The morning was as as cloudy as ever so despite our five hour detour to give it a second go, we were not to see it and decided to head for Nicaragua. En route we encountered some very inquisitive coatis who came right up to the car door...
We went to Liberia where we dropped Tom off. We went to an internet cafe briefly and then went to get ice and had some Burger King fodder - tasty.
En route north we met Jeremy from the UK who is motorbiking around the world. He was extremely entertaining to talk to and he climbed into Nyathi's spare seat in the back so we could talk comfortably, instead of him being almost blown over by the wind. Then we met Jodie from Canada who was cycling in the opposite direction. She was going all the way south to Ushuaia! It was great to meet other travellers who are as mad as us (perhaps madder).
We got to the border fairly late in the day. Exiting Costa Rica was easy enough and although the Nicaraguan side was a little long-winded with forms to fill in, customs fee ($2 each), insurance to buy ($12) and tourist tax to pay ($5 each), they were all helpful and pleasant. As we were leaving we got hit for another $1 each municipal fee which was vaguely annoying, but we got a receipt for what it was worth.
We drove down to a small beach called Playa El Remanso with a few houses and some sort of low-key fenced off hotel up on the hill. We checked with one of the local guys that it was OK to sleep the night at the end of the road, which looked over the beach and down to the sea and he said it was fine.
It was dark already, but we went for a short walk on the beach and then came back and had our drinks sitting on Nyathi's roof, watching the splendid array of stars.
It was incredibly windy last night, so we didn't get a great night's sleep. We went for a relaxing walk along the beach and explored the tidal pools but they had been cleaned of all living things!
We drove alongside the lake with two volcanoes sticking proudly out of the water. We considered going across on a ferry, but decided there would probably be too many people for our liking.
We stopped off in Masaya to buy hammocks. We went into the quarter where all the workshops are because we thought we'd get the best quality and prices (de la iglesia San Juan, dos cuadros abajo). There were loads of places and we ended up in the front room of the seller's house (Javiera Arquello) testing out the differences among family size, double and singles as well as those without poles and those with. We settled on two doubles with poles and paid $40 for both of them (the asking price was $50). They are bigger than we had anticipated in terms of storage, but we're please with them.
We went to have our tyres fixed at a place next to the Shell garage on the main road to Managua. The guys there were pleasant and it seems they did a good job. Then we went to et supplies from the supermarket on the main square including some decent chicken pies for 'lupper', We spent the night camped in the grounds of Auto Hotel Ilusion (sic), where the manager was very pleasant and there was a 24 hour guard.
We arrived at Selva Negra (named after the Black Forest in Germany - still owned by descendants of the original German coffee farmers from 1800s) about 12km north of Matagalpa at about 08h00. We decided we'd like to spend the morning walking through the forests trying to spot birds and monkeys. We paid 25,000 each to get in and followed the circuitous road up to the restaurant and reception area.
The reception staff weren't particularly helpful when he went to ask about the forest trails etc. They gave him a map and said nothing much else. Our first stop was to admire a beautiful ocelot thay had in a good-sized cage with lots of shade, water and it was clean! The ocelot had been left in one of the hotel rooms with a note from a guest asking the owners at Selva Negra to take care of it.
I made us some rolls before we set out on our trek. The trails are not very well marked at all and as a result we had a few false starts, but once we were on the right track we headed up the mountain and I spotted a family of howler monkeys. They were in the canopy high above, but we got a good view of them with the binoculars! A short while later we heard them howling (which sounded more like a loud feline growl to us). We also spotted little dassie-like creatures, a peccary, two particularly noisy birds, both of which were extremely hard to find in the cover of the trees and lots of creepy crawlies...
We walked for about 3.5 hours and thoroughly enjoying the pristine forest and tinkling streams tumbling down the mountainside. They also had great little rustic chairs dotting the paths if you needed a seat...
They also had a beautiful chapel set up on a hill, which would make the perfect setting for a country wedding with lush plants growing up the walls and gorgeous gardens to wander about in. We went into the restaurant to have a look at their menu. The food looked good, but was way beyond our budget. Then the waiter saw our entrance cards and told them they were valid for a cool drink and a piece of cake. What excellent value for the day, all for just over a $1!
We saw loads of factories and outdoor areas where they were drying coffee beans. It seemed like quite a primitive process to us, but was rather interesting...
We got to the Nicaraguan border at 16h35 and manage to get all the things done there that we needed, but frustratingly the Honduran side closed so we were stuck in 'no-man's land'. What made it all the more interesting was a group of Americans in five RVs (two of them articulated). When we drove up to the border we saw these enormous rigs parked in front of the immigration offices and we both commented on how imposing they were - we have never seen anything like it before. One trailer was 36 feet long and had three outward sliding compartments!
Once we had finished our border formalities we got chatting with them. They had been on a trip through Central America, with tour leader, Norm. They were nice people and we ended up having a dinner with John, Bev, and Norm at the local police quarters - a simple fare of traditional rice and beans with a slice of cheese, fried egg and two tortillas. John and Bev invited us to join them for drinks in their very comfortable trailer, which has been their home for the lat six years. We thoroughly enjoyed chatting to them and swapping stories.