One month, five countries, 16 point-and-click snapshots. Past entries in this monthly series can be found by clicking here.

 


 

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The visitors’ centre at the Masaya Volcano National Park is a joy, lined with lovely, hand-painted dioramas and displays that attempt to explain how Nicaragua’s array of volcanoes came into being. Further inside the park, you can cycle right up to the edge of the caldera, which is constantly steaming.
Parque Nacional Volcán Masaya, Masaya, Nicaragua
2 October 2014

 


 

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If we were opening a bar and were trying to make it into ‘the best place for chilling with your bros and family’, we might choose a different name. Just a thought.
near Managua, Managua, Nicaragua
3 October 2014

 


 

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Seriously.
near Managua, Managua, Nicaragua
3 October 2014

 


 

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The lack of reliable running-water supplies in some rural parts of Central America necessitates improvisation. The sight of people washing their clothes in rivers is more common than the sight of them washing their cars, mostly because cars are less common than clothes. But this was the first time we’ve crossed a river and spotted a man washing his horse.
near Somotillo, Chinandega, Nicaragua & near Choluteca, Choluteca, Honduras
6 October 2014 & 5 October 2014

 


 

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As Will mentioned in his last post, cycling in the Central American heat can be sweaty work. However, that discomfort is sometimes eased by pedalling peddlers, who ride the roads on improvised tricycles and hawk a variety of snacks in the most unlikely, isolated places – we’ve run into them fully 10km from the nearest village.

Most of these traders sell ice creams from trunks welded on beneath their handlebars. Get really lucky, though, and you might run into a raspado man. Raspados are known as raspadillas in Lima, where we first saw them, and granizados in some other countries, but the principle is the same. First, a block of ice is shaved into flakes and chips using a primitive, hand-cranked grinder. After the ice has been shoved into a cup, a variety of impossibly sugary syrups are poured over it, followed by an unhealthy dollop of condensed milk. Then, at least in Nicaragua and Honduras, the thing is topped with some tamarind. (Put like that, they’re basically artesanal Slush Puppies.) Ruth isn’t terribly keen. Will, who has a far sweeter tooth, can’t help himself.
the road between Zacatecoluca & El Carmen, El Salvador
10 October 2014

 


 

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‘Slow down – surfers in the road’.
near Playa El Tunco, La Libertad, El Salvador
13 October 2014

 


 

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Much of Central America is pretty flat, which means many locals get around on two wheels. This is Melvin, who’s ten years old and loves to ride his bike. Will kept pace with him for a couple of miles as Melvin was heading home from school at lunchtime.
near Miravalle, Sonsonate, El Salvador
13 October 2014

 


 

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Heading west from Sonsonate, the climbing on the Ruta de las Flores is pretty constant, with no flat sections to break up the grind. For cyclists, this can be hard work in the heat. For workers chopping firewood for sale back down in Sonsonate, however, it means every working day brings a thrill ride. Once the loggers have enough wood, they load it on to a home-made, downhill go-kart – no engine, limited steering (note how they’re in the middle of the road), improvised brakes – and go flying back down the hill to the town. Rather them than us.
somewhere along the Ruta de las Flores, Sonsonate, El Salvador
14 October 2014

 


 

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It might not look like much, but this little disc is one of the great glories – perhaps the great glory – of Central American cooking. It’s a pupusa, and you can’t get through a day’s riding in El Salvador without at least a couple of plates’ worth; they’re served everywhere from semi-formal restaurants to scruffy streetside carts. Essentially filled tortillas, pupusas are great when stuffed with cheese (known as quesillos), but even greater, as pictured here, with ground pork.
Cara Sucia, Ahuachapán, El Salvador
15 October 2014

 


 

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Hundreds, perhaps thousands of old US school buses have ended up in Central America, where they’ve been pressed into second-life service as privately run public transport. They travel on fixed A-to-B routes but don’t operate on set schedules – they leave when they’re full, or at least full enough. The sooner they depart, the faster they can return; more journeys means more money for the buses’ owner-operators, which in turn means the buses are invariably driven at hair-raising speeds. Some have retained their original yellow livery, while other rides – such as ‘Esmeralda’, pictured on the right – have been pimped with fresh coats of paint. They’re known to visitors as ‘chicken buses’, apparently because of the locals’ habit of using them to transport live animals to and from markets and suchlike. We prefer to believe it’s because most tourists are too chicken to use them.
Tecpán Guatemala, Chimaltenango, Guatemala & Chichicastenango, Guatemala
23 October 2014

 


 

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Riding north from the La Mesilla-Ciudad Cuauhtémoc border, the first decent-sized town is Comitán de Domínguez. It’s little visited by international tourists (it’s apparently more popular with Mexicans) but it’s an absolute beauty, with quite the loveliest central square we’ve visited since we started this trip. We’d planned to stay for two nights but ended up hanging around for four.
Comitán de Domínguez, Chiapas, Mexico
29 October 2014

 


 

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We stumbled upon this extraordinary place – the photo doesn’t do it justice – while wandering around Comitán. The Casa del Ciclista stocks new stringed instruments (vihuelas, guitars, guitarrones), old bikes, older bicycle parts and a vast collection of even older music on vinyl and cassettes. Any similarity to Will’s house is assuredly coincidental.
Comitán de Domínguez, Chiapas, Mexico
27 October 2014

 


 

from San Cristóbal de las Casas, Chiapas, Mexico