After the first few touristy days in Nicaragua, visiting Leon and Granada, I was left with a sour taste about the country. However, as soon as I parted Granada, I was positively impressed. My first stop was the famous beach of Popoyo (whose actual name is Guasacate, meaning that if you hear about and want to go to Popoyo, it’s actually Guasacate). That’s where you can find a few hostels, a couple of surfing ‘schools’ and a small market at the end of the road. This time I went there alone, and found a cheap room at the end of the road. For $8 a night you get a bed in a private room, a working fan, fresh water shower and the opportunity to hear everyone through the thin walls, including the owner’s TV until midnight. However, I was there for the surf, just like everyone else. You might think I can’t swim, and you’re almost right. Who cares? YOLO!
First day as I arrived, I did some long walks on the beach and drank plenty of rum with my Belgian friends Jasmijn and Wout. What better way to celebrate the first surfing lesson I was yet to have the next day? Well, the lesson went well and I managed to stand up a few times, with the great help of Maurice. If you’re a snowboarder and never surfed, let me tell you how surfing goes. First you gotta wait for the right wave (and get sunburn in the meantime). Then you realize you know shit about the waves, yet nevertheless you get tired chasing all the whitewater thinking you’re learning something. Then the OMG paddling! When you snowboard you start standing still, and the slope is still as well. When you surf, “the slope” is moving, so if you wanna jump on it, you have to match the speed. How hard can it be, right? Well, hard! Apparently the muscles you use to paddle are well underdeveloped as no other action in real life uses that movement (unless you’re into some weird dance moves. I know some of you are!). Let’s say you saw the wave, coming towards you, you start paddling frantically like a 14yo fapping, aaaaand you’re just about to be on it… when bam! you forget how to jump up, or you slip, or the wave’s not that strong anymore, or you lose balance, or you’re not lined up properly. If you get past this part, it’s pure happiness – all you want is the wave to never end, just like with the slope. In the beginning you get this huge board to get you in balance and started faster, that can only steer as much as a log with branches. I didn’t pass that step yet.
On the way to the next touristic objective, Ometepe island, I had to stop and replace the throttle cable that snapped the night before. Accelerating by pulling the wire is very surprising and totally not recommended in the cities. 3$ and a Burger King stop later, here I was, loaded up on a ferry to this huge volcanic island, surrounded by the fresh waters of Lago Nicaragua. I have to thank Wout for telling me to bring the bike to the island. Apparently the most practiced sport is renting and driving a scooter (with a pink helmet) around the two volcanoes that form the island (Conception and Maderas). The challenge is to complete the whole route, or at least one volcano, without bruises or other injuries. The road is pretty good when it’s paved, but really bad when not. Brave enough to join me, I took Jasmijn for a ride around both volcanoes and I think I did quite well given the non-specific bike and the hurdles along the way (stones, ditches, sand, gravel, water, and why not, among all these, speed bumps!!!). El Zopilote, the hostel she picked was pretty nice too, a place of gathering for all the backpackers and hippies on the island. Good vibes, free yoga, and pricey food, but all in all, a very nice place to spend a summer, volunteer, or just hide from the police if needed. Too bad some careful locals “carefully” removed the phone holder from the bike, and as well scratched the fresh paint, all in the parking place I even paid for.
Ever since I came to Nicaragua, I kept hearing rumors about “Sunday Funday” happening in San Juan del Sur (SJS). It’s a local party for anyone willing to pay about 30USD for a pool-crawl with no booze included, but hook-ups. At least if you’re in your early 20s. Point is, I skipped it intentionally by spending another night on the island, only to arrive there on Monday. The plan of spending a couple of nights in SJS changed after a few volleyball games on the beach, few drinks, and a walk around the whole city. Checked the must-do’s off my list (uhmm… just the imposing statue of Jesus on the nearby hill), and moved on for a bit more surfing in Playa Maderas – a more tranquill place to be. The bad road there is probably what keeps away the local traffic, but small trucks or shuttles with surfers and beach-bums arrive there every hour starting at 11am. I was impressed to see so many lovable young girls, and so many fit guys. Spoke to some, made some friends, unlike any other place along my journey so far. It is truly a place of positive energy, magical sunsets, and surf. Yes, I rented another board to… practice. If you ever go there bring plenty of food/fruits and water, or plenty of money! The restaurants cook delicious meals, for prices too high for this country ($5 small breakfast, $9 decent food menu, $1.7 beer).
These last days and the travelers I met and spent time with, made me feel really good in Nicaragua. Looking back at it, I would still call it a tourist destination, more than other countries so far. There’s a lot of stuff to do, places to hike, and city heats to endure. Not to mention people to meet and friends to make! Now it’s time to see what the notoriously expensive Costa Rica has to offer!