From San Juan del Sur the group decision was to head out to an island called Ometepe in the middle of Lago de Nicaragua. For those who haven’t checked the map, the lake is huge taking up a large portion of southern Nicaragua. Omotepe was formed by two volcanoes that grew up next to each other in the middle of the lake, the tallest measuring 5,500 feet in height. There is a land bridge between the two and the place has gotten a name for itself as a must-see in Nicaragua. They tower overhead from the beachhead with smoke constantly whisping from the top. Quite an amazing sight.
Wednesday morning the girls took off on public transportation while Alex and I mounted up on the bikes. Since the Fourth of July I have been putting a lot of thought into how we represent America to the other travelers on the road as well as the locals. The motorcycles have come to define us. After a few days in any town people start to know about us. We roar through town larger than life on the menacing black bikes geared to the hilt. Our presence is unmistakable at every place we stay; if you didn’t hear our engines screaming as we hopped the curb and rode into the courtyard through the front door then you would have at least seen us walking around in full riding gear at some point. Standing there on thick boots wearing matching armored bomb-proof suits, we must look other worldly. To other hostel dwellers we are the guys doing it on motorcycle; to the locals we are ‘the big bikes’.
As a complete package, I don’t think we could be any more American if we tried. Two huge loud and proud Caucasian guys brazenly riding giant dirt bikes as far south as we can at age 24… it’s pretty classic. I’m very happy with the image we portray. We both go out of our way to help anyone out and can both strike up a conversation in English or Spanish with anyone we see. Hearts of gold with a lot of energy to show it. At the same time we strut around like rock stars exuding the confidence and style that perfectly capture the American spirit. Working hard pushing through rain, heat, breakdowns, border crossings, banditos, and navigation of 20,000 miles of unsigned crumbling roads for nine months; it’s epic. We know that what we’re doing is cool and we’re not afraid to acknowledge it. Throw in that we’re two Eagle Scouts who threw it together and saved the money by ice road trucking in Alaska? It’s hard not to get cocky. The state of the union may be a little bruised right now, but we’re living proof that Americans still got it going on.
Fire up the 650cc engines and we left San Juan del Sur with everyone watching. The ride to the ferry dock for Omotepe was half an hour long and we showed up well before the girls. As soon as we stopped a blanket of sand flies completely covered us from head to toe and the bikes as well. They looked like miniature mosquitos and there were millions of them, but they didn’t bite. I sat and watched some Nicaraguans play a simplified version of baseball while the flies swarmed all over me. They were so small you couldn’t even feel them. In total we waited about two hours for the next ferry. By that time of course Anna and Kim had arrived.
We all went to board down on the dock. My stomach sank when I saw the boat. It had a wooden hull with a lower seating area that was covered by the pilot house and a luggage storage deck. I looked around to find the bike ramp, there was none. We pulled up to the passenger loading ramp and the crew all all looked at each other when they saw the size of our machines. They discussed a plan and then pulled out the solution: a flimsy wooden plank ten feet wide by two feet wide. One of the crew came up to me and told me not to worry about my bike… good sign. I sat there as terrified as I’ve been the entire trip and watched four Nicaraguans push my 500 pound bike up a steep angle ramp over a five foot gap onto a rocking boat. One misstep and it would have ended up at the bottom of the lake. I knew they didn’t have insurance to cover that (neither do I); and judging the condition of the boat there would be no money to squeeze out of them should I lose all my worldly possessions. But like they’ve done it 1,000 times, the bike crawled up the ramp without incident and was tied down on the deck moments later. I don’t even know why I was worried, this is the third world.
The boat pulled out and chugged along barely faster than a swimmer’s pace. All the gringos sat on top and watched their luggage for the hour long voyage and by the end we had all sunburned noticeably. We found a cheap hostel with dorm beds for $7 and private rooms for $10/person. Anna and Kim only had one day on Omotepe so after everyone moved in they were in a hurry to get out and see some of Lonely Planet’s (a very popular travel guide book) best recommendations. We started talking with the hostel host and he offered to take us to a popular beach called Santo Domingo in his car for $5 each. It was a forty minute drive around the big volcano to the north side of the land bridge between the two.
Our host Yazzin loaded our group which now included our new Brit friend Chris into a sedan and we all took off listening to 80’s love ballads. The drive took so long because the poor sedan was far overloaded. At every speed bump Al and I would have to hop out and walk alongside the car as it barely cleared the gap with the other four inside. Every three minutes we would complete this Chinese fire drill; it must have been quite a sight to see the two huge Americans roll out in unison and then hop back in together. It was great fun and set a jovial mood for the rest of the night.
We arrived at the beach and it turned out to be nothing like we expected. Just a dirt strip along a murky lake with a few poorly-lit bars built up on the side. Not a problem, we went straight to the first bar and started telling stories looking out over the lake as the sun set. Everyone hung out drinking for two or three hours as we made the most out of the girls’ only night on the island. Around 9:30pm Yazzin picked us up unaware that we would be screaming his power ballads all the way home.
Everyone went to bed tired and satisfied. We all awoke mid-morning and started moving around. Anna and Kim had a flight booked for the Corn Islands on the Caribbean side of Nicaragua that takes off Friday morning from Managua. Therefore, they had until 4:00pm to explore the island a little further before they had to return to mainland and head towards the big city. We decided to check out another attraction called Ojo de Agua, a natural spring fed right from the volcanoes. A quiet, chilled lagoon, Ojo de Agua was a perfect place to cool down in the afternoon heat and soak in the atmosphere.
At the end of the afternoon, the girls finally had to go. Al and I carried their packs down to the dock for them, said our goodbyes, and we parted ways. Anna and Kim are good travel partners; they maintain their girly elegance, but are still willing to crawl through mud for adventure. They represent New Zealand well and Anna has been filling my head with Kiwi vocabulary for the past few days to make sure I don’t forget. I’ll miss the girls, but I’m sure we’ll all meet up down the road.
Tomorrow, Friday, Alex and I have no agenda other than to relax. There has been too much moving and fussing trying to keep up with the girls the last couple days and we are ready for a day to reset and recharge. I plan to eat a lot, I’ve been hungry as hell lately.