Over a week since my last entry. Shocking. Shameful. Downright unacceptable.
This does mean that there’s much to talk about though, so I’ll get right down to business.
Some of this was covered in the closing stages of the last entry, but I’ll recap and flesh things out a bit. We departed El Salvador with a final destination of Nicaragua in mind. This meant that, similar to the way we prioritised elsewhere and entered Belize as the same day we left it when we had Mike with us, we have proritised other areas over Honduras, with a deadline of getting to northern Panama by the 21st of March getting larger in our minds every day, and not a vast amount to do in Honduras (at least when it comes to personal recommendations) beyond diving and getting PADI qualifications.
An all day transfer saw us eventually to León in Nicaragua, with two fairly painless border crossings included. As our transfer guide said:
“$18 please everyone – that’s $3 to enter Honduras, $12 to enter Nicaragua, and another $3 to make everything go much more quickly.”
This proved to be the case, and at nearly all of the entries/exits, he was able to take everyone’s passports up the offices and get them stamped en masse, whilst we all waited on the bus. Sometimes palm greasing works in your favour.
León is the second largest city in Nicaragua after the capital Managua, and we stayed there for two nights wandering around and getting used to yet another Central American country and culture. The most popular activity for visitors to León is ‘volcano boarding’; climbing and sledding down a slope on the nearby Cerro Negro volcano. We elected not to partake in this particular bout of thrillseeking, however, due to a relatively steep (sorry) price tag of $30USD, and only getting one slide down the black, ash-covered descent. Ben and I went for a delightful joint haircut, which included the first time I’ve ever had a straight razor used behind my ears, and the elderly barber pausing halfway through to walk around in front of me, point his finger at my chest and say “gringo!” with a big smile on his face.
Ben spent the majority of his time in León making friends with the resident parrots (or parakeets?) at the hostel. As I’m sure it’s patently obvious from his borderline maniacal grins in the pictures below, he liked them very much indeed.* If anyone out there is able to identify the exact species of bird we would both be very interest to learn.**
We had planned our next destination to be San Juan del Sur, another decent drive down the country, but as we were mainly heading there for an infamous day party named ‘Sunday Funday’, and as such had a few extra days to kill, we chose instead to head to a nearby resort named Surfing Turtle Lodge, on a tiny spit of land named Isla Los Brasiles. Despite it proudly proclaiming itself as an ‘eco lodge’, my fears of a hippy commune and compost toilets didn’t last very long.
It was only 20 minutes or so from León to the coast, and from there everyone piled onto a small fishing boat for the short and slow crossing to the island. When we got there it wasn’t hard to be blown away by the amazing, secluded location and stunning, virtually private beach that the lodge fronts onto. A brilliant variety of like-minded folk were in residence, including many people we’d met on previous stops, and an impressive sense of community was also present. Secluded, ‘resort’-style hostels like this always work so much better when everyone is welcoming and inclusive and despite one group of exceptions***, this was absolutely the case here.
On one of the mornings at Surfing Turtle I made the decision to partake in my first ever yoga class, knowing I would have at least some moral support in yoga-fanatic Jo. The open, palm-leaf topped ‘studio’ right on the beach was also a fairly stunning venue to try the practice for the first time. I can confirm that I emerged unscathed from yoga session #1, despite watching a few more drops of sweat than I would have liked fall onto the mat during my millionth**** ‘Downward Facing Dog’.
After three fun-filled nights on Isla Los Brasiles, including other pursuits such as body-boarding, the daily volleyball tournament, and drinking in yet more incredible Pacific Ocean sunsets, we checked out and headed back to the mainland to get ourselves down to San Juan del Sur for the [freakin’] weekend. I also finally got to pay a food and drink tab upon said checkout that didn’t make me wince. Result.
On arrival at our hostel in San Juan del Sur – the completely indescribably brilliant Casa de Olas – we were promptly informed that it was ‘Party Shirt Night’ and, not to worry if we didn’t have a ‘party shirt’, because one could be borrowed from the extensive reserve supply at the princely price of buying two shots of tequila. Here began one of the most loose and debauched weekends of my life, of which I can’t recall to mind quite as much as I would like. San Jan del Sur, and it’s now-infamous all-day-Sunday ‘pool crawl’ named ‘Sunday Funday’, deserves its reputation as one of Central America’s top party destinations without a shadow of a doubt. It wouldn’t be unfair to say it chewed up and spat out all four of us, so for a lack of stories (or more accurately a lack of a will to tell the stories in a public forum) I’ll let the following pictures speak instead.
After leaving San Juan with less energy, more regrets and considerably less money than when we arrived, we headed to a small town named Rivas, from where we caught a taxi and an extremely crowded and extremely unfit-for-purpose boat to Ometepe, a beautiful island in the centre of Central America’s largest lake that is formed of two imposing volcanoes.
I’m writing this just before bed on our second night here, so whilst we have already spent a day exploring our surroundings (on a motorbike & quad bike again – yaaaay!), I will leave those pictures and tales until the next entry, which I pinky promise will some soon.
I’m now off to complete my other evening task of refining and memorising the ‘Best Man’ speech that I have to deliver at my brother’s wedding in just over two weeks’ time. Eep.
*Mostly true; the smallest one – Hans – was described by the staff as a bit of a twat and didn’t do anything to overcome this reputation. Bitey.
**Probably so Ben can buy about 12
***Yes, they were British. Sigh.
****OK, more like my third ‘Downward Facing Dog’
*****Upset by our uneven nationality and gender arrangement, we’ve temporarily added another Australian girl to our posse. Her name is Laura, if she won the lottery she would spend it all on vegan cheese (whatever that is) and she holds a German passport without speaking a single word of German.