Friday, Jan 24th: The Nicaraguan side of the
border was busy with tour buses and lots of cars doing the crossing. Little boys huddled
around us asking to be facilitators to help us navigate the crossing process. We have done
this dozens of times ourselves, and decided to continue in the same fashion. We paid $7
each for immigration/entry (locals got in for free), followed by a $10 charge per bike. I
approached the final window where the attendant said we need to pay $12 per bike for
insurance. There was a big poster, where this was spelled out in English, giving it some
legitimacy. However, we had talked to other travellers heading south, and none paid for
insurance when entering Nicaragua I mentioned this to the woman, and she said they
would have to pay on their return journey.
Armed with insurance papers, which were recently created in on this very laptop, then
printed on color paper, and finally laminated to look somewhat professional, I began my
objections. After all, how can insurance only be required in one direction, as though no
chance of an accident could happen while heading south?!? I would give myself 10-15
minutes, then pay.
The woman looked to the small boy who had been following me for the past hour, and sent
us to see the Policia, at the next window. I did my song and dance, and afterward the
policewoman started talking to the boy. She said I could pay $10 for both bikes (instead
of $24), I offered 6, and we settled on $8. The boy took my money, walked in a side
entrance, and returned with my documents stamped so we could exit the border. I decided to
give the kid the $2 difference, as the deal would probably not have been struck without
Shortly after leaving the border we were flagged down at a small office where a guy
would fumigate the bikes. The cost was $3 per vehicle, and I tried to explain that 2 bikes
should be the same as one car, not double. Well, ya win some, ya lose some, but at least I
got a receipt for the $6.
Feeling good about our 2-hour crossing time, we continued onto a nicely paved road and
headed north. It wasnt long before the road skirted along the side of Lake
Nicaragua. Between the huge gusts of wind, we were able to look east to see two very
impressive volcanoes standing proudly on the horizon. One volcano (Concepcion) looked like
what we anticipated Arenal would look like back in Costa Rica, yet this one was sitting
tall and cloud free, just a few hundred kilometers north of its famous sister.
About 40km north of the border, we turned west and chased the big orange ball as it
quickly dropped from the sky. We arrived in San Juan del Sur, just as the sun was setting
over the bay of this quaint little fishing village. While we sat at an intersection,
trying to decide where to go, Chris F (CF) and Simi popped out of a restaurant and led us
to their hostel.
We parked on the cobblestone street in front of the hostel, and waited to see if the
electricity would come back on. The owner was upset and wanted to get some big flashlights
to help carry our gear in, but we decided to pull out a few rocking chairs onto the
street, grab a couple Victoria beers, and enjoy the cool evening air.
A few hours later, with the town still blanketed in black, one of the transformers just
above us blew. Sparks flew and people scrambled in every direction as one of the wires
dances along the street like a captured snake, struggling to get free. The locals screamed
and flew out of their houses onto the street; acting like wed just had an
earthquake. The tourists just stared up at the sight and chuckled about having to hunt
down candles for the night.
Saturday, Jan 26th: Well by 10am that morning the electricity was still out
--- big surprise! CF and Simi were packed ready to leave for the island of Ometepe
in the middle of Lake Nicaragua. We decided to bug out, and join them. Not 5km out of
town, CF picked up a nail in his rear tire on his Africa Twin. CF and I returned to town
on my bike to get the tube fixed, while Simi and Erin broke out the binoculars and watched
the local birds and howler monkeys in nearby trees.
We arrived in Rivas, some 20-km away around lunchtime, only to find the repaired tube
was flat again. Chris F pulled off the tire in a gas station, and a second patch was
applied. CF had put Slime in the inner-tube months before, and now it was causing
problems. (See its not just us who have problems!)
With the Twin repaired, we all headed down the road to the port at San Jorge to inquire
about the ferry schedule. The ferrys motor was broken, and the boat was stuck on the
other side. We decided to push on to Granada, and return in a few days. When we arrived in
Granada, the Twins rear tire was flat again, but we managed to get to a hostel
before working dealing with it.
Sunday, Jan 26th: Spent the day exploring the historic and colonial city. In
the evening, we went to the cultural center to see a European pianist perform classical
pieces on a baby grand. It was a wonderful cultural event, and I only fell asleep for
about 5 minutes in the middle of the performance!