February in Denver is a cold affair, and as I have gotten older a month I would like to fast forward through. It was serendipitous that 18” of snow feel, then another 4”, mere days before heading to Nicaragua for an itinerary that was defined only as surfing, yoga, and sunshine. Watching the snow slowly fade from the landscape as we flew south, it felt as though an icy bullet had been dodged.
Despite having 3 guidebooks between us to choose from, we forgot to bring one. This led to borrowing them from fellow travelers and hotels and taking pictures of the applicable pages. Above is a map of San Juan del Sur, our base for several days of beach hopping.
The view from the hotel, looking at the hills ringing the beach.
We were one block of the the beach, meaning that stepping onto street corner and looking west yielded a palm lined beachfront with a sunset backdrop.
Sunset, enhanced by margaritas being in hand.
Fruit options in the tropics are varied and fresh. We bought fruit at the local markets, where I was amazed to lean that papayas are huge, with a hollow core. Bigger than my head and capable of being sliced and worn as bracelets, it was fructose shock and awe.
A skull and bones rash guard for surfing. The Jolly Roger, was looking badass, but did not foreshadow badassery upon surfboards. Instead, it was indicative of the thrashing we were about to take. Catching whitewater waves we picked up on pretty quick. Catching greenwater waves, not yet broken waves, was an exercise in saltwater faceplants and being spun around underwater. We fought the good fight, but wisely retreated for beer, grilled fish, and to watch the surf competition scheduled for that afternoon.
Sitting in the sunshine on Hermosa Beach.
A basket of baby turtles. Hermosa Beach is a nesting site and to increase survival rates the locals hatch the eggs and then release them at the water’s edge. This eliminates loss to sea gulls, which view the hatching as a turtle buffet.
A whole fried fish. A common meal, and one I had not had before. Being an average American I am used to my fish coming neatly filleted, so looking at teeth and eyes was a brief adjustment.
Livestock in action! I have only seen this at George Washington’s birthplace and other historic reenactments, so it was fascinating to see cows, donkeys and horses as transportation and labor.
Sitting in the sunset on Remanso Beach. We shared this beach with 10 people at the most, over the course of several hours.
Free range cows at the Remanso Beach.
Aleka taking in the sunset at Remanso Beach.
Sunset at Remanso Beach.
One of the many plates of grilled fish we ate over the course of the week. Note the teeth!
Aleka and I exploring the market in Rivas. Stall after stall of knock off shoes, clothing and loads of school supplies with pictures of Shakira.
Plantains topped with locally made cheese. The cheese had a delightful salty bite, appreciated in the electrolyte sapping humidity of the tropics. Unfortunately, it tasted like a low quality feta cheese.
Journaling! What is more interesting though is the omnipresent bottle of chile sauce in the foreground. Chile sauce, aka hot sauce, accompanied every meal. Although never tested, I am certain if we only ordered coffee chile sauce would have been presented.
Standing on the shores of Lake Nicaragua with Conception Volcano in the background. These volcano, and Volcano Maderas, make up Ometepe, a volcanic island in the middle of the lake.
A panorama shot from the shore of Lake Nicaragua.
The ferry to Ometepe. The ferry was packed and featured technology from the 1940’s. The diesel exhaust poured over us the entire ride, an hour of inhaling fumes and being covered with soot.
Aleka looking like a bandito in an attempt to filter diesel exhaust.
Aboard a packed bus, covered in ash and wondering how we keep packing more people on. I was crushed in the aisle between an older Nicaraguan woman and a school boy, faced with the dilemma who gets the front side or back side of my crotch.
We hopped off the bus and then decided to continue onto to the next town. No problem, right? Wrong. We were on the last bus of the day. Thus, we overpaid some locals to give us ride on their motorcycles. My first motorcycle ride! Good God man, it was fun. Parents everywhere do not want to hear this, but everyone should experience riding a motorcycle. Especially if you can throw in a language barrier, two volcanoes, stray dogs, livestock, and heavy winds. Seriously, it was fantastic.
Soot covered and happy to be watching the sunset with a beer in hand, Aleka smiles at the end of a day in motion.
Pancakes and fresh fruit for breakfast.
We rented bikes. Those three simple words and a wrong turn led to a 35 kilometer ride around the southern portion of the island. Body rattling bumps led to blistered hands as we passed by countless workers, each with a machete for working in the plantain fields, with all parties wondering exactly what we were doing.
A bloodied ankle from a crash during a rocky descent.
It was not all riding. Some sections were steep enough to justify walking, even by the locals.
And cheers to a 5.5 hour effort, involving two water breaks, one lunch at what only be described as a shack, and a good bit of walking, and one of those experiences that you will cherish a few years from now…
Double fisting Tona, the national beer of Nicaragua. A low alcohol beer, Tona is only a step below water in terms of hydration, and available everywhere.
Ojo de Agua. A spring-fed swimming hole of crystal clear water that features lackadaisical water sports, food, local crafts, and beer.
Drinking coconut milk at Ojo de Agua.
Aggressive birds at breakfast. Look away for a moment and they would swoop in for melon, sugar, or anything that was near.
The sad look due to a plane approaching Denver. All in all, time passed too quickly. With an itinerary that focused on the enjoyment of warm weather, landing in Denver, with snow still in the ground, was an insult only assuaged by the fact we love our hometown.