After a short pedal out of Honduras, we crossed the border into Nicaragua on July 25th. 

After a short pedal out of Honduras, we crossed the border into Nicaragua on July 25th. 

Nicaragua gives us a welcome! 

Nicaragua gives us a welcome! 

We had a fairly smooth crossing at the border in Somotillo and entered Nicaragua after about an hour's wait at customs. We can't believe we left Antigua, Guatemala only three weeks ago, and here we are in Nicaragua.

First night in Nicaragua, speed racer puppy in the background tries to run out of the shot.

First night in Nicaragua, speed racer puppy in the background tries to run out of the shot.

Shortly after crossing the border we pulled off at a recreation area/hostel with a big pool where we pitched our tent for the night. Several truckers from Guatemala, El Salvador and Costa Rica were staying at the hostel as they waited for clearance at the border to pass through. We hung out with them in the pool as the sun neared the horizon, laughing, joking, and talking about our travels through Mexico and Central America so far.

Hanging out at the pool with our new amigos

Hanging out at the pool with our new amigos

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The next day we were off to an early start.  We pedaled to the small town of Villa 15 de Julio, but not before Mehedi's tire blew out. Either way, we were thrilled to be in Nicaragua, pedaling through country number five! After his tire continued to go flat, it was clear he needed a new tube as we were out of extra tubes. Fortunately a small bike shop was able to fix Mehedi's tire blow-outs by drilling out the presta valve to make it fit a schrader valve and now we are able to exchange tires.

Cycling beside Volcán de San Cristóbal on our way to León

Cycling beside Volcán de San Cristóbal on our way to León

On our third day we approached and cycled around Volcán de San Cristobal. By noon we made it past the bustling industrial city of Chinandega and had León in our sights. After what may have been our longest and furthest cycling day so far, about 60+ miles, pushing through the late afternoon heat and heavy traffic, we pedaled into León. We were ready for a couple days off, as we had been pedaling for about two weeks straight through El Salvador and Honduras.

León

We arrived at golden hour and were immediately struck by the city's extraordinary architecture

We arrived at golden hour and were immediately struck by the city's extraordinary architecture

Cycling into the Central Park felt like a dream

Cycling into the Central Park felt like a dream

Some of the many cultural festivities in León 

Some of the many cultural festivities in León 

We decided to take a few days off to rest and rehydrate

We decided to take a few days off to rest and rehydrate

We stayed at a lovely hostel that served crepes, bananas and Nutella for breakfast. Political statements were well received by locals and travelers alike! Looks like this shirt won't be going out of fashion for at least four years.

We stayed at a lovely hostel that served crepes, bananas and Nutella for breakfast. Political statements were well received by locals and travelers alike! Looks like this shirt won't be going out of fashion for at least four years.

León is a busy and colorful city full of wild smells and sights. We bunked down in a hostel for while we caught up on rest, writing, bike and gear maintenance. And sat in front of a fan. Camping in these temperatures hasn't been too comfortable with the heat, so a room with a mosquito net and a fan is some kind of heaven on Earth to us right now.

Cariño's in the making outside of Leon's big white church

Cariño's in the making outside of Leon's big white church

We found a shwarma shop where we enjoyed amazing veggie falafel wraps and chatting with the Palestinian owner Mohammad 

We found a shwarma shop where we enjoyed amazing veggie falafel wraps and chatting with the Palestinian owner Mohammad 

Turtle living in the garden at our hostel comes out for a drink and to splash in some mud before retreating under some foliage again

Turtle living in the garden at our hostel comes out for a drink and to splash in some mud before retreating under some foliage again

Ruedas León hooked us up with some great, much needed service on our bikes. We spent many hours in the markets, wandering and discovering new tastes and smells. Nicaragua has some really incredible markets.

Local salsa picante is called "repollo" – a vinegar based brine for picking peppers, cabbage, onions, garlic and a load of spices. Absolutely delicious, and we added it to just about every plate of food we bought throughout Nicaragua

Local salsa picante is called "repollo" – a vinegar based brine for picking peppers, cabbage, onions, garlic and a load of spices. Absolutely delicious, and we added it to just about every plate of food we bought throughout Nicaragua

Two young guys playing fútbol - the mural in the background reads "para la libertad hemos luchado y hoy juras de defenderla." "For liberty we have fought and today you swear to defend it"

Two young guys playing fútbol - the mural in the background reads "para la libertad hemos luchado y hoy juras de defenderla." "For liberty we have fought and today you swear to defend it"

After several days in León we decided it was time to push on. We managed to carve out a fantastic route on mostly dirt roads from León to Granada, circling the Chiltepe Peninsula before riding through Managua, Masaya and then onto Granada.

Heading out of Leon, we hopped on dirt roads almost immediately

Heading out of Leon, we hopped on dirt roads almost immediately

Chiltepe Peninsula

Our first night out of León we camped in a church courtyard in Nagarote. We met a lovely Salvadoreño family making papusas in town where we ended up eating dinner and chatting with the family. They told us they had a better quality of life in Nicaragua, and had moved from El Salvador about fifteen years prior.

Street scenes in Nagarote

Street scenes in Nagarote

We arrived in Nagarote and happened upon another parade - it seems Nicaragua loves to celebrate! 

We arrived in Nagarote and happened upon another parade - it seems Nicaragua loves to celebrate! 

We followed dirt roads which took us along the perimeter of the Chiltepe Peninsula with a gorgeous view of Lake Managua and the surrounding volcanoes.

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We decided to camp on the peninsula near San Martin and pitched our tent behind a family's capilla. We were told and later read about how heavily polluted Lake Managua is, with a multitude of ecological and social impacts on communities around the lake.

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Taking a snooze in our Serac hammock after a hot pedal around the Chiltepe Peninsula

Taking a snooze in our Serac hammock after a hot pedal around the Chiltepe Peninsula

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Managua

Revolutionary street art begins to pop up as we enter Nicaragua's capital city of Managua

Revolutionary street art begins to pop up as we enter Nicaragua's capital city of Managua

It seems the closer we get to the city's center, the more street art we find! 

It seems the closer we get to the city's center, the more street art we find! 

It was an extremely hot day! As we navigated through the busy Managua streets, we found the most wonderful health food store and cafe, Ola Verde.

We of course were thrilled to find an organic health food store, Ola Verde, stocked with delicious local produce and offering incredible gluten free and vegan desserts! 

We of course were thrilled to find an organic health food store, Ola Verde, stocked with delicious local produce and offering incredible gluten free and vegan desserts! 

Ola Verde's owner Carla, a fellow cyclist and world traveler, offered to put us up for the night! 

Ola Verde's owner Carla, a fellow cyclist and world traveler, offered to put us up for the night! 

We had a wonderful time cooking dinner and breakfast with Carla, sharing stories and ideas about travel, nutrition and growing food. We hadn't planned to stay in Managua, but we were so thrilled to meet Carla – a lovely, well-traveled expat whose passion is educating and improving the lives of marginalized Nicaraguan communities through good food and proper nutrition. We need more Carlas in the world! The next morning we said our goodbyes and headed toward Masaya.

The lush, green roads to Masaya

The lush, green roads to Masaya

We hopped back on dirt and shortly after, Mehedi got another flat tire and Erin's pannier broke. 15 minutes later we were patched up, had a temp fix on the pannier and pedaling again. Our dirt road began as a busy mining road with big trucks but slowly quieted down as we put more distance between ourselves and the capital. Over all the terrain was mellow and the riding quite easy.

Masaya

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 We pedaled into Masaya's extremely colorful and vibrant Central Park by early afternoon and decided to find a cheap place to stay so we could visit the volcano the next day. We ordered smoothies (about $2) and found a sweet little hostel in town where we could keep our stuff and venture about town.

Colorful Central Park of Masaya

Colorful Central Park of Masaya

Dragonfruit smoothie with ginger and orange juice!  The color was incredible.

Dragonfruit smoothie with ginger and orange juice!  The color was incredible.

A colorful breakfast of eggs, platanos, queso & gallo pinto (beans and rice cooked together), with repollo to top it off. A sweet chia jugo rounds out the hefty meal.

A colorful breakfast of eggs, platanos, queso & gallo pinto (beans and rice cooked together), with repollo to top it off. A sweet chia jugo rounds out the hefty meal.

The street art is bright, colorful, and adorns nearly every available wall! 

The street art is bright, colorful, and adorns nearly every available wall! 

Strange castle like building houses the local artisan work

Strange castle like building houses the local artisan work

The next day we made it up to Volcán Masaya. We got hooked up on a tour with Samaritan tours thanks to our new buddy Nelson. 

We rode in the back of a pick up to the crater just past sunset.

We rode in the back of a pick up to the crater just past sunset.

A guard allows only 15 minutes of viewing at the crater's edge before clearing out all visitors to allow the next batch of cars up the volcano.

A guard allows only 15 minutes of viewing at the crater's edge before clearing out all visitors to allow the next batch of cars up the volcano.

As we rode up the volcano, we caught a glimpse of the magnificent colors of the blue sky, and the smoke reflecting bright red from Masaya's churning crater of molten lava below. We knew we were in for a treat.

If you've ever had the chance to witness volcanic activity up close and personal like this, you know how utterly spectacular it is to peer into the Earth. Almost 900 feet above and you could feel the immense heat and force of this wonder of nature. We were also lucky to visit at an extremely active time!

Extraordinary colors filled the sky above and around the volcano, then we peered down... 

Extraordinary colors filled the sky above and around the volcano, then we peered down... 

Nothing can prepare you for a view like this and no picture will ever do it justice! 

Nothing can prepare you for a view like this and no picture will ever do it justice! 

The next day we had an incredible downhill ride through tiny back dirt roads and paths all the way to Granada.

Heading out of Masaya, this guy had quite a load! 

Heading out of Masaya, this guy had quite a load! 

It was a drizzly day but we were just happy to ride some more dirt roads! 

It was a drizzly day but we were just happy to ride some more dirt roads! 

We cycled through sugar cane fincas and several communities without electricity or running water. Locals were friendly to us and many asked for money as we were passing through. We offered them money and the fruit we had. Most of the homes were one room bamboo shacks covered in black plastic to keep the rain out. These were some of the poorest communities we've pedaled through on our journey so far. It was a brief ride but profoundly impacted us. By the afternoon we made it to Granada.

Cycling into colorful colonial city Granada

Cycling into colorful colonial city Granada

Granada

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We spent about five days in Granada close to the market and Plaza. Much of our time went to catching up on our blog, cleaning the bikes and mapping out our next leg. We enjoyed Granada as it felt much mellower than León. The heat was so intense that we mostly stayed inside and hydrated during the day and usually only went out early in the morning or in the evening. The market was abundant and luckily we had a kitchen to cook in which we took full advantage of.

The market was overflowing with great produce and spices. 

The market was overflowing with great produce and spices. 

Old Granada homes

Old Granada homes

After a few days off, we were ready to pedal again. We had a late departure and long but mellow grade climb out of Granada. We stopped outside of a school in the late afternoon in Belen, and Mehedi asked the janitor if we might be able to camp there for the night. "Go up the dirt road off the highway and find Diana. She's a teacher here and she might be able to help you."

Cycling up the dirt road in Belen, looking for a lady named Diana

Cycling up the dirt road in Belen, looking for a lady named Diana

Eventually we found her house. She wasn't home, but her mother was, and welcomed us in without hesitation. Later we all shared stories and laughs together into cooler evening air and they loved seeing Mehedi's carved spoons.

Mehedi making magic from madera de mango

Mehedi making magic from madera de mango

Diana came home and she and her mother showed us around the finca

Diana came home and she and her mother showed us around the finca

They said told us they knew their country was very contaminated and chose to live away and eat more of what they grew themselves. They said they were very poor, and that their land and family were their greatest assets, and to them that was still "better than gold." Incredible people, so humbling.

Diana offers us some guayaba

Diana offers us some guayaba

We set up our tent beneath their portal

We set up our tent beneath their portal

Parked for the night! 

Parked for the night! 

Diana's nephew showed us the new well installed and paid for by a small church in Texas

Diana's nephew showed us the new well installed and paid for by a small church in Texas

We loved the family's horno in the backyard! Pizza anyone? 

We loved the family's horno in the backyard! Pizza anyone? 

The next morning after they fed us breakfast, we said our goodbyes and cycled out of the family compound, through Rivas to San Jorge where we caught our ferry to Ometepe.

Local three dimensional map of Ometepe – we cycled around the entire perimeter of the island, mostly on dirt roads!

Local three dimensional map of Ometepe – we cycled around the entire perimeter of the island, mostly on dirt roads!

On the ferry, we met another cyclist, Alex from Spain. He was about halfway through a three-week bicycle tour through Nicaragua. We ended up spending about three weeks cycling around Nicaragua, too, though we easily could have spent much longer! 

Our new Spanish friend Alex. We rode together for most of the day from the ferry terminal to Ojo de Agua

Our new Spanish friend Alex. We rode together for most of the day from the ferry terminal to Ojo de Agua

This island is so green and lush! 

This island is so green and lush! 

We finally reached Ojo de Agua after a solid dirt road stretch from the ferry. Ojo de Agua is a beautiful natural swimming hole beneath a green canopy of vegetation with cool, refreshing waters.

We finally reached Ojo de Agua after a solid dirt road stretch from the ferry. Ojo de Agua is a beautiful natural swimming hole beneath a green canopy of vegetation with cool, refreshing waters.

A rope swing had been set up to jump in!

A rope swing had been set up to jump in!

Around 5pm or so, all the tourists left the cenote and we had the place to ourselves! We pitched our tent beneath a palapa. It's rare to have a table and chairs at our campsite, but we took full advantage!

Around 5pm or so, all the tourists left the cenote and we had the place to ourselves! We pitched our tent beneath a palapa. It's rare to have a table and chairs at our campsite, but we took full advantage!

We watched water snakes in the cenote and listened to the sounds of the thick forest surrounding us.

We watched water snakes in the cenote and listened to the sounds of the thick forest surrounding us.

After a slow morning, we headed out toward Zopilote Farm & Hostel. There was some fabled fresh baked bread we heard about, so it seemed like it might be worth a stop! 

The scenery on our way to the farm was absolutely stunning! 

The scenery on our way to the farm was absolutely stunning! 

We met a group of locals who we enjoyed a 20 minute roadside chat with. We couldn't believe how excited the locals were to see travelers riding their bikes around the island. 

Strange fruit on Ometepe - yum! 

Strange fruit on Ometepe - yum! 

Hanging laundry downwind from a rose bush

Hanging laundry downwind from a rose bush

Enormous trees dotted the road along our figure 8 around Ometepe

Enormous trees dotted the road along our figure 8 around Ometepe

We met a local man who was drying rice from his crop. We asked for about a pound and he refused payment while wishing us luck on our journey. 

We met a local man who was drying rice from his crop. We asked for about a pound and he refused payment while wishing us luck on our journey. 

We arrived at Zopilote Farm and it immediately felt like home

We arrived at Zopilote Farm and it immediately felt like home

We made friends with a few of the volunteers, who were stoked about our bike adventures

We made friends with a few of the volunteers, who were stoked about our bike adventures

Ometepe Island was dreamy

Ometepe Island was dreamy

In the late afternoon we stopped lakeside for a dip and saw this local guy bathing his horse in the lake. 

In the late afternoon we stopped lakeside for a dip and saw this local guy bathing his horse in the lake. 

We made another local friend on the playa while playing guitar beneath our makeshift shelter from the sun. 

We made another local friend on the playa while playing guitar beneath our makeshift shelter from the sun. 

We cycled by a family's property with petroglyphs on their land - a five minute walk brought us to a massive heap of old stones with monkeys, spirals, suns, and more. 

We cycled by a family's property with petroglyphs on their land - a five minute walk brought us to a massive heap of old stones with monkeys, spirals, suns, and more. 

There were dozens of inscribed stones and we were in awe of them all! 

There were dozens of inscribed stones and we were in awe of them all! 

We met Muñeca the dog who really wanted to come to Argentina. Sorry pup! 

We met Muñeca the dog who really wanted to come to Argentina. Sorry pup! 

Nicaragua was covered in gorgeous flowers!

Nicaragua was covered in gorgeous flowers!

And corn, lots of corn. 

And corn, lots of corn. 

Our three night/four day leisurely pedal around Ometepe was coming to an end.  After taking the ferry back to Rivas in the late afternoon, we stayed the night and headed straight for the border of Costa Rica on the PanAmerican Highway the next day.

Adiós Nicaragua! What a beautiful country. 

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