Surviving in San Juan del Sur

Casa el Oro – San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua      1:38pm local time

The process of leaving Ometepe was pretty similar as the process of getting there but in reverse. I took a ferry from Ometepe back to the main land, a cab from San Jorge (the ferry pier) to Rivas – which only cost me $2 this time instead of $10, and then a bus from Rivas to San Juan del Sur. Instead of a large chicken bus to San Juan del Sur, this time I was in a mini van/bus combo of sorts. I arrived at the bus station at 12pm, found my bus and went in to get a seat without any clue as to when the bus actually leaves. I sweated it out for almost hour in the bus before mustering up some Spanish to ask the man who’s body was pressed up against mine when we leave. “Cuando nosotros vamanos?” I asked. I was fairly confident he replied with 1:30  but was really hoping he said 1 o’clock. Never the less, I should maybe give myself more credit in the Spanish department because it was in fact (and unfortunately) a 1:30pm departure time. At least the ride only cost me 20 Cordobas, less than $1.

Upon arriving in San Juan del Sur, I had a hostel in mind that I was going to check out and it seemed fairly simple to find from the bus station. I asked someone which way the beach was to orient myself and then headed out to find the hostel. Sure enough, they had a bed available in one of their dorms and I’ve been settled in here for the past couple nights.

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My first evening I went to the beach to watch the sun set, ate dinner with an older lady named Susan who has been taking Spanish lessons here for the past three weeks, and then tagged along with two guys staying at my hostel to a local bar for trivia night. Though my team didn’t win, we did come in a commendable third place and I was actually able to contribute some answers…

Q: A woman from which country claimed the title of Miss Universe this week?

A: Colombia

Q: Apl.de.ap. and Taboo are two lesser known members of which American pop group?

A: The Black Eyed Peas

The following day I decided to take a shuttle to what is supposed to be one of the “nicer” beaches about 30 minutes north of San Juan del Sur. The sun was beaming but unfortunately the gale force winds made it difficult to really enjoy the day but I did enjoy watching the surfers and frolicking in the waves and I guess I got a free body exfoliation from all the sand being pelted against my skin.

Today I set off to hike up to the Christ of the Mercy statue, one of the largest statues of Jesus in the world standing at 24 metres tall. It was about a 40 minute walk from my hostel to the very top and mostly uphill. The ascent was steep and winding in some areas but it was worth it when I got to the top. I hung out for a while to recover from the climb, took pictures, enjoyed the view, and used my selfie stick for the first time before heading back down the hill. Overall, it was a good way to kill a couple hours and do something other than just lay around all day.

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Christ of the Mercy Statue

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I wasn’t very good with the selfie stick…it also was just a teensy bit windy.

Maybe I’ve gotten jaded from staying in so many BEAUTIFUL beach towns throughout Asia but I was initially somewhat under impressed by San Juan del Sur. The beach isn’t particularly beautiful and winds blow strong throughout the day which means you are always covered in small layer of sand/dirt. However, the place has started to grow on my so we’ll see what the next couple days bring. The plan is to spend two more nights here and then brave the chaotic process of crossing the Costa Rican border.

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“Son of God’s” view over San Juan del Sur

Isla de Ometepe

Hospedaje Central – Moyolgapa, Isla de Ometepe, Nicaraga       9:45pm local time

I’ve spent the last three days on Isla de Ometepe, an island in the middle of Lake Nicaragua that is formed by two volcanoes emerging out of the water. I decided to try to use local transporation (Refurbished school buses known as “chicken buses”) to make my way from Granada to Rivas before getting a ferry to Ometepe. It wasn’t hard but standing on the crowded bus waiting for it to take off, my legs felt like they were at a Bikram yoga class and I could just feel the sweat drops dribbling down them. I kept looking at the girl beside me wearing the tightest skinny jeans and wondering how she did not have visible butt/vagina sweat but then I thought I would probably do better in -30 degree weather than her and felt a little bit better about myself. Anyway, I was pretty proud of myself for actually saving money and taking the chicken bus instead of a shuttle but then I got majorly ripped off on the taxi ride from Rivas to the ferry port to catch the boat. The ride should only cost 30 Cordobas, or just over $1 USD but this guy charged us each $10 USD for a 5 minute drive! Unfortunately, I was with an older English man who I had met on the ferry and he gave into the demand way too easily, I felt betrayed by my fellow tourist but he probably didn’t know and/or care better.

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Sun set over a departing ferry in Moyogalpa

The main activity for people to participate in when coming to the island is to hike up one of the volcanoes. I had planned on hiking Maderas (the smaller of the two volcanoes but still a decent 6-8 hour hike) but had heard from multiple tourists and locals that it is not worth hiking it right now, as the majority of the volcano is surrounded by cloud and therefore the potential view/experience is limited. The larger volcano, Conception, is supposed to be a pretty rugged and muddy 8-12 hour hike (that means 6 hours straight uphill!) and I wasn’t sure I was up for that so I felt like my purpose for being here had been depleted. However, on this, my final evening, I did just overhear a girl say that she only hiked half of it so I suppose that could have been an option. Oh well…

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Concepcion Volcano, the larger of the two volcanoes is still smouldering while Maderas is completely dormant

For these reasons, I have been spending an inordinate amount of time at my hostel which, I’m pleased to report, has a decent amount of cat friends to keep me company. I’ve gone out for a few walks and today I borrowed a bike and went out to try to find a sand bar that was supposed to be about a 20 minute bike ride away. Long story short, it ended up taking me an hour and a half to get there AND it turns out I had literally been right at it at one point of time and just didn’t recognize it as the place I wanted to be. Needless to say I did eventually find it but was slightly underwhelmed by it’s appeal after my exhausting bike ride (Sidenote: bike seats are the most uncomfortable thing in the world. In my mind, torture would be making someone sit on a bike seat for hours without any sort of readjustment).

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My favourite kind of people

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Biked forever to find this mediocre black sand beach known as Punta Jesus Maria

The First 48

Hostal Oasis – Granada, Nicaragua      7:40 pm local time

Well I’ve survived my first two days away! Tomorrow I plan to leave the city of Granada and move on to Isla de Ometepe which is an island cornerstoned by two volcanoes emerging from Lake Nicaragua.

The last time I wrote I was in the Houston airport hopeful that I would still arrive in Managua at my scheduled time of 9:09pm. As it turns out, my last plane ended up being delayed by about an hour meaning that I didn’t land in Managua until 10pm. As soon as I exited the plan into the jetbridge I was immediately hit with the familiar but somewhat comforting smell of hot, humid, stagnant air that I have experienced in other places such as Thailand, Bali, and Cuba. However, my comfort level dissipated after I collected my luggage and passed through customs and a mob of men (some holding signs with people’s names on them and some just holding generic taxi signs) became visible through the sliding glass airport exit doors. This is a scene that I have become familiar with after spending time in SE Asia but this was also why I had prebooked a ride; so that I could avoid the overwhelming pressure of deciphering just how many times I should say “no thanks” before deciding that one person, for no specific reason, is deemed more eligible than others to take me to my destination. The problem was that, though I saw many men holding signs, I did not see any man holding a sign with MY name on it. Eventually I felt a tap on my shoulder and there was my man! I guess he had seen me wandering through the crowds and decided to end my misery…plus he probably wanted to get out of there just as much as I did.

Despite the fact that he spoke very little English and I speak very, very little Spanish, we were able to actually have a bit of a conversation during the drive. From what I understood, these are the main points of our conversation:

  • Managua is the “capital” of Nicaragua but Granada is the “heart” of the country
  • There are currently many Canadians in Nicaragua
  • A lot of people think he is crazy. Note: he did have a very maniacal laugh. When I asked his if he is actually crazy he said no, people just think he is…which was not very reassuring
  • There are a lot of dogs that run across the streets. He explained that most drivers will just hit them but he tries to slow down, give a little honk, and let them cross. I appreciated this very much but then, about 10 minutes later, we massacred a cat. Luckily, I did not actually see the cat running out into the street so I only had to emotionally deal with the traumatic experience of hearing it’s little body get thrown around under the car.

Now, this last point highlights something I had not emotionally prepared myself for. The amount of street dogs in this city is overwhelming and my heart breaks every time I see a skinny, malnourished dog, one with an obvious medial problem and mangled fur, or one wandering near the side of the highway doomed to meet the same fate of that poor cat (ironically, I have not seen any other cats at all) but what can I do?! I’m hoping the street dogs are more of a city thing and that when I move on to smaller places I can return to living in blissful ignorance.

Catedral de Granada

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Iglesia de Guadelupe

Besides avoiding eye contact with the sad puppies, I spent yesterday just walking around the city of Granada. It is a very colonial city and reminds me a little bit of Havana, Cuba. A lot of old churches but newer and much more beat up cars. I’ve also never been so obviously ogled so much in my life. The men have no issues with looking you up and down and declaring you to be “very beautiful!” or “Muy bonita!” Everybody here wears jeans in 30 degree weather so I think it’s the sight of legs that gets them excited. They really don’t care what you look like from the thigh up.

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Iglesia de la Mercad

Today I went to Laguna de Apoyo which is a crater that formed 20,000 or so years ago from a volcanic explosion. It was very pretty and I felt immediately comfortable sitting by the water. I got my first bit of colour which also mean my first bit of burn (despite multiple sunscreen applications) but it’s ok because sand, water, beaches, and nothing to do but to read a book or nap is my happy place. I also overheard a girl (travelling with three boys) say that she had gotten robbed yesterday on the street outside so I made it an early night and made sure I was back to my hostel before dark so now I have all evening to lounge in the hammocks, read, write, and listen to music.

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Panoramic view of Laguna de Apoyo

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Tona seems to be the Chang of Nicaragua.

Old Blog…New Adventures

George Bush Intercontinental Airport – Houston, Texas         4:03pm local time

So, I’ve decided to revive this old blog in order to allow you people at home (read: my parents) to keep track of my adventures over the next month-ish while I travel through Central America. Kelsey and I originally started this blog when we did our first trip through SE Asia in 2012. We were too busy having fun on our return trip in 2013 to partake in such menial tasks as blog writing (though Kelsey did make a valiant effort over here – http://www.ilgtravels.blogspot.com) so the experiences of that trip live primarily only in our memories and, unfortunately (or fortunately!) not on the internet. This time I’m travelling solo and plan to spend the next 5 weeks exploring parts of Nicaragua, Costa Rica, and Panama. Currently I am eating a burrito in the Houston airport because I figured I  should enjoy some texmex while in Texas and after some delayed flights this morning and one flight that included incessant banging on the back of my chair by one decidedly annoying child, I should still be arriving in Managua on time tonight. Now I’m just keeping my fingers crossed that my prearranged airport pick-up shows up to take me to my first hostel…

My delayed flight did mean that I left Winnipeg just as the sun was rising and created some pretty views during takeoff.

The thought of arriving in a foreign country and travelling alone is a daunting one when I really think about it but though my family is more concerned about the idea that I may be raped and murdered, my anxiety is provoked by the thought of much more fathomable, ordinary situations. When travelling with a friend or an other of some type there are always two brains available to help remember the way back to an off-the-beaten-path hostel, there’s someone to lend you money if you run out before getting to another ATM, there’s someone to talk through particularly sketchy situations with, and there’s someone to hold on to important documents if you happen to be feeling absent-minded or flighty one day. It is inevitable that I will end up in one of these situations and suddenly my alone-ness will be blatantly obvious. However, I know I can handle it and am, for the most part, allowing my excitement about warm temperatures, beaches, and adventures to override my nerves. Only one more flight to go!

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