel buried in the island forest called Zopilote. The tranquilo environment was great, but was not meant for cycle tourists as the path to the hostel was not ideal for bikes.

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Zopilote bus with a green roof!

After realizing that we couldn’t volunteer and that the hostel wasn’t really biker friendly we packed up and traveled further down the road till we reached the newly developed permaculture farm, Jardin de la Vida. The owners, Rachel and Trevor, have been restoring this small  lake view permaculture farm ever since they bought it less than a year ago.  Before they owned the land, a local family used many poor techniques to tend the land so it was interesting to see what solutions were being put into effect. We were looking to do some work, which was perfect as they were building an outdoor cob kitchen next to their cob oven.

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Burning out a root next to the newly built cob oven and the location of the cob kitchen.

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Working on the cob kitchen

Camping at the farm was great, meeting people from all over the world who also were interested in farming and similar topics like us. The farm had a cabana made of bamboo, 2 herb spirals, and a garden with shaded sections for the more sensitive plants.

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Bamboo chill zone

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Covered basil plants being protected by the wind and sun

Nearing the end of our stay we heard that the farm had too much going on and wanted to give one of their chickens to the bike crew! We had been thinking about having a team mascot for quite some time and felt like this was a perfect opportunity. That night  Ike built a cage out of reused chicken wire, reused plastic, twine, live tree shoots, and palm leaves.

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Making the structure for the chicken casita

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Finished travel chicken coop with bike mount

The next day we strapped the newly constructed cage to the back of the bike and left the farm with our new friend Cisse. Cisse is over a year old and was not producing eggs, which was another reason why she was being gifted to us.

Cisse getting ready for her big journey!

Leaving the island of Ometepe was bittersweet as the amazingly lush farm land and the freshwater lake surrounding was quite a site to see. Definitely a place worth looking more into for the Sustainably South Crew. To leave the island we had to take a 10 hour ferry to San Carlos, then another smaller boat down Rio Frio to the Costa Rican border. The ferry was a trip in itself as we first had to sneak the chicken on, then wait for all the bananas to be loaded up, which Ike enjoyed helping with.

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Packing bananas onto the ferry

Getting to the port,  Hen managed to distract the man in charge as Ike cruzed behind with the chick. Once on the river lancha (smaller boat), we motored down the calm jungly river to Costa Rica.

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Lancha ride with Cisse hiding under our seats!

Finally in Costa Rica, we kept hearing the worst word on bike tour, EXPENSIVE. Everything we bought was double the price in Cost Rica for some unknown reason. The land was definitely cleaner than other countries we had passed thru, so hopefully the extreme markups were helping to clean and conserve the land. We decided to head thru the north eastern, carribean side of Costa Rica and to skip out on the capitol, San Jose, which turnd out to be a great choice!

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Henry taking a tractor skitch thru countryside

The first night in Costa Rica we stopped at an inviting house where the senora in charge agreed to let us stay under her citrus tree in the back.

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Harvested platanos, basil, spicy peppers, star fruit, oranges, mandarines and limons from around our backyard campsite.

The following morning we packed up from under the citrus tree and were about to leave when the family asked if we wanted one of their baby chicks to join Cisse on tour! We denied the chicklet as we had enough on our plate (not literally) with the one chicken.

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Cisse McChillin

Being on bike tour, it can be hard to stay healthy as we are always breaking open the first aid kit as new problems always arise. After staying with the nice family from the previous night we realized we needed more anti-biotics for our trip. Later that day we were cycling thru the pineapple infested landscapes when we saw a road cyclist, Jimmy, pedaling in the opposite direction. He caught up with us about an hour later and started telling us about how he was a pharmacist in the town of Pital which was about 15 km from where we were. We told Jimmy we were looking for more medicine and also were looking for a place to sleep for the night. He told us he wanted to give us the medicine as a gift and invited us to stay at his families house in Pital. His wife Deimy cooked us dinner, breakfast and even packed us a lunch for on the road the next day! What amazing hospitality Jimmy and his family had given us!

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Jimmy the cycle pharmacist who let us stay at his house

Jimmy escorted us out of Pital and we were again en route for the Carribean coast! We rode thru tall tree canopies where we could hear the howler monkeys howling as well as many different species of birds throughout the forested area. The overcast days made riding much more enjoyable and allowed us to stay on our bikes during the hottest time of the day. Crossing many large rivers we came to a police station where we asked for advise on where to sleep for the night before we made the push to Limon in the morning. After one of them walked us across the bridge we decided to take a dirt road to get off the busy highway. Starting to rain, we saw a greenhouse that looked like it might be nice to camp under. The family said we could camp there for the night and invited us in for an amazing dinner. They even fed Cisse and gave us extra food for the her journey! There were more chickens and other birds here where Cisse made friends with their female peacock.

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Hangin under the greenhouse with the birds

The next day we hit the Guápiles Highway which is the extremely congested highway that connects Costa Rica’s capitol city, San José to Limón, Costa Rica’s biggest caribbean port. There were semis passing us left and right as we were breathing the smoky exhaust from the huge trucks. A common theme of latin america has been the ridiculous amount of pollution produced from many of the vehicles as emissions testing does not exist down here. We managed to send the highway to Limon! Costa Rica’s biggest Caribbean port. Once we got past Limon we headed south down the tranquillo caribbean costal road! After 4 months of travel; two of them being on the Pacific the other two inland in Centro America, we finally made it to the majestic Caribbean Sea! Pretty exhausted from the 110km push that day we stopped at a chill looking bar to get some water and we got sucked into the “beer trap.” This is when you get offered just “one” beer and end up leaving with quite the buzz. It all started when we let our chicken out. The locals where so surprised and excited on our trip that they were giving us some sort of Costa Rican liquor and taking pictures with us and our chicken! It was here where we met Merlin aka El Mago (the magician) who was a Costa Rican fellow living near to the bar and invited us to stay at his humble abode. El Mago worked in the cruise business and was building a bar close to his house. He gifted us home grown habaneros, honey and coconut oil that his family made.

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Our friends the Magician (El Mago) and Sofia at the roadside bar

Life is slow on the caribe. Rastas sit lazily smokin spliffs under palm trees as the waves crash down on the beaches. Speakin of lazy, we found this sloth sanctuary on the side of the road and decided to stop and check these sluggish creatures out. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

We swiftly walked around the reception and, being recreation and touring professionals, took our own tour. The sanctuary rehabilitated sloths and had a high canopied forest to walk thru. We only saw one sloth here which was in a small cage. We found this ironic when there was a huge jungle environment right next to the porched cage. There were many informative signs on this jungle path about the different plants in the forest including this sign on banana trees. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

It explains how bananas are parthenocarpic (without pollination) herbaceous plants and since the fruit lacks seeds, pollination is achieved vegatively by planting suckers with part of the corm (bulb). So if you are trying to plant bananas, you will need to start with a bulb as seeds are non existent.

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Found this interesting as we try to eat at least 4 bananas a day while riding!

Made it to Puerto Viejo for the carribean swells and stayed at a super relaxed hostel called La Ruka. At first they told us that camping was not allowed on the property, then they saw our bikes and our chicken and quickly changed their minds! We set up camp in the back and enjoyed a couple of days on the beach. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Cisse relaxing in the hammock at the hostel

One of the days Ike took a trip into the Cahuita jungle with some new friends Trina, Kai, Peter and Thor.

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Jungle friends!

Trina and Ike biked 15 km to the jungle path where they stopped for some all natural, straight off the tree cocos. When traveling anywhere around this temperate climate, we have learned to always carry a coco knife with us. There is nothing more refreshing than a fresh coconut hiding under those flattened palm leaves. Trina and Ike took a dunk into the carribe while waiting for the others to arrive from the bus.  We saw lots of wildlife including howler monkeys, white-headed capuchin monkeys, sloths, a yellow eyelashed viper, crazy insects and raccoons that looked much healthier than the city coons that were used to back home.

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Banana spider webbin awound

Hen cruzed to the beach with some german chicks and enjoyed some wave watchin under the coco trees. Hen and ze germans cruised on bikes about 12km to playa manzanillo. This beach was super chill with great blue waters of the Caribbean the perfect temp for swimming. Swimming, biking, and chicas (some of my favorite pastimes) what a great way to spend the afternoon! He helped some beautiful spanish girls open a coco nuts with the machete. Machetes are pretty useful tools used by almost everyone in latin america. After months of slaying cocos our skillz have been honed and Hen whipped up a batch of cocos for the bodacious babes from Basque Country. Later on at the beach the spanish chicks went swimming topless! Ah nothing more beautiful than the human body as my mom always says! Babes and Machetes ooooollalalalaaa =)

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Beached jellyfish in Puerto Viejo

Puerto Viejo was great for the time we spent. We felt like we met some really amazing people and had some great experiences here, but had to keep on keeping on.  Saying goodbyes seemed to take all morning although we were only here for 3 days. Crazy how close and comfortable you can become in such a short amount of time! We knew the next few days were going to be epic, but had no idea the pass was going to be so intense and steep. The 4 days and 244 km thru the mountainous jungle, called El Diablo (The Devil), was filled with switchbacks on the winding 2 lane road. The last night we camped close to the top of the pass in the jungle. When we found a spot we were completely spent and quickly put up our tents as the rain was starting to pour. Got into the tents just in time, Cisse and all!

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Ike making dinner in his sleeping sack, with Cisse assissting as the rain drenches the bikes outside!

Having Cisse on tour, we have noticed how many of the travelers that we have been aquatinted with have little to no experience with chickens. We have been able to teach people about Cisse, with most all the travelers holding and petting the animal for the first time in their lives. We find it funny that most of these people eat this animal regularly, yet have never had the chance or been interested in learning about where it comes from or even realizing how strange chickens really are. We feel like they are unevolved dinosaurs sometimes eating anything in site and making sounds that are unrepeatable. Cisse has been not only a great travel friend but a piece of education to help teach people that the food that they eat does NOT just come from the grocery store, but is actually raised and takes a lot of work to make it to their dinner plate every night.

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Hen and the hen studying route thru the jungle during a quick break!

Going over the mountains was amazing with many small farms and cabanas atop hills looking as if they were tree forts.

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Personal small scale sawtooth shaped greenhouse

Finally arriving into Boquette the landscape changed completely from mountain jungle to wide open tree forests. Dry grasses and mango trees covered the road side with Volcan Baru seen from the town. The town was surrounded by mountains, hidden in a valley of cool rock formations and rivers. Hen had lived here as a greenhorn backpacker in 2008 taking spanish classes and enjoying the bountiful recreation opportunities that the valley has to offer. We have been staying at Hostel Mamallena which is owned by Hen’s old friend Miguel! He was been very inviting hooking us up with a spot to camp in the back yard!

wrenchin bikes! So psyched for a bike stand!

wrenchin bikes at the hostel! So psyched for a bike stand!

We visited Henrys buddy and local climber Cesar, who hooked us up with some climbing gear. We quickly hitchiked up to the crag (Crag (n) -A rock formation where rock climbing happens) and got on the rock. Rock climbing is one of our great passions. Opportunities to go climbing on this trip have been slim so it felt great to go cragging. We brought Cisse to the crag and she was a super chill crag chicken.

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Ike leading the Vertical Garden route in Boquette

The next day we went and checked out these super sick waterfalls with plentiful opportunities for cliff jumping. Being cliff jumping experts we were so psyched to get to check out this wonderful location. We piled in the hostel van with a bunch of german babes and some other homies from the hostel and drove to this secret location. A short hike earns you a secluded waterfall with a perfect swimming hole.

Super secret waterfall

Super secret waterfall

Jacques and Dylan who work at the hostel were also psyched on jumping. We were all feeding off each others primal energy as we were pushing our aerial skills to new heights. Trying double front flips and crazy aerial maneuvers as the chicas cheered us on!

The ladies LOVE it!

The ladies LOVE it!

Of course we brought our chicken and she was lovin it at the swimmin hole. She even got to ride in a hollowed out watermelon across the pool!

#travelingchicken

#travelingchicken

After chillin for a few more days up in the clouds of Boquete, we’ll make the push to Panama City! We will go to Casco Viejo which is the old town of Panama where we will search for a boat ride from Panama to Buenaventura, Colombia on the Pacific coast! OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Without teamwork there would be nothing shared, nothing learned and would be nearly impossible to manage. Especially in this scenario!

-Hen & Ike