• Friday , 15 December 2017
Rolling the dice on a road that may not exist

Rolling the dice on a road that may not exist

We heard from a friend of a friend that Pearl Lagoon on the Mosquito Coast (aka Moskito) in Nicaragua on the Caribbean could be reached by an 85k dirt road. The photos we found of Pearl Lagoon online looked like the tropical paradise we were searching for. Most paper maps don’t show a road and our Lonely Planet guidebook said the way to get there was by boat from Bluefields. We were able to confirm that a road existed by asking around, though we had no idea about the condition. We decided to have an adventure and give the road a go; we wanted another shot at the Caribbean after all the rain we got in Belize. Our traveling partner Cisco was game as well and Shannon emailed our friends from Intrepid for 10 Minutes (Mick and Chris) who are always up for a challenge in their Toyota Land Cruiser, of course they wanted to go!  We all agreed to meet in the small town of El Rama, which is where the pavement ends and 99% of everyone else gets on a boat in order to continue to the Mosquito Coast.

The road out to El Rama was a pleasant eastward ride from the hot, dry, scrubby Pacific side to the green, lush, and tropical jungle Caribbean side of Nicaragua. Along with the tropical vegetation came rain. As we drove the final miles into El Rama it was in a full-on deluge and it was getting dark. We all got soaked but found a hotel. Met up with Mick and Chris (who had also arrived in El Rama an hour after us), and made our plans for the next day. We learned that the road to Pearl Lagoon was mostly flat and driven often by semi-trucks hauling palm oil. With that information in-hand and knowing it would basically be flat we were not too worried. To confirm the road conditions Mike and Cisco road out a few miles in the morning on unloaded bikes to do a bit of reconnaissance. The road was mostly rock/gravel with mud in the dips and low spots. Totally do-able, at least from what we saw in the first three miles. Off we went – three motorcycles and one Land Cruiser.

The road was bumpy but decent– so much rock was laid on it that it was in good shape and not terribly slippery. That being said, because of the previous 3 days of rain (yes, rain), there were some serious mud slicks, ruts, and deep puddles. Mike and Cisco both had a technique down and barely made a ripple while Shannon in her excitement to get to the other side had a tendency to put on a bit of speed entering the water, which created a wonderful splash.

Mike with little splash

Mike with little splash

Shannon with jumbo splash. And, she forgot to close her helmet and got a face full of muddy water.

Shannon with jumbo splash. And, she forgot to close her helmet and got a face full of muddy water.

With the luxury of traveling a short distance, and with the Land Cruiser following, we stopped for a tea and coffee break about half way. Now, that is civilized overlanding. Leave it to the British to suggest such an activity.

Tea and coffee in the middle of a palm oil plantation. We had biscuits too.

Tea and coffee in the middle of a palm oil plantation. We had biscuits too.

All was going well until the last 8-mile spur from the main road into Pearl Lagoon, which turned to a slippery mud lane with few rocks to give traction. Mike took Shannon’s bike “Zippy” through a particularly gnarly section of mud. Shannon got back on her bike and proceeded to spin a 180 degree turn in mud that ended with Zippy in the bushes and Shannon covered in mud. Luckily it was all caught on tape! Check out our 2.5 minute video.

Notice the opposite looks on Mike and Shannon's faces.

Notice the opposite looks on Mike and Shannon’s faces.

It took awhile to wash the mud off Shannon's clothes and gear.

It took awhile to wash the mud off Shannon’s clothes and gear.

We arrived in Pearl Lagoon a bit muddy (Shannon) but in good spirits and settled in for the next few days. We have yet to really see the clear blue and green waters of the Caribbean because it rained a few times a day and the wind kept up a steady rate that thwarted our attempt to take a boat out to the uninhabited Pearl islands for sun, swimming, and snorkeling. We took a community tour instead. We did eat our fill of shrimp and lobster.

Tourist arrival by vehicle in Pearl Lagoon is very rare and we drew a crowd.

Tourist arrival by vehicle in Pearl Lagoon is very rare and we drew a crowd.

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The town of Pearl Lagoon.

The town of Pearl Lagoon.

Looking for a hotel that would take bikes, dirty people, a Toyota, and a dog.

Looking for a hotel that would take bikes, dirty people, a Toyota, and a dog.

Intrepid for 10 Minutes - Mick and Chris.

Intrepid for 10 Minutes – Mick and Chris.

Caribbean fishing fleet of Nicaragua.

Caribbean fishing fleet of Nicaragua.

Another fishing boat from a local Moskitos village.

Another fishing boat from a local Moskitos village.

Coconut Delight bakery in Pearl Lagoon run by a very welcoming family.

Coconut Delight bakery in Pearl Lagoon run by a very welcoming family.

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The ride out of Pearl Lagoon back to El Rama was not near as exciting – less mud, no falls, and Shannon’s puddle technique is steadily improving. We did stop for a tea/coffee break with funny looks from the palm workers waiting for their ride.

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