Exploring Nicaragua with bicycles!

exploring nicaragua granada Nicaragua

Our first day exploring Nicaragua was spent mostly sleeping, eating and procrastinating over putting the bikes back together after the long flight to Latin America – ok so not much exploring. This resulted in us spending an extra day in country’s capital though, which I don’t really recommend.

So, did our bikes make it?

Yes, they did. There was a minor issue with my bike, but we managed to resolve that issue a couple of days later. Michael and I spent around 3 hours piecing the bikes back together in the carport of our guesthouse. We even had some young kids join in with the rebuilding of the bikes.

bikes nicaragua
The kids in the guesthouse got their bikes out to work on…

My cough

My cough still hadn’t improved since arriving in Managua. In fact we were actually worried that it had got worse after I coughed up some blood the day after we arrived. I might not know a lot about injuries and illness, but I know coughing up blood is definitely not a good thing, so I spent the morning visiting doctors, getting x-rays and picking up prescriptions. Everything seemed to look fine and I was told it should clear up with time. As you can imagine, I was pretty relieved over this news.

The next day, we packed up and cycled about 60km to Granada. We planned to take Spanish classes (at a chocolate mansion – I know, I have a chocolate addiction) and rest until I was well enough really start exploring Nicaragua and to cycle long distances again.

On the road exploring Nicaragua y bicycle… breifly

Nicaragua was definitely a lot more humid and hotter than New York State, so we decided to get an early start cycling. This proved to be pretty much pointless. I decided it would be a great idea to follow google map’s shortest route to Granada. This route took us down some pretty questionable roads, and into what we think was a sketchy part of town. It took us an hour to cycle 5km from the guesthouse, and we were nowhere near getting out of the city limits. In the end, we backtracked to the main road where the guesthouse, was and took the longer route towards Granada, sticking only to the main roads.

Lesson 1 learnt: stick to the main roads, especially when leaving big cities. Don’t be tempted to take the shorter route – it won’t be quicker.

The rest of the day’s cycle was actually awesome. We passed local properties, farms, plantations, volcanos and mountains. The main road was surprisingly well paved, with a good-sized hard shoulder. Even the drivers seemed courteous to cyclists, and we felt no aggression on the road. Originally, we had planned to take it slow to make sure I didn’t over do it. We thought the 60km cycle would take most of the day, but we ended up arriving in Granada around lunchtime – also the hottest part of the day. We checked into our Airbnb, hit the showers and had a siesta.

swimming pool
Michael chilling out by the pool at our Spanish school in Granada

Granada, Nicaragua

Granada is a beautiful, colonial town, but extremely touristy, and therefore, also a little bit more expensive than we were expecting. The colourful buildings, and rustic doorways give a lot of character to the city, and I can definitely see why the city is known to be a photographer’s dream.

For the most part, I rest in Granada, though we did decide to cycle to a nearby lake, which actually turned out to be 15km up a volcano to a CRATER lake. It was beautiful, but it was definitely a hot, sweaty and very difficult cycle day. Surprisingly we saw loads of local cyclists out on the main road between Granada and Masaya (this was before the turn off up the volcano). These cyclists were not the usual commuting cyclists we had seen, but road cyclists.

Leon exploring nicaragua
The cathedral rooftop in Leon

Leon, Nicaragua

After our time in Granada, we planned to leave the bikes at the Airbnb and head into El Salvador and maybe Honduras for a week. This plan changed once we arrived in Leon. For some reason, I’ve started to get a bit motion sickness in anything that goes faster than my bike. The 3 hour shuttle we took to Leon, proved not to be too enjoyable, and I couldn’t think of anything worse than a 10+ hour trip to El Salvador. On top of this, Michael wasn’t too phased about visiting either country, so we decided to stay in Leon, do an overnight hike and visit the Flor de Cana rum distillery before heading back to Granada to pick up the bikes and continue exploring Nicaragua.

During this time Michael and I were discussing our plans for the trip. We made a few realisations and ended up changing our plans once again!

Cycling New England: Maine, New Hampshire and Massachusetts

Cycling New England

Excited to be on the road and cycling NEW ENGLAND!!

Cycling in Northern Maine felt like an extension to the Maritimes in Canada – fishing villages, sailboats, pine trees, granite rocks, the Atlantic Ocean and super friendly people. From the border we started cycling New England by cycling down route 1 (for the most part). We asked to pitch our tent on people’s land when needed. Occasionally we got invited in, other times we were given gifts, like a dozen farm eggs.

The random acts of kindness from people totally blows my mind – coming from Canada where people are known for their friendly and kind nature, to the US, where you really hear a mixture of things – it was hard to know what to expect.

Like a lot of cycling destinations, it’s the people and the random experiences that are the highlights. Personally I found the cycling in Maine very repetitive and a bit boring. This could be from staying in Nova Scotia over winter, with it’s similar environment or just readjusting to spending so much time off the bike. Either way I found the highlight in Maine to be the people we met.

Cycling New England
Pitching our tent in someone’s yard after they gave us a dozen eggs for free! Got to love cycling New England!

Don’t trust the maps of Maine!

One thing we discovered about Maine is that google maps and other map apps don’t always accurately show the roads. Actually, I found the maps less reliable in Maine, compared to some other countries we’ve cycled through – like Uzbekistan! We were recommended to take a short cut – this short cut actually added several kilometres and hills on our trip.

This “shortcut” we took eventually lead us onto a truck route. The smell of gin and tonic from the overtaking trucks filled the air again. Like seriously, what the hell is that smell? Are the truck drivers gin lovers, or are they running off gin fuel? I guess it’s better than black smoke, exhaust fumes, but it does make me crave gin and tonics, which is probably not a good idea at 9am on a Wednesday morning.

Eventually, we arrived into Portland

Our Warmshowers’ host cancelled on us last minute, so we continued on cycling to find somewhere to camp. Unfortunately, this is where the urban sprawl began! We cycled on for another 40km, without finding anywhere to camp. We ended up staying in a motel – the most disgusting place I’ve probably stayed! The smell of stale smoke stained our clothes for weeks after. So gross – this is my only regret of the trip so far!

And we continued cycling New England into New Hampshire

We continued cycling through the sprawl of hotels, resorts and motels until we hit Portsmouth in New Hampshire. Portsmouth was a pretty awesome city. We spent the day there then camped in the office of another warmshowers’ host.

We were in and out of New Hampshire in a heart beat! The only true discovery other than Portsmouth being a pretty awesome town, was the cheap booze! If you’re in New Hampshire then it’s worth boozing it up before you leave!

Cycling New England
You can’t be cycling New England and not try out some of the local craft beers! There are so many good ones around!

Salem: The home of history and witches

The next state on the cycle agenda was Massachusetts! Since I studied the play, “The Crucible” at high school, there was no way I could skip a detour to the town of Salem! For those of you that have never heard of “The Crucible” it’s a play based on true events in 1692. The event, know as the witchcraft trials, involved a bunch of people that were taking to court and executed for being witches. The play was written in response to the anti-communist movement in the US in the 60s. Super interesting! Definitely worth checking out the play or movie if you haven’t seen it!

Salem was a pretty awesome town. One of the oldest European settlements in North America. It definitely was touristy and their were a lot of tacky witchcraft shops scattered all over the town, but it was still worth the detour.

Boston: Finally some rest days!

After spending the morning in Salem, we continued on to Boston, where we finally got a few days break off the bike.  Cycling into Boston wasn’t exactly fun. The city sprawled a fair bit, but once we found a city bike path, we were all good!

One thing that became immediately apparent in Boston was the aggressive drivers. Even with all the bike paths and cyclists on the road, driving in Boston was stressful and not really that much fun. Sure, if you can stick to a bike path, it might be fine, but stray from that and you’re risking your neck.

Cycling New England
Boston!

To sum up Boston: food, beer, walking, more food, more beer, couchsurfing company and good music! We had an awesome time in Boston!

The Sam Adams free brewery tour with free beer was definitely a highlight and I highly recommend checking it out if you’re in the city! It’s a bit out of the way, but definitely worth it – they even have a bike path that leads pretty much to the brewery door! We also got to listen to some local music, walked the freedom trail, paid a visit to Harvard University (because we’re pretty smart) and visited the Fine Arts Museum (free on Wed evenings – and really impressive). Boston also had an awesome selection of vegetarian and vegan joints, so we were two very happy cyclists.

Cycling Western Massachusetts

From Boston we decided to take our couchsurfers’ advice and catch the commuter train to Worcester. Apparently the road from Boston to Worcester is pretty dangerous, and it was raining, so we didn’t need much convincing. From Worcester we cycled to Belchertown. After getting out of the Worcester town centre, the cycle actually was awesome! Lots of hill climbs, but amazing views and beautiful scenery!

We spent that night with a warmshowers’ family in Belchertown – amazing family, with the friendliest dog ever. I was actually tempted to steal their awesome dog – I think she would have loved cycling New England with us haha.

The following day was probably one of our favourite cycle days in the USA – awesome cycle paths, amazing scenery and yes, more hills! We camped next to a state park near the New York border. The campsite was beautiful, and so peaceful. Due to the bad and very unpredictable weather we ended staying with people a lot more than usual (mostly people took pity on us and invited us in to stay). In almost 1 month this was only the forth time we set up our tent! Crazy!

The following day we cycled to the New York state border! Finally, we had come to an end of cycling in New England! Next we were to cycle the “mythical” Erie Canal Bike Trail.

Farewell Canada: Cycling Canada to Argentina

cycling Canada to Argentina

After spending almost 6 months in Halifax, I couldn’t believe the time to leave had finally arrived. From Halifax we were starting the next leg of our world cycle tour: cycling Canada to Argentina!

Being a Haligonian!

When Michael and I arrived in Halifax we had good intentions of maintaining our level of fitness – yeah, that last about a day! With me working in a chocolate shop and constantly getting free chocolate, as well as it being freezing cold and there being so many craft breweries to try out, there was little (read “none”) fitness going on.

Come spring we were two relatively unfit cyclists, ready to hit the road and start cycling Canada to Argentina. Unsurprisingly, we felt the consequences! My butt hurt, my thighs hurt, my arms hurt, even my back hurt – and we were struggling along doing almost half the pre-Halifax cycle distance. Admittedly, it wasn’t just down to our lack of fitness or the extra shit we were hauling along – the weather also had a large part to play in our lack of kilometres.

Goodbye Haifax

When the day finally arrived to leave Halifax, it was snowing and not just a little bit. There was still a tonne of icy snow of the floor that had yet to melt and it was bloody freezing! I’d never cycled in the snow before, and to tell you the truth, I was slightly excited about the thought of it. The novelty soon wore off – about 10 minutes later.

We cycled for 2 hours in the snow and finally stopped in at a Tim Hortons to warm up. Eventually the snow eased and we were back on our way.

cycling Canada to Argentina
Snow cycling in Nova Scotia! And they call this Spring???

Cold nights and friendly people

Our plan for the first night was to camp at a provincial park in chester, however when we arrived it was still closed for the season. It was supposed to drop down to -7 degrees Celsius overnight, and we were already shivering and it wasn’t even sunset yet. Would we freeze to death overnight? Luckily, we never had to find out.

While we were contemplating our sanity and deciding whether to set up camp in the provincial park,  Joan and Rob (two friendly locals) spotted us, and took pity on us. They invited us in, gave us a warm place to stay, and fed us some amazing food. We got to spend the evening sharing some stories – which was much more enjoyable than shivering away in the tent. I’m forever grateful that we never had to discover just how cold camping in -7 degrees Celsius is.

Keji National Park

From Chester we headed to New Germany, then onto Keji National Park. The cold weather and snow hung around, but at least the sun was out… well for a couple of days at least.

When we arrived at Keji, the visitor center had already closed and the rangers had left for the day. Lost for what to do, we decided to head into the park to Mills Falls and camp in the emergency shelter. It was still extremely cold, even with the wood fire we got cranked.

Overnight, there was freezing rain, crazy winds and more snow. The snow continued on into the morning, so we decided to stay in the shelter to wait it out. After lunch the freezing rain had turned to light snow, and we decided it was time to make a move.

To get to Mill Falls we had to ride down a dirt road – overnight this dirt road got covered in snow. We had the fun job of pushing/ riding out in the snow – which I actually found quite enjoyable, though it was quite slow going. Luckily we discovered that all other roads had been cleared, and it turned into quite an enjoyable ride to the Bay of Fundy.

From Keji, we had originally planned to make it to New Brunswick via the Digby ferry, the same day. The snow and bad weather slowed us down, and we only made it as far as Annapolis Royal. Stuck for what to do, we did what any normal person would do and headed to the pub. This turned out to be a great idea, as at the pub with met Brian, who came to the rescue and invited us to stay at his place. Perfect – this meant a good night sleep and time to explore the town in the morning.

cycling Canada to Argentina
Snow cycling in Keji! I did cycle some of it… well the downhill parts anyway.

Saint John, New Brunswick

Eventually we did make it to Saint John, New Brunswick. We only had a short cycle day to get to Saint John, but I was totally shattered on the ferry and slept most of the way. Once we did arrive, it was already dark. It turned out that the ferry port is 5km outside of town. After much confusion we eventually made it to our warmshowers hosts’ apartment – it only took us a shocking 45 minutes (I have no idea how I managed that).

We spent two nights in Saint John – awesome city! I was delighted to have a day off the bike – the cycling was really taking out of me. It was clear that my fitness was not what it was 6 months earlier.

More cold weather

After resting for the day, we were (semi) ready to hit the road again! From Saint John we got on the highway to the border. A crazy headwind and cold rains greeted us. This slowed us down, and instead of making it to the border town, we only made it as far as Saint George. Soaking wet and freezing cold we decided to book into a cheap hotel.

One thing about riding in the freezing cold, it’s just about manageable, until you stop riding! I have no idea how the long distance winter cyclists do it! What about breaks and stopping for lunch when there is no shelter, not even a gas station? We stopped for a minute at a time to eat some food, but there was no way we were stopping for longer than that. It was way too cold! This was probably one of the coldest and most miserable days we’ve cycled in the Americas – it was not fun! Luckily the hotel was pretty nice and the hot shower was one of the best of my life.

Annapolis Royal, Nova Scotia
Annapolis Royal, Nova Scotia

Headwinds are the worst things in the world – no joke!

We woke up to sun – and another headwind! But, it didn’t matter because it was about 10 degrees warmer, so I was happy. We continued on the highway to Saint Stephen, dropped into the Superstore to spend the last of our Canadian coins, and then crossed into the USA – with surprisingly little hassle!

So after spending the best part of 2 years in Canada, it was finally time to say farewell! I don’t think we could ever repay the kindness we experienced during our time in Canada – it truly is an amazing country (despite it’s cold winters) and we will definitely miss it!

We were finally on our next leg on the trip, cycling Canada to Argentina. Woohoo!

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