LITTLE CORN ISLAND—Canadians coming to Nicaragua is actually pretty common, especially in the colder winter months when the lure of a Central American/Caribbean vacation is only a few mouse clicks away on your favorite travel site. The voyage usually consists of a connecting flight in the U.S. for same day arrival into Managua; then it’s time to relax and explore this beautiful country.
Stephanie Solverson, however, has chosen another mode of travel from Canada to Nicaragua: by bicycle. Steph initially came to Nicaragua in early 2010 to work as diving instructor for Dolphin Dive on Little Corn Island, but returned home to Canada in July of this year to visit friends and family and consider her next steps in life.
But she couldn’t shake Nicaragua and Little Corn Island from her mind, so she has decided to come back. Two of the people she met during her time on Little Corn have shaped her return journey. First was Anna, an English lady who was cycling from Alaska to South America, second was Zac Folk, founder of Common Threadz, a non-profit organization that is building a Community Learning Centre on Little Corn Island.
So, on fairly short notice, Steph got herself a bike, a map, and a big plan: to cycle 4,200 miles from Alberta, Canada to Bluefields, Nicaragua before taking the boat back to her beloved Little Corn.
Steph is not what you’d call a conventional person; she has a habit of accumulating amusing anecdotes, something that this journey is sure to provide plenty of.
Day one of the journey had to be pushed back due to a big grassfire and billowing smoke on her intended route, but after consulting with the RCMP she got the all clear to go. At 5 a.m. on a cold morning on Sept. 12, Steph left her home in Canada and started out on this epic journey, with family there to record her departure over the horizon and wish her luck.
With panniers loaded on both the front and back wheels, plus a backpack in tote, she did not exactly look like an Olympian cyclist. Aerodynamics were sacrificed in favor of essentials for two to three months on the road. She has over 100 pounds of luggage on her bike, including full camping/cooking kit, food, clothing, first aid kit. Despite that, she has averaged around 100 km per day in her first week of travel. She says the weight has taken some getting used to, especially as she enters the more undulating regions of the northern United States!
By Sept. 15 she had crossed the border from Canada into Montana in the United States, and remains hopeful of arriving in Little Corn before Christmas. Even as she entered the U.S., she was given some sage advice by a U.S. Border Control official who advised her to avoid travelling through Mexico on her road trip from Canada to Nicaragua. Any suggestions on how to get here by land while avoiding Mexico would be gratefully received!
Her planned route takes her through seven U.S. states and a total of seven countries. Those of us here on Little Corn Island are hoping to work with the local school to integrate Steph’s journey into a weekly lesson on geography, culture and current events, using her route and the chronicles of her adventure as an educational tool. We are also planning to have regular call-in updates with the Corn Island radio station to raise local awareness of the Community Learning Center project and help create a sense of local ownership.
So why is she doing it? Common Threadz has worked on the concept of a Community Learning Center as resource for communities in rural areas with problems such as illiteracy, limited educational support, limited job opportunities, poor health services and unclean water. The first Common Threadz Community Learning Center is being built in Little Corn Island. The Center aims to be a facility to teach everyone from school children to adults practical skills that can help them to find work within their local environments and will include facilities such as a library, computer lab, a women and girls empowerment section with related services and vocational training to meet the needs of the community.
We all wish Steph luck on her long journey and look forward to welcoming her back to Nicaragua. We know she has the determination required to make it back safely.
You can follow and support Steph’s journey through her blog here.
Or find out more about the Community Learning Center project here.