I arrived in Playa Gigante with enough daylight to explore, although there wasn’t much to see. An old fishing village turned surf ‘town,’ Gigante is too small to really call a town. There are some hotels/hostels, a couple of restaurants, one mini mart and that’s about it.
After I put my backpack down I immediately went to scope out my new location, and I found some amazing views. Gorgeous rock formations, powerful waves, sparkling blue water. Nature never ceases to amaze me.
This time I treated myself and rented a whole room! No dorming it, which I was very thankful for. For some reason I was having a tough day. It was just one of the days where feelings of sadness and despair washed over me. Despite all the positive thoughts I could gather, all the gratitude in my body was not able to overcome it.
These days were something I had struggled with before leaving, but hadn’t had since arriving. I just had to roll with it. Cry in my room, takes long quiet walks, journal and let go.
Somehow I knew I still wasn’t in the place I was searching for, and it wasn't because I was having a rough day. The girls I had traveled from Ometepe with raved about Popoyo, and it was a place that kept coming up. So I knew that was where I was headed the next day.
But I still had the rest of this day to get through. It soon became dinner searching time. Every one of the restaurants was, you guessed it, way over priced. Now I was trying to let go of that mentality but it wasn’t just that, the food on the menu and on the tables looked in no way appetizing or healthful. More tourist centered crappy food. My accommodations had a community kitchen though, so I decided to whip something up.
With only 1 mini mart the options were far from vast. There was pasta, canned beans, top ramen, chips, candy and other weird packaged foods. Thankfully they had a small selection of produce as well. I gathered a cucumber, jalapeno, onion, lime, tomato and plantain. Then it was time to get creative.
I came up with a cucumber salad and fried plantains. Large cucumber chunks tossed with chopped tomato, and minced jalapeno and onion. For dressing I used lime juice and some white vinegar and salt I found in the kitchen. I let that marinate while I cut thin slices of plantain and heated up my coconut oil (thank goodness I had that!) in a pan. In just a few minutes I had a fresh and delicious meal despite being in the epitome of a food desert.
Sounds simple and it was. But that doesn’t mean it tasted boring.
The next morning I headed out on a morning run, looking for this restaurant someone told me about that was a few beaches over. They gave me rough directions and I figured I could find it. I was looking forward to some kale salad, and acai bowl heaven as I ran the dirt roads. It was only supposed to take 30 minutes though and the road I was on had no end in sight. Finally I flagged someone down asking about where this beach was. Of course I had taken a wrong turn and now was about 45 minutes in the wrong direction.
With a growling belly I started to traverse back the way I came. I never found this mysterious fresh food paradise. By now I was ready to settle for whatever breakfast I could find. Unfortunately nothing in the town opened until 8:30 or 9am except this one café. There I connected with 2 other travelers that also raved about Popoyo and told me about a great café to check out there La Vaca Loca.
Excited to see what all the fuss was about with Popoyo I packed up and headed out. Gigante is 7km from the main highway and bus stop. So you either pay a cab or walk to get to the bus stop. I obviously chose to walk. With my large backpack strapped on I started my journey hoping someone would be kind enough to give me a ride, but also enjoying the freedom of having no real concept of time and nowhere to be.
A young Nicaraguan guy on a moto came along and offered to take me a little ways down the road. Getting on a motorcycle and staying balanced with a huge backpack is a bit awkward and I nearly fell over while trying to swing my leg over the seat. The ride was a thrill though! I hadn’t been on the back of a moto in forever, and forgot how great if feels to have the wind in your face as the scenery races by. All too soon I was back on my feet.
Shortly after I lucked out again and an older woman in a 4x4 stopped to ask if I wanted a lift, and took me all the way to the bus stop. The 7km walk I was fully ready for became much shorter and actually pretty enjoyable. I met two more kind strangers to add to my growing list of amazing people.
Then it was chicken bus time again. I asked when to get off for Popoyo, unfortunately I didn’t realize that I technically wanted to go to Guasacate because that’s where all the accommodations were. So I got off (too early) and started another long trek down yet another dusty dirt road. By this time I’ve been sweating consistently since early that morning so I probably smelled terrible.
About twenty minutes into my walk and feeling a bit lost, a truck with two overly tan French travelers stopped and picked me up.
We got to the end of the road and arrived at Magnific Rock, a hotel on a huge and beautiful rock, thus the name. The only thing was…that was the only thing there. I figured I’d see if I should stay and headed to the desk to ask my long list of questions. Although this place had an amazing view, and a workout space, that was about all it had. Not only did I not really like the hotel, but it is completely isolated. So there was nowhere else to eat (food options are always on my mind ). I asked where the town was and they said I would have to walk 20 minutes along the beach and cross a river.
It may have been bloody hot and silly of me but I said "what the heck!", may as well keep this journey going! Walking in sand with a huge backpack slows things down a bit. So my walk was well over the 20 minutes I was expecting, and there was that river...
It looked pretty deep. There was a local hanging out up to his neck in the water. Getting my entire backpack and all of it’s contents wet just was not in my plan, so I walked up and down scoping out the most shallow area. The local waved me over and gestured to come across, and I gestured back it seemed too deep. Finally I just decided to trust and give it a go. The water came only up to my waist, just missing my backpack and I made it safely across.
With that hurdle behind me I now had to find a place to stay. This was another town of only one road. As I walked down no place really shouted ‘stay here!’ to me, but I soon found that café that I had heard was great. La Vaca Loca. And it said “vacancy”…so they must have rooms. I stepped in and immediately felt like I was in a good place. I definitely was getting more in touch with the concept of energy during this trip, and this place had some good energy. I spoke my broken Spanish to the woman behind the counter asking about available rooms. They had one, but it was $25 a night. Either way I needed some water and some rest so I put my stuff down and continued my struggling conversation. Eventually she asked if I spoke English, and our discussion got much easier. I asked if there was anywhere that was slightly cheaper, but they couldn’t think of anywhere other than some dorms. So I decided to look at the room, which she said warned me I would love.
She was right. I took one look at the room and knew I had arrived. I was exactly where I needed to be. It was amazing. There was a balcony with a hammock and view of the beach, a king size bed, cute personal touches, carved out wood shelving and desk. The entire place had personality, happiness, and beauty. This was heaven. I had spent as little as $7 for a crappy dorm early in the trip, but this was worth $100 compared to that. So I took it. They only had 1 room, so it was serendipitous that I walked in when it was vacant.
Popoyo was all it was cracked up to be, and it was what I was looking for the whole time. I knew it existed, and I knew I would feel when it was right. My only wish was of course that I would have found it sooner.
More on that next time! Have a wonderful weekend :)