I did not write much lately about my cycling while travelling in Central America. Cycling here is harder in a lot of aspects:
- the climate: high temperatures and very high humidity
- the infra structure, (or lack of secondary tracks)
- no accurate maps and not so much GPS tracks
- motivation (let’s be honest)
But since Guatemala its ‘been going better, maybe I am a bit more accustomed to the climate too, although it is rainy season as well,making it very humid. And after texting with Ramon, a friend who just finished his tour of “Limburgs Mooiste” (Limburg is a Dutch province with hills, Mooiste means most Beautiful). I got motivated enough to write something again.
In Nicaragua I found some tracks on wikiloc that were posted by Bicimaniacos (bicycle maniacs). That alone was interesting enough to try them out.
Coastal area near Leon
Low and Hot. the lower (altitude), the hotter it is. So, here on the Pacific Coast, Las Penitas, it is hot between the rain showers. During and just after the rain it is 100% humidity, making it even hotter. But cycling is still possible, and I had a dry run, (without rain) so to say, although there were plenty of water pools, streams and muddy sections to conquer.
I went inland to Leon and back, using some back country roads that run sort of parallel to the main road, the NIC-14. Almost at the end of the trip I noticed a “MTB” sign: so I guess made a good choice to ride this track. Some proof that more mountain biking is going on here.
Around Laguna de Apoyo
This is a very nice area. The lake is a crater filled with crystal clear waters that is even heated up a bit because of thermal sources under the surface. It is a protected area, so hopefully it will be there for future generations to enjoy as well.
The lake itself is situated at around 100 masl, and the crater edge tops around 400 masl. The ride goes around the lake, but you will actually only see the lake around 10% of the time. Not to worry, there is more to see than the lake. Small villages, farm land, the walls of private properties, finca’s and the likes, warnings to not trespass private property, but also lush (rain)forest, sticky muddy pools to negotiate, and (dry) river beds to ride through.
Although I am in the position to ride any day I like, it happened to be on a Sunday morning (classic!) to do this ride. Since we were staying in a hotel, I got to ride out of the city and into the lush green hills. thanks to Bicimaniacos (GPS tracks on wikiloc) I combined two routes so I could ride off road as much as possible. Riding out of the he city, you see the roads slowly deteriorate the further away from the city you get, the worse the roads become and also the garbage increases And if you think it would be nice to splash through the streams of water to cool off a bit: don’t. It is mostly waste water from accommodations.
But then after some time the surroundings got cleaner again. the farmland is green and clean, although you will find the remnants of woven plastic bags everywhere, but I guess it is a necessity. These bags are used as sand bags to repair the dirt roads that otherwise would wash away quickly when it rains. Although the hills here are higher, up to 900 masl, I found the terrain similar to that of Limburg: rolling hills that are ideal for small scale farming, the surface is a sort of clay-like soil that creates the same hollow roads and erosion.
These tracks can be quite challenging because of the erosion, and sometimes they are steep too, reaching gradients of about 25-30%. The ride went up to the nearest hill top, where an impressive array of antennas, obscured by clouds, is serving Managua, the capital of Nicaragua. While riding up, there were a lot of narrow and double-track “roads”. It was good to have a GPS track as guideline, because after I mistakenly took a wrong turn, I thought it would be OK and would meet the GPS track further again, but it turned out to be a dead end.
From the top there was a clear view of Managua and the lake. Going down was a breeze, through plantations and fields it was easy to reach the city again.
Isla de Ometepe
This island consists of two volcanos, Conception and Maderas, which are connected by a narrow, swamp-like land bridge. Here too there is small scale agriculture, mostly bananas, coffee and tobacco. I found a GPS track as guidance, but it was not such a good idea: it was a track from an event, and later I found out it crossed at least three private properties, each asking 5 dollars just to ride over the property. That would make 15 dollars for a round of 35km. No way! So I had to improvise a bit along the way.
The terrain is challenging, especially now that it is the wet season. I encountered two muddy sections (actually it was more like clay) and they were the worst, most difficult clay sections I ever had to deal with. instantly the bike accumulated at least 5 kg extra, and the stuff blocked the wheels. I have a new perspective on tire clearance now. These sections involved a lot of walking ad carrying the bike. despite wet season there was no creek or other source of open water (it creates mud or it runs off the island into the lake immediately). So I had to use a stick to scrape the clay off the bike the best I could to get going again.
Luckily there were also some rocky sections and gravel sections that were challenging but rideable. And at last I rode a short section along the shoreline, finally being able to wash of the remaining clay before heading home.