I am cycling to raise money for the fantastic UK based chaity Macmillan Cancer Support. Big thanks to everyone who has sponsored me so far! Justgiving is a quick, easy and secure way to donate online. See my other fundraising page, specific to the Macmillan organized part of the trip

Friday, 26 February 2010

A day of firsts...El Chocoyero

Sunday 21st was a day of firsts for me. My first puncture of the trip happened within a few yards of leaving the camp. I had Peggy upside down, wheels akimbo and my tyre levers at the ready when Pablo, one of the biologists at the camp, came past in his truck and gave me my firrst lift of the trip, (is that ´cheating´?!) straight out of the horrendously steep crater... yay!... and to my first bike shop of the trip in Massaya.... fascinating. With the wheel still on the smiley and not at all patronising mechanic found the puncture in a bucket of water and patched it with two scraps of rubber melted on by beingg pressed between two red hot plates of metal. Pumped up with air out of a hose pipe contraption I was set to go again.

My target for the night was the nature reserve El Chocoyero, where I´d been told I´d be able to camp by a tour operator in Granada. I reached Ticuantepe by midday, from where I´d been told to ask directions onwards to the reserve. In my brief experience so far it seems that all directions are accompanied by serious shakes of the head or looks of bewilderment and ´warnings that its ´muy lejos´, very far, no m,atter the distance, so I wasn´t suprised by the same response with El Chocoyero. A couple of hours and buckets of sweat later though, I had a newfound respect for ´lejos´, having wrestled Peggy up sandy track after sandy track through forest and pineapple harvest (bought the sweetest pineapple I´ve ever tasted from two tiny boys at the side of the track for only 3 cordobas, about 8p!) and was pushing on! Had my first close encounter with local wildlife when a bird crapped on me (that I took to be good luck!) and my first fall ( a bit embarassing seeing as I´d just passed a father & daughter with an enthusiastic ´adios´! before promptly toppling to the right in a cloud of sand... meant I got company for the next push up, and the Dad seemed really proud at my reaction when I saw the beautiful views as we reached the top of the climb. Definitely worth the struggle against the sand.

Obviously was totally chuffed to finally reach El Chocoyero... think I slightly suprised the guides who were sitting chilled in the couple of wooden shacks that made up the reception when I burst onto the scene all a sweaty-sticky-filthy asking for camping... at least I think so, seeing as they suggested I rest before showing me around!

Behind the buildings lay an area of forest dense in flora and fauna, and wioth a waterfall (cascada) named El Chocoyero after the parakeets that nest in the volcanic rock it pours down, and whose water is pìped to the local community for drinking and washing. There is a second waterfall, El Brujo, but the path to that is closed since a landslide blocked it off.

With the sharp eyes and ears of my guide Alan I spotted my fisrt howler monkey, and my first guatuza, ashy mammal that looked a bit like an earless rabbit, or a big hunched prarie dog. I was warned of the myth surrounding the 250 year old chilmate tree - visit it at mignight and a vision of a cross of canles might tempt you to pick a white flower that appears, run 500m away without ooking back over you shoulder and you will be rich, but without a soul, or look back over you shoulder when you hear the cvalls of long dead loved ones, and you´ll be whisked away by demons.(Think that was the jist of it as far as my Spanish interpretation allowed!)

Alan pointed out the burrow of a green iguana, who apparently lay around 80 eggs once each year, of which only two mature because of the number of predators that hunt them. Another guide brought me an oxybelis fulgidus (skinny & harmless green snake) to hold, along with the identification book to point it out, and assure me it wasn´t poisonous.

There were a few other visitors while I was there, but I got the impression campers were rare, so I was glad to be able to shower out back. That seemed particularly lucky after Alan explaining that Ticuantepe sits on top of 20km or 105,000 litres of water which has been sold in its entirety to the Japanese by the Nicaraguan government. The Japanese bottle the water and then sell it back to the Managuans, with not a peso returning to the Ticuantepe community. Crazy.

So anyway, I whiled away the afternoon sitting on the veranda chatting with Alan til the end of the guide´s shift. Once they´d left Felix, the night shift, settled into his hammock and I pottered off past the shell of a dead armadillo to my tent for an uber-early night!

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