Last Day

It’s time to leave Ometepe. Contrary to my sentiment when leaving San Juan Del Sur, I am sad to go today. There’s a ton of things to do here and it’s filled with so much natural beauty that I’m sure I could have spent my entire trip here and been content. Mike and Tyler (pals from Manitoba) have decided to come with me, Taylor, and Alex (pals from Toronto) back to Managua. Ilona has to go back to San Juan Del Sur to start her job, so we all meet for breakfast and head for the ferry together.
It is, hands down, the sketchiest boat ever. On our way here we had a much bigger ferry, and while it was still a choppy ride that made me pretty queasy, I now know that I took it for granted. This is going to be awful. Our new boat is wooden and has holes all over the place. I don’t know much about boats and obviously it wouldn’t exist if it couldn’t handle the waves, but it’s hard to believe by looking at it, that we’ll make it through an hour and a half ride. We almost don’t. I swear…the amount of times I was convinced we were about to capsize…

My life flashed before my eyes.

On the other side, on dry land, where I’ve never been happier to be, Alex and Taylor have their car. It’s luxury. It has aircon!! That’s huge. 5 of us get to ride inside and Mike rides in the back with the bags. We drive Ilona to the chicken bus terminal and say our goodbyes. I always hate goodbyes; especially when it’s me who’s going home to the conventional world and she who is going to live in a beach town for the next x amount of months. It’s like…I’ll miss you, but I also hate you. ❤
Now it’s just the five of us and here I am. On a little road trip in Nicaragua with four 30 year old men.
Yesterday, I told them that I know how to drive stick, and they agreed to let me drive for a bit, but after watching Alex do it, and thinking about the vast difference between the way we drive in Canada vs here, and the four lives that would be in my hand…I pass. As it is in most developing countries, people here drive like crazy. The alto signs, are really just seen as a suggestion. I almost never see anyone make an actual stop. Sometimes they don’t even slow down. They dgaf.  

I feel a bit like I’m cheating by cruising up to the airport in an air conditioned car, but it’s infinitely more convenient. Chicken busses get old fast. We head up to a place on the way to Managua where an old volcanic crater has turned itself into a lagoon. We find ourselves at the top of a look out point with a few restaurants, and by this point in the day we’re all starving so we sit down and take in the view with some cervezas and lunch. There’s something on the menu called “Plato Tipico” which is like “traditional/typical plate” and claims to feed 6 people so we order it blindly, having no idea what is considered tipico. It could be one giant vat of pinto gallo for all we know.

But it’s not! It’s an epic plate of bite sized various meats a top a bed of plantain chips. Ridiculously large, deep fried, salty, and exactly what a hungry group of boys (+me) could ever hope to receive. We eat it with our hands; I feel like an animal but it’s hilarious and I’m hungry. Idgaf.


Immediately after lunch we hurry down to the lagoon as It’s getting late in the day. I had seen a little side road that looked like it headed down in the direction of the lagoon but it did look a little treacherous. Alex assures me that the truck’s 4-wheel drive can handle it, so we make our descent. Less than 5 minutes in we all start questioning this decision. Yes, the truck is surviving, but this road is absurd. We get stuck twice. Eventually we agree to turn around and find an alternate, preferably paved, route; but of course even this is a challenge. Turning around on a thin and bumpy road requires a 5 point turn, at a spot we choose as least likely to result in us tumbling down a cliff if the distance is misjudged.


Spoiler alert: Alex owns it and we all survive.

By the time we find a safer route down, which requires us driving out to the highway and around the lake, the sun is close to setting. The lake itself is quite warm, which obviously has something to do with the volcano, but it’s not too late in the day to go for a quick swim.

We discuss staying here by the lake, going to nearby Granada, or pushing through and driving to Managua. There are no rooms by the lake, and Managua is the worst, so we drive to Granada. Even here we struggle to find accommodation, but we do get two dorm beds and a private room. The boys are nice and let me have the private. We’re all so knackered from a long day of traveling and some relatively busy days in Ometepe. Mike and Tyler decide to cab to Managua, so they can meet a friend who’s flying into the city, and so they can avoid waking up with us tomorrow at 5am. Extremely valid reason, I don’t want to do that either.

We say our goodbyes, I take a nap, and then head out on the town. I seriously consider just staying in bed and sleeping through (it’s 9pm) but it’s my last night in Nicaragua. I make a last minute decision to go out for dinner and drinks with Taylor, Alex, and some people from the hostel. For the first time in a long time, we’re not all Canadian!

We hit the bumpin’ main street that is lined with restaurants and bars, and miraculously manage to find a table for 14. A Mariachi band comes over to play La Bamba and some other recognizable Spanish tunes during our meal. This is definitely a tourist thing, but hilarious nonetheless.
We go to a busy bar where we dance for a bit, but with our early morning fate fast approaching, we need some sleep.
The morning is rough, but I think I’m going back to my regular self; the one who knows 5am is an absurd time to be awake. Again, it’s super convenient to be chauffeured to the airport. I get more sleep. I say bye to my new Torontonians friends (who are really only half Torontonians because one now works in Fort Mac and the other lives in Scarborough), but it’s very possible I’ll see them again!

Getting to Houston is the worst because I’ve now got 7 hours to kill. An awkward amount of hours. Can’t leave the airport, can’t help but want to die because I’m so bored.

As per usual American security looks ridiculous. While waiting to have them approve my declaration card I notice that each person ahead of me is being asked for finger prints, eye scans, and are having lengthy, displeasing conversations with the guards. I try to prepare myself but I’m already annoyed. I get super lucky though, and the guy I deal with ends up being chill. He asks me where I’ve been etc., and when he asks me if I’ve got any fresh fruit with me I say no, pause for like 30 seconds because I’m not sure if it’s appropriate to make a joke, but then say “have you been to Nicaragua? Their fruit is no bueno” he laughs, and now we’re friends. We make fun of the lady carrying a yappy dog behind me, and I am never asked for finger prints or scans of any sort. He’s probably one in a million chill guards, as American guards are never chill. I’m writing this over the Houston Airport Wifi and am probably now on a list. I hope I’m allowed on my flight tonight.

Lagunas and Motorbikes

Lately I’ve been waking up early; I don’t even know who I am anymore. Maybe it’s just because there’s so much fun stuff to do and so little time to do it. Excited to start my day! Our plan today is to rent motorcycles and your around the island. There are some lagoons, beaches, waterfalls etc., that I want to check out. I wait until 9:30 to wake Ilona, who’s super tired and doesn’t want to go. That’s cool, the boys from Manitoba will totally still want to come with me. I walk the 10 minutes down a steep hill to their place to see if they’re ready to go. They’re asleep. I wake them the hell up. They’re still down to go but need some time. I hope by the time they’re ready Ilona will have woken up so we can all go together, but it doesn’t happen. It’s now 11am.

We rent 2 bikes for $25 each for the whole day (another reason we should have left earlier, to get our money’s worth). I want to drive my own but realistically I’d rather save the $10, so I just hop on the back and get chauffeured around. Our first stop is to a natural lagoon, “El Ojo De Agua” which has been built up and turned into a tourist attraction but is undeniably beautiful. Here they sell “coco locos” which are fresh coconuts that are filled with a white rum, dark rum, condensed milk and obviously, coconut water. Needless to say they’re amazing. An 8 year old boy chops open the coconuts with a machete, and his brother of maybe 12 mixes all the alcohol in. They’re a good team.


We hangout for a few hours, dipping in and out of the water which is cold and refreshing. Supposedly super healthy, too. I don’t remember all the details, but similar to the blue lagoon in Iceland the water is full of vitamins and minerals that are beneficial to your skin.

The food at the restaurant is absurdly expensive, like $10 for a salad. $8 for a quesadilla. Hell nah. So we go back to get Ilona (who, if she’s not awake, is probably dying) and all go out for lunch. We find her lounging in a hammock reading a book.
We go back to the boys’ hostel where the food is better, and I order another one of those giant beet filled caesar salads. Yummm.

We spent so much time at the lagoon that it’s now 3pm and the motorbikes need to be back by 5. Instead of trying to squeeze in a bumpy dirt road ride and 3km hike up to the waterfall, we decide to skip it. I blame everyone who couldn’t wake up before 9. Aka, everyone but me. Instead we get our use out of the bikes and just drive around the island. I get to drive for a little bit but not with either of the guys on the back of the bike, they’re too heavy and it’s weird. So I just take it out for a quick drive on my own. I wish it made sense to have these little scooters at home they’re actually so great!

By 5 we’re home and I’m ready for a shower and some down time.

As per usual, as the night goes on, everything shuts down and there’s nothing to do but head down to Little Morgan’s to chill with all the Canadians.

The best thing in the world happens to me. I meet two guys from Toronto who mention that they’re flying out of Managua on Sunday, which I am too. Later they mention that they’ve rented a truck to drive around Nicaragua instead of taking all the chicken busses and shuttles (they’re fancy). Shot in the dark but I ask when they’re flight leaves. 8:30am.
My flight leaves at 8:15am.

It’s a damn miracle. Also super weird, because they’re flying back to Toronto like I am, but they have a stop over in Atlanta while mine is in Houston.

They say I can totally hitch a ride in the car with them, and I am saved. I wasn’t exactly looking forward to the long chicken bus rides and transfers I’d have to take, not to mention the unreliability that goes along with them. In the car, and with two other people who need to get to Managua just as badly as I do, there is very little room for error. I. Am. Stoked.

Bikes, Kayaks, and Angry Monkeys

Somehow, I wake up at 11:30. We’ve made plans to meet some friends around 9 to go kayaking and I panic, assuming we’ve unintentionally ditched them. But jk, I’m delusional and it’s only 7:30am. Now I can go back to sleep. But jk, no I can’t. It appears I am up for the day.
I spend the morning hanging out, reading my book, and admiring the view of the volcano in my backyard. Hard life.

At 9:30 the guys show up at our hostel and we head out to rent bikes. For $5, you get a bicycle for the day, which is a little more fun than simply hopping in a cab to the beach. Not that cabs are super easy to find here anyway. The road is rough; mostly composed of sand and rocks. Eventually I give up and just let my bike carry me over the bumps, hoping for the best. It’s a relatively hard ride, partly because of the terrain but also the sweltering heat. It only takes us about 45 minutes to reach the beach, but we’re all knackered when we get there.

We sit down to order some food and drinks before heading out on the water. Our food takes an hour. This is not an exaggeration. We’re not exactly in a hurry but we do need to have the bikes back by 5, and I am eager to get out and go! The food eventually comes, and to no surprise, it’s pretty mediocre. Not bad, but certainly not worth an hour wait.

We rent kayaks for $5/hour and are told it takes about 1.5 hours to make it out to “monkey island”. Sounds fun, who doesn’t like a good monkey? Our paddle starts off great but it’s a windy day and the water is pretty choppy. I manage to keep up with the boys for the majority of the journey out there, which surprises me because I haven’t kayaked in forever (Super duper proud of myself). We make it to this “monkey island” which is basically unaccessible. I assumed I’d be able to get out of the boat and chill, but nope, we just get to do a quick tour around it. We catch a glimpse of a couple monkeys in the trees, getting up close to the island for a good view. I manage to sort of wedge my kayak between two rocks so I can stay put, and not be pushed by the relentless wind. I think all is well in the world, but the next thing I know a monkey has run down the tree branch directly above my head and is HISSING at me while rattling the leaves of the tree. I’m so caught off guard, I’m certain he’s going to jump in my boat, bite me, give me rabies, and ruin my life. I’m about to die. I had a good life. Goodbye world. I don’t know what else to do but yell “ok ok ok ok!!!” and paddle myself away from the rock as fast as I can.

Mike is pretty certain he’s got a GoPro video of it (didn’t try to save me or anything, just video taped my near death)… I want it. I don’t really know how GoPros work (I know, I’m so behind the times) but he said he’ll get it to me later. He also got hissed at, so we left ASAP.

Originally we thought we’d have smooth sailing back to the beach where we rented the kayaks because the wind would be in our favour, but somehow it just made it harder to steer. However, there’s an incredible view of Conception Volcano the whole way back so I mean it’s pretty hard to complain. To prevent my phone from being lost I left it at the hostel and couldn’t get any photos. I regret nothing. I never tipped but I mean, is it ever worth it? I’ve lost too many cameras/phones for foolish reasons that I’ll (hopefully) never do it again. I have very few photos from this trip but I’m just too cautious and a little paranoid to bring it with me everywhere I go. I honestly don’t know how it survived so long is Asia. Miracle, really.

After the kayaking we have another beer before making the same bumpy trek home. At least this time, we’re prepared for the ride and brutal roads. We take it nice and easy and even walk up a few hills; I know my body is going to hate me tomorrow. It already hurts.

We go back to the hostel and recuperate. Around dinner time we walk back down to the only good bar in our area, Little Morgan’s, and have a salad because those are few and far between in Nicaragua, and some friends who are staying there told us they actually have a good Caesar salad. We make the walk again in the dark, this time, just the two of us. It’s totally fine and I feel much more comfortable.

The Caesar salad has beets and cucumbers in it, but it’s legit.

Tomorrow we plan to rent scooters to explore the crater lake and a waterfall. Ometepe is full of cool, naturally beautiful places, and I really really really wish I didn’t have to leave two days from now. Is it too late for me to pull an Ilona, skip my flight, and stay here forever?

Ometepe

BYEEEE SAN JUAN DEL SUR. Adios. It’s been fun, but I need to get outta here. A girl can only drink so many glasses of moose juice, and I have reached my limit. On to Ometepe, an island made up of two volcanoes that sit within the largest lake in Nicaragua.
We hop on a chicken bus from San Juan and ride back to Rivas. From there we get a taxi to the port from which the ferry leaves. It only leaves 3 times a day, and we’ve got an hour to kill so we sit down for some lunch. The dock area is pretty horrible. The water looks muddy and brown, and the wind is blowing so hard I get sand in my eyes more than once, so for lunch we sit indoors. We arrange a shuttle bus to pick us up when we arrive on Ometepe for $7. Even though the chicken busses are cheaper, we’d have to switch 3 times and it would take much much longer so we splurge for the shuttle.

Obviously, we meet two other Canadians on the boat ride over, because everyone here is Canadian. They’re from Banff, and have just arrived in Nicaragua to elope. They were married three days ago. I love it.

Our shuttle driver doesn’t speak English, but we communicate that we’d like a cheap accommodation; none of the 6 people in our shuttle have booked anything in advance. He suggests we stay in Santa Cruz, and drives us to a place where dorms are $8, but they only have 5 beds left. The other 4 people in the car are couples and seem to be traveling on a higher budget than us, they don’t stay. Meanwhile, we happily accept the dorms, which have an incredible view of the volcano Conception. Best $8 I ever spent.


I go to shower and when I return the two couples are back. Apparently the only two other hotels they could find were charging $70 a night for a private room. So the poor newly married couple have to share a tiny bed in a room with one fan, four strangers, and some ants on the wall. Primeeee honey moon.

At dinner, we run into some other girls who invite us to go have a couple drinks at the only bar that’s open late in this part of Ometepe, called Little Morgan’s.

Four of us start the walk down to the bar, and to our unpleasant surprise the road is entirely unlit. Ilona and I are sketched out but the other two girls seem fine with it. We seriously consider turning back. Randomly, we pass what looks like someone’s house, where an older couple are sitting on their front step in rocking chairs. The girl from Belgium in our group is pretty fluent in Spanish and I ask her to ask them if it’s safe for us to be out. They say yes, but go fetch a male backpacker staying in their home stay. They ask him to walk us down to the bar. Sorry we just ruined your chill night, man. He’s super nice and happy to do it, but says he’s been in Ometepe for a few days and believes it’s one of the safest places in Nicaragua. We end up getting kind of lost because the road splits off and we go the wrong way, but eventually make it to the hostel bar unharmed.

When we finally arrive, I confirm with the bartender who assures me it’s safe to walk around at night, but obviously doesn’t suggest I do it alone. The other girls and I make a promise to all leave together.

We meet MORE Canadians. Some Québécois, Manitoban, or from Calgary. I will admit there are some Aussies and Brits at the bar too, but the majority of us are Canadian. Such is life in Nicaragua.
On our way home we stop to look at the stars which are absolutely beautiful, because as I mentioned before, there is a significant lack of lighting on the roads.

Giant Jesus

We try for the beach again. It’s still windy. I skip the sunscreen glue this time, and pray I don’t burn. I’ve been so diligent with my UV protection that I’m actually still pasty white, which is not how one should look in Nicaragua.

We don’t last long on la playa, so we go back over to the Loose Moose for lunch, and because Ilona is interested in a job. Yes, you read that correctly. Her flight home is booked for Jan 26th, but she’s thinking she’ll just casually skip it and move here. Meanwhile, on Sunday I go back to a mundane existence, going through the motions of attending classes and writing exams, just to receive a piece of paper to prove it happened.
I can’t help but ask myself who’s making the better choice. I’m not certain it’s me. I’ve already dropped out of school to travel once, can’t exactly justify doing it again with only 4 months to go. Don’t worry Ma, I’m coming home.

I take a little siesta in my room, half reading and half napping. An hour before sunset I meet up with 2 guys from the hostel and we walk up to see the second largest Jesus statue in the world; second to the one in Rio of course.
We get a little lost on the way up and start to worry we’ll miss the sunset, but a woman in an ATV rocks up, music blaring, and nods at us to get in. She drops us just before the last 100 metres to the top, the steepest part of the climb. We pay $1 to a random man as an entry fee. It’s not very official, he’s literally just got a stack of bills and no uniform or anything, but I had seen a sign earlier confirming the price.

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We make it up at the perfect time and are able to catch the sun falling below the horizon, with a beautiful view of the bay. Nothing like a good sunset!
We hike back down and head back to the hostel. I find Ilona back at the Loose Moose and we join their pub crawl. I need to leave San Juan Del Sur tomorrow or I will die. I feel like I’m on spring break. This is not who I am. It’s a pretty good pub crawl though I won’t lie. Everyone is Canadian here, it’s insane. The amount of Jays hats and t-shirts I’ve seen….even one of the locals was wearing one! The Jays are famous all the way down to Central America.

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Loose Moose

It’s 35 degrees and sunny; we’re going to the beach. The water is a lot nicer here than it was in Las Penitas. It’s got that mystifying teal blue colour, and is much calmer. I’m not a super strong swimmer, so I prefer this. It’s windy as hell on the beach. I am literally covered in sand. It probably doesn’t help that I’m wearing sunscreen, it really might as well be glue, but at least I won’t be burnt and sandy. 

We don’t stay long, it’s not exactly comfortable being pelted by mini sandstorms whenever the wind picks up. 

There’s a Canadian bar here called the Loose Moose and I kid you not it’s like the place to beeeeee. We go check it out because one of the guys we used to work with back in Toronto told us that his friend owns it….and I mean, it’s Canadian. Those kind of things are always more exciting when you’ve been away for a significant amount of time, but it’s still fun to see even when I’ve only been away a week. They serve poutine, caesars, and something they call Moose Juice. There’s a “Justin Beiber Assassination Fund” jar on the corner of the bar. (Which is hilarious but guys, all jokes aside, you can’t tell me Sorry isn’t your favourite song right now.) 

  
We meet a group of 5 obnoxiously rowdy Canadian guys who are here on vacation. One of them tries to convince me that Justin Trudeau is his brother because they share a last name. I don’t buy it, (they look absolutely nothing alike) but I can’t blame him, I’d do the same thing if my last name was Trudeau. Shortly after the same liar tells me his friend is a famous country star, which I also don’t buy, but eventually Google it for verification and it surprisingly turns out to be true. I’m not a country fan, but if you care, he’s Brandon Smith from Cold Creek County. We end up spending the rest of the day with these guys, who act more like stereotypical Americans than Canadians, but we get into some fun political debates so I’m happy. Ilona hates this, but present me with a Harper supporter and I just can’t help myself. 

One of them lives in Managua (I’ll never understand why anyone would want to live there) and has a truck. We drive to another beach away from the bar crawl main strip, which I’d never have found on my own. The roads that lead us there are bumpy, but when we arrive we’re the only people on the beach, aside from the owners of a small bamboo hut bar. The only building on the beach. The truck is a stick shift and I haven’t driven a manual in years, but he let’s me drive it anyway. I go “off roading” and it’s the best. God I miss driving. It’s just so unnecessary when you live in the city. 

The day turns into night and we go back to the main beach for some dinner. It’s an overall good day, but I am appalled that I hung out with solely Canadians. I’m in Nicaragua. I can hangout with Canadians at home. 

San Juan Del Sur

Breakfast at this little hostel (potentially named Mismo Aqui but I’m not certain) is pretty bomb. We are served a fresh beet/carrot/orange juice blend, with beans, rice, toast, eggs, and a little tomato salad. It’s included in the price of our stay, so I wasn’t expecting much more than toast. Nice little surprise! 
Ilona and I check out and walk a few blocks to the bus terminal. It’s just an empty lot with a few parked chicken busses, where men are shouting town names and pointing to different busses. 

We get on the one bound for Rivas, and are lucky enough to snatch a seat. We have yet to stand for one of these journeys, which is extra nice when they’re 2 hours long. The ride costs us 31 Cordobas ($1.10). 

They’re supposed to leave every 20 minutes, but I am not exaggerating when I say we wait a full hour before it actually pulls out of the lot. Vendors come by selling everything from fake watches and gold chains to flashlights and lollipops. By the time we’re ready to leave there are easily 60+ people on this bus, and I’m sweating buckets. Once we get moving there’s a bit of a breeze but that hour spent sitting idle was so painful. Now it’s just another 2 hours to Rivas and 1 hour to San Juan Del Sur. We should be on the beach by 3pm. 

There’s a famous backpacker party held every Sunday in San Juan, referred to as Sunday Funday. Sounds like it’s basically just a pub crawl to a lot of places with pools. Like a low tier Full Moon Party. We were sort of trying to make it on time for that, but it’s already noon and I’m honestly not too bothered about attending something like this anyway. It would be interesting to see, but we can have our own “Funday”. It’s also $30 which is, in my opinion, absurd; you still have to buy your own drinks. 

In Rivas we immediately transfer to another bus bound for San Juan Del Sur. I desperately need to use a bathroom but there are none nearby. I toy with the idea of chancing it, just running over and praying the bus doesn’t leave without me but the risk is too high. It’s only another hour drive, I can do this. 

But we don’t leave for another half hour. It’s just impossible to know. By the time we actually make it to San Juan, I’m dying. We meet a nice Aussie guy on the bus who’s been smart and booked accom in advance, so we go with him to the hostel and check in for a $12 dorm. Here there is a washroom, and I am saved. Next stop – food. 

We hit a little food truck/window that serves tacos, burritos, fajitas etc. I get a pretty good chicken quesadilla for 90 Cordobas ($3.20).

We’ve definitely missed the official Sunday Funday group by about a mile, but we end up having some drinks at the hostel with some other backpackers and then wandering down to a beach bar which is the final stop for the Sunday Funday crew. It’s absolutely packed and pouring out onto the street in front and the beach behind. There’s even a fire dancer! He’s great, but I’ll never see one as good as the guy in Railay Beach, Thailand. 

We dance the night away. San Juan is definitely the party central of Nicaragua, but not in the way that I expected. Don’t get me wrong, there are tons of wealthy vacationers and backpackers that are only out here to get wasted; but there’s also some cool people and more to do than just drink. Tomorrow, we will look into getting to some nearby islands, or learning to surf.

Chicken Busses

Worst morning ever. I’m in rough shape. No Bueno. But there’s no time to waste when you’ve only got 2 weeks in a country, so I crawl out of bed. We have breakfast at Playa Roca, and Ilona and I make a very impulsive decision to catch a bus to San Juan Del Sur. Tanner stays, but we will probably meet up with him a week from now when we visit Granada. 
It’s a 5 hour journey to San Juan from where we are now in Las Peñitas, and we need to take 3 different busses to get there. We hop on a chicken bus (yellow school bus that crams as many people on as possible, standing room in the aisles if necessary. Some people actually carry chickens, pigs, etc. This is a common form of cheap transportation in Nicaragua. We each pay 14 Cordobas ($0.50) for a 20 minute ride) which takes us back to Leon. Here, we get a taxi to the bus terminal; this costs 25 Cordobas ($0.90) for the two of us. 
At the terminal we hop in a van which makes the trip back to Managua; 54 Cordobas ($1.90). We both get crammed into the front seat next to the driver. I spend the entire 2 hour trip with my backpack on my lap because there’s no space anywhere for it in the van. Our driver plays Spanish covers of Abba and helps us take photos of volcanoes in the distance. There are a few close calls…like he almost gets us into a head on collision with an 18 wheeler truck…but he’s cool. 

Our bus transfers have all been so back to back that we’ve had no time to buy snacks or even pick up a bottle of water. Luckily, we get stuck in a bit of construction traffic where vendors capitalize on the opportunity by coming up to every car window, offering bags of orange tortilla chips, soda, water, etc. It’s bagged water, which I find so strange, but I’m thirsty as hell so I buy one. 
   
 
Ps. I couldn’t really find a spot to fit this in where it would flow, but I think it’s important that I share. Shortly after getting into this van and leaving the town, we drive by a house where a man is standing outside holding a chicken upside down by its feet. I guess his other chicken, who is still running free in the yard, has done something bad, because we witness this guy hit his chicken…with the other chicken. I find this both horrifying and so outrageous that it’s funny. Like, what did I just see? Who does that?!?

Anyway, from Managua we need to get a bus to a place called Rivas before getting the final bus to San Juan Del Sur. Our driver informs us that there are no busses after 5:30, and its already 6. We refuse to spend another night in Managua, so we make a quick amendment to our plan and go straight to Granada instead. It’s still sort of on the way to San Juan, but most importantly, it’s not Managua. 

This one isn’t quite a chicken bus, but I don’t know what to call it. Again, we’re crammed in, and people are cycling in and out as we go along. At the back of the bus, a man hangs his body halfway out the door, keeping an eye out for additional riders. He and the driver and constantly whistling and yelling to each other to determine where to make stops. At its busiest, a seemingly normal and healthy woman standing in the aisle next to my seat gives up and shamelessly leans against me to support herself. I guess she didn’t feel like actually standing. This goes on for about 15 minutes before she finally gets off the bus. Byeeeee. We pay 25 Cordobas ($0.90) for this one. 

We get to Granada an hour and half later, which I am stoked about because I was under the impression that it’d be three hours. Total travel cost for the day comes out to 118 Cordobas ($4.20). Not too shabby! 

Another colourful colonial style town, Granada is much more touristy than Leon. Many locals speak English fluently which makes me both happy and sad. I was having quite a bit of fun using/learning Spanish!

We find a hostel with a private room for $25. This is more than I wanted to spend, and honestly I think we could have found cheaper, but we’re exhausted from a late night and long day of bus hopping. It’s cute, and run by a young French couple. 

The plan is still to go to San Juan tomorrow, so we chill out at the hostel to get an early start in the morning. We’ll be coming back to Granada in a few days so I vow to find a cheaper place upon our return.

Las Peñitas 

My toe is so itchy that it actually wakes me. There’s a big hanging bug net above my bed but it has some significantly large holes in it. Defective. Have you ever had a mosquito bite on your toe? An itch on your foot? Is there anything worse? 
It’s a good time to get up anyway, we have to check out and find a new place to stay. They only had a cabana available for one night and we planned to stay by the beach in Las Penitas a little longer. 
Ilona and Tanner wake up not too long after I do, we have some breakfast, and set out to find new accommodation. We walk down the only street in town which runs parallel to the beach. We come across a bed and breakfast called Sol y Mar which translates to sun and ocean. I overcome yet another language barrier plagued conversation with the woman working at the hostel. There are statues and photos of Jesus everywhere, the decorations in our room remind Ilona of her aunts house, and the water pressure coming out of the shower is basically non-existent. But it’s $35 a night split between the three of us, with included breakfast and it’s right on the beach. 

We take it. 

Immediately dropping our stuff in the room, we head for the beach. The sound of heavy waves crashing into the shore is soothing. The sun is out in full force, so I apply a thick layer of 100SPF. I live in fear of becoming a tomato. The sun is so strong here! 

It’s a lazy day. We lay on the beach, casually taking dips in and out of the ocean. I’m pretty shit at swimming when it’s wavy. I’d love to learn to surf but I am not even sure I could make it out far enough to catch a wave sooooo…
I hang out close to the shore. I am sure we’ll find beaches with calm clear water in the near future. That’s more up my alley anyway. 

I revoke what I said yesterday about the food in Nicaragua. There’s a nearby beach bar/restaurant/hotel that we retreat to after hours in the sun. We order tacos and ceviche (raw fish doused in a lime juice which has a sort of cooking effect. Very refreshing and generally DELISH). It’s the best meal I’ve had so far. Huge upgrade from last night’s sandwich. 

After watching a lovely sunset from this bar, Playa Roca, we go back to our room to shower off all the sand. 

 lona showers first. I fight Tanner for dibs on second, and win. Having not washed my hair for three days I take long-by-comparison shower and treat myself to some scalp suds. During the day the shower was basically off, but now the water pressure is so strong it’s almost painful, but I embrace it. It’s hard to come by a good shower when you backpack.   
Just as I’m about to turn off the water I see that under the shower curtain…the whole bathroom is flooding. I immediately shut off the tap, and announce to my roommates that something terrible has happened, but I’m too late. There’s water seeping into our room and down the hallway. Our neighbours have water coming under their door.

 I have destroyed the building. 

The owners are apologizing to us, we are apologizing to them, and I am desperately wishing I had let Tanner shower second so this would be his fault; not mine. I’m mopping up a small lake with an old ragged towel. More towels and mops come out, and in the end, collectively, we do a pretty decent job of drying the mess. Tanner never gets to shower. So in some ways, I’m happy because at least I’m clean. 

As a bonus….we are given an epic fan to help dry the remainder of the water in our room, soooo at least we will sleep comfortably tonight. Not worth the flood, but hard to complain about. 

We make the 15 minute walk down to the end of the beach where we were dropped off yesterday at Las Penitas Bigfoot hostel. It’s supposed to be a good party, but the rooms are like, filthy. I’d rather have a flooding bathroom than a smelly, puke filled dorm. Seriously, we googled some reviews. They’re awful. Here’s a small excerpt of one as an example:  

 The walk is a little sketchy, down the eerily empty and dimly lit road. Probably not a great idea, but it’s not like taxis are abundantly available. We make it to Bigfoot alive, but instead of the bumpin’ party we expected, we find a nearly vacant bar. Slightly disappointing after risking our lives to get here, but what can you do? Make the best of it and bring the party woop woop! 
They make it pretty easy. Drinks specials: 3 tequila shots for 100 Cordobas ($3.50), and 2-for-1 Rum & Cokes for 80 Cordobas ($2.80). 

Needless to say, it gets out of control. 

Aaaand while hanging out down by the beach, I catch sight of not one but two incredible shooting stars. The kind you see in cartoons; stretching across the whole sky, leaving long white tails behind them. Beautiful. 

Volcano Boarding 

Three of the four people in our room wake up at 8am to be ready to go volcano boarding. It’s exactly what it sounds like. Boarding down a volcano. Though, honestly, it’s a little more like tobogganing. The fourth guy is too hungover to make it; meanwhile I am feeling better than ever about my decision to stick to water last night. We pay $31 American Dollars for the trip. It may seem a little pricey, but I’d heard $150 before I even arrived in Nicaragua, so now it sounds free by comparison. 

We decide to grab a quick breakfast. I order a fruit parfait. It comes with honey on the side. There are flies in it. No, gracias. 

 
The shuttle bus to the volcano picks us up at 9am, with about 40 other people from the hostel. It takes us over rural and bumpy roads, skimming the under brush of trees as it goes. Some of which drop small branches, spiders, ants, and other mystery bugs into the torn, open-roofed vehicle. I’m lucky and nothing giant falls on me, so I’m chillin’.

  
When we make it to the park, we pay another $5USD (or 140 Cordobas) for entry. We are handed boards, orange jumpsuits, and goggles from our bus, I apply 100SPF sunscreen twice, and shortly after we begin our trek to the top. The path is relatively rugged, covered in volcanic rocks and slippery black sand. The hike itself is not so hard, but carrying a wooden board and having to stay steady against the increasingly heavy winds makes for a bit of a challenge. Somehow I end up at the very front of the group for the majority of the hike, and am among the first 5 to the top. I attribute this to my sobriety and heavy hydration. 

   
   
At the summit we take in the incredible view. Other volcanoes (some active, some dormant) surround us. Cerro Negro, where we stand, has not erupted since 1995, but I am told another volcano within our sight erupted two weeks ago. There is still some steam visibly floating off the top. Pretty. Damn. Cool.  

   
 After taking some time to relax after the hike, we get ready to board. We envelop ourselves in these ridiculously large orange jumpsuits. Mine has a giant hole in the crotch, and many have mended patches sewn to them. They’ve been well used. After buttoning up our suits, tying our bandanas around our necks and faces, and securing our goggles, we take cautious steps towards the face of the volcano. Here, the stones are more fine and more similar to sand. I can feel the hot earth through the rubber of my shoes, heated by both the sun and the internal temperature of the volcano. It looks a lot steeper from up here than it did at the bottom. I may die. 

Our guide goes skipping, literally skipping, midway down the mountain so he can snap some pics. I struggle to walk a foot without feeling like I may fall. 

My turn comes and I start off slowly down the side. I’ve seen some people fall and lose their boards completely, which doesn’t look fun, because you have to go back for them. No, gracias. 

Using my feet as the only form of speed control, Volcanic dust kicks up around me as go down the hill at what feels like 100km hour, but is probably like 50, because the record is only 95. 

  
Turns out my speed was clocked at 20km/h, HOWEVER, in my defence, the guy who measures your speed stands at the very bottom, and you definitely lose speed by this point. I promise I went faster than 20km down this volcano!! I am not the only one who felt their speed was illegit.  

All 40-something of us are covered in black dust. I’m terrified that I’m burnt. I feel like I’m actually cooking, and there’s not a cloud in the sky. I need shade, and a shower. Pronto. 
  
But instead, when we get back, there are mojitos waiting for us at the bar, and we’ve got about 20 minutes to finish them before hopping on the only shuttle bus of the day that goes to Las Penitas. 

A 20 minute ride away, Las Penitas is a lazy coastal beach town. There’s another BigFoot, a sister hostel to the one we’ve just come from, and it has a big party scene, but Ilona, myself, and Tanner, another Canadian we met here, decide to walk down the street and stay at a more relaxed style of accommodation. It’s actually a pretty far walk. 20 minutes or so, but my backpack is light and the sun isn’t as hot so I’m not too bothered. We end up at Barca De Corsa and get a solar powered cabana for 870 Cordobas a night, so about $10USD each. It’s made of bamboo and you can see through the cracks of the walls and the floor. So what I’m trying to say is that it’s charming as hell and very affordable. 

   
   
I still haven’t quite adjusted to Central American prices. Nicaragua is one of the cheapest countries down here, yet I am still expecting to pay $6 a night for a hostel and $0.50 for a beer. Realistically, beers are like $1.25 and $10 a night isn’t bad. It’s still a steal, but not Asia prices. Nothing will ever be Asia prices, and I need to accept this. 

Dinner is mediocre. Nicaraguan cuisine is nothing to write home about. Kinda non-existent. Most menus cater to tourists and offer burgers. Ilona and Tanner each get some kind of mystery steak with a side of fries and rice, and I get a brutal sandwich. Their steak is superior… you win some you lose some. 
Our plan to shower and get our lives in order to go out doesn’t work out like we had hoped. The sun took a lot out of us today, (Ilona is actually burnt, I seem to have been spared) so we hang out in hammocks and chat most of the night with some casual beers. TOMORROW I’ll actually go out at night.