That morning, we left Lago Apoyo and headed for Granada. We had only just made it up the very steep climb out of the crater before I decided it was time to pull over and put some oil in. This was becoming something of a daily ritual and also getting rather expensive. The red light flickered at me as we braked at 3000rpm, not a good sign. Topping up the oil that we now always carry, seemed to do the job though and we continued on, our destination less than an hour away.
On arrival, we headed through the town of an out towards a free camp spot right by the lake. The last few minutes of the drive were a race. The oil light turned on permanently and the sat nav told us there was one minute to go. We bounced along the last few metres of dirt road and I promptly killed the engine before it did it all by itself. Looking underneath, the clutch, sump and gearbox were covered in oil. It looked suspiciously like the time the crank seal had failed. It was a bit too hot to look however, so we let the engine cool and contemplated the likelihood of staying in Granada for some time. This was not ideal, as a government election was being held soon. With the current ‘president’ removing his opposition by imprisoning them all, no one quite knew what was going to happen. At least we had a good free spot, parked up some well maintained gardens that were well prepared for the festive season; in particular, note the rather clever candy canes made of PVC pipe.
After briefly lying under the engine because I had managed to park above rather large horse shit, the oil dripping off the flywheel seemed a pretty solid indication that the seal had failed again. This time, we were rather quicker off the mark. By the end of the day we had contacted a parts supplier in Costa Rica, found the part and put through the international bank transfer. Now we just had to wait for the funds to clear, the weekend of course extending that by several days.
In the meantime, we enjoyed some of Granada. It’s not a big city, but has some pretty buildings, and some even better food. For the second time we enjoyed tacones, flattened fried platain with added fried cheese. Not healthy, but delicious.
Its probably the best place to eat since Oaxaca, and we enjoyed some rather lovely tapas one night.
Despite the fact that there was free wifi at our campspot, we headed into The Garden Café in town anyway. Our batteries were struggling to regain full charge after being run completely flat at the lake. We were parked in full sun, but the this time of year the sun is pretty low and by 2pm we were in the shade. With cloudy morning starts as well, charging both laptops and running the fridge on these boiling hot days was a bit much. The Garden Café is a lovely place to go, if rather on the pricey side.
Granda is a city which you can tell they take time to keep maintained. The waterfront is immaculate, neat gardens and colourful flowers everywhere, whilst in town there are several interesting churches to see as you make our way around.
We used our bikes on a regular basis to get in and around the town, leaving the camper parked up next to the ever present security guard. We regularly frequented one lady’s shop who clearly didn’t care that the laws said that alcohol couldn’t be sold over election weekend. We also headed into town for this rather amazing, completely vegan burger, complete with avocado mayonnaise.
While we waited for the money to arrive in Costa Rica, we decided to spend the day exploring Las Isletas. These 365 islands were supposedly formed when the volcano next to the lake erupted some time ago. It was the perfect opportunity to use the kayak. We set off from the shore right by our campsite and paddled a kilometre of so the start of the islands.
Some of the islands are empty, some are fancy hotels and some are bars. Some are private houses. Naturally we stopped at one with a bar on it.
Despite the fact that you’re in a lagoon, it had a swimming pool. Perhaps a testament to how dirty the water in the lake looks. After the crystal clear waters of Apoyo, the water of this lake left a lot to be desired. A brown muddy colour, which it wasn’t possible to see more than a few inches through, the locals happily bathed in it. We were not so keen. The pool would have been more tempted, but strict instructions printed on the menu stated that pool use was only free if you bought a main course. So we sipped our pina coladas in the shade and watched the passing boat traffic.
A little while later we paddled on, through the picturesque wateways.
The final point of interest we wanted to see here, was Monkey Island. Again, only a small island it did have several rather enthusiastic monkeys on it. They swum in the trees above us and for a moment I thought one was going to jump into the kayak. Even for Lee and his love of monkeys, this might have been too much.
With the afternoon drawing to a close, we turned around and paddled back to the camper. It had been an excellent way to break up what was turning into a week long wait.
It was shame to be stuck. Our new friends from Nicaragua were in the area for a meal and had invited us. Unfortunately, we were still unable to drive. We were pleasantly surprised however, when a convoy of T2’s turned up to say a quick hello to us in our stranded parking spot.
When the payment for our part finally cleared, we eagerly awaited a phone call from the bus driver. A courier wouldn’t be delivering our part, it would be coming on a local bus service who we would meet in town. Jason, who had sorted our part out for us at Subaru in Costa Rica, spoke excellent English which made the process much easier. Naturally, when the much anticipated call arrived the driver did not. We got the gist of where to meet and headed off on our bikes. It took us a while to find each other, after many phone calls and a bit of a language barrier that wasn’t helped by an increasingly frustrated bus driver. Eventually though, we had our parts!
We had an idea of where we would go to fit them, but went to check that they actually had an engine crane. This makes the job infinitely easier. The garage was happy to let us use the space and showed us the tools. He even offered to tow us if we couldn’t get the engine to hold oil pressure when we tried to drive.
The next morning, it was show time. We first confirmed the garage was open. It was the day after the elections and he hadn’t been clear if he would be or not. Despite the hype, things seemed completely normal the following day and so we got the go ahead.
We poured a load of oil into our dry sump and made it the garage without a problem, leaving a trail of oil behind us. Now pretty seasoned at taking the engine out, it took us a day to remove and replace the offending seal. We were tired and absolutely filthy working on a mud floor but hopefully sorted. The garage owner seemed a little miffed that we hadn’t actually needed any hope and after wanting rather more money than we thought was reasonable we paid him just to get out of there.
Back at base camp, we parked on the concrete basketball court, all the better to see any potential oil leakage. The house nearby offered the use of showers, which we happily made us of. Tomorrow, we hoped we could leave.
This was clearly not meant to be. The large pool of oil under the van said otherwise. It appeared that the sump was leaking badly and it was also possible to see a few scrapes on it. Despite the fact that it was shortened, we had still managed to bash it on the floor, no doubt in our mud bath in Cerro Negro. And so, instead of leaving the city we went to find a welder.
A nice friendly garage, they agreed to weld the sump and the two other problems we had found the day before when we took the engine out. The fact that both of the exhaust flexible sections were broken and that one side of the engine mount was no longer attached. For a very reasonable price, they started work. It was somewhat of a mission to find the correct sections for our exhaust, but in the end the welder took our exhaust with us on his pushbike and managed to locate some in the city where we had already failed. As it had taken rather longer, we agreed to come back the next day to weld the engine mounts.
The sump was repaired more, but still leaking a little. This was clearly comparable as we parked up next to our original oil puddle. In the morning, it was definitely smaller. We headed back to the garage. One guy took the sump off again to try and do a better job while the other set about welding the mounts on properly. Again, it was another day spent in a workshop but we knew when we left the following morning that we wouldn’t be chucking oil all over the floor and that the engine wouldn’t be falling out either.
Our final night, we wandered along the seafront past endless and rather impressive ficus trees. A family of horses grazed on the lake shore as the sun set over that lake behind them. We were excited to leave and explore more of this giant lake and we knew that finally in the morning, we could set off for the island of Ometepe.