March 5, 2023
When Marie arrived by the end of January we didn’t see each other for 3 months. We took some time to relax while waiting for her bike to arrive and prepare for our journey together. We had the idea of cycling 2 months, from Costa Rica to Mexico. All very exciting as it’s our first bike trip together and Marie’s first big bike tour.
With the wind
After setting everything up and planning our next routes we left the village town, down to the ocean. That first day was mainly downhill, but for sure not an easy one. Most of it was off road and immediately an intense day for Marie. Luckily we found some great camp spots along the way and off to the ocean then. That first week was a bit tricky as we both needed to get to a new pace in life, but after a couple of days we found a good rhythm of being on the road. We kinda switched from mountains to coastal roads and back to the mountains. Whenever we had enough of the busyness of the beaches we left for calmer roads and spectacular views. The only downside was that Marie’s back started to hurt because of the really steep off roads. She’s riding my old bike I have cycled to Indonesia with. So not the perfect fit for her.
Along the way we camp and find some homestays to sleep at. A good combo especially as it’s always easy and safe to sleep anywhere in costa rica. People are nice and with so many tourism in the country it’s easy to find accommodation. Costa Rica is an amazing country with so many national parks to visit. It’s hard, because we would just want to visit so many places, but with a limit in time (and cycling to all these spots takes time and lots of effort) we can just see a part of this beautiful country.
It is that in the end we decide to get back lower to the main road and focus on doing some distance to Nicaragua. Mainly because we still have a long way to go and so many places to visit! This road was pretty long and boring, but the exciting part was the wind! We had regular gusts up to 90 km/h , first from the back, literally blowing us forward but when the road changed it was more dangerously from the side. We constantly had to be on guard not to be surprised by this. It made the boring straight road a bit more interesting and pretty soon we ended up at the border.
When we arrive at the Nicaraguan border, we get a bit nervous. We don’t know what to expect as we hear that camera’s are forbidden to take. In the end the reputation didn’t live up the border went fairly easy. I must say that it’s the 2nd or 3rd time my bags get completely checked in 10 years time. Immediately the scenery changes, everything is a bit more flat in Nicaragua, except for the volcanoes passing by. First we stopped for some well deserved rest on Ometepe Island where we take some time to relax and do nothing. With new energy we continue our journey further in Nicaragua. It’s a bit more searching for nice routes for cycling and from time to time we hit the main roads. They’re very easy going to cycle, not too much traffic, but long and boring in this heat.
The reason for that route was to visit a village called Tamarindo. An education project founded by Philip Vertriest. It helps children in this area to get a technical education. Most people in this area work in the sea salt mining where they have very limited life expectations due to the health risks involved. This project helps to give these children better opportunities in life. They’re doing a great job, but sadly they’re always in search for extra resources. If you get the chance, please help to make a difference and visit their website and consider donating for this beautiful project: https://vzw-autentico.org/
From Autentico we were hesitating where to go next and asked some people. The owner of Via Via hotel in Leon told us we should stop by and visit the city. It is a Belgian hotel group (not a real chain) for travellers in different places around the world. Very nice places and always have a social engagement in the area they’re operating, like the ngo Authentico. Very happy to have been there, so far Leon is our favourite city in Central America! There we decided to go up into the mountains again to cross to Honduras. We were already toasted from the heat and needed some cool air. But first where a couple of long straight roads ahead of us with slights headwinds. They gave us some difficult time and it was the only time so far to listen to music while cycling. By this time Marie’s back is already much better and we’re going strong in the hills. From time to time I have to remind her we have to hold back, because we have a long way to go.
This area in the hills is a main tobacco area and first we needed to pass Esteli. Known for it’s cigars and tobacco plantations it is a beautiful area. The city is pretty industrial so not really worth a visit, but it was a good place to spend a night before heading more up to the border with Honduras. Before crossing it we took a rest day and visited the Somoto Canyon. A beautiful and peaceful place where the cold water helped us to recover our legs.
It is already clear by now that borders in Central America are easy going. Very soon we are in Honduras. We didn’t plan to stay that long in here, mainly as a transit country to El Salvador. The reason being that nowadays safety wise El Salvador made a bit more sense to cycle in. Marie had some concerns in advance about Honduras and El Salvador, but she already left that idea because we get so much confirmation from locals so that we perfectly feel safe everywhere. From the border all the way in Honduras and El Salvador now we have such a great connection with people all around. Everywhere people wave at us and make us feel very welcome, always nice to have this feeling while cycling around.
After just 2 days of cycling we arrive at the border with El Salvador, another extremely easy crossing brings us into the country. We take a bit of a detour along a coastal road to be hosted by Jose, a warmshowers host. It is always nice to be meeting fellow cyclists in a country we’re passing by. We get a good insight how he and other Salvadorians feel about the new government and their approach to the gang problem. The government has made some drastic decisions to stop the gang violence, especially the Mara (MS-13) are most known and brutal in Central (and North) America. Currently there are more than 60.000 of them in El Salvador. They don’t have a lawyer or anything and human rights organisations are concerned. But many locals are happy about this approach because it really seems to help. We see people walking on the street at night without fear, which they really had up to a year ago.
Flat and touristic
We stay near the ocean for the next days, mainly to get some easy km’s and we still have enough hills to cover in Guatemala. First we pass by a main tourist hot spot (el Tunco) which we didn’t really like that much (hence no pictures). Don’t get me wrong, it’s a beautiful place and if you’re a surfer, go there. But we missed the authenticity of El Salvador itself. Luckily in one of the following villages we get another feeling of this coastal area. Not so much further we decide to get back to the hills to take the Ruta de las Flores. So happy to have taken it, despite the extra effort of pedalling this is a beautiful route. It takes you up to more than 1000m along beautiful vibrant villages whit good food and beautiful views. At the moment we’re staying for some rest in Juayua and lot’s of food before we head out to Guatemala! I’m looking forward to that, it is full of mountains, but it has a reputation to be very hard for cyclists.
During my rest here I got the news that my friend Cak Adhi from Indonesia has passed away. He gave me a place to stay for weeks when I was stuck in Surabaya waiting for my rowboat to arrive. He was a very helpful and special person and did a lot for the cycling community in Indonesia. He died during a bike accident on one of his bike tours he had just started. I’m really sad about the news, especially that it’s a second friend that passes away in such a short time.
And again a huge thanks to my sponsors who make this happen!