When deciding where to go on my Latin American tour, I knew I wanted to come to Nicaragua. At the time I didn’t have any more reasons than “it’s not Costa Rica, it’s less touristy, let’s go”. But I have now realised I love this country. People are nice, places are beautiful and they make a very decent rum!! (Flor de Caña).
This bit of my trip feels a little different as I’m with my sweetheart and we’ve planned sporty holidays: surf, hike and scuba (who knew we had it in us to be sporty?!?). We wanted to stay in one country to do all 3, so we drew a map of Latin America on the table with chalks in our fav restaurant in London – Gazette Brasserie for those interested – and Nicaragua looked perfect.
To compensate however for the “luxury” I knew I’d have (by that I mean that I’m not allowed to book rooms without AC), I decided to bus it from Tegucigalpa to Managua. 8 hours and a typical border crossing, slightly enerving experience when it’s the first time.
I was told this was the most unusual, long, nonsensical border crossing in the area. I was on a Tica bus, which is quite good actually, both in organising the trips and in comfort on the bus. The guy wouldn’t believe me when I told him I was French – he asked several times if I was sure I wasn’t neither from Honduras nor Nicaragua. I felt honoured! Could this mean my Spanish is getting better!? The scariest moment was when the Tica guy asked for our passport when we entered Nicaragua…I handed mine reluctantly and hoped to see it again. It took quite a long time to get through but eventually I was reunited with my ID and we were on our way.
This gave me time to chat with other passengers on the bus: polish girl who had a badass hangover and was also travelling solo, a pair of DiveMasters who’d lived together on Utila as freelance DM and a girl from Managua who had travelled the world quite a bit and was on her way back from visiting friends in Honduras and El Salvador – she was very friendly and gave me her contact details in case I needed help while in Nicaragua. I’d been reading about how to get from the bus station to the airport and every article was warning me about “fake” taxis, kidnapping tourists for money so I wasn’t feeling particularly safe! Once I got out of the station, 5 guys came very close to me and shouted “taxi? taxi? which hotel?”, I picked one that had an “official” taxi and looked less threatening and off I was. I can tell you I had a couple of scenarios running in my head when he told me 5 minutes after we’d departed ” oh wait, there was a guy who also wanted to go to the airport, he was on your bus, let me see if I can find him…” and that he turned into small streets. But I started talking to him, asked his name, where he was from, if he had kids, where I was from and then I finally hit the spot: FOOTBALL. Him and his sons support Barcelona. His wife supports Madrid (now…I don’t know much about football but even I can see that as being an point of tension…). I think he didn’t have bad intentions to start with, but by the end of the ride, he was hugging me, “God blessing” me and sharing his secret for a long and happy marriage. Phew. I’d made it to the airport! With hindsight, I think it was all in my head.
Once I’d collected my partner in crime at the airport, next stop was Miramar Surf Camp, near Puerto Sandino, on the coast for 1 week of surfing. If I was to describe paradise, this would probably be close to it: surf every day, good vibes, hammocks and gorgeous sunsets. With crazy beautiful thunderstorms with lightings at night that make the sky look like a nightclub with it’s stroboscope. This place is owned by a bunch of Brazilians and they definitely know how to do it. Lovely staff there, nice & cheap massages (given by a Brazilian surfer, which isn’t a bad thing) and a big home baked cake for my birthday as a surprise 🙂
I progressed a bit while there: new board (not a foamy anymore!), I can pop up easy peasy lemon squeezy (well, on baby waves), I managed to catch a few on my own (which mean no little very-helpful-I-usually-cant-take-off-without-it-push from the coach) and I now have a Brazilian surfer dude boyfriend. We’re now officially the coolest couple on the planet. Besides, we know how to travel with class:
Another thing I did while there was a beach clean. Pastor, our surf coach, organises these with the local kids (and the agreement of their parents). He invited me to join and of course I accepted. Like in many of these countries, recycling and even basic waste management is not really on their radar. It’s difficult to blame them, it’s not that long ago we were doing the same in our homes, when throwing the chewing-gum out the car window wasn’t a crime. I think there’s a lot of work to educate people about the benefits of recycling and the consequences of trashing streets, beaches, gardens and all. I was very upset about seeing so much rubbish everywhere in such a beautiful place but I guess that’s not helpful. Instead I’ll try and do something to make it better – or at least do my little bit #beachcleanup .
At first, when I asked them why we were doing it, they weren’t sure…”so the beach can be clean” they ventured. But when we started talking about it, they had lots of great ideas about it, they just needed a little encouragement to think about it themselves. Then we taught each others words in each others’ languages. Now I know how to say crab in Spanish and they know what playa is in English!
Good job done!!
Time for our next stop: Granada, its colonial houses and beautiful volcanoes (next article!).