Stand Easy – Taking a Break in Nicaragua

I have mentioned before that travelling is hard work! Packing and unpacking, travelling to different locations, fighting for fair prices from taxi drivers or street vendors, and convincing everyone (Ben) that seeing historical sites is pretty cool. Add in the need to research the area and figure out what you want to see. Hard work!

For the most part I sit shotgun – Colleen does the heavy lifting with the planning and logistics – I am along for the ride.

Hey, I do important stuff – physical lifting (the bags), sample lots of  beer and I’m the eye candy on her arm (or is it vice versa)!?!

On the beach over looking the bay

We have had our good days and our bad days but for the most part they are good. So why the break?  Just plain tired …

Colleen read of San Juan del Sur many years ago … a backpacking / surfer destination with cheap prices in a quiet and lazy little town. She always wanted to visit and to all of us it seemed like a great option for a  month-long rest.

Bayview Terrace

We found a great two bedroom condo at a fantastic price (internet, electricity and water were included). After our first week in this sleepy little community we had a visitor from Canada!  Hannah’s girlfriend from high school showed up (okay we drove to Managua and picked her up) and she stayed with us for a week.  I mention this as you might be counting heads and thinking we grew otherwise.

Computer work is a morning routine
Mango tree by the pool
This bird was a morning visitor and had a nest in the tree by our patio with his mate
This bird was the other visitor every morning.
View from our patio
Dinner preparations – everyone helps! tacos!
The girls frying plantains
Ben sitting at the bar by our water source.  We went through one jug every two days!
Hannah doing homework (or watching youtube or Netflix or reading) on the second floor balcony
View from the upper balcony of the pool and parking lot
The Living Room in the apartment taken from the Dining Room table
Hannah preparing plantains for dinner
Enjoying the pool. We knew it was a plunge pool (meaning really small) but it was perfect to get refreshed.
Ben off the electronics and playing unplugged!
The parking lot area and the building where the caretaker stays (and the laundry room)
Hannah receiving orders on when to collect the Laundry
Hannah on the patio of our apartment taken from the parking lot
Road to the beach (about 200m, turn left 50m and voila)
Walking down the street in front of our Apartment. The dirt roads create a lot of dust and debris

17 Years Old

Hannah gets her birthday presents at breakfast (2 x jars of Snobb’s Mango Jam which Colleen carried from Quito, Ecuador).  We all agreed that presents would be needed items or consumable so this was a great gift. She also got her favourite container of sunscreen (the really expensive kind that smells good).

Mango jam
Birthday Dinner at Maggies Restaurant. Great local food in a beautiful backyard. The roast chicken with hot pepper sauce was awesome!
Ben has the chocolate mousse for desert
Hannah enjoys her birthday dessert!

The Beach of San Juan del Sur

The beach is a dark coarse sand that is carried by the wind and whips at you depending where you are on the beach. A cruise ship seems to visit every Tuesday.
A big hurricane hit San Juan Del Sur in October of 2017 so the remnants are boats like the 20/30 ft sailboat buried in the sand.
Christ the Redeemer watches over the beach and the hotels and the backpackers …
The tide changes the landscape of the beach every day
Enjoying the “Slow Life” of San Juan Del Sur
Date Night on the beach with happy hour waiting for the sunset!

The Fish Market

At the end of the Malecon (beach walk) there is a bank and the port area for the cruise ships. Beyond that is the fish market with five or six stalls of vendors who sell (independently) their catches of the day as well as some stuff that is on ice. The best thing to buy is the ceviche which is raw fish, and seafood cut up with onions, peppers, and soaked in a tart orange (a sort of sour fresh-squeezed orange juice). We figured a couple of old ladies sat in the back and made this yummy dish but to our surprise the fish monger was making it while we were waiting to choose our fish of the day.

2lbs of fish to feed a family of five
Ceviche – raw fish and seafood with lemon, oranges, onions, and peppers; an awesome combination. Eaten with fresh bread from the German bakery and of course a cold Tona.

Visiting Christ the Redeemer Statue

Our view from the patio included the hilltop with the Christ the Redeemer statue. An odd thing to see in a town devoted to surfers, beer and tacos but hey – whatever works. We delayed our visit as I rolled my foot on a morning run and that put me out of commission for a week (or two) well at least for walking without a limp – surprisingly my beer consumption went up!

Following the Road signs

The statue was finished in 2009 and provides a commanding view of the surrounding bay. The entrance is $2USD for foreigners and $1USD for locals. Although irked at the price difference the views are amazing and worth the small price.  The chapel inside is quaint with photos of the construction and a visit by former President Jimmy Carter and his family.

The statue from our Apartment
The view from the Statue looking down at the Bay
Downtown San Juan Del Sur from the Christ the Redeemer Statue
Close-up of the Christ the Redeemer
Colleen with the San Juan Del Sur Bay in the background
A statue of Jesus Christ in the chapel under the Christ the Redeemer Statue
View of San Juan Del Sur including the River that divides the town
Colleen at the Christ the Redeemer Statue

Eating Local

We met a couple in one of the apartments of the condo who turns out hail from Powassan. Never heard of it? Not surprised. For the uninitiated, Colleen’s parents and grandparents lived in this small town south of North Bay for many years. It turns out that Robbie and Carol lived around the corner from Colleen’s parents’ house and we used to admire their garden when we visited. Robbie is one of those guys that makes things happen by being sociable. He let us know about the Naca-Tamales made by the lady who lived next door. You just had to ask the Quicador (the security guard/maintenance guy/grounds keeper) Freddie or Augustine and they would organize it when the sign was up. Well, that’s not quite our way so we saw the sign and asked to have some Naca-Tamales, well nine to be exact. The young man who spoke to us in broken English and our bad Spanish said, “no problem” – 50 Cordobas each (as per the sign) and he would deliver them in about 20 minutes. Great!

Time is slower in Nicaragua

So 20 minutes to us is about four hours to them. Which was fine as the product that arrived was steaming hot and delicious. Except there were only four instead of nine. The young man was a little chagrined but his mother only had the makings for four. We were okay with that as they were very filling but we were never sure if more were going to arrive over the next few days or not. We kept money aside just in case but the last five never arrived.

The house next door that sells Naca-Tamales (Nica/Naca is a short form for Nicaraguan)
We ordered 9 but four showed up. They tasted great! They are wrapped in banana leaves and then tin foil and steamed on a bbq for a couple of hours.
The inside is a mixture of rice, potato, chicken, onions and a hot pepper

Morning Ritual

Our goal in Nicaragua was to relax and unwind so that we were ready for the next adventure. Instead we got very comfortable and enjoyed the Expat lifestyle for a month. My mornings after a run (when I could run) and breakfast was to sit and read. I finished all the books of Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

Reading in the morning
Finding shade in the late morning

Road Trip to Granada

I think I mentioned that I rolled my ankle on a morning run on the day that Anya (our guest from Canada) arrived so I was in no condition to travel around. Colleen took the girls on a couple of road trips, one of which included the colonial town of Granada. They found the old quarter to be a small area filled with old houses and tourist shops.

Ometepe Island
Gardens in Granada
Emma walking in the old quarter
Who wants a coke?
Small cars for the parking on the streets
Old Church
Three girls having lunch in Granada (Emma, Anya and Hannah)

San Juan del Sur – Daily Life

Most days we would walk into town for groceries as we found that vegetables or fruit wouldn’t keep more than a day. We would visit the Pali (apparently opened by Walmart) or go to some of the local shops. Our favourite was the German bakery for cinnamon buns and a loaf of fresh bread. Of course we also  picked up some beer so the old man wouldn’t go thirsty.

Tree in San Juan Del Sur

Sunset

The beach in San Juan del Sur is beautiful although the sand whips as you enter the water or it gathers in your swimsuit if you go swimming. The truly spectacular event is sunset on the beach. The colours are amazing. We enjoyed two or three of these events at the local bar sitting on the beach.

Hannah and Anya at Vivian’s on the Beach
Sunset!
Sunset in San Juan Del Sur is spectacular!
We made a friend of this red-nosed pit bull!
The sunset lasts for an hour!

The other side of the Bay

Once my ankle was healed up we headed out to visit the far side of the bay which included a visit to the lighthouse and to the fortress of William Walker.

The Light House at San Juan Del Sur
Beautiful flowers on the trees are in bloom as we search for the William Walker Fortress
A fruit of some kind? Not sure what this is? Do you know?
The view of Christ the Redeemer from across the Bay
The bay of San Juan Del Sur

William Walker’s Fortress

William Walker was from the southern United States and made a name for himself in trying to establish “English-speaking colonies” in Latin America, under his control of course. The concept was called filibustering. He seized control and was President of Nicaragua for a year (1856-57). He was ousted from power after being defeated at Rivas (which is the biggest town near San Juan del Sur). His fortress built in the bay at San Juan del Sur was like a small Martello tower and probably designed to be a warning for approaching ships from Costa Rica.

The fortress is in bad shape, overgrown and one door way is all that really can be seen. We stumbled on it by chance following a narrow path up a slight hill off the main road to the lighthouse. A neat piece of history that the locals should embrace to increase tourism.

The entrance to the Fortress
The view from the roof of the Fortress
The roof is gone and all that remains is the ring of stone. It looks like a Martello tower in design.
The far side of the tower roof
The road to the Fortress and the Lighthouse
The signpost to the Fortress of William Walker behind the fish monger stalls

San Juan del Sur – a Beautiful Retreat

We loved Nicaragua and this beautiful dusty little town. The people were friendly and the slow pace was what the Doctor ordered. I met up with a friend from Canada who was travelling through, and we met other Canadians who were enjoying the warm weather and the cold beer. All and all a great experience.

3 Replies to “Stand Easy – Taking a Break in Nicaragua”

  1. Naca-Tamales look awsome! Great pics and I mean great pics for I want one of those Naca-Tamales!. In fact you have to invite me over for dinner and make one of them the day you get back…..ok I am getting carried away. You can do it on the second and let us not forget pai tai the following night followed by tacos on the third!

    I am glad you all had a good rest. It sounds like one of those novels you read where everyone is happy for being about or not just because they can! Only issue seems to be the dust which in the end everyone just put up with! The price of paradise! Great post. Keep them comming.

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