Archive for the ‘Nicaragua’ Category

Travel Summary – Central America

Friday, May 26th, 2006

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Hello from South America!

   Since the last update, I have biked the length of Central America, visiting all 7 countries (see map of my route) and adding 2,400 miles to the trip. This trip continues to exceed my expectations, and I have visited schools and appeared in the national media of almost every country I have biked through. I am now in Colombia, where I arrived from Panama only a few days ago.

In La Prensa - Panama's national newspaper
Camping on the beach, near Las Lajas
Escuela El Progreso, Los Arroyos, La Union


  • 3/12 Mayan ruins and climate change
  • 3/17 Dennis Murphree joins me for Belize
  • 3/21 Learning to SCUBA and the fate of coral reefs
  • 3/26 Dennis Murphree speaks
  • 3/31 Honduran countryside
  • 4/7 A week through El Salvador
  • 4/15 Should I bike Colombia?
  • 4/15 Media coverage for rideforclimate
  • 4/16 Honduras, Nicaragua, and swimming with the locals
  • 4/18 Hurricanes and climate change
  • 4/29 Pops joins me from Nicaragua to Costa Rica
  • 4/30 Biodiversity and climate change
  • 5/8 Costa Rica to Panama City
  • 5/14 Deforestation in Central America
  • 5/15 A sailboat through the Panama Canal
  • BEST VIDEOS FROM CENTRAL AMERICA (click on the links below to watch)
    Scuba diving in Belize
    Kids dancing at pool in Nicaragua (large file – watch only if you have a high speed connection)
    My father joins me and rides a silly looking bicycle
    Dogs chasing me in Costa Rica
    Riding through the Panama Canal

       Central America is a region highly vulnerable to climate change. Rising sea levels and stronger storms could cause hardship, especially for the poor (of which there are a lot in Central America). Climate models for the region show warmer temperatures as well as perhaps less precipitation, both of which will be bad for agriculture. Many species as well may be threatened by a warmer climate. Finally, the coral reefs that line the coasts are greatly threatened by a warmer earth.

    Monte Verde Cloud Forest
    Building a house out of adobe (mud blocks)
    Coral Reef in Belize

        Environmental Defense has a new website to help you reduce your carbon emissions: On this site you can calculate how much carbon dioxide you put into the atmosphere, and learn how to reduce these emissions.

       I have created a paypal link so that you can give money on my site to the Union of Concerned Scientists and Environmental Defense. Many people have also offered to help with my travel expenses, and there is now also a link for this. These are on my take action page.

       Did you really think I would stop biking? I have decided I need to take rideforclimate to the U.S. Here are the tentative plans.

       In Colombia, I am biking through Cartagena, Medellin, and Bogota. I’ll then head towards Venezuela, following the northern coast before turning south into Brazil. I will arrive in Manaus, which sits on the Amazon River, where I will likely send my next update. If you know of organizations, schools, or researchers to visit on this route, let me know!

       I am now in Cartagena, Colombia, on the northern coast of South America. If all goes to plan, in 10 or 11 months I will be at southern tip of the continent, in Ushuia, Argentina.


    Total Miles Biked: 6321

    Flats by country in Central America:

    four flats in one day

    Belize: 0
    Honduras: 4
    El Salvador: 1
    Nicaragua: 0
    Costa Rica: 1
    Panama: 10 (ugh)

    A Ride for the Climate is sponsored by:
    Mike’s Bikes of Palo Alto
    Clif Bar
    Hobson Seats

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    Deforestation in Central America

    Sunday, May 14th, 2006

       Deforestation is a major problem in Central America. A quick look at the statistics shows that in the past 15 years, 20% of the countries’ forests have been destroyed. As I have biked through Central America, I have seen countless roadsides which were once covered by forests, but are now ranch land or farmland.

    Deforestation in Honduras
    One of El Salvador's many volcanos (Volcan de San Vicente)
    Lots of land cleared for cattle along the road.

       The problems associated with deforestation include loss of biodiversity, soil erosion, more landslides, greater flooding, and more carbon dioxide to the atmosphere. Cutting down forests releases a large amount of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere, and in these small, mostly poor countries, these emissions are comparable to the countries’ use of fossil fuels.

    Deforestation in Costa Rica
    Building a house out of adobe (mud blocks)

       While in Panama City, I talked to someone who wrote Panama’s proposal to reduce deforestation. The people cutting down the forests, in general, are very poor – subsistence farmers who need to clear land to grow food to eat. It seems that the only viable method of reducing deforestation here is to find these people other work or to pay them to not cut down the forest. Protecting forests without finding these people other income could cause great hardship.

       In Panama City, I also visited Futuro Forestal, a company that purchases pastureland and converts it to forest. The wood from the forest is harvested after 25 years, and sold. While this is not as good as a full forest, it still takes significant carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere, and is far better than ranch land. It also provides local jobs and makes a profit. You can also buy carbon credits through them as well.

    This part was hilly.
    First day of biking in Guatemala

       Stopping deforestation in poorer regions will require foreigners and locals to work together – with foreigners helping to provide financial incentives to protect the forests.

    Mangua to San Jose – two weeks with Pops

    Saturday, April 29th, 2006

       As I said in the previous entry, my father flew to Managua with a silly looking bicycle and the plan to bike with me to Costa Rica. Two years ago, Pops and I biked from Virginia to Oregon (watch the movie of this trip) and, amazingly, we still want to ride together.

       After spending a night with a family in Managua, my father and I biked for two days and then took a boat out to a volcanic island in the middle of Lake Nicaragua, Central America’s largest lake. After three days of enjoying the island, we took a second boat to the far side of the lake near the Costa Rican boarder. We rode ‘first class’ on this boat, which meant we slept on the crowded second floor with tourists instead of the crowded first floor with Nicaraguans, many of whom we were told were hoping to cross the border into Costa Rica to work.

    Biking in Granada
    Waiting to get on the ferry to the Isla de Ometepe
    Biking the Isla de Ometepe
    Crowds waiting to get on the boat from Ometepe to San Carlos
    The bikes rode 'economy class,' boat to San Carlos
    Boat ride to Costa Rica
    Sugar Cane processing plant
    Costa Rica has efficient industrial agriculture

       After another short boat ride, we entered Costa Rica. Costa Rica has a stronger economy than the other Central American countries (see facts), which is why many of the Nicaraguans wanted to go there to work. In comparison to Nicaragua, the farms were not small family lots but rather large efficient farms. While there were still people using machetes, many others used gas powered weed-whackers. Roadside trash was nearly non-existent, and somehow I felt far safer biking into the major cities. Also, the dogs in Costa Rica are more likely to chase cyclists (watch movie of dogs), which I would guess is because they are better fed.

    Two Rainbow Tarptents, and a cow eating my handlebar tape
    Pushing our bikes up the hill
    I think this is a 20% grade
    Hurry up Pops
    Biological Preserve

       Pops and I climbed up into the mountains, following steep dirt roads with 20% grades . We spent two days at a biological preserve, where I met with scientists studying climate change and my father recorded birdsong. (Pops studies birdsong – he even wrote a book about it.)

    American School of San Jose, middle school

       From Monteverde, we biked to the coast and then back up into the mountains to San Jose, Costa Rica’s capital, where I visited the American School of San Jose. I now have to say goodbye to Pops, who is catching a flight tomorrow morning.

    Through Honduras to Nicaragua

    Sunday, April 16th, 2006

       Leaving El Salvador, I climbed into the mountains of Honduras, continuing my winding route through Central America (see the map of my route).

    I stayed here for the night

       Returning to Honduras, I spent my first night camped outside of a family’s house in the countryside. Like the last Honduran family I stayed with, they had no electricity, although they did have many candles and they ran a small store selling refreshments. They invited me into their home, let me cook my dinner on their stove, and showed me pictures of past family events.

       Earlier that day, I drank some water I should not have. That night, I emerged from my tent many times, and one time left a pile of vomit in the lawn near the outhouse. This is not the way to be a good guest. Although a dog and the rain immediately cleaned up my mess, the family had heard me, because, as they told me in the morning, they could not sleep because of mosquitoes at night. They said they could not afford a mosquito net. The mother gave me some medicine and wished me well; I felt bad that I had little to give in return, but I shared some of my food and offered to mail them a copy of a picture I took of them.

       After spending a day recovering in a hotel in the city of La Paz, I biked into Tegucigalpa, Honduras’ capital city. The city sits at about 3,000 feet above sea level in the middle of a large valley surrounded by pine forests. Here I stayed with Marta and Carleton, the mother and step-father of a friend of mine from college. Carleton runs a school, but it was the week before Easter, and all of Latin America is on vacation (I did, however, get an interview on television). Nonetheless, Carleton gave me a tour of the city and told me about how he once ran for mayor of Tegucigalpa. He ran on an anti-corruption platform, but then lost the race to a man who, as was later learned, received illegal funding from the government.

    Main Plaza, Tegucigalpa
    Houses on hillside, Tegucigalpa
    Marta and Carleton helped me out in Tegucigalpa.

       I continued into Nicaragua, which did not change dramatically from Honduras. Nicaragua is one of the poorer countries in Latin America (see comparison). Like El Salvador, Nicaragua had a long civil war during the 1980s. However, in Nicaragua, it was the government that was socialist instead of the guerillas attempting to overthrow it. As such, the U.S. massively supported the guerrillas, and also enacted a trade embargo that strangled the country (the people fighting the government were known as ‘contras,’ and you may know of this from the ‘Iran-contra’ affair).

    Dancing at the pool....they start so young here.
    Swimming with the family on Semana Santa, near la Trinidad

       Now the country is peaceful, and, like El Salvador, I felt relatively safe biking. As it was the week before Easter, everyone was on vacation, and most people were at the beach or the local swimming hole. On Good Friday, I passed a family that demanded I join them at the local pool. Despite the strange murky color of the pool water, I enjoyed playing tag and diving into the crowded pool. If you have a high-speed connection, you should look at the video on the right.

       Arriving in Managua, Nicaragua’s capital, I stopped at the airport to pick up my father, who will be biking with me through Nicaragua and Costa Rica. In an effort to embarrass his son, pops showed up at the airport with the most ridiculous looking bicycle he could possibly find – a folding bike that can fit within a suitcase. With over half a dozen security guards watching us, we quickly assembled his bike, attached the suitcase as a trailer, and biked away from the airport.

    Pops shows up at the Managua airport with his folding bike
    Security made sure it was safe to assemble the bicycle, Managua airport
    Pops brought a silly-looking bike just to embarrass me

    A Ride for the Climate in the Media

    Saturday, April 15th, 2006
    Two page spread in May 2006 issue of Bicycling Magazine

       If you pick up the most recent issue of Bicycling Magazine (the May issue), you will see a nice two page spread on rideforclimate (photo left). Other recent appearances include an interview on Honduran national television (‘Buenas Días Honduras’) and an upcomming article in the El Salvador national newspaper (El Diario del Hoy, on the 21st of this month). The Belize national television also covered rideforclimate. And, a month and a half ago, Univision television tracked me down (as well as my friends Gregg and Brooks), and recorded us biking around Chiapas, Mexico. (I learned that this actually made it to television when a man here in Managua stopped me and told me that he saw me on Univision.)
       While visiting schools is a more direct way to communicate, it is also satisfying that I am able to use this trip to get my message out to a larger audience.