It might be a long way to Tipperary, but it´s an even longer way to San Juan del Sur

Monday morning and the memories of travelling hundreds of miles on buses is fading — I´m at the point where I can look back and laugh. Pretty much.

Spend long enough on a bus and you begin to understand that horns are more useful than we back home make of them. Honking means I´m turning right (or left), I´m right behind you, get out of the way, do you need a lift?, I´m passing you but there´s someone coming right at me, please slow down so I can wedge my vechicle in, it´s a blind curve is there anyone coming in the oncoming direction?…

During one of the many hours I spent looking out the window and watching rural Nicaragua pass me by, we ventured into watermelon growing country. And a long the side of the road was stall after stall of watermelons for sale. Each stall arranged nearly identically. Each run by a different woman. Each selling watermelon at the same price. How does one choose which stand to patronize? How does one decide which watermelon is best? And does one then avoid eye contact with the other 5 women whose watermelons you didn´t buy?

San Juan del Sur is definitely a surf town. It´s small, so small in fact that i´ve got a very good sense of direction here. It´s the most touristy place I´ve been so far, bedraggled surf dudes and chicas wandering around town, messy hair, vaguely hungover looking, sometimes in bare feet. It´s like spring break all the time…and I´m here in low season.

Sunday was definitely a quiet day here in San Juan, probably a hang over day for most, based on the fact that I had to wear my earplugs to bed. Hotel Maracuya is an absolutely beautiful hostel, very clean (the maid comes in a makes my bed every day), very new, with a fantastic breakfast included in the price.




Terrible water pressure in the shower, but if that´s the only downside, that´s fine with me. It´s situated at the top of a hill. San Juan is a town of hills, so much so that I´m going to have the best looking calves by the time I leave. Breakfast is served on the terrace every morning and yesterday I ate my eggs and sipped my coffee and watermelon juice (I wonder which lady they bought it from and how they chose her…) while looking out over all of San Juan and the bay. It´s breathtaking.

Breakfast made to order, on the terrace
Breakfast made to order, on the terrace

Being situated at the top of the hill, right above the main ¨drag¨ does mean that the sounds drift upwards from the many, many bars that line the beach. Even through the haze of my exhaustion on Saturday night, I couldn´t get to sleep because of the noise. So I pulled out my trusty earplugs and all was well. About 4.30 am I woke up and took out my earplugs, thinking I wouldn´t need them any more. Oh no. The bar sounds were replaced by the most enthusiastic rooster. Get up! Get up! Get up! If I find that pollo, I´m going to eat him!

So yesterday being Sunday there wasn’t much open. The rappelling tour that sounded like so much fun didn´t have the minimum number of people signed up. The zip line was closed. What to do??? And then it hit me. It´s Sunday. The perfect day to hike up to Cristo. There´s a huge statue of Jesus overlooking San Juan. It´s about a 3 km hike, uphill, and $2 to get in. The hike was massive. Up dirt roads that twisted and turned. But I made it, sweaty and a little out of breath. The view was worth every step in my Tevas. I couldn´t stop taking photos. AND because it was Sunday, there was a mass going on, inside the statue! There were Nica families all over the site, most of them having Sunday picnics and just generally hanging out. Once again, I looked around and wondered where all the other travellers were. Once again, I´m the token gringa, covered in sweat. It was at that point that I took in the Nica guy standing next to me… wearing jeans and a hoodie!!


The trip back down the hills was just as tenuous and the trip up. My arm is still in pretty bad shape, and I had visions of loosing my footing and rolling down the dirt and cobblestone road. And that´s just what I need, to be picking gravel out of my arm AGAIN.

After all the climibing, I figured lunch was in order. So I consulted my Rough Guide and settled on Big Wave Dave´s– apparently a SJDS institution not to be missed. I´m not sure when the last time the editors were here, but Big Wave Dave is clearly not what he used to be. At the back of the restaurant, sitting around a bar were they typcial barflies, getting drunk in the afternoon. I settled on a low, comfortable chair away from the bar and ordered a hamburger. It looked beautiful. And then I cut into it. Practically raw on the inside. I actually made an audible sound of disgust. I tried eating around the edges, but at the end of the day, I figured food poisoning wasn´t worth the $8. Big Wave Dave comped part of my bill, which was good, but I won´t be coming back for seconds any time soon.

Looking for something else to fill out the afternoon, I stopped into SJDS Surf Shop. For $20 I could get on a booze cruise. I’m generally vaguely horrified by the idea of booze cruises — I have visions of 20 somethings drinking and vomiting on my Tevas, but what the heck, it was a cheap way to see the town from the water. So I gave in. Thankfully, the drunken 20 somethings never materialized, and I ended up meeting 2 great couples, one from Calgary and one from Alaska.


The view from the water was tremendous, although much to my surprise, the water is freezing! Apparently some tide has come in, making the water more the temperature of a Great Lake rather than a bathtub, which is what I was expecting. Surfing will be a little chilly! Out on the water we got another, fantastic surprise. Suddenly from no where a couple of dolphins came to play! They jumped out of the water, swam alongside and under the boat and generally played in the water for us. So absolutely worth my $20. Just as the dolphins high tailed it out of there (or high flippered it out of there), a flock of pelicans appeared. Just so you know, pelicans are bigger than you might think! The 2 hour cruise, which we renamed the sunset cruise, after we managed to stay out longer than 2 hours and were met with a gorgeous sunset over the water, was incredible. I’ve totally changed my mind about booze cruises!

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Monday has brought out a new SJDS. All the shops are open. Construction in underway, deliveries are being made, people are working and shopping and the town is generally bustling. After another excellent breakfast-with-a-view, I wandered down to Casa Oro, a hostel in town that also doubles as a sort of travel-activity agency, and booked myself into a zip lining trip with Da Flying Frog. No minimum number of people required, which is excellent because as a solo traveller, I´m often left waiting until the last minute to find out if anyone else has signed up for whatever activity. So at 1 pm I´ll set out for yet another death defying Super Chica moment. But not until I find some lunch, and this time I´m hoping it´s cooked.

Tomorrow though, is the big day. The day I came all the way back to Nicaragua to experience. It´s surfing day. I get transport to the beach, a four hour sufing lesson and a video of me in all my glorious grace and agility, all for the low, low price of $25! What could possibly go wrong….

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