• Monday , 26 June 2017
Nicaragua – and then there were two

Nicaragua – and then there were two

It may be that when we no longer know what to do, we have come to our real work
and when we no longer know which way to go, we have begun our real journey.
-Wendell Berry

Nicaragua is the termination of one trip and the beginning of a new one. We entered as three and left with only two, Ducati, our most beloved Chihuahua, passed away on Ometepe Island from a tragic fall. He died instantly from a broken neck. Losing our dog cast a shadow over us and absolutely broke our hearts. It would be easy to write-off Nicaragua as a total loss, skip the post, and start fresh with Costa Rica onwards. But, we are not going to let our hurt sway us and we are going to “suck it up buttercup” and get on with it. The show must go on.

Welcome to Nicaragua.

Welcome to Nicaragua.

Killin' time in no-man's land between the Honduras and Nicaragua border.

Killin’ time in no-man’s land between the Honduras and Nicaragua border.

Honduras was a blur as we beat feet straight through without stopping. Our 90-day visa was running low for the C4 countries (Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, and Nicaragua) and we wanted to focus on Nicaragua before our time was up. Our first night in Somoto Canyon we camped on a soccor field next to a cool river that was perfect for swimming. Ducati went ape-shit trying to keep the local flock of chickens away from the tent but the birds could care less, they were not intimidated by a brown squirrel tied to a 30-foot rope. Smart birds.

Ducati says it is hard work keeping other creatures away from camp.

Ducati says it is hard work keeping other creatures away from camp.

The Somoto Canyon camp was one of the rare gems that allowed campfires and had plenty of wood to burn. Shannon, Cisco, and I barbequed a feast of smoked pork chops, curried potatoes with garlic and onion, and cucumber salad. Cisco had prepared a special onion dish to cook in the fire, it looked like a baseball wrapped in foil. As we were standing around the fire waiting for the coals to burn down the onion disappeared. Ducati was barking but we paid no attention. The world’s sneakiest street dog had slithered up to our party unseen (except by Ducati) and made off with the silver baseball from under our noses.

Ma and Pa Kettle

Ma and Pa Kettle

Laundry on the river.

Laundry on the river.

Gotta love a campfire.

Gotta love a campfire.

The daytime temperatures were chronically in the mid-90s and the landscape was brown and scrappy because it is dry season. We opted for elevation and green for the next stop and made our way to the coffee country of Nicaragua in the Matagalpa region. High in the lush green hills we found rain and cool temperatures. We stayed at an active coffee plantation called Hotel de Montana Aguas del Arenal and enjoyed copious amounts of coffee grown and roasted onsite. Daytime hikes through the finca were a highlight to our time in Nicaragua and should not be missed. It was very intimate being the only tourists at the finca and all our meals were taken family style with the property owners. Dinner was especially nice as the evening chill was beat back with a lovely fire in the household hearth. We also used our time to fix a front flat tire on Cisco’s BMW, seems a patch on the tube done long ago decided to give way.

Tire repair on the porch and out of the rain.

Tire repair on the porch and out of the rain.

Intrepid explorers surveying far off lands.

Intrepid explorers surveying far off lands.

Leaving the green of the finca we went back to the scrublands of central Nicaragua on our way out to Pearl Lagoon on the Caribbean coast. The ride out was muddy and very exciting – check out the story and video here.

Police stopped us to check our paperwork but as everything was in order there were no problems at all.

Police stopped us to check our paperwork but as everything was in order there were no problems at all.

The clear and unpolluted waters of the crater lake called Apoyo was a welcome stop to get out of the relentless heat and to un-muddy our gear after Pearl Lagoon. Camping took a couple of hours to source after being told “no” everywhere we asked. But, persistence paid off and we found a perfect spot at a restaurant called Punta El Cacique. Swim, dry-off, swim, dry-off, mess with Ducati, swim, and dry-off was about all we did for two days. We discussed riding into Granada (30-minutes away) but couldn’t be bothered. It was so cheap to camp here it would be a great spot to retire if you wanted to spend your golden years in a tent.

Mike practices his diving technique.

Mike practices his diving technique.

Our private beach.

Our private beach.

Lake Apoyo

Lake Apoyo

Hard day at the office.

Hard day at the office.

The view from the top of the crater on our way to Granada.

The view from the top of the crater on our way to Granada.

Mike, Shannon, Ducati, and Cisco.

Mike, Shannon, Ducati, and Cisco.

Tearing ourselves away from the lake we made it to the old capital city of Granada on Lake Nicaragua. Granada was quaint but a little scruffy, good for some photos and watching young men sniff glue in the central square. Our three-night stay was enjoyable but there wasn’t a lot to do in the city itself though our guesthouse was luxurious with a beautiful garden, pool, and amazing artwork throughout. But, we were ready for some camping on the magical island of Ometepe in the middle of Lake Nicaragua.

Granada

Granada

Parking with the artwork - careful Mike!

Parking with the artwork – careful Mike!

Ducati really wanted to sleep in.

Ducati really wanted to sleep in.

Granada

Granada

Hippy chick and her dog.

Hippy chick and her dog.

Granada

Granada

Granada

Granada

Ducati taking a nap on the cool tiles.

Ducati taking a nap on the cool tiles.

The ferry ride was rough as the wind always blows here but after an hour we safety arrived on the island. Sparsely populated and formed by two majestic volcanoes we rode for 45-minutes to our camp at the base of one of them, right on the water. An absolutely stunning backdrop to camp and explore.

On the way to Ometepe Island by ferry.

On the way to Ometepe Island by ferry.

Can't ask for a better campsite than this.

Can’t ask for a better campsite than this.

Ducati eye-balling his new friends, both puppies. He did get his play on with them later in the day.

Ducati eye-balling his new friends, both puppies. He did get his play on with them later in the day.

Then everything changed. Ducati’s tragic death at this camp threw us into a sadness that feels like breaking bones. We were unable to function through the tears and riding was out of the question. We buried our dog on the lakeshore and spent the next three days coming to terms with our loss. Many friends we had made on the road altered their trajectory and came to visit us on the island; we had seven overland motorcyclists with us on the last day giving shoulders to cry on and stories to take our minds off the pain. Moving on now without Ducati feels strange, foreign, and unpleasant. So much of our days were spent making sure he was comfortable, healthy, and happy that now we have those ghost moments where we know he should be underfoot, or need dinner, or probably needs to poop and he just isn’t there. The mind plays tricks on the grieving.

The trip with our Chihuahua has now become our trip in honor of our Chihuahua. Everything seems different now but we will carry on in his memory knowing our guardian angel pup is looking out for us, that is, when he is not napping in heaven. Everyone knows that when Ducati sleeps he is “off-duty”. Some may remember that part of our push to make this trip happen at this time in our lives was the unexpected death of our dear friend Danny. We like to think that Ducati is now with Danny and we will take both their spirits with us on the rest of this adventure.

DSC01706

Once we were able to stem the water works enough to ride we said our final goodbyes at Ducati’s gravesite and hit the road for Costa Rica. Nicaragua is now forever tattooed to our souls but it is necessary, for our sanity, that we put some miles between us and Ometepe Island.

Gotta man of the people,
Says keep hope alive
Got fuel to burn,
Got roads to drive

-Neil Young, Rockin’ in the free world

Ducati's final resting place in Merida, on Ometepe Island, Nicaragua. R.I.P.

Ducati’s final resting place in Merida, on Ometepe Island, Nicaragua. R.I.P.

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