28th June – 2nd July: A little rusty yet keen to get moving again we pedaled away from the Nicaraguan highlands after three weeks in the area. The rolling hills and dark, rainheavy banks of cloud could almost have been Wales - apart from the intense, sticky humidity and lack of sheep that is.
In two days we covered the 110 miles to Granada on the shores of Lake Nicaragua – the 19th largest lake in the world. In that time we almost exclusively fueled ourselves on Nicaragua’s national dish: gallo pinto. Essentially just rice and beans. Eight meals in a row gallo pinto formed the major component – with the odd egg or hunk of chicken thrown in.
This lack of culinary variety was due in part to a rather traumatic recent experience at a comedor in the dusty town of Tipitapa. We pulled up at a place advertising soup, it was pretty busy which is always a good sign. The waitress went through the options: beef soup – fine; tripe soup – not so good; brain soup – frankly disgusting.
Maybe we could have soup with just vegetables, we politely enquired, no meat at all. Oh yes, no problem came the reply. What returned was two steaming bowls of murky broth with a few root vegetables and some big hunks of something pale and spongy. Maybe it’s soya – Ned said optimistically.
We beckoned the waitress over and she explained that it was brain. A little shocked we tried to patiently explain that ‘sin carne’ meant absolutely no meat whatsoever – only vegetables. Brain didn’t really fit into to the ‘vegetable’ category. No problem, she said, and returning with a plate began spooning out dripping lumps of brain onto it.
At this point we gave up, stomachs fully turned and went in search of the rather more reliably vegetarian gallo pinto. We’re not vegetarian but will draw the line at brain, electing to stick with gallo pinto is a far safer option. Anyway, rice and beans is the perfect cycling food – plenty of carbs and protein, not much fat.
After one night in grand, colonial Granada we hopped on the ferry to picture-perfect Isla de Ometepe. One of 400 islands on Lake Nicaragua it is comprised of two mighty volcanoes rising straight up out of the water joined together by a narrow strip of land in the middle. It’s like something from a fairytale. Or, depending on your perspective, like two giant pointy breasts (think Madonna).
Soon we’ll be back on the move again, heading for Costa Rica. In the meantime…time for a dip in the lake.