After a couple of days off in San Juan del Sur (miraculously avoiding the famous ‘Sunday Funday’ drinking session) we headed to what we thought might a border crossing on the coast of Nicaragua and Costa Rica (instead of Peña Blanca). This border crossing could have potentially saved us 40kms. Google maps seem to show something there and we knew it was a potentially new crossing but we couldn’t find anything to confirm either way if it had opened. So we thought we’d find out for ourselves… (written in Costa Rica)
The dirt road from San Juan del Sur up to Ostional was a great ride with minimal traffic. Our spirits were high.
We rode this section on Playa Coco, not because we had to but because we were in Nicaragua and we could.
We continued past Ostional following a very well dirt maintained road to reach a military checkpoint 500 metres on. They informed us that the border crossing that we wanted was not open and we had to return to San Juan del Sur and then up to Rivas and the Peña Blanca border crossing. Since there was a perfectly good track that was ´closed to non-locals for their own safety’ along the border this was somewhat disappointing news. We asked them if there were other options and we were told that there was an alternate route over the mountains via San Antonio and Fatima. ‘Can you bike it?’…’yes you can’. Err…you DEFINITELY can’t actually, which we found out the next day paying the price of around 10000 calories and 6 litres of sweat. ‘Thanks’ Nicaraguan soldier.
Backtracking to Ostional a broken link in my chain got caught in my front derailleur and bent it totally out of shape. This meant a 2 hour bus ride back to San Juan del Sur andd no more progression that day. The bike was tied to the roof of the bus; in San Juan the electricity and telephone wires are quite low, lower in fact than a bike on top of a bus. My handlebars caught one of the low hanging wires as we passed through the town and ripped the electrics off the wall of a shop that it was attached to. What a day… I fixed my bike though by simply taking off the front derailleur. For the next few weeks I’d be changing my front gears by hand.
Heading up to Fatima the next day (after catching the bus back to where we were the day before). Until we arrived in Fatima, the trail was excellent. That was all about to change into one of the toughest days of the trip.
The scenic start of what is basically a 12km horse track. We had been warned that there could be 5 km which was unrideable (this turned out to be a huge underestimation).
The trail wound it´s way up through a valley and involved a 500 metre change in altitude upwards. We had to carry our bikes for a lot of it, drenched in sweat. This is Eric pushing his bike a very steep rooted section near-ish to the top where we thought we’d soon be able to cycle. How wrong we were…
I re-discovered a ‘lovely’ breed of ant that likes to hide in a thorned plant. Touch the plant and in two seconds your legs are swarming with them. The ant bites swell up enormously and the reaction lasts for a couple of weeks.
After we reached the top and had taken in the excellent view of the landscape we had just climbed ,we were ‘rewarded’ with this impassable ‘sinking up to your knees’ cattle mud track. It’s ok it’ll only last 500 metres. No it won’t it will go on for 8 MORE KILOMETRES.
Deep bike-eating mud.
On the bright side, no need for a bike stand. Towards the end of the track a man on a horse took pity and helped drag my bike up the last steep section; jumping across deep cracks in the muddy road, my heavy mud-caked bike crashing up and down as I sweated and panted, flying past Eric in the process.
Finally we reached the end of the deep mud and roller-coaster terrain and came across a kind family who let us camp on their porch (after washing ourselves and bikes in the river and picking off numerous ticks). The 12km trail took 8 hours!
Thank you, you beautful people.