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)!?!
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.
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.
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).
The Beach of San Juan del Sur
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.