The locals I stayed with my first night all told me I didn't want to go to San Juan del Sur, but I went for it anyway. So I got on the crowded, sweaty, hot bus and embarked on my journey.
In Nicaragua they call these local buses 'chicken buses,' although I'm not sure why. I never saw any chickens. Basically they are just old dilapidated school buses that go really slow and crammed with as many people as possible.
Off I went. On arriving I stepped into the town and knew I was in the wrong place. This was not what I was looking for. Not wanting to be too hasty I found a hostel, and went to take a look around. Maybe I just needed to give it more of a chance.
I did find some amazing cheap food, which is one of my favorite parts of traveling. 60 Cordobas (about $2.50) for a huge plate of fried plantains, 2 pieces of BBQ chicken topped with some cabbage salad. I had to go to the outskirts of town to find this of course, but I am so glad I did. It was literally just this woman BBQing on the sidewalk out in front of her house.
Locals would come by to get some take away, but no another gringo in sight. My kind of place.
San Juan del Sur is known as a surf town, but you don't actually surf there. You have to drive to all the nice beaches.
So what does San Juan del Sur offer? Well it has a small market, a lot of touristy restaurants and hotels...and a lot of bars. It's a town filled with backpackers in their early twenties, and a sprinkling of the older tourists. People head out on day trips, come back and get their party on. Which don't get me wrong, I did my fair share of when I was that age. If that is what you are looking for then it's fabulous! But for me this was a calm and restorative trip.
I felt absolutely ancient as a 27-year-old in the dorms. I never thought I would be that old 'boring' person.
So my first official evening of travel was spent sweating and trying to figure out where to head to the next morning.
I decided on Playa Maderas. It was only about 30 minutes away and accessible by a shuttle offered multiple times a day. Not too difficult to get to, or too much time wasted in travel. Which probably should have told me something...
There was a nice Eco Lodge called Casa Maderas that I had read was quiet and away from the craziness. I stayed in the dorms again, but these were about ten times nicer and there was only 1 other person. This 'eco lodge' was set with a pool, hammocks and a yoga pavilion. It wasn't on the beach though, so next stop was trekking up and down a steep dusty road.
Only for more disappointment. Now, I don't want to come off as negative Nancy but it just wasn't what I was looking for. What exactly was I wanting? Well, I couldn't exactly tell you but I knew I'd know when I got there. There would be a 'feeling.'
Maderas was a pretty small overcrowded beach with a hostel and 4 over priced crap quality restaurants. The beach was packed, the ocean was the same. It was like I was in a backpacker ant hill. Yes...I know I'm one too, so what do I expect? I just wanted it to be a touch more toned down or spread out.
I took a walk down to the next beach and found some solitude and beauty. I smiled the entire walk there and the entire time I got to splash around in the ocean. Unfortunately I was so excited to be on this beautiful empty beach I forgot to reapply my sunscreen. You can guess what happened next. I was burned. Really badly burned.
Being in Seattle away from the delicious but powerful rays of sunlight for who knows how many months I had developed tender baby skin.
This was probably the worst I had ever been burned and so I spent then entire next day in the shade. Not at the beach, and not moving on to find my place because a backpack was not going on these shoulders.
I'm a foodie. I love food, especially trying new foods while traveling. But I was in a food desert. We were 30 minutes from town so I either had the 'international restaurant' at the hotel or the beach restaurants.
I headed to the beach to get some food at the 'cheap' place. Ordered tacos, which ended up being uno taco. I don't do well with corn but usually insides of the taco are amazing so I just eat the meat and veg. This taco was mostly rice and beans, a little meat and topped with SECRET SAUCE. Yes, they put ketchup/mayo on my taco. ICK.
Taco's are not Nicaraguan, but gringos love familiar food and doesn't all of central america eat tacos? No. They don't.
One of my biggest pet peeves are restaurants that cater to travelers and offer foods that aren't native to them. Not only do they cost way more, they just don't usually taste as good. I'm in Nicaragua I don't want a ham sandwich, a burger and fries, spaghetti bolognese, or tacos (honestly I don't want half those things at home either). I want plantains, and meat and vegetables!
Part of traveling though is going with the flow, and just letting go. So I ate around the beans (because I don't need to invite digestive distress to me for goodness sakes), and just enjoyed it as much as I could.
I stayed only as long as I had to, which was basically until my burn got a bit better. Three nights, 2 nights too many. This is what happens when you don't plan, which I love but is sort of inconvenient when you've only got 2 weeks.
Then I forged on to La Isla de Ometepe. An island in Lake Nicaragua of 2 connected volcanos. This is where I finally started to settle in, and get 'that feeling.' Where I truly began to remember how to slow down, relax and just be.
More on that next time.