After the border crossing coming from Honduras it is already dark. The border crossing took us 2,5 hours because we didn’t fill the required online forms.
On iOverlander we found a campsite just 5km after the border. On arrival the lady tells us we can camp here and opens the heavy steel gate for us. We are really happy we can stay here. We always try to avoid cycling in the dark. The roads in Central America are dangerous enough by daylight. Believe us, you really don’t want to cycle the Pan-Am Highway by night!
The lady shows us around the campsite and we pitch our tent.
At a truck-stop restaurant close by we eat some fast food.
The next morning we see how awesome the campsite really is. We take it slow and swim in the pools.
In the first town of today and also the first after the border, just a few kilometers away, we try to find an ATM cash machine for some local cash. It’s quite a big town but we can’t find any ATM. After asking around we know it for sure. No cash for us now? Luckily in a small supermarket we find a dodgy exchange office. The lady doesn’t give money from our credit or debit cards but is willing to exchange some euros into cordobas, the local currency of Nicaragua. Yes!!! Happy again. In the supermarket we also find an open WiFi network. Finally we can contact home after being offline for nearly two weeks. It’s already noontime when we leave the town of Somotillo. The Telica volcano is our goal for tonight. The plan is to do some hiking up there in the coming days.
The road to Telica is straight and doesn’t have much shade which makes it hot. This hot road to Telica does have two options:
1. Keep following the highway around the big San Cristobal Volcano al the way to the town of Telica from where we can hit the crater tomorrow.
2. Make a 30km shortcut straight to the Telica Volcano Crater over a (new?) highway which is mapped as a small unpaved road.
At the junction of those two options a guy sells huge watermelons. We buy a melon, eat it straight away and ask the guy for some local advice.
He tells us the (new?) highway is paved all the way it’s a bit more hilly because it winds between the two volcanoes San Cristobal and Telica but not to bad.
We thank him for advice and also for the delicious watermelon and hit the shortcut route between the two volcanoes.
The road is much quieter than the main highway and has much less places to buy water. Luckily we find a tiny restaurant for water and we can continue.
By the end of the day, just 12km before our planned wildcamp spot, we arrive at another junction. Left follows the highway and right is an unpaved road. Looking on the map we see we definitely have to turn right. “12km can’t be that bad” we think and go right. After 500m the unpavement changes into very fine black volcano sand. We’re stuck straight away because our wide 26x2.15 tires are still too narrow and go to deep in the fine sand. “We have to push!”
At some places the road is harder and we can cycle it. That gives hope. The track (now it’s not even a road anymore) winds though a sort of undeep canyon. We can’t see the landscape around it since we constantly 5m below it. We see people and small motorbikes on the track but we don’t see the villages where they are coming from and going to. The further we go the more we have to push and the less we can cycle. Now the 12 kilometers looks like a never ending story, something we’re not gonna make tonight. It starts getting dark in the canyon and we push further in search for a place to stay this night. We can’t find any. It’s still hot and we’re running out of water again. In the dark we find a closed restaurant but when we walk in a lady is still there. We ask her for bottled water. “I don’t have” she says.
“Coca Cola or something else?” We ask.
“Yes I have” she says, walks to the kitchen and returns with a small 250ml applejus bottle.
Nice! “Do you have more?” We ask.
She agrees and also tells she has small Coca Cola bottles.
We order 8 of those small bottles. Looking at her face we can see this is not a common order. But we are not on a common trip so we don’t care.
With a big bag full of small bottles we hit the track again. (We didn’t ask the lady for camping here, the uncommon 8 bottle order in the dark was enough for her we guessed)
After 3,5 hours pushing through 12km thought volcano sand we finally find our wild camp spot. Or at least according to the iOverlander app there should be one here. We don’t see any. We only see a “Volcano Telica this way” sign.
All of a sudden a motorcycle stops beside us. The guy asks where we gonna sleep tonight.
“No idea” we tell him since we don’t wanna tell him this is actually the place we planned to camp.
He tells us that his brother is starting up a recreational center about 100m from here and we can stay there for free if we like. “And by the way, my name is Robert” he says.
Wow, how many luck can we have on this unlucky track?
We take the offer and Robert leads us to the place. It’s very basic but it has a shelter for hammocks, running water and enough space for our tent.
Robert tells us he has to tell his brother about us. He starts his motorbike and is off again. He gets his brother to the place as well to meet us.
We look to each other and smile. Lucky us 😊
After 10min Robert returns with his brother Ulices. Both brothers are happy to have us here and they did bring some cold sodas and hammocks for us to sleep in. We chat for a little while and we arrange to meet again the next morning.
The night is quiet with a bright full moon. We don’t put up our tent but sleep in the hammocks.
It’s around seven in the morning when we hear Ulices motorbike coming through the woods. He invites us to come over to his house and meet his family. We dress up and follow him with our bicycles. It’s not far but again we have to push some parts. When we arrive in his village we first go to his family’s farm. His parents and some brothers and sisters live up there. We meet a bunch of people and Ulices shows us around on the little farm.
His own house is very close by and we go there to meet his wife and daughters. We also eat breakfast together. It’s nice to be so welcomed by so many nice people.
The plan for today is to go hiking to the volcano crater. The hike should be around 12km, a few hours.
Ulices likes to meet up with us and a few other people at the top by the end of the day. They will go by motorbike and they will bring us back to the village on the back of their bikes. Sounds like a plan to us. Now we can stay till sunset without to hike back in the dark.
Ulices brings us to the start of the hiking trail with his mini bus and we take off.
The trail goes straight up. The scenery is dry and we still walk in the lose volcano sand. After a few hours we pass the old gates to the volcano and we arrive at the parking from where no motorbike can go.
The last part of the hike goes up even steeper and all vegetation is gone. We walk in a grey moon landscape of rocks and stones. It’s still pretty hot and we drink a lot. In the far distance above us we see a lot of smoke coming out of the crater.
When we finally arrive at the volcano crater the views are stunning. The smoke out of the crater is so dense we can’t see the bottom of it. The smell is really bad and we can’t breathe when we stand in the upcoming smoke.
After hanging around on the crater for a while we decide to hike to the bat cave as well. It’s not far, just a 20 minutes down the other side of the crater.
At the bat cave we hardly see any bats. A bit of a bummer. We guess we have to be here at sunrise or sunset when the bats go in and out the cave.
We hike back to the top of the crater. We still have many hours to go before Ulices and his friends will show up. In a distance we see a shelter. Maybe a good idea to go there so we have some shade.
The shelter is actually not a shelter we discover but a weather and seismograph station to measure the activities of the volcano.
At the station a park ranger collects some park entrance from us but he also has a cool box filled with sodas and cold beers. Since we still have to wait for a few hours and the place is a great spot to wait that time we buy a bunch of cold beer cans. The view on the volcano and surrounding area is awesome. We sit, drink, enjoy and have good conversations. This is life!!!
By the the time it starts getting dark we walk back to the crater. We expect Ulices and friends coming up soon as well. At the crater only one young guy is coming up. He explains the others are not coming but are waiting at the parking. They find it to exhausting climbing all the way up.
Together we walk down and meet the others at the parking. We laugh at them their too lazy coming up.
The way down back to the village goes much faster than when we walked up this morning.
Now we walk the first part down because the track is too rough for two people per motorbike but as soon we’re on the motorbikes it goes fast.
Although the track is still rough, dusty and dark it’s clear to us those guys are used to this and ride the bikes as if we are on a decent paved road.
Back at Ulices house his wife made dinner for all of us and we enjoy the typical Nicaraguan meal of rice, beans and meat. Around the table we have interesting conversations about our and their country.
For the night we sleep in the restaurant. We hang some hammocks and fall asleep pretty fast after we lay our heads down.
In the early morning we are awaked by the local bus which honks loud though the whole village and has a stop right in front of our restaurant.
We dress up, pack up and are ready to leave as Ulices shows up. He likes to show us a little bit more around his village.
We agree with the extra village tour.
After the village tour we leave it all behind us and hit the road again. Hmmm road? No, still the volcano sand track over which we came here. Luckily we go a little downhill so our progress is not to bad. After a hour we finally arrive at the main road again after days of dusty tracks. The road south, the Pan-Am Highway.
To bad the highway is just for a short while today. Because we wanna cycle along the big lakes we take a shortcut to them. Again on the map the road looks paved but after a while y becomes unpaved again as so many times in Central America.
Luckily the unpaved road isn’t that bad as around the volcano last days. We don’t have to push our bikes through.
Back on the paved road again Kim runs another flat tire. Two boys ask if they can help and otherwise they know a good mechanic around who can help. We thank them. “No, we are fine, thanks!”
We patch the tire and cycle to our small hotel for the coming night.
The next day the road along the first lake is pretty windy but offers nice views at some volcanos in a distance.
We pass a big city with Dutch street names.
Close to the second big lake we end up in a very nice and cheap hotel. The owner tells us about the political problems and that the situation is very bad for the tourist business. Many places close down and he self also dropped his prices to a minimum. When we walk through the town the next day we indeed see a lot of people trying to sell touristic tours but there are hardly any tourists around. The sellers look frustrated.
Back on the road next day we challenge hard head winds along the second lake. This road will bring us to the border with Costa Rica. Just a few kilometers before the border we find ourselves a nice wild-camp spot on the beach.
When our tent is set up a French couple with a camper-van and a small kid join us at the same beach. They are traveling the world for three years. www.bebe-globetrotter.com
After a windy night at this beautiful spot we pack up our stuff again spot and we paddle the last few Nicaragua kilometers and hop into Costa Rica 🇨🇷