It was dusk as we turned off the asphalt onto the dirt road that led to the Poste Rojo treehouse hostel. Somehow it seems we always encounter the most difficult sections of road at the end of the day, often with fading light. This time we had an even bigger challenge, Phil had Kelly and her bag on the back of his bike riding a balding tire, and to make room I had Phil's heavy duffle bag strapped on top of my bag.
We got about 100 meters down the road before Phil dropped his bike on a muddy section. Kelly's first off. She even got a bruise to prove it!
- Kelly shows off what a tough biker chick she is!
I don't enjoy (to put it mildly) riding offroad at the best of times; before reaching this dirt road we had had a full day riding from Managua.
Our first stop was riding up Volcan Masaya in search of lava. According to our father, Volcan Masaya is the only active volcano in the Northern Hemisphere where it is possible to drive to the crater. We didn't know this at the time.
Part way up was the visitor's center, with exhibits very reminiscent of junior high school science projects.
- Kelly inspects a model of the volcano
The final drive up to the crater provided us with beautiful views, although I felt fairly unstable on the steep, twisty road, not yet used to the extra weight piled on Cricket.
- View on the way up to the Volcan Masaya crater
We saw the billowing smoke before reaching the crater. An unbelievable amount of smoke.
- The helmet keeps out the smoke
- Kelly and I falling into a live volcano
- This sign was impossible to decipher. It was probably as useful as the one telling us to hide under our car if we got showered with rocks.
In fact there was a path that led to a higher viewpoint, but the ranger would not allow us to climb higher, due to the toxicity of the smoke. This did raise some concerns and we decided to move away from the smoke to the other viewpoint.
- Some signs were legible. Viewpoint rules.
- See that path on the hill? Too dangerous to go up there and breathe. Totally safe where we were - closer to the smoke.
- View from the non-toxic side of the parking lot
After escaping the toxic fumes, and without seeing any lava, we rode to the very pretty town of Granada. Once in the town center, we parked and covered the bikes, and set out in search of lunch. It was one of the few times we have left our fully loaded bikes in a town, out of our line of sight, and it made me very nervous. My whole life is on that bike... All it would take is a couple of guys with a pick up truck for it to all disappear.
We lunched at the Irish pub (there's one in every city in the world) and ended up staying there a bit longer than we should have (sunset at 6pm makes life difficult). When we realised the time we hurried back to the bikes, which, fortunately, were still there, and headed to the treehouse.
- Mirror shot of the Nicaraguan countryside
After Phil dropped Jugs, (and only Jugs, neither Phil nor Kelly actually hit the mud) we both proceeded more cautiously along the dirt road. I resorted to sitting on my bike "walking" her along many sections, because it was so muddy, I was so top-heavy, and it was getting darker by the second. I was extremely jealous of Phil being able to have Kelly get off and walk for the tougher sections.
- I was not in a happy place right about then. (This was on the way out).
After asking several local people the way, we eventually made it to the hostel. We parked our bikes in a clearing, intending to come back to them for our belongings once we had oriented ourselves in the hostel.
I didn't end up coming back to my bike until the next afternoon.
- When we got back down to our bikes, Phil's had been moved. We guess by the truck delivering water...
We started up the roughly formed steps, using flashlights to show the least treacherous path. We went up, and up, and up. Turns out the hostel is not only in the trees, it's in the trees on the top of a hill. A big hill.
As we climbed up the hill into the unknown it sounded like someone up above was playing an old arcade game. One where you shoot lasers at something. We climbed and climbed towards the sound, sure that that must be coming from the main hostel building.
A treehouse with lights on appeared above us, but confusingly the arcade game sounds seemed to be coming from a dirty pond beside us. Our first introduction to Laser Frogs - more commonly known as Tungara frogs
I entered the hostel feeling shaken from the ride in, tired from the climb up, and thirsty, very thirsty. I discarded my hot, smelly riding gear on a bar stool, placed my helmet on the bar, and ordered a beer.
- The scene at the Treehouse bar
Beer turned into rum, and the two young, enthusiastic employees behind the bar kept plying us with dubious shots. Kelly and I were loudly propping up the bar, setting the world to rights, for several hours. I'm not entirely sure what Phil was doing, playing in the trees and trying out hammocks I guess, but somehow he seemed to escape most of the dubious shots.
- Kelly and Phil at the bar
- One of the employees was battling foot-rot, Kelly decided to clean it with babywipes over the bar. Lovely.
My evening ended with the bartenders helping/dragging me further up the hill and putting me to bed in a room under some stairs. I feel this was a result as the other option was to pass out in one of the many hammocks and be eaten by insects all night.
- Suspended bridges led to other treehouses... Easier explored in daylight.
- I made a friend
Needless to say, Kelly and I didn't feel very well the next day.
- Hammocks are excellent places to be hungover.
- Pretty flying bird in a nearby tree
- Everywhere we looked there was a new, fun structure.
It was afternoon by the time we gathered ourselves enough to slip and slide down the hill to our bikes, and face the dirt road out again, this time with the benefit of daylight. I was shaking and feeling terrible. Phil kindly rode my bike over the worst part for me.
- What the hill to the treehouse looked like on the way down - better with daylight.
We wanted to visit a local lake, Laguna de Apoyo, which was supposed to be only a ten minute drive away. Mis-communication and the usual lack of road signs meant that this is as close as we got to it, because we had spent too much time trying to get there and it had started to rain.
- A brief glimpse of the Laguna - not as good as a swim in it!
We were headed towards the largest freshwater island in the world. After suffering one of the worst meals I have ever attempted to eat, in Rivas, we eventually found a hotel beside the ferry port in San Jorge.