Like always there’s some places that instantly warms my heart and makes me feel at home, although home never was tropical and cheap as dirt. Literally the moment I crossed the border to Nicaragua and saw Ometepe Island rising out of the water in the shape of two volcanos, I felt a smile spread across my face. And when my taxi rounded the corner on to the beachfront in San Juan Del Sur and I could see the waves crashing against the shore, it was quite a magical feeling being so happy knowing that this would be my home for almost a year.
Sweaty and feeling slightly bitch slapped after a border crossing that I could’ve done blindfolded and still have felt as enlightened as I did, San Juan Del Sur lay before me as a revelation in blues and greens. It was the best imaginable start to my time in Nicaragua. Arriving on Sunday ‘fun day’ the streets where particularly lively from what low season has showed me so far. I dropped my bags off at Casa Delfín, the cheapest out of the two places I tried. “I am NOT walking for miles in this heat with a backpack strapped to me on every angle”. Said the girl who is spending 8 months hiking volcanos. Shut up and go get a Toña. So I did. San Juan is that beach hub you can’t get enough of. How can you resist when guilty pleasures are lined up everywhere you turn. Like beachfront restaurants that serve great food and ice cold beer while you sit and watch the sun melt into the ocean. Or cool cafes in bright colours where you can indulge in caramel frappuccinos and fruit smoothies that makes it hard to ever touch a water bottle again. I am a sucker for this life, I tell you.
So when I’m eventually able to get off my ass it’s 80 pro cent out of guilt and 20 pro cent because I want to explore what is out there. I could’ve gone surfing or horseback riding, even fishing, but since I won’t be hiking much I went for a walk. A steep walk. Up to the Christ of Mercy Statue that stands on top of the hill north of San Juan. It is pretty cool from the beach, but even better after a 30 minutes climb through concrete jungle aka rich man villas with infinity pools. I don’t know how I will survive hiking in this weather cause my backpack will literally weigh 50 kilos from all the water I’m gonna need. After an hour and a half I had gulped 2 liters of water and although I felt full, I was still thirsty. And I didn’t even have a backpack with me. This is gonna get rough. But no point in crying yet, the walk itself went fine even though it was steep and it was absolutely worth the amazing views I got to witness when I could finally see something through the river of sweat that kept blurring my vision. After a hike like that it was vital to not do anything for the rest of the day except, swimming, sun bathing and make up for the lost calories. Recuperation is important.
I have travelled far and I’ve been to places that can only be described as shady at best and dangerous at worst, but never have I actually seen something to erupt my illusion that this must all be lies. And then San Juan comes along. It’s not as if I saw a stabbing or anyone being beat to a pulp, but when someone who’s been to 38 countries finally sees an attempt of pickpocket robbery in the flesh, she finally got a firm hold on her bag. It wasn’t a big deal. Well, not for me, but for the gentleman on the next table who had smoke coming out of his ears, it was. In a matter of seconds, the guy had got on his feet, knocking over his chair in the process and started swearing at the night. Until I saw the little devil who had tried to wiggle the wallet out of the guy’s pocket. Talk about a mood killer. It was over before it had started and the thief walked on down the beach to sniff out a new victim. And I was like, ‘aha, this does really happen, better keep an eye out then’… Except from that and an incident when two drug addicts/dealers almost broke into a fight in front of our hostel, it was all peace and quiet.
A couple of days after the first hike I started to feel guilty again of my big appetite for sun, fun and food and decided with my Finish friend to go on another hike. This time out in the woods to find some dang old petroglyphs. Wow, we walked for a long time in the sun, without knowing exactly where we were going. But yes, we did pass the school and we did see the gate leading up to the farm (instructions from lonely planet). So we walked and asked for direction in broken spanish, cause petroglyphs wasn’t the first thing they taught me in class. After an hour or so we finally came to the end of the road in the middle of no-man forrest land. Thinking we had walked the wrong way, we were just about to head back when I noticed some stairs. Surly they were there for a reason. And indeed they were, leading down o a small ravine and ta-daaa, a rock with drawings on it. What a massive disappointment that was. All that walking for what? A couple of worm like tracks on a big rock?Well, thanks a lot Lonely Planet. Remind me to never trust your ‘top choice’ of activities again. Walking back I could feel I was getting dehydrated and starved after too long without food and little water. I got light headed and thought to myself that I definitely need to learn how to regulate my intake of nutrition so it doesn’t happen again. A sushi lunch and a smoothie later it felt good to go back to old habits of doing absolutely nothing.
I was really excited to leave San Juan and head to Granada on Thursday morning, but as I left it was a bittersweet feeling. I love the ocean and I loved this little town and until next time, I will remember my first taste of Nicaragua for its quirky, cool places, colourful buildings, beautiful sunsets and the life of hakuna matata.