Sunday, February 1, 2015

4 years

January 25, 2011 was the day we received the news I had breast cancer.  While I don't think about that specific day too often, Shannon and I do acknowledge it by taking a January "trip".  In 2012 we went to Hawaii.  In 2013 we went to Mexico.  In 2014, we went to the OR for surgery which definitely doesn't count.  and this year we traveled to Nicaragua.  We are celebrating health, building memories, and getting out of Utah in the midst of winter!

Why Nicaragua?  We are interested in traveling to places off the beaten path.  Where there is unspoiled natural beauty; and since I can only tolerate laying on a beach for about 5 minutes without getting bored, adventure must abound.  I also love learning about new cultures and since I know un poco Espanol, practicing is fun.  We don't need 5-star accommodations, but we do need good food.  Warm is good too:)  Central America fits the bill perfectly; and we chose Nicaragua.   The photos really do say it all!

After a day and a half of travel to the pacific coast of Nicaragua, we were greeted by this sunset. 
 It was really special; little did we know that every night would be equally beautiful.
On this trip, Shannon informed me that we have been together for 20 years.  20 years!!!!!  I think he is mistaken, but regardless it is a loooong time!
After all this time, we still kinda like each other:)

The beeches seemed deserted and it felt like we had them to ourself
We didn't miss a single sunset
I took a lesson and surfed for the first time.  I quickly learned that no matter what, surfing ends with a crash.  Sometimes it was more graceful than others:)  
I could get used to the beach bum lifestyle if it involved Nicaragua and surfing!
We surfed till dusk
and explored the beach rocks.  you never know what is around the corner...
It was a bit of a sketchy hike, that could only be done at low tide, 
but the payoff was a beautiful sand dune.  
The locals called this area "Shark's Bay".  I was told the sharks in Nica are gentle.  Hmmm. 
Bikes are a primary means of transportation in rural Nica.  Our condo came with bikes for us to use.  We rode these bikes to nearby Playa Gigante which is a town that is actually on the map.  I guess I was putting out mega wattage; I broke the rusty pedal at the axle.  
Food at the government controlled grocery stores is very expensive in Nicaragua.  For this reason, many Nicaraguan's live on self-sustained farms where they grow all of their food.  This particular farm used an adapted bicycle to supply power to their irrigation system.  RAD!
We then traveled from the Pacific coast to Ometepe Island on Lake Nicaragua.  There are two volcanos on Ometepe.  This is Maderas.  It is not a live volcano.

Ferry ride to Ometepe.  It was a bumpy ride.
My mantra was "I will not get seasick, I will not get seasick"!
Afterwards, Shannon said he thought we were going to capsize.  It was rough! 

Ometepe is full of monkeys.  There are Congos, White-faced, and Howler. 
 If you look closely, you can see the baby monkey on momma's tail.

We immediately starting exploring with a kayak tour
Concepcion from our kayak.  There is always cloud cover at the top of the volcanos.  
This particular volcano is live.  
We were living dangerously on a small island with a live volcano. 
 It has not erupted since 2009.  
Beauty was around every corner on Ometepe

These palmas are over 200 years old.  
Mayan petroglyphs on Ometepe Island.
On our 8+ hour hike up Maderas, we came across leaf cutter ants.  The ants use their incisors to cut leaves.  They then form a procession and carry the leaves back to their "home" where the leaves are used for compost.  In the moist environment mushrooms grow which the ants eat.  
Leaf cutters are self-sustained ants.  I found them fascinating.  
The Maderas hike was the hardest I have ever done.  It was steep, rooty, muddy, and slippery.  
Going down was just as difficult as going up.  
It was like a whole different damp world up there!
Once we summited, we descended for another 20 minutes to this lake.  
Green is my favorite color.  So many shades of green on Maderas!
It was a typically, foggy day at the top of Maderas.
Like I said, the hike down was treacherous
Concepcion from a lookout on Maderas
We hiked, and hiked, and hiked for 8+ hours!
At the base of Maderas is a coffee farm.  These are the coffee trees that supply much of Seattle with boutique coffee.  The coffee was just harvested in December.
This is the equipment that cuts and removes skin from the coffee beans.
The beans are then spread in the sun to dry and the best beans are selected
We became adventurous with our eating.  
This was a hidden treasure we found with excellent smoothies and homemade Nutella! 
The sunrise on Ometepe was just as spectacular as the sunsets!
Nicaraguans love bikes just as much as us!
The day after we hiked Maderas, we circumnavigated the volcano.  
We rode these fine steeds for over 40 miles.  The bikes held up fine until 9 k to go where my freewheel broke.  We tried to use vines to fix it, which actually kind of worked for ~3k.  
A Nicaraguan girl doing her own laundry.
The homes are simple and modest; clearly there is much poverty.  But the people of Nicaragua are some of the nicest and happiest people I have ever come across.  
Something to be said for simple living and that money doesn't necessarily buy happiness.  
Hard at work on a Sunday building a church.
No need to wait for a driver's license; 
the local children use horses and bikes for transportation 
just like their parents.
Checking out the volcano we hiked on our last day on Ometepe. 
 I love the consistency of the cloud cover at the top.
Horses wandering the beach just outside our casita
There are very few cars on Ometepe.  This is what a traffic jam looks like!
The white-faced monkeys like to beg for bananas
Cooking up plantains like a local.  They call them tostones.  
The local laundromat.
Concepcion and Maderas from our ferry leaving the island
On our return to the airport in Managua, we made a short stop in Granada.  Granada is a colorful and beautiful city and is considered the most historic city in Nicaragua.  
Although we only visited for an hour, the city clearly had a great vibe.

Nicaragua exceeded my expectations in every way possible.  It is beautiful, the people are kind, the food is off the charts healthy and delicious, and adventure abounds.  My post-cancer treatment body also exceeded my expectations.  Despite many "normal" people experiencing illness and digestive issues when traveling to 3rd world countries, I was delighted that my body held up just fine.  

Here's to many more years of celebration and adventure both on and off the bike........


  1. Love the photos! It looks like an amazing trip. :)

  2. Your approach to this topic is unique and informative. I am writing an article for our school paper and this post has helped me. Thanks.

    Toshiba PVT-375BT