Wednesday, February 27, 2013

The Road Back to Jinotepe, and home

By Wednesday the 20th, it was finally time to leave Ometepe, and start the process of heading home. Valerie and I were both thoroughly sore and tired from our hike, we could hardly walk, especially up or down hill/stairs. I think I was kind of tired from having a cold too. We took our time with breakfast and utilizing the internet in the morning (I wrote a whole blog post) and then went to pack our gear up. I was quite tired and slow and for once Valerie was ready to go before me by a long shot.

We kept a decent pace as we rode back to the port town of Moyogalpa, and saw some interesting things along the way:

 This horse refused to leave the center of the road.

This bus finally pursueded the horse to move out of the way. I include this photo here to give you an example of the colorful paint jobs on the buses in Nicaragua.

 A woman and her daughter hang out in front of a small roadside shop. I'm not sure if they were waiting for it to open, or waiting to open it.

 Entering Moyogalpa, the school kids appear to be on lunch break.

 We worked our way through Moyogalpa down to the small harbor area. We found a little bite to eat at a streetside restaurant and turned around to meet this guy:

 Loic Munardo is riding his bike around the world. He started in France, then into Germany, Switzerland... well, check out his top tube for the whole list:

For those of you not familiar with flags, the highlights include The Balkins, Turkey, Iran, India, Tibet, China, Korea, Japan, then into British Colombia, down the US west coast, Baja Mexico, and on down to where we met him in Nicaragua, after he took a day to tour on Ometepe. He is going to continue his journey through central America, down the spine of South America, possibly as far as Tierra del Fuego. Then He's going to hop a plane to Africa and ride north, back to France. He is about half-way through his 3-year journey now. I wish him luck on the remainder of his journey.

We spent the whole ferry ride, about an hour, talking with Loic about his trip. He had done the whole trip on the same tires until just a few days earlier when a sharp piece of metal shredded his rear tire. Fortunately he is running 26" wheels, and tires of this size are commonplace in central America (700c, not so much). He said that most of his XT equipped Surly Long Haul Trucker was working flawlessly, except for his crankset with the external bottom bracket that wears out in just 5,000-10,000 miles. He also suggested that an 8-speed drivetrains would have been better for global touring since 7/8 speed drive trains are common around the world, even in developing nations, where as 9/10/11 speed stuff (he was running 9-speed) is only available in the most developed locations.

Loic said that the people of Turkey and Iran were the friendliest. Tibet was the most beautiful place he visited (though he had to do it on the low-down since its nearly impossible for foreign visitors to get approval to travel there). He said that Southeast Asia was easy to travel through, friendly people, and fairly inexpensive too. He also said that the Baja peninsula was a great ride, which was of particular interest to me since this is one I've wanted to do for a while. Here's his blog, if you want to read about his trip. Its all in French, I'm still trying to figure out if there is a way to translate web pages as a whole.

Once off the ferry we parted ways with Loic, and Valerie and I headed into the little Italian restaurant just outside the dock area for more lunch. We fueled up properly with food and water, and then had to wait a bit for some rain to pass over. It was about 2pm, it gets dark around 6pm, and we had about 55 miles to ride, including 2000 ft uphill. We headed out as soon as the rain stopped, and fortunately had a cross/tailwind most of the way, so we made good progress down the Pan-American Highway.

Sugar cane.

For some reason, I waited until my last full day in Nicaragua to take a picture of the abundant roadside fruit stands. These are well stocked, mostly with melons, but also papaya, mango and tangerines.

I just liked the look of this bizarre billboard. I'm still not sure what they're selling. Nuts?

It was well into dusk when we rolled into Jinotepe. With no lights on our bikes, this got a little sketchy, but then again, everybody else was traveling in a sketchy manner too. After a quick pass through the park on a final desperate search for sloths (there are supposed to be a couple 'pet' sloths in the trees in the town park), but finding none, we headed back to Cesar's house.

Cesar as it turns out was worried about our safety, and pretty upset with us, in particular, me. He hadn't gotten most of the messages and phone rings I had sent him while we were out riding around the past couple of days. And truthfully, I probably should have called him at some point in the afternoon to let him know exactly what time we thought we would be back. Sorry Cesar.

I was tired and hungry, but it was getting close to 7pm, and I had to be up at 4:30 for my flight. So I got clean and started taking apart my bike and packing up my gear. Valerie had some ready-to-eat camp food which came in very handy since most restaurants were closed by the time we finally got out around 8:30. Cold lentils really hit the spot.

I was about ready for bed around 10pm which is about when Cesar came back in a good mood from an evening business meeting. We ended up staying up until midnight talking and trading stories.


I didn't sleep well that night, and basically woke up around 3:30 and couldn't get back to sleep. A cab picked me up from Cesar's place at 4:30 to take me to the airport. The cab ride was a little nuts with the cabbie blowing red lights and doing some risky passes, but overall uneventful, and I kept myself occupied writing a blog post.

I spent most of the last of my Cordobas on tipping the guys who brought my bags into the airport for me (unsolicited of course) and breakfast at the airport. There were a few Americans who had participated in the Fuego y Agua ultramarathon, so I chatted with them for a while. One guy was in a wheel chair due to a severely infected foot. Owch.

I bought some fine Nicaraguan chocolate in the airport, Cesar said it was the best place to get it. This chocolate is rich and flavorful, it tastes 'fresh' compared to the highly processed stuff we get in the US, but I will say it is a bit harsh, so much so that I prefer the milk chocolate to the dark chocolate (and I am usually a dark chocolate fiend).

My first flight brought me over Cuba and the Florida keys.

Then a 3.5 hour layover in Miami gave me plenty of time to get through customs, baggage checking, back through the security gate and into the terminal where I had a surprisingly good lunch at a sushi place there. But I almost missed my flight because my phone did not automatically update to local time as I had expected it to, they almost gave away my seat!

I was pretty exhausted by 4:30 when we landed in O'Hare. I was feeling quite zombie-like until I got something for dinner. But no matter how hard I tried I just couldn't sleep in the airports or on any of the planes.

The flight on the small jet from Chicago to Madison was nerve wracking for me since there was a bit of a storm blowing in. I was pretty freaked out on the landing with snow in the air and a cross wind on the runway. I really only like to fly on days with blue skies and dry runways. Hey, when I was a kid I was afraid to fly at all.

Carol picked me up at the airport around quarter to eleven, and we drove home. It was great to see her again, but we were both too tired to do much celebrating. As exhausted as I was, its kind of hard to unwind after 19 hours of travel, and I didn't get to sleep until midnight.

And that was it for this adventure. I was kind of hoping winter would be on its way out when I got back from this trip, but I have not been so lucky. So far I have had to shovel the driveway 3 times in less than a week... and I'll be doing it for a second time today this afternoon. Why do I live in Wisconsin again?

I plan on writing a few other blog posts about the country, flora, fauna that kind of thing over the next few days. I saw a lot and learned a lot on this trip, and I would like to share.

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