It was tempting to hole up with Monica for another couple of days to enjoy the little luxuries of a washing machine, stocked fridge, real coffee, and a comfortable bed. But that does not a bike trip make. Because we are cyclists, we got back on our bicycles and did what cyclists do.
The ride to Granada was a total breeze. Getting out of Managua was eerily simple and much less hilly than riding in. The whole ride was less than 50km and took us past a handful of local highlights, including the town of Masaya, with it’s accompanying volcano and Lago Apoyo, a touristic draw in itself. We tried to make a lunch stop at a restaurant overlooking the lake, but the outrageous prices propelled us onward, and thanks goodness they did! We landed at some little roadside grill (the kind that R loves) that was packed with locals and smelled like heaven. If heaven was made out of chicken.
Stopping for lunch is one of the small pleasures of cycle touring that I never could have anticipated. I usually like to cobble together my own lunch in an effort to save some money and take a stab at eating healthfully, which usually backfires on both counts, but stopping for lunch along the road has proven to be quite cost effective in Central America, if not fantastic for our waistlines. Today, we succumbed to the siren song of grilled chicken at an outdoor stand, staffed by a single family. We shared one plate and were still uncomfortably full when we were done. The whole meal, with hand-made fruit juices, cost less than $5. Over and over, we have lunched at anonymous comedors or road-side grills and have been floored by how good the food is. It is definitely hit-and-miss- we have our share of horror stories from these types of places, too- but, overwhelmingly, these meals make up some of our best experiences of the trip.
From our lunch stop, it was a straight-shot to Granada, punctuated only by another flat tire. I think this is the 5th in 3 days, between the two of us. For the most part, the roads have ben great- well-paved with decent shoulders- but the debris in the road seems much more brutal than anywhere else we’ve been, including the US. Nails and odd bits of metal that seem to come from blown-out tires are everywhere and we must have some kind of record going with the resulting flats. Still, we made it into Granada by the early afternoon and were settled into a hostel recommended by our friend, Shaun, with plenty of daylight to spare.
The hostel was one in a string of hostels only a few blocks west of the central park. When we walked in to register, we were surprised to discover Ron, an Isreali who had been present during the Showdown in Antigua. He had been rooming in the dorms with Adonias when we barged in with the police and finally caught and searched him in the streets. Last Ron saw of us was our bleary-eyed return the following morning when he headed off for his next stop and we were just gearing up for our month of court dates and headaches. We swapped our latest stories- ours about the armed robbery in Honduras and his about a local Nicaraguan cross-dresser who pulled an Adonias-style heist in the dorms of the very hostel we were now checked into! Small world. Seriously, watch out for cross-dressers.
We arrived in the middle of election weekend, which meant a ban on alcohol sales, but the hostel was packed with travellers drinking beers on the sly. We indulged in one, but headed out into the heart of the city for dinner. Even though it was a Saturday night, the tourist strip was fairly empty. The alcohol ban must do some serious damage to local businesses that rely on thirsty gringos to bring in the cash. We ended up in a completely empty sports bar and restaurant, where R wanted to watch a big football game on their satellite TV. A few minutes after we walked in, we met two Americans who had just arrived in town that afternoon. We shared a table in solidarity: three grown men (plus me) watching a football game without beer. The weeping violins practically drowned out the game. Nevertheless, we had a great time, swapping travel stories and tips. We were still smarting from the Honduras Incident and I think our pitiful recounting of the story moved them to charity, as they very generously treated us to dinner. They were heading out in a different direction the next day, so our paths wouldn’t cross again, but R is still weighing their real estate advice and maybe hatching plans. I need to be careful lest I find myself a coffee-farmer’s wife in Ecuador….. Thanks a lot, guys!