Keeping Busy in Toronto

Since this blog is mainly a travel blog, I haven’t written since my return to Toronto two months ago. Here’s a bit of an update on my Toronto life.

I applied for two jobs since I got back. Neither panned out, probably from a combo of over and under-experience. I am not trying to do anything related to past careers. Both jobs had one thing in common: cycling; and neither contacted me. As a result, I am starting my own cycling related business.

Yes, Me. It’s called Cycle Tours TO and, using bike share, I lead tours through west end Toronto neighborhoods, including my own, that have a lot of history and fun events. Cycle Tours TOWhen you visit the city, I’ll give you a friends and family rate on a tour! The weather is beautiful this week so do a tour with me!

So far, it’s not easy. I am trying to get listed as an experience on AirbnB, but there’s a 3 week review process. One week down. I’ve posted as a PWYC offering on Couchsurfing. Yesterday, 3 people signed up, but none showed.

Today, I spent a few hours cycling around Toronto dropping off postcards to different hostels. I biked 20KM and went to 9 hostels. Maybe I’ll get a couple emails! Hope so!

I love cycling around Toronto. And I love learning about and sharing my love of Toronto and all the great things to do and see here. I have been on lots of tours of different cities, and have taken away what people like to hear about those cities and am trying to incorporate that knowledge into my tour.

Here are some photos from my visits to the hostels today. I talked with staff at each hostel and they were generally friendly and supportive.

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After today, I can recommend which hostels in Toronto to stay in and which to avoid. There’s one particularly grotty one I almost didn’t leave cards it was so disturbing.

This weekend is a holiday weekend and the weather looks good so maybe I’ll get some customers, starting tomorrow at 11am. I am getting outside, talking to people and riding my bike. It’s all good!

Solo Travel

Selfoe
It’s only been a week and a half, because I don’t count my time at Spanish school as solo travel. For one, I wasn’t travelling; I was living with a family. And, for another reason, there were other students to hang out with all the time. I was rarely alone. So, I have only been travelling alone for about 10 days, and I am glad it’s almost over.

There are a lot of things to like about solo travel. I was able to go see some amazing places that no one else I knew had the time to visit with me! I did it anyway. Plus, when alone, I can do what I want when I want. I generally don’t sleep late, so not having to wait for anyone in the morning is a plus. I also don’t take long to get ready, so not having to wait for someone else is good too. I can get up and go – get coffee, breakfast or start a tour at 7am. That’s nice. I also can decide on a whim to go to a museum or on a tour and not to have to sell anybody else on it. It’s all up to me. I also got to spend my downtime however I wanted. I got some good night’s sleeps (not easy with all the noisy animals in Nicaragua) and read a lot of good books on my iPad.

A lot of the time, for me at least, solo travel meant being alone. I don’t mind being alone. It gives me the opportunity to watch what’s going on around me and experience the world. But then it can also get boring. Or lonely. Meals especially. Who wants to read during every meal? Not me. I am done with it. The good thing in Nicaragua is a lot of the interesting sights involve tours. (You can’t visit most of the volcanoes on your own. They don’t allow it.) And most of those tours have involved other people. Volcano hikes, coffee tours, all of those have included other tourists to talk to. Most of the people who tour around Nicaragua have been very interesting too! I met a Belgian coffee processor, a Kentucky documentary filmmaker, Australian backpackers, an American retiree who volunteers to teach Nicaraguans sustainable farming techniques, and more. There was also my last night in León, where I spent a couple hours with Silke, my friend from Toronto, who had just arrived to town! That was a treat!

But most of the time, I was eating alone, riding buses alone and visiting museums alone. I got to see a lot of cool things, and I don’t regret it. I just prefer company! I am ready to end the solo travel and go back to being social.

Good timing too! Brian is almost here! Technically, he should be here already, but he wandered too far in the Mexico City airport and missed his connection. I really don’t know how it happened, but for me, it meant another night of meeting new people at the Managua airport hotel and reading my book. It’s been fun, but I am ready for company.

Today I head to Corn Islands. Hopefully Brian will be there too. It looks like a paradisiacal Caribbean vacation spot, with diving, lobster and beachfront relaxing in our future. Check here for photos.

Somoto Canyon Day Trip

Somoto Canyon
Somoto Entrance Sign

Ever since I read about Somoto Canyon, I have wanted to visit. As you know, this trip was supposed to happen on Wednesday, but I messed that up big time! I tried again yesterday and the day started fine; I got a taxi and held onto my wallet and bag for dear life. Once I boarded and  saw a woman carrying actual chickens onto the bus, I knew it was a good sign! Some people go whole vacations without seeing a chicken on the chicken bus, and I got two chickens on my 4th chicken bus! The day was going to be good!

Chicken Bus
The woman with 2 chickens on the chicken bus to Somoto
Chicken bus
Zoom in on the chickens

Continue reading “Somoto Canyon Day Trip”

A Day on a Coffee Farm in Matagalpa

Matagalpa is coffee country, and it was recommended I visit a coffee farm while here. I took the chicken bus north out of town and visited the organic coffee farm known as Selva Negra, or Black Forest.

The farm, and eco-resort and restaurant, is a self-sustaining business with it’s own town. As well as offering coffee tours, there are a lot of hiking trails, so I spent an entire day there. It was beautiful and interesting.

Matagalpa is at a higher elevation than anywhere else I have been in Nicaragua, and the weather is a bit cooler. It’s generally been in the mid 20s with a nice breeze, so really enjoyable. It still felt hot climbing the mountain on the hike at Selva Negra though! Continue reading “A Day on a Coffee Farm in Matagalpa”

Another Volcano Hike: Telica Sunset Tour

Telica Volcano
Telica from below

On Thursday night I did a twilight hike at Volcano Telica, part of the Maribios volcano chain, same as Cerro Negro.

The key reason for the “sunset” or “twilight tour” is because you have a much better chance of seeing lava. I know I already saw lava last weekend, but I am hungry for more! It’s so cool, it’s hot!

I signed up for the tour through Quetzaltrekkers, mainly because they are a non-profit organization that puts on various hikes and donates all proceeds to helping local communities. I was very happy with their work. It was a well run hike. Continue reading “Another Volcano Hike: Telica Sunset Tour”

Free León City Tour

Leon is an interesting city to walk around, but it’s always better to have a guide! I happened to find a new company that offers free walking tours every morning so did the tour on Thursday. The tour lasted 90 minutes and covered the centre of the city. I learned more about the history of the city, the country and some of the murals depicting these stories. On the tour with me were a Canadian couple and 3 Germans. Germans and Canadians are the most common tourists in Nicaragua right now.

I already mentioned the enormous amount of churches here, and the guide, Sebastian, pointed out León is known as a city of churches as there are 2 Catholic churches per neighbourhood here. I don’t know why that’s necessary but the churches are pretty to look at and have some crazy icons inside. He also informed us that the main cathedral has tunnels to 5 different churches in the city. These were created to fend off pirates!

Cathedral de León
Crypt entrance in the Cathedral of León

Continue reading “Free León City Tour”

Volcano Boarding at Cerro Negro

Volcano Boarding Cerro NegroVolcano Boarding is one of the top things to do when visiting León, so I signed up to do it almost immediately upon arrival. Why delay?

My hostal offers a daily tour through Nicatime Nicaragua. We left the hostal at 8am on Wednesday, got to Cerro Negro Volcano by 9am, and started hiking. The uphill climb is only an hour long, but with all the sand and rocks, it’s not easy. Slippery.

Cerro Negro
Our group climbing up Cerro Negro

Cerro Negro means Black Mountain, and that describes it perfectly. This fairly young, still active volcano is a pile of black sand and rock. People have been volcano boarding there for about 17 years, according to my tour guide, Oscar (just kidding, it was Lester – or Luther, damn I am bad at this. I’ll call him Oscar). Now that is the primary reason people visit Cerro Negro, and one of the top attractions in León. Continue reading “Volcano Boarding at Cerro Negro”

Melyna on The Go Stories

The time has really been flying and now Lyna is on her way back to Toronto. The Melyna adventure has ended, but we did have some good times, and some interesting ones. There are a few tales I have not yet told about our adventures, so as I move on to my solo Nica travels, I’ll mention some of the good, the ridiculous and the funny of the 10 days of “Melyna on the Go.”

Meeting other Canadians

There are a lot of Canadians in Nicaragua. We’ve met many from B.C. and Toronto and even a backpacker on the Ometepe shuttle bus from College and Ossington, but the best meet cute was in our hotel in Granada. The hotel included breakfast, but no matter how few or many people they were, the cooks couldn’t keep up with the demand. Lyna was wearing her Toronto Blue Jays shirt and went up to the counter to look for her pancakes. A tall man approached her carrying a plate and as he was asking her if she was from Canada, she asked him “Are those my pancakes?” Yes, she was from Canada, as were he and his friends, and no, they weren’t her pancakes, they were his. April, Lyna said you would appreciate that story. Her pancakes did come shortly after but included the wrong ingredients. Nicaragua! Continue reading “Melyna on The Go Stories”

A Kayak Tour of Ometepe

Ometepe Kayaking
Beginning of Kayak Tour

One day of rest was enough! Yesterday Lyna and I wanted to get out and see more of the wildlife of the Ometepes. We biked our way to the town(?) of Mérida and Caballito’s Mar Kayaks.

It was not an easy bike ride or kayak but wow was it worth it. Perfect weather – sun and some wind, and tons of wildlife! Here is a partial list of what we saw: a caiman, turtles, blue herons, monkeys, ospreys, sleeping bats, egrets, ibises, tiger herons, magpie jays, and parakeets. There were more but I can’t remember them!

Continue reading “A Kayak Tour of Ometepe”

A Visit to Mombacho Volcano

Mombacho
Mombacho from the lake

Yesterday we went for a visit to Mombacho Volcano, a close drive from Granada and a beautiful protected Nicaraguan park.

We booked a tour for $35 through Tierra Tours. After a little research, $35 seemed standard unless you book through our hotel which charges $50. We went with the standard price 🙂 The Tierra Tours van picked us up at around 9:30am and we were off. There was already a man from Belgium in the car, and then we picked up a couple from Toronto (actual Toronto, not people from hours away telling people they live in Toronto) and we headed for my first volcano of the trip!

Mombacho is a “dormant” or sleeping volcano. It hasn’t erupted since the 1500s but it is definitely alive. We saw steam coming from the earth and smelled sulfur more than once, especially near the crater. It is closely monitored for activity.

Continue reading “A Visit to Mombacho Volcano”