18.01.2011 - 26.01.2011 30 °C
San Juan del Sur felt very touristy and a bit pricier than I expected. However, it’s known to have the best surf spots in Nicaragua and that is mainly why we decided to go there.
But the truth is that San Juan has its own charm. In spite of the increasing of expats and gringos, it still feels very authentic: its market, local food… We stayed in a local hostel: cheaper than the other backpacker options, and very nice staff. We went surfing three times to Playa Remanso. The first day we met an English guy named Jonny and Hanna, a very friendly and cute Norwegian girl who was fluent in Argentinean Spanish. It was almost impossible to grasp a foreign accent. She’d lived in Murcia for one year when she was very young and a year in Argentina. It was very nice to meet them both. We were all pretty much at same level of surfing; well, Henrik and Jonny could surf a bit better. But still we could take the piss out of each other and not have to deal with the surfer attitude that’s very common in these places.
I cannot stress how awesome the surfing was, at least for beginners. Playa Remanso has extremely consistent small waves that breaks perfectly. It is very easy to paddle out as the water stays quite still and the waves are perfectly formed and that makes it easier to catch. We all improved so much every day. Henrik and Johnny started to catch quite a lot of good waves. I felt like I learned a lot too: finally I left the white water waves behind. Catching unbroken waves was the next step and it worked (sometimes).
The second night we took our friends for dinner to the place we’d been the night before: it was a very good deal: 60 colones (3 dollars) for a full meal including a fresh juice. Everyone liked not only the good food, but that we had managed to eat under 100 colones. But we are really on a budget and we have learnt to eat local and half the price of the gringo places… Actually it was so good value that we ended up eating here every dinner. There was this quite cool bar that we went out to in the evenings, completing a perfect day of surfing, nice dinner and some drinks to round it up.
After 3 days surfing, eating and enjoying the sunsets, we were ready to shoot of to Isla Ometepe: an island that stands in the middle of Lake Nicaragua and that is land of two volcanoes. We said to meet with Hanna and Vanessa, a Spanish girl who was staying at the same hostel as Hanna’s, and who we’ve met the night before living in a pub, and leave for the island together.
Getting to Isla Ometepe was supposed to be reasonably easy and should not have taken too long. But the problem was that we were trying to go to a specific hostel in the island and the bus service around the island is not as frequent as we though. At first, we decided to stop by one of the gringo hostels: we were all sweaty, it was pretty hot... The hostel turned up to be fully booked so we said to go to another hostel which was supposed to be really closed; however someone from the first hostel said that it was more than 5km to get there. We were lucky and hitched a ride just when we went out to the road but we never said where we were heading to; we assumed we would see the hostel sign by the main road. After almost 10 minutes drive we were starting to think that we might have past…and we had. It was another 2 hours nearly until we had made it to the hostel…or ranch I suppose it should be called.
Since Hannah was in a bit of hurry, we decided to do the volcano trek the next morning even though we had had a long day of travelling. After a 6 am breakfast we were off climbing. Joining us was a nice chilled Australian couple. The trek was actually pretty hard as it was just constantly going upwards. Vanessa, the Spanish girl, was breathing pretty heavy from the start and after 45 min of huffing and puffing she gave up and walked back. Hannah got pretty exhausted too and was close to turning around, but we managed to convince her to continue. The hike was nothing really spectacular, but we did see loads of howler monkeys on the way and we passed through some pretty cool foggy forest. We stopped for a bit at the crater, but it was way too cold to take a dip. Unfortunately there is no real viewpoint from the top which is quite bad, but close to the bottom we stopped at a point where we could see the other volcano perfectly.
The place we were staying in was suppose to be all hippy and stuff. However we had felt like they were really just money focused. For example the bread baking courses and volunteer work was just a joke to make money. You had to pay like 15 dollars, make bread for them which they will sell to guests…you did not even get a bread for it. What really tipped things over was that they only gave the guides less than half the money we paid them. In the end they didn’t do more than give a call to a local guide…and for this they took half the money. We tried to mention it to them, but the guide we had had begged us not to say anything as they would never call him again….so sad to see how a place that is suppose to help the community is taking advantage of the locals in this way.
Hannah and Vanessa left the island, but Laura and I stayed on for another day. We had a pretty chilled day, renting bikes and exploring the island a bit. Isla Ometepe is pretty nice, but it’s definitely not living its fame.
After Isla Ometepe we moved to the colonial city of Granada. After staying in dumps for the last 3 weeks we decided to stay in a bit of luxury hostel (a gringo hostel…but luxurious for us I mean), the place had free computers, coffee all day long, and even a swimming pool. Granada is a really pretty colonial city, but it’s a bit weird city…its like it does not have a real soul to it. The center is quite luxuries and not many Nicaraguans actually live there, giving the town a bit fake feeling. We were really surprised how much poverty there was…street kids begging and selling stuff everywhere. Due to the huge class differences it did not feel very safe either.
Still we had an pretty good time. We rented bikes and cycled along the seaside and got to see some of the 300plus islands just outside of Granada. Unfortunately we were told that it was dangerous to cycle very far, due to robberies, so we could only see bits of the archipelago. A weird thing too was the attention that everyone gave to Laura…everyone that we passed, including 10 year old kids, whistled at her. Once I turned around and screamed “oh well thank you” making them feel like they referred to me instead of Laura, pretty funny way to deal with it.
We managed to catch up with Hannah before she moved on again. One of the nights we went out a bit. Drinks were so cheap in Granada, found this place that had ok mojitos for around 0.50 Euro (50 Euro cent). That’s the cheapest drink I have ever had in my life.
Granada was crazy hot, so we decided to take a short one night side trip up to a volcano lake. The place was beautiful and it was just so relaxing. There were almost no people and there was nothing to do but to chill and go kayaking on the lake. This would seriously the perfect place for some sort of health resort or rehab place. I felt particularly motivated and even went running along the lake. We left feeling fit like ninjas and ready to move on further north to the city of Leon.