Trip Start Jul 04, 2010
Trip End May 10, 2011

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Where I stayed
Hotel California

Flag of Nicaragua  , Chinandega,
Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Jiquilillo to Chinandega  35.5 km
39 C/102 F by 9 am

Alt gain 159 m 
Avg slope 2%
Max slope 8%

A relaxing second day at the spartan but comfortable Rancho Esperanza, catching up on some washing, bicycle maintenance, reading and just plain lazing about. Two other cyclists arrived at Rancho Eperanza, Megan and Jules. They are from Australia and, like us, had started in July ..but from Alaska!!! They are extremely fit and tough. We compared notes and talked touring.

We had no desire retrace our tracks and pedal the 7km on the rocky dirt road. So after our rest day, at 6AM, we left the Rancho to catch the 6:30 bus. We had been warned that the bus had been coming around a bit early lately. Sure enough, it was early and we were ready. The ready and able helpers tossed our bikes and bags on the roof and we kept our fingers crossed that all would still be in working order after the bus finished bouncing the 7 km on the potholed, washboarded, rocky, dirt road to the smmmoooth....paved road. We squeezed into the standing room only bus with a crowd of students making their way to school. More stops and more kids squeezed in. The pressing crowd was released when the bus got near the school located at the paved road. And we got out there too and ...exhaled. 

By 6:45 am we were back in the saddle. It was a pretty easy ride with manageable rolling hills and nice straight stretches. Megan and Jules had briefed us that the 2nd half of our ride would be flat without any hills. And we would be running into an official bike path!  This will be our first since the 10 mile stretch of bike path at Lake Chapala, MX.

The main activity we saw along the country road was at the schools. Some of the classrooms are open air. And all the students wear uniforms. We had learned that the students must buy their books, school supplies, and uniforms or else they cannot go to school. One of the travelers at Rancho Esperanza took action by raising about $500 from her network of family and friends back home in England and is funding the purchase of supplies for students in Jiquilillo who would otherwise not be able to attend school. 

Quite suddenly, after riding through rural farmlands, we reached the urban sprawl of the large city of Chinandega (121,793 inhabitants). Exhausted from the heat, we headed directly to the park bordered by food stalls where we ordered up a liquados (juices). Out they came with an ice cold pitcher size mug of pineapple juice for Michelle. Just what he doctor ordered!

The budget hotel choice in town is a bit too dreary so we splurged and checked into hotel California (*$18). Chinandega is the first city we came to with an ATM. Dave failed to get money at one ATM and went inside and asked about the problem. The bank clerk said their ATM has a limit of 500 Córdobas, or about 23 bucks! The limit is for the customers' security, he beamed. Undaunted, Dave tried the card at another bank's ATM. The machine rejected the card with a message to call our bank. Dave's backup ATM card expired in February so we went to Michelle's back-up card. Still no luck. We called our two banks. Dave's card was cancelled due to a fraud alert. Evidently, someone at the bank did not like the repeated withdrawals in Central America. We've been using it weekly through Mexico and Guatemala for 8 months without a problem until now. They said they could not remove the alert and reactivate the card but they would be happy to send a new card. Thanks! We then called our other bank and learned they have a policy of voiding a card if it is not used for 6 months! So now, Michelle's card was dead too!

Fortunately, businesses in Nicaragua will take US currency and give change in Córdobas, as long as you don't give them too large of bill. And our small emergency stash of US dollars, that seemed like an unnecessary risk a day earlier, is looking good now. Dave found a street money changer and changed one of his $100's to Córdobas. We are set for now.

Back at the hotel, we watched CNN, Fox News, and BBC International for the details on the unfolding tragedy in Japan. We had only seen news in Spanish and couldn't really tell how bad the situation was till now. The broadcasts are amazingly short on facts and long on theatrics. Only BBC seems to have the sense to acknowledge that little is known and they spend time on something where they have all the facts, Cricket! We worry about our friends in Japan. And our good friend Susan is the first to forward a reassuring e-mail from a mutual friend who lives near Tokyo. They are shaken but safe for now. And they are turning their attention to helping with the relief effort. 

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Ali and Son on

Hi guys, no update for a while now (don't look at our site, we're 2 months behind ;-) Hope you're OK in Nicaragua!
Keep us posted !
Sonya and Aaldrik from Dahab, Egypt

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