Thursday, November 4, 2010

Day 24 - Somoto to Rivas, Nicaragua

RobT:  Today was a spectacular day in Nicaragua and we covered the whole country, from north to south - about 500 km (350 miles)!  We left our quaint little hotel in Somoto after being told a must see in Nicaragua was the Masaya Volcano, near Managua. Today was also All Souls Day.  I'll let RobC elaborate on that as he is the resident expert on that.  We noticed that all the grave yards had flower vendors at the gates with many, many people buying flowers and placing them at the grave stones.  The grave yards were an explosion of colour!!  You could also see entire families walking along the roadside with bright flowers in hand, dressed in their Sunday best, heading to the grave yards.

"Widow maker" at the hotel.  Yup, those are two wires (220 Volts) going to the heating element on the shower head.
Orchid plants growing on the power lines.  A common site in the tropical climates.

Those people were actually riding on the top of the bus and the buses are old school buses from the US.

RobC:  November 1 - All Saints Day - and November 2 - All souls Day - are big holidays in the Latin American world. The first holiday takes care of all the Catholic saints that do not have a designated day in the liturgical calendar and the second holiday allows people to remember their deceased loved ones, decorate the graves, meet with family around the grave site and pray for the souls of the dead. I had to explain to Rob about the Catholic belief of the souls of the dead going to purgatory, a place of temporal punishment where the souls of Catholic believers remain for an amount of time commensurate with the type of life they lived on earth, and the prayers of the faithful can lessen the time in purgatory. I am sure that during recent times some of these teachings have been modified, but Latin American believers are still quite traditional in this respect.
Families decorating graves with bright-colored flowers.

Nicaraguan men coming home from working in the field, with ever-present machetes in hand.

RobT:  The roads in Nicaragua were surprisingly straight and well-paved after coming from Honduras, where there wasn't a straight road to be found and the potholes were enough to rattle your teeth and rupture your kidneys.  We were sailing along on the highway, passing slow-moving trucks and over-burdened pickups as usual.  The intercom hat we have works well in these cases, as we can keep each other informed of any situations ahead or behind.  We can also hear what's going on with the other person, for example, I can hear my partner burp after drinking some water from the Camelback hydration pack, or he can hear a bug hit my windscreen at 120kph.  During one of our many passing adventures, RobC went around an 18-wheeler that was stopped on the road. The difference this time was that he blew past a police checkpoint. The police tried to stop him, but he was already well past. I was a little behind him and the police officer pulled me over.

RobC:  I saw in the rear view mirror that Rob had been pulled over and debated whether I should go back or go on. Instead, I parked about 200 meters down the road, turned on my blinkers, and listened on the intercom what the lady police officer was saying. Rob just kept saying "No hablo español." I could tell the woman was getting quite frustrated with him. I told Rob over the intercom that she said she would take his license, give him a ticket for going around the stopped truck at a checkpoint, which he would have to pay in town in order to get his license back (by the way, the license was one of many copies we have). This tug of war went on for some time and it was starting to become clear that the woman knew I was interpreting for Rob and that he knew what she was saying.

So, she sent her partner down the road to talk to me. At that point I had an option to play ignorant or to use my best Spanish to get us out of the situation. I opted for the second. I told the officer that we were on a long trip and that we did not want any troubles and that our paperwork was very important to us. I told him that we were enjoying our ride through Nicaragua and that we liked his country and the great roads.  I also told him that were writing about our experiences and that we would certainly write about the honest police officers as well. We shook hands and he went back to his woman officer partner, briefly explained the situation (according to Rob, who was still back there) and Rob was let go within a minute, with his license (copy) returned to him, and no ticket.

That was a close call, and we will get more of these, especially in Panama and Peru. So this was good training.
RobT:  We finally made it to the Masaya volcano during a down pour.  The entrance to the park was guarded better than a border crossing.  It took longer to get into the National Park than it did getting out of Guatemala!  Not sure why.  They took our names, plate numbers, where we were from, etc.

Masaya volcano crater billowing smoke continuously.

150 steps up the crater overlook.

Road to the crater.

Wonder why?!?!

The volcano was spectacular.  Lava rock dominated the surrounding fields on the drive up to the crater.  We parked the bikes and walked to the crater.  Looked as if there was a double crater.  We stood at the edge peering down inside while smoke billowed out and gurgling sounds came from its depths.

We rolled into Rivas at a decent time, meaning it was still light out.   :)  We ran into 2 Canadians from Vancouver on XR650 Hondas, Luke and Toby.  They were the same guys that we passed back at the Nicaraguan border crossing where they had problems with their documentation.  Luke had issues with the fact that his name was spelled Luke on one document and Lucas on another.  This is cause for huge red tape in Latin America.  He also had problems with his bike registration and insurance, which in British Colombia is a combined document.  Ended up having to cross at a different border because they wouldn't let him through that particular one, after having to pay a 250 USD fee.  Anyway, they were staying in Rivas as well and had found a pleasant place for 5 USD.  They were praying for at least a toilet seat, but that did not happen.  Cockroaches were a given.  Sheets an option, door on the toilet missing.  Made us sound like we were too demanding with our requirements for warm water and Internet.  We found a place these guys would have killed for.  Yes, we paid more than 5 USD.  :-)

Went out to find some Coke to mix with our 7-year old rum we finally managed to get.   RobC went back to the room and I toured the town looking for a store.  Found one with the window and door barred but the place was open. Greeted the guy and he went into the back of the store and reappeared with the coke.  Paid him and was on my way.  The entire transaction was done through the bars.

As we were looking for a place I noticed a spot that may be an interesting restaurant, so after we settled in we walked over. This place had huge, wooden green doors, must have been 10 ft tall and the ceiling was 15 ft.  The cream coloured plaster walls had seen better days.  There was a large family celebrating a birthday in the center of the large room.
We quickly became part of the birthday party, participated in the singing and shared in the cake.

Looking for a morsel.  This guy didn't dare step into the restaurant.  His fear surpassed his desire for food.

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