San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Greener Side of Granada a Bicycle Ride Away

EL RAYO, GRANADA Not long ago, some enterprising person in Granada had the obvious, yet brilliant, idea of renting bicycles to tourists.

The idea was obvious because bicycles have long been the preferred mode of transportation in Granada, sometimes carrying entire extended families down the street in a precarious balancing act that looks like a circus tryout. But the idea was nevertheless brilliant simply because no one else had thought to rent them out (like the first person who decided to rent out camels in the desert).

Now, Granada s central tourism artery, Calle La Calzada, is lined with a variety of bicycle rental options, offering afternoon rentals for an agreeable price of $1 an hour.

For tourists and foreign expats alike, renting a bike and pedaling out of the city toward LakeCocibolca is a great way to explore the other, greener side of Granada. It s also a great way to connect with the local pace of life in Nicaragua.

Just a 10-minute ride from downtown is the beginning of the smoothly paved road to Puerto Aseses one of the most pleasantly shaded roads in Granada. At the bend in the road is a sign for the turnoff to El Diamante, the boatyard on the AsesesPeninsula.

The road turns to dirt here, but with a good bicycle the adventure is just beginning.

The six-kilometer country road leading down the AsesesPeninsula is a delightful countryside escape just minutes from the downtown bustle.

Pedaling down the lazy road, the city sounds of reggaeton music, honking taxis, break-dancing buskers and other urban clamor give way to the more delicate sounds of chirping birds and rustling trees.

The road is slightly hilly in places and certain stretches are fraught with small rocks and puddles. But it s no serious challenge to those of able body and nimble mind.

At times, the road must be shared with cattle being led by farmers from one pasture to another. Despite what the rules of transit might stipulate in such a situation, the cows have the right of way.

Halfway down the peninsula is the El Diamante boatyard, but hearty bikers should take a right past the evangelical schoolhouse and push on along the road to El Rayo, the tip of the peninsula.

Here, the road becomes less traversed, more rural, more flowered and more enjoyable.

Occasional farmhouses line the street, and children can be seen picking plantains in the rolling fields beyond.

Yet, other than the occasional passing campesino, who invariably assures tired tourists that El Rayo is just around the next bend, it s just you and the butterflies.

Eventually, the end of the road really is just around the corner, and tourists can pull their bikes up to a roadside pulpería that sells grape soda and not much else. (A teenage girl extended in a thin hammock tells me tourists come by all the time. I raise my eyebrows at her dubiously. She doesn t elaborate.)

Near the end of the road, weary bicyclers are given an option. One can turn off the road to visit the El Rayo swimming hole, which seems like an inviting idea because of the promise of easing saddle-worn parts into the lake, or one can continue straight on to the lakeshore pier, which seems equally inviting because of the promise of cold beer.

On a recent Saturday, a brave expedition party opted for the promise of cold beer over cool butt, and was sadly disappointed to learn no frosty Toñas awaited at the so-called pier, which, subsequently, offered very few clues that it was, indeed, a pier.

The view at the end of the road at the alleged pier, however, was almost reward enough an isle-like vista on terra firma.

Eventually, the late afternoon view was disturbed by encroaching dusk, and it was time to turn the bikes homeward and pedal swiftly toward the sunset and the familiar sounds of La Calzada where cold beers did await.


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