Entering Nicaragua was long and expensive, the most complicated crossing of the trip. Cala was so crossed: why the borders? she asks. There are big differences between the borders of South and Central America. In Central America chaos reigns, the buildings are gray and dirty, and inhabited by people who tell us that with a good tip they can made procedures easier, anachronic , useless procedures. Finally, we passed under heavy downpour. Very good Nicaraguan routes, lined with green trees and red flowers “malinches”. Then a sea on the right: is Lago Nicaragua , huge and chopped. We slept at the Hostal Suleyka. The owner was away but sent us a mail with the invitation. Thank You! Early in the morning we drove to Granada, a city of colors, cobblestone streets and many foreigners who chose to live there. Seeking a Wi-Fi to connect our telephone and computer we spotted a kombi and appealing to the sense of camaraderie we parked behind, in front of a laundry.
Jairo, the friendly owner recommended the Red Cross to camp in the city center. And over there we went. Surprise, another kombi! In the background there was music. The organization “Proyecto Mosaico”, of German origin, is a social nonprofit organization that links volunteers with projects that need hands. They were organizing an activity with a group of Canadian volunteers. Sabrina, the coordinator and Carlos, her husband and owner of the kombi, invited us to participate. Among cloudburst and downpour, there were traditional dance, hip hop and painted faces. Very funny. The children danced to death.
Sabrina and Carlos invited us to their house to sleep, so we said goodbye to the members of the Red Cross and followed them. We had lunch at a neighbor’s house, Denis, Charles uncle, who had a restaurant in his home. Fresh from the United States where he fled escaping from war long ago, he was now back eager to help to end with the eternal dictatorship dominating the country. He spoke with passion and hope, “A lot of us want another Nicaragua, but we want to achieve it without war. We already suffered war. In front of his house there was a Sandinista flag. Denis was not afraid. I am also an American citizen so if anything happens to me I have a place to go.
In the afternoon we toured the city which retains much of its colonial era. It is the oldest city in Nicaragua and one of the first cities in America mainland. The cathedral is new. An American mercenary named Walker (!) invaded Granada and burned it in 1856. With the idea of conquering Nicaragua immersed in a civil war, this incredible character moved from New Orleans, made an alliance with the gang of Leon, conquered Granada and later he was elected president. He ended killed in Honduras. A good story for a film.
That night while the children were playing with Mael, the son of Sabrina and Carlos in the open tropical patio, with banana and palm trees, we talked about the expected changes. Sabrina is going in a few days to Germany and Carlos would follow later. New stage for them. They were happy. It is not something definitive, Granada will still be part of their future. How beautiful that adrenaline before starting new and exciting projects! How I like it.
Early farewell and to the road again. We wanted to go to the sea and headed towards the coast. We had heard a lot about Popoyo, headquarters of the last world surf tournament. More or less lost…we took a secondary route, presumably shorter but with gravel. Immersed in rural Nicaragua, we saw small farms with animals, wells and bread ovens. A graceful road, with hills, and crossed by dry rivers, again the red trees and green and more green.
We thought it was closer. Every so often we passed a truck with surfboards on the roof, indicating that we were in the right path. Finally, after a hill there was the sea. We had lunch in a little bar with a small Spanish group from Valencia. And we arrived to Popoyo that was across the river. At the campsite La Luna we decided to stay a few days. We shared the premises with two Spanish couples who came down from Mexico. The beach is a large bay flanked by a cliff and a river, with winds that come from the continent and produce long, slow waves that are slow to break. A landscape that surrounds you, vast and powerful. We appreciated the cooler sea after so much warm water.
Dimas in the waves, the only reason to get up early without saying a word. He surfs well and loves it. The girls went out to explore the surrounding forest with little pink outfits not very “ad hoc”. Quite hilarious.
On the road again, we headed to Leon with brief stop in Managua to buy one of the hubcaps that was lost in Peru. But no way, they were a different model. We arrived late and were expected by Nestor Esau, member of the diocese. He found us accommodation in the nursing home of St. Vincent de Paul. He showed us his city with pride: the imposing cathedral, great envy of Granada (eternally rival city), the Colegio San Ramon, one of the oldest in Central America (where he studied) and best of all, he invited us to the evening gathering with fresh drinks (fruit juices with ice) and tamales on the sidewalk of the house of his girlfriend. So we had great talks with cousins, nephews and uncles. Upon returning, big surprise, we met our Chilean friends from Tamarindo in his motorhome painted with landscapes of southern Chile. These meetings are such joy.
The next day, we left very early, still dark, and went to the border. The goal: reach San Salvador from Honduras. The first border was fairly easy and quick. We had a good pace.
Very bad path, full of deep holes. Every so often, there were guys with shovels that filled the potholes and asked for a tip. At noon we were crossing into El Salvador.
We stopped in San Miguel for fuel and there the debacle began… Francisca would not start. Hot and nerves … I left with the children to eat something and half hour later Catire appeared triumphant. We move on but 20 km later it began to fail again and this time we were stranded in the middle of nowhere … Nerves increasing, we did not have a chip for the phone, incommunicado in a country that we had been warned that was not safe … I do not know how Catire managed to start the engine and after a hill appeared what seemed to us like an oasis in the desert: a service station … We could tell Beatriz, our next host, that we were late and wisely she told us to stay there… Catire fiddled and adjusted valves and cables. Francisca started snorting but then again stopped, so we quickly returned to the service station guarded by private security with big Ithacas. We were warned that they closed at 5. Catire explained that in that condition we could not go on the road again and they let us to park in the background with some trucks. We were told that when it gets dark we should get into the car and do not leave. We enlisted the kombi for our second night of the six of us inside….We slept a little but it was not as bad as we thought. The next morning, Gloria from the coffee shop took pity on us and delivered the wifi key that she told us that she had not wanted to give us the day before, and a good latte.
Facebook published our situation and immediately appeared Alberto from San Salvador with a hopeful message: do not worry we’re going to help. After a while, Alfredo Paredes from San Miguel, the town that we had passed recently, called and told us: we are here to serve you, where are you ?, a mechanic is going to help you. We were astounded. David and Walter arrived, changed the electronic ignition module and Francisca started. We returned to San Miguel to thank Alfredo for his generosity and moved on.
We arrived at the capital in the afternoon and we met Bea and part of the great family Marin in her house hidden behind high walls, full of plants, dogs and good people. Beatriz and Rolando have 6 children. Three were in the house, two in Argentina (one about to marry a girl from Rosario), and one in Rome. A nephew from Buenos Aires is living with them, he is coming from Mexico with his girlfriend, made landfall in this house and were preparing a kombi (!) to follow south, and the son of a friend of Bea from Guatemala ending his career. A full house but Bea had no problem make place for our “small” group of 6. A true open house which we like so much.
Alberto Linquis, our guardian angel, invited us to eat pupusas (similar to a pancake but made with corn, stuffed with cheese or red beans or pork rind), almost part of the national symbols of El Salvador, and then took us to the weekly assembly of a family-centered movement to which they belong: Encuentros conyugales. It was exciting to share our experience before a huge audience and publicly acknowledge the help we got in San Miguel.
After the event, along with several other couples, we walked into town at night and met the monument to the Savior of the world that is next to the statue of Father Romero, Salvadoran beato, tireless promoter of peace who was killed while giving mass in full consecration. We heard one of his last sermons where he asked soldiers to rebel against the order to kill. Goosebumps.
Again we followed route to Guatemala after finding that Ciro has given us a full tank of gasoline and confessed the desire to undertake a similar way south. We will be waiting for him!
We passed the frontier in the middle of a market full of clothes and crafts, and follow road to the capital. We were met by Allan Higueros , a former colleague of a brother-in-law who with big smile was waiting at home with a turquoise beetle (VW Beetle, folky) parked at the gate.
Francisca had been asking for a service, so learning that our host knew these engines was a pleasant surprise. Then Allan, spoke with a friend who came with a mechanic and within 10 minutes they were both analyzing Francisca. That same night Marlon took the kombi to his workshop to adjust nuts, brakes and a general make-up. Great generosity of the entire team of BMV Motors.
While Francesca was in the shop getting ready for the last leg of the trip we took the opportunity to know the Most Noble and Most Loyal City of Santiago de los Caballeros of Guatemala popularly known as Antigua. We went with Allan, our great host and Rosa Maria, his mother, so nice and caring. With the Volcan de Agua in the background, we were able to tour this very beautiful city that is the heritage of humanity. We visited the tomb of Santo Hermano Pedro, the first Guatemalan saint, the Cathedral that collapsed in the earthquake of 1773 and walked through the cobblestone streets, the square with its fountain of sirens and tried the typical sweets. A treat.
The next day we visited the center of Guatemala plagued with posters for the coming elections and campus demonstrations against the current government. Allan very disappointed with the candidates and sick of so much corruption, the big Latin American plague. We visited the Church of the Merced with a marriage included, the cathedral and the streets of the zone 1, historic city center.
The children in the carousel and trampoline jumps with enormous smiles.
That night came Moni Basu, CNN reporter to accompany us a few days traveling. We were instant friends specially Carmin. We ate tamales and paches in Allan’s kitchen and Moni amazed us with her stories of the war in Iraq, the earthquake in Nepal and the people sentenced to death. She was happy that this time she had to cover a happier story.
The next day, with the kombi ready and after big hugs, we left with Moni to Rio Dulce. The idea was to go to Tikal, Belize and then cross into Mexico … But we had to change plans … At about 180 km from Guatemala, Francisca began to fail. The first time on a slope. A truck driver with a beard and bright eyes drove us back and it started again.
We stopped at the next station and again nothing … Catire changed the fuel pump but no way. It appeared a group of young people who had a pretty good idea of mechanical and discovered that the hose was upside down … With the change the kombi started … but again began to fail. It was late, it was Sunday, and we decided to stay in a service station. The third of the trip! We were located indoors in the zone of oil change. Moni shared tent with Dimas and Cala, and the rest slept in the kombi. Feast of rice and beans and waffles, a gift from Rosa Maria.
The next day, we decided to return to Guatemala. Something was failing in the cylinders. Francisca on a crane and all inside !! It was a real samba!! We travelled bouncing back and forth, the children took turns at the wheel pretending to drive, they were fascinated. Marlon arrived at the workshop and a friend took us back to Allan’s home who without a second’s hesitation again greeted us with open arms. This time it was more complicated. The crankshaft was damaged and the arrangement would take several days. The children met the children next door and had a great time with the bikes, games and costumes. We met the ruins of Iximche, a city surrounded by deep ravines of the Kakchiquel, a civilizatio with Mayan roots. We played hide and seek among the ruins.
We also went to Children’s Museum, a fantastic place and ate what Rosa Maria had prepared: toast with guacamole and beans, lint, coffee champurradas, potato soup and took horchata and Jamaica, sweet beverage based on flowers. Delicious!!!!
In the meantime, Mia jumped off a slide and had to have her leg plastered. First visit to the doctor of the trip. Fortunately, we have insurance. Thanks Assist Card! She returned with plaster and the instruction to not put the foot on the ground for 10 days.
The problem with the crankshaft was not easy to solve. We had to take it to a VW specialist. We took this opportunity to reorganize the route, assemble the blog in English with the upcoming arrival in the United States and enjoy with some impatience, this sedentary stage. Eternal thanks to Allan, who made our stay so comfortable and cheerful, and Marlon who took care of Francisca.
And we wanted to move on but had to wait a little more … as someone wrote in the blog, “the roads called for us” a lot.