We left for Nicaragua at 4am. On the way to the airport we were stopped by police… it seems to be what started a long stretch of bad luck.
Karma… I have always believed in it. Bad Karma goes to those who have done wrong to others…"what goes around comes around" kind of thing. So why are we having such bad karma? I respect the land, the locals and the process of travelling, putting as much good vibes out there as possible.. so seriously why has our luck been so bad?
We flew to Managua, Nicaragua via Panama. The flight from Mexico to Panama was delayed by half an hour which gave us 30 minutes to get off that flight and jump onto the flight to Managua. Arriving at baggage claim, insanely tired we watched the convey belt go around in circles with no bags on it. We had the surfboards and my bag, but where was Kahns? After a long wait at the 'delayed baggage' department they assured us that they would be delivered to our hotel, no matter where it was.
We headed straight to the coast, a town called San Juan Del Sur, 2 and a half hours from the airport. We went to a local market to catch a bus, complete chaos. The area was covered in rubbish, people yelling and tooting, loud music pumping out of multiple car stereo systems and locals trying to sell random nic nacs. We jumped on a local bus, an old beaten down American yellow school bus. I bought two bottles of water off a lady who ripped me off big time, I tried to call after her to get my change but she just bypassed my yelling. This was the start of how everyone seems to short change you big time here.
There was an old boxy television set at the front which played a hard core gangster movie, with massive fights and swear words.. no one seemed to mind that all the children on the bus were amongst all this.
Clowns boarded the bus and started rambling away in Spanish for 15 minutes then went down the bus collecting money from everyone. It was so bizarre, especially when they wouldn't take no for an answer. They just stood there with their hands out, waiting for money for no apparent reason.
We jumped off the bus in Rivas and boarded another local one. This time the television was playing women in lingerie dirty dancing, more children watched… naked women and gangsters.. they educate them young here.
We sat on sacks of rice and finally made it to San Juan del Sur.
We went to Playa Remanso today for a surf, it was pretty fun. Kahn and I had the left to ourselves. To get there we were taken by a surf guide in an old 4x4 truck which trudged over dirt roads, rocky surfaces and creeks. It would be impossible to get through without a four wheel drive. It seemed like we were going into the depths of the forest… off roading into nowhere when suddenly there is a clearing and the beach appears.
While we were sitting out the back Kahn thought he saw something, something black and fin shaped. Surely it was nothing? … though rumour has it, which we just found out later was that a local was telling some fellow New Zealanders we met that there were sharks at this beach.. "Don't worry, they are friendly sharks."
We ended up having a big night that night… taking advantage of happy hour and carribean rum. It was in celebration of getting a surf and also in drowning Kahns sorrows as his bags were 'lost', 'misplaced', or 'not located.' The airline could only tell us one thing. "We have no new information."
Karma got insanely worse today! In a hungover state it was the dreaded time that every traveller hates… going to the ATM to get more money out. I had absolutely no cash left so we headed out for lunch and moolah extracting time.
The ATM decided not to give me any cash. We tried multiple times, long story short.. after many attempts it then came up with "sorry you have insufficient funds." WHAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAT!
After spending the afternoon on the phone with dad and the bank, it turns out that the money came out of my account but I never got the cash. Not just a few hundred dollars is missing but TWO GRAND!
I am now broke and in need of a very good Spanish translator as NO ONE at the bank where my money disappeared speaks English.
KARMA… WHAT THE FIDDLE STICKS!
We were given a guardian angel, slash we met Sisko and Bryony, a couple from Wellington. Sisko speaks fluent Spanish and offered to come translate the situation at the bank… hence the guardian angel comment… but seriously try being in a third world country with absolutely no moolah, you would have thought the same thing.
After spending the morning at the bank, there was nothing else we could do and it was all up to the bank in Nz to figure out. Kahn, sisko and I ventured to Remanso for a surf, it wasn't amazing but it was good to be in the water… attempting to wash away the stresses of being broke.
After our surf, the four of us decided the night should be dedicated to rum. We started off with a few casuals at our guesthouse then we headed to a reggae bar near the beachfront. We played drinking games, ordered more rum and waited for the night to unfold.
An unfolding night turned into an insanely random one when the power went out, the band found a generator to keep the atmosphere going, candles were lit and people grooved.. we then ventured onto the street with loose locals and more drunken lost travellers looking for a good time. It was yelled across the mob that the only place open was "The casino" so the herd of drunkards strolled into the darkness of the streets guided by a very dim moon to where the only bar in town was open. No power meant no music or lights so there was random songs sung, candles lit and slowly as the wax melted from the wick of each candle people passed out in the corners or attempted to walk home. It was 4;30 when we decided home would be a good life choice and we started the search for our guesthouse in dark… thank god we found it.
A day dedicated to hangovers and food. NEEDED.
I went for a walk in the afternoon along the beach and found local hippies selling jewellery. The boys had long dreads, thick rasta headbands and a groovy attitude. I felt at home.
I grabbed Kahn and we watched an amazing sunset disappear once again for the hundredth time into the ocean, we have seen many sunsets now from different oceans, lands and time zones and they are always delicious to drink in.
Sunday- on the road again… POPOYO
We are off.. we finally get to get amongst the Nicaragua we have been looking for. With the bags arrival and money issues being dealt with in New Zealand it was time to head up north to Playa Popoyo.
Nicaragua was doing its best to make us hate it but we were not giving in, even in the mist of our bad luck I haven't once blamed Nicaragua, I love it to much…
Back on the rusty century old yellow magic school bus we headed for our destination of excitement. The distance between San Juan Del Sur and Playa Popoyo is about 60km. With our bus being the snail of all automobiles and driving through roads with creeks drowning the concrete and mud puddles the size of a house, it took us 3 and a half hours to get there.
We were dropped off in the middle of no where, the bus conductor showed us the road we were to walk down, we headed off with our backpacks, laptops and surfboards. Half an hour into the walk in the heat of the day under a blistering sun with anger running high we figured out we are most definitely on the wrong road.
A car of locals stopped and in broken Spanish we figured he was giving us a ride to the beach. Wrong beach, wrong road, wrong everything. Where were we?
Lost, the driver said he would take us to Nicawaves the place where we were staying in a couple of hours. So.. we waited.
Night fell, we made it. Kahn was on the roof of the car and I was amongst the laughter and smiles of the teenage locals who kindly took us to where we wanted to be.
4 days, 4 amazing unforgettable days. Mum, Dad…. I'm moving to Playa Popoyo.
This is on the list of amazing places we have been. Whenever we are asked which has been our favourite there is always a three way tie with G-Land, Tubing in Laos and Barra De La Cruz. Now we have Playa Popoyo to add and I don't think I'm going anywhere else in a hurry.
All we do is surf, and the surf is f***ing amazing. There is rights and lefts, reef breaks, beach breaks, point breaks… its amazing… and its in the middle of NOWHERE. Right now I am writing this on our balcony, a balcony that looks across a pleasurable green forest, the sky is turquoise blue and there is nothing to be heard except for the sweet chirp of a bird, a scatter of a gecko or the crashing of the waves. We are staying at Nicawaves which is a new hostel type place without being anything like a hostel. There are three rooms, two doubles and one with bunk beds. Ten people can stay at a time, at the moment there are four of us. Kahn and I, and Brett and Bridget from America.
All we do is walk down to the beach in the morning, surf for three hours, come back for lunch and head back down for another surf for a couple more hours. By the end of the day we are covered in salt, sun and exhaustion that we need a nap in the hammock. My stomach wakes me up around dinner time and its rum, beers and food for the rest of the night.
This place is the most undeveloped village we have been in so far. I walk out to the end of our stony dirt road and left and right there is nothing in sight. Huge trenches in the road make it only accessible by foot or a four wheel drive. There are salt flats where locals play baseball at the end of the day. About 2kms away is the only evidence of living as there is a small village with a school, a dairy and a few houses. No one speaks English. We have actually found an untouched land, a place with no houses bombarding the beauty of the beach or any form of construction at all.
This morning we awoke at 6 and headed straight down to the waves. It gets light around 5am here so at 6 it felt like the middle of the day.
The water was unbelievably glassy, with three foot waves rolling through. It was refreshing, amazing. My first wave had a heavy drop and I made it to the end, heart pounding outside of my chest. We were out for three hours and toward the end the ocean glassed off so much that it now resembled a mirror, a sheet waving in the wind reflecting the sky so clearly that the waves rolling in blended into the sky. We had to watch pretty closely to see whether a wave was about to break. Kahn and I were watching for waves out the back when suddenly a stingray (could have been an eagle ray) leaped out of the water, about 1.5metres high and opened it wings and belly flopped back onto the water. It was loooooooooooooooooooooooooooooseeeeeeeee! What the f*** was chasing that to make it do something so crazy…I never knew stingrays could even jump, let alone get metres of air.
The fish are crazy out there, on the second day surfing I couldn't stop laughing at the fish that go syko jumping across the water like flying fish (some are actually flying fish, others aren't) and one jumped across the water right into my arm. It must have had a massiveeeeeeeeeee headache after that, like when a bird flies into the window. It even managed to cut me.
There is a lot of sealife swimming right beneath your feet out there, it's a gold mine for fisherman. On our first day we were wondering why this dude paddled out and sat on his surfboard in the channel… waiting for the set of the year? After a while we realised that he was fishing from his surfboard. After numerous surfs out there we have realised it seems to be how all the fisherman do it, they paddle out, chill out the back or in the channel and get their fish for the day! Economical use of equipment I thought.
We had heard of this place about 30 minutes walk away that had amazing nachos… so naturally Bridget, Brett, Kahn and I set off just before sunset to scam out some cheesy chicken coated corn chips. We trenched through shin high mud, along barb wire fences and loose vegetation. After 20 minutes of walking we ended up on the beach, on the other side of the battleship. The battleship is a huge rock formation at popoyo beach which extends from the cliffs out to a point creating a point break. Its long shape and high rock structures make it look like a ship or to some people (Kahn) a submarine. We had never been on the other side before.
The beach continues to another point which at this far into our nacho journey was hard to see as the sun had already departed, leaving us in a dim light. We walked across the extremely soft sand (workout for the calves) passing nothing but crashing waves and the odd hut. There were huge flood lights at the end of the beach which seemed to have the only signs of life. Walking towards it we were wondering why a restaurant with the best nachos would need flood lights…Maybe it was kind of like a moth to a flame effect, pulling us in to nachos and cocktails.
After an hour of walking we crossed a river flowing beneath the lights and heard saws. I smelt hot metal. I saw guys in overalls. This wasn't a restaurant, it was a construction site. In the mist of confusion, hunger and exhaustion all I could do was laugh. We had passed a little bar on the beachfront a while back so decided to go there, that was the only one in sight.
After a corona and a tequila shot we were encouraged to find the nachos again. This time we had some drunken advice from an American now turned local and headed back towards the flood lights. Sure enough, you walk through the construction around the back and there it is… nachos. It ended up being a very flash resort which was constructing a massive pool area out front. We consumed beers, wine, cocktails and nachos and stumbled our way home along the full moon lit beach, into the forest, through the mud and safely back home to Nicawaves. I think we deserved our nachos.
Saturday rolled around and Bridget and Brett's friends arrived from Costa Rica, Reed and Taylor. Deciding where our bellies wanted to eat, we all seemed to crave pizza, and it just so happens that 40 minutes in the opposite direction from the battleship there was an Italian pizza place. Awesome, tick, done.
There was one catch… we had to cross the river between Popoyo and Guascate which is only crossable at low tide. It was high tide. We must have a thing for earning our food as we decided to throw on our bikinis and boardies and swim across the river to pizza… with the help of Reeds dry bag for our wallets and clothes.
We stripped off at the rivers edge in darkness, the moon lightly touched our skin and guided us through the rocky shelf reef. Brett liked to remind us how Bull sharks swim up these kinds of rivers for breeding. Thank you!
We swam across fighting the current and dodging rocks. Luckily on the other side there was a bomfire where we dried off. The pizza was no "Barra de la Cruz pizza' but it was still delicious. We had shots of rum with the Italian owner who was friendly, happy yet kind of creepy.
Nicaraguans love baseball. Over the past week I have watched more baseball than I have in my entire 20 years of living. Brett loves it and is a hard core phillies fan. So every night we have been watching each game, while I have been trying to work out what the fiddle sticks was going on. Finally by today I had it all worked out and we watched the local team play a visiting team on the field outside Nicawaves. We had many beers and watched the game which had it all. Fights, extended innings, bad calls and locals (which also looked like gangsters who tried selling us drugs) getting amped up and ready to fight the empire. At one point two huge bangs went off, my nervous system bolted as shock went through me, it sounded a little to much like gun shots in the heat of the tension around us. Luckily it was a silver metal potato gun looking contraption shooting fireworks.
The best part of the game though was when the local team got a home run sending three guys home that were already on the bases. The atmosphere of the crowd was amazing, ecstatic.
We ended the daylight hours on the beach, imitating our own baseball game and creating a stick/beer can light saver competition.
I want to invent a bomb, a bomb that wipes out the entire mosquito population. I have had my fair share of bites on this trip, more than I have had in all my years of living and now I am just up to HERE ( here being the highest my hand will stretch above my head, tipping toeing like a child claiming he is taller when his mum is marking his height on the hallway wall.) There are a lot of mosquitoes.
We arrived in Asseradores after 8 hours on multiple cars, buses and taxis. Darkness was near as the night crept closer and lightening flashed bright orange through the sheepishly blue clouds. The smell of cow dung seeped into my nose and home came to mind, New Zealand. I was transported to being five again, travelling with dad to numerous cows sheds he checked out for work and a memory of a cow exploding s*** all over my favourite jersey washed over me. I haven't left the thought of being five, when life was simple, that's how life is lived here, simple…. Extremely simple.
To be honest there is absolutely nothing to do here, well except for the obvious… surf. Kahn has found his favourite place on earth, the waves here are world class, waves you see in Surf Magazines with a caption saying "Unknown destination." They are heavy, sucky beach break waves that blow hard offshore every morning and there are no crowds. Barrels are more common than people riding them.
We have been getting up at 5am to head down to the beach every morning. I'm not a morning person. Walking through the dense muddy bush on the way to the beach stretches your sleepy stiff body out and seeing the beach that early in the morning is somewhat surreal, there's only a dim light on it, like a light shade of a blue UV light cast over the scene. My tired eyes start to slowly widen as the sea salt sprays into them and washes over my body. Kahns already out the back, throffing. I think everyone is throffing, this place is the rabies of surfing destinations.
I've had a few waves, one I highly enjoyed, Kahn said it was barrelling right behind me, pretty stoked. Kahn has had many barrels, long rides and all I wish is that I had an underwater camera to capture these images of perfect waves. It's so amazing to watch especially amongst it. The local kids are incredible, they are so good, its insane.
The water is the softest, warmest yet refreshing water I have ever been in. Its hard to explain but its like the your swimming in washing detergent, there is a certain thickness to it. Not a mud thickness but comfortable liquid… similar to how clouds look squishy and plush though are weightless.
I saw something glide over the surface today. It was grey. It had a pointed fin. It was small. No one else saw it so we continued. 15 minutes later I'm lying on my board and I see a shark swim under my board. It wasn't big, it couldn't eat you but it was enough to scare me. I always trip out about sharks and the reality of seeing one a metre long swim under me was enough to make me stiff and not want to have any limbs in the water. No one cared they shrugged it off, I on the other hand was taught different. "If there is a small shark swimming around, theres a bigger mummy someone near."
I chilled out on the beach for a while and took some photos, got bored and jealous and paddled back out.
There are kids roaming around the community all day. Their school day is 7:30- 12:30, even though it is free for them to go they are just as freely to choose not to. The local pigs that roam the dirt roads come and play with them at playtime, running around as they play soccer or tag.
They are the friendliest kids I have ever encountered, they are not afraid to say hello to the two gringos strolling in their dirt roads and jungle. They help out with chores for their families and are always smiling. They have nothing but I never saw one child crying, even when a little girl was strolling in the bush with a machete in one hand and a large branch over her shoulder.
There are two main water wells in Asseradores and the locals fill up 2-3 barrels a day for drinking and washing within their home. It cost 2 cordobas to fill a barrel which would be around 5cents. They carry the barrels on a wooden trolley and heave it around during the heat of the day. The local wage in Asseradores is 120 Cordobas a day, which is about $5 US. In saying this, the village seems poor and there is absolutely nothing around but every local seems to have a cell phone and loud music pumping out of their small shacks during the day, one time we thought there was an actual band playing somewhere the music as so loud and clear.
The power goes out most nights usually due to the nightly thunder storms. I love the storms here, they produce thick droplets of fresh rain, and each flash of lightening is like a photograph being taken of the entire village. The thunder rattles the ground
Security a real problem, the local shop also called a trienda has metal meshand is constantly barred. You ask the shop keeper for what you want, you don't walk into the shop to look around for what you want, it almost like a guessing game whether you would like more rice or more beans, anything else isn't really in there… except for sling shots.
We travelled to Leon, back to civilisation with Owen and Shane, two Australians we have been hanging out with in Asseradores. Leon is another city with everything the traveller needs. You know when you have been off the beaten track for a long time when you get excited about entering a supermarket and seeing jandals, apples and coke. Kahn and I were throffing around the supermarket like little kids in santas workshop. The excitement.
The night turned into a blurry dream as we downed muchas rumas (a lot of rums) with Owen and Shane and met up with Bridget, Brett, Reed and Taylor. There was cops bribes, shots and a mixture of nationalities getting loose together.
Hungover, severely crazily hungover that I think this is the worst I have ever experienced. The unfortunate thing about this… we were scheduled to climb a volcano at nine o'clock and then board down it… 600 metres to the ground. The ride on the back of a truck through bumpy rocky roads was not doing well for my self inflicted nausea. We started the hot sweaty journey with our boards in hand and bags with orange outfits. Every step was depleting my energy levels and alcohol was seeping through my pours. From experience in Thailand I knew adrenaline is the best cure to a suffering body from hard nights so I kept up the walk and eventually goodness passed through my veins and I started to feel human again.
The views from the top were epic. There are multiple craters on the volcano from various eruptions, the last being in 1999. Volcano Cerro Negro doesn't spurt out lava and rock from the top when it erupts but seeps through the bottom and sides of the mountain creating a rocky sand lava that dries into a soft rock surface, making it perfect for volcano boarding.
The record for the fastest board down the volcano is 80km, which is extremely fast. I felt like I was flying and I was only going 37km. Kahn got up to 46km. I feel off three times, bruising up my hip and cutting up my hands. As you look down the face of the volcano it looks like a massive slide, dry and full of smooth stones. Once your flying down with rocks and sand smashing into your face your balance alters and you smash into the hot earth, safety glasses and board flopping off everywhere.
Its pretty sick, I would love to try it again… just another excuse to head back to Nicaragua, as I will definitely be back as soon as possible.
Currency - Corbodas
Buenas - slang for hello.
Food- Rice and Beans… gallo pinto (rice and beans already mixed together). Plantains... a fried plantain looks like a banana tastes like a battered sweet potato.
Sport- Nicaraguans love baseball. We saw locals playing on salt flats which look like cracked dry earth, hard and rough instead of a lush green baseball fields though they don't seem to mind as their faces lit up in the fact that they are just playing baseball.
The fire flies are amazing, a fantasy, they roam around at night with lit up bums and are easily startled when you walk amongst them. Imagine having a night light on your arse, handy.
The local transport is old American school buses. They are run down and go from the local markets in main towns. It costs around $2.50 for a 2 hour bus ride.
Outside of the tourist places not many people speak English, not a word. I found that the Spanish that Nicaraguans speak is a lot slower and easier to understand than when listening to Mexicans speak.