Once again we adopted a leisurely pace getting on the road about 10:00 AM. The plan for today was to visit the Parque National Volcan Masaya, a few miles from town. Afterwards we would head towards Esteli, a town located near enough to the Honduran Border to make crossing the next day before noon fairly easy.
We had no trouble finding the park entrance and the fee was reasonable at about $3.50 each. As you ride the paved road towards the smoking volcano you are crossing a lava field although it is quite old (about 1600 AD I believe) and overgrown so it is not as stark as Craters of the Moon National Monument that we visited in Idaho on the way to Central America.
Part way up to the road is the visitors centre with a very good interpretive museum. At the top of the road, about 6 km from the gate, you reach the rim of the volcano itself. Although it was not “fiery” in the daylight it was nonetheless very impressive to be staring down through the smoke into the bowels of the earth.
After our visit to the volcano we stopped for lunch at a roadside café then started our ride to Esteli. We purposely backtracked to Masaya to avoid going through Managua we understand from many sources is pretty much a “hole” to visit. The from Masaya road runs along the huge valley that cradles both Lago Managua and Lago Nicaragua before you begin the climb into the hills.
The valley itself is still quite lush but it was evident the dry season was approaching as we climbed into the higher elevations. It was actually quite desert-like and hot.
The ride itself was pretty relaxing and it was nice to get away from the strong cross winds that seem to be constant in the valley.
At Esteli we scoped out the few hotels along the highway but like our experience in Masaya, nothing really caught our eye. We headed towards the town center to see if we could find something with-in walking distance of the square and stumbled onto a beautiful hotel with secure parking and reasonable rates. (Hotel Los Arcos).
After a walk around town we returned to the hotel to find four motorcycles pulling in. Turned out they were from the USA on their way to Costa Rica. It was nice to chat with some fellow motorcycle travelers, we have met so few this trip.