Sunday, February 17, 2013

Adventura in Nicaragua Day 2: a road ride and Cesar's farm

After a 2.5 hour delay, the ferry is finally underway! Now it's time to test the typing on a rocky boat puke factor...

So we got up early on our second day for a 40 mile road ride.

First we rode through the chaos of town. This sort of ride-by-the-seat-of-your-pants means of navigating the streets suits me well. We're sharing the streets with pedestrians, other cyclists on beat up old mountain bikes, cargo trikes, pedicabs, mototaxis (sort of tricycle moped taxis that seat two), mopeds, motorcycles, small Toyota trucks, smaller Kia cars and occasionally a horse or ox drawn cart. All these vehicles move at different paces, and you have to move fluidly around the slower traffic, left, right wherever and allow the faster vehicle to overtake you. It seems very chaotic, but it just seems to work because everyone is paying attention, the speeds are slow, and people are generally courteous. It kind of feels like finding the best line on the trail while mountain biking, except the trail and all the trees are moving. Also a lot like riding through the crowds across The Quad during passing period back in college.

Once we get on the Pan-America highway, things change a bit. Now semi trucks share the road with ox carts. Sometimes the semis don't give you much space when passing, quite unnerving, but I suppose the locals are used to it. The bus and cab drivers are quite vocal with their horns, they seem to honk at everything, like a barking dog. Most drivers reserve their horn for when they actually need it. Sometimes busses will pass a semi into oncoming traffic if that traffic is a bike or motorcycle and just expect you to get out of the way.

In other words, Carol would hate it.

After a few miles we pulled off a side road toward the town of Santa Teresa. Once we got through tow we had miles of rural paved road to ride with only the occasional car passing.

There is definitely poverty in the countryside, there are some barely habitable shelters people are living in, but then there are nice little well kept homes like above. A remarkable number of even the run-down places have "Claro" satellite dishes on top.

There were a lot more cars and bicycles than ox carts, but I only took photos of the novel roadway users.

The ride was an out and back. On the way back through Santa Teresa it was a bit of a slow, steady climb, so I got to take more photos of the commercial strip:

After getting back to Cesar's place and cleaning up, we went out to a Vegetarian Malaysian place only 3 blocks away.

There are a remarkable number of foreign restaurants here, even in towns like Jinotepe that see few of the tourist travelers.

In the afternoon we hopped in Cesar's other truck and headed off to his coffee farm.

He says its a Russian made military surplus truck left over from the Contra war in the 80's. he says it can carry up to 10,000 pounds

Once we turned onto the dirt road things got gnarly. It's how to express how rough and eroded the farm road is, the photos below only show the smooth parts since I was too busy holding onto the "oh shit" bar to take photos for much of the ride.

Again, I pulled out my good camera for around the farm, so the only photo I have handy right now is this shot from a viewpoint:

Cesar grows shade-grown coffee on his farm with the help of a farm manager and about 3 other workers. The manager lives out there much of the time with his wife and adorable daughter in a small, well built, but simple house with an outdoor (covered) kitchen where they burn wood for fuel. The only water is rain water gathered in cisterns from the roof. They are way ahead of us when it comes to 'rain barrels'. I wouldn't want to spend more than a night there but I suppose it has everything you really need.

In addition to the coffee, they also grow bananas, oranges, tangerines, citron, lemons, papaya (and probably some other fruit we didn't see), teak and mahogany, but the coffee is the main cash crop. He is in the process of expanding, clearing out some disused farmsteads that he has purchased, which had grown up in trees, brush and vines in just a few years. He has planted over 40,000 coffee plants and cares for them carefully in their first year so that they can be over 4' tall in less than 2 years. He is very proud of his coffee and is trying to grow it in a relatively sustainable fashion.

The road to the farm was even more exciting as the night settled in. Every time Cesar had to back up a little to shift out of 4-low he teased us that he was going to show us that his truck was so tough that it could do it again backwards! Carol would not have liked this.

We went out to dinner at a pizza place owned by a real Italian guy (one of at least 3 pizza placed in town). So I had high hopes for it, it was good, but average really.

-- Posted from the trail

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