DONKEYS, VOLCANOES AND CHOCOLATE
The attempts by Nicaraguan customer to extract some money from us by denying entry for a heavy tourist vehicles failed, it took some nerve and time but in the end they let us pass without any checks, even our doggies entered without paperwork.
Our first stop was a beautiful river bed near Ocotal which also gave us the first taste of Nicaragua: its countless donkeys. It seems that everyone has at least one, they go to work with it, bring kids to school, carry the shopping home or pull a small cart. The area of the Somoto canyon in northern Nicaragua is also famous for its special and beautiful donkeys and families treat them as a real family member. We hiked and swam through the beautiful Somoto canyon - what a pleasure to be in the cold water in this heat - for which the area is equally famous and even attempted to climb a bit on a small cliff nearby. On our way out we opted for a small detour which ended on a surprisingly bad road near the border. Arriving back in Somoto we had a surprise reception, two military pick up trucks drove straight onto us and stopped us, jumping off their cars with their Kalashnikovs. It reminded us a bit of Pakistan and we started to laugh which seemed also to relax them. After a friendly passport check they explained to us that we were driving along an infamous smuggling road and that they observed us from far which resulted in the surprise reception.
Nicaragua is wild and beautiful, like a rough diamond. It is probably less enjoyable without a caravan as many of the amazing places simply lack the infrastructure to stay or even feed yourself. We made our way through coffee and banana plantations to Matagalpa where we stayed a few days. A pretty small town, perfect for some maintenance and also the location of the only “real” climbing spot in Nicaragua. It is really pretty, high up above the town but only has a couple of routes. The approach and the view are probably worth more than the climbing. We enjoyed the local markets and our stay and hikes between coffee plantations and under lichen-covered trees, soon to be ready for our next destination: Cerro Negro.
Cerro Negro is an active volcano that just appeared in 1850 and last erupted in 1999. The whole area looks like an other worldly landscape. It was quite a ride to arrive there but it was worth every shake of our home as we had the whole area to ourselves. Based on something Berna found on TikTok between watching dog videos, we organised an early morning hike up to the summit and rented boards from a local guide to slide down (“volcano board”) the 40° and 400m high face of the volcano - what a cool experience, for once we were faster than our doggies.
Via the colonial town of Leon and passing through chocolate plantations that produce mostly for Ritter Sport we made our way to Lake Managua where we stayed a few days right in front of volcano Momotombo, a view that clearly rivals Atitlan in Guatemala.
Via Managua - where we had way too much food - we made it to one of the many highlights of Nicaragua and probably Central America: Granada with Lake Nicaragua. While we are not really into visiting towns, Grenada is an impressive, beautiful and well maintained colonial town with buzzing markets and a busy lake shore. We celebrated Valentine’s day with a ride in a horse carriage, tasted delicious chocolate and strolled through the colonial streets before embarking on our tour of the volcanic island of Ometepe in Lake Nicaragua (the only lake holding sweet water sharks). We left our Rouletout and the dogs behind and took the ferry with our motorbike to this impressive island. As usual, our breakfast on the road in Nicaragua is Gallo pinto - rice and beans, often with an egg - don't expect any culinary highlights in Nicaragua ;-). Ometepe is kind of a twin island, formed by two volcanoes of which one is still active, resulting in fertile soil and lots of plantations, mostly banana but also coffee and chocolate. A motorbike is the perfect way to explore all corners of this island and also a guarantee to find some space on a ferry back as they were mostly fully loaded with banana trucks.
After another stop in Grenada we opted for the eastern route along the shore of Lake Nicaragua in direction of Costa Rica. Rice fields made way to the coffee and banana plantations and soon orange trees filled the landscape.
We loved our visit to Nicaragua. We started in donkey town, hiked through the fairy tale forest and endless coffee and chocolate plantations, visited amazing colonial towns, enjoyed the huge lakes and made the volcanic ashes of Cerro Negro our garden, thank you Nicaragua!
Our next destination was Costa Rica and it started with quite a surprise but as always, more on that in our next blog entry.