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Published: December 9th 2007
Dia del Internet Celebration
The day came and we celebrated as much as we could on the night before our trip to Nicaragua.
Yes, yes, we realize that with an internet connection our blogs should, or could, be more regular. However, since the glorious day, other bloggers have dubbed their day of connection dia del internet, life has been whirring by at an alarming rate.
Our journey to Nicaragua, despite being mandated, was superb. Nicaragua is beautiful and significantly less developed than Costa Rica. The Nicaraguans that we met were very eager to help us, to get to know us, and to speak with us about life in Nicaragua and the rest of the world. It was a big difference from the tourist service industry in Costa Rica where people have been visiting for over twenty five years. The people we spoke to in Nicaragua spoke of the great changes in the past five years and how the tourists were important guests whose dollars make a real difference in the life if the community. I’m pretty sure after a few more years and repeated encounters with overbearing foreigners will change their attitudes but it was nice to experience Nicaragua…especially as a Canadian. Many Nicaraguans are resentful to Americans as a result of the whole Iran-Contra affair involving Oliver North and the CIA and
the years of civil wars and general economic instability. However, I’m sure some of the resentment has been earned by the infamous attitude and behavior of the “feo Americno” as they are called throughout Central America. Here in Costa Rica, unlike Mexico, the term Gringo is not reeeeaaaaallllly derogatory. We have met many terrific American people during our time traveling but during this four day trip to Nicaragua we personally experienced the behavior that has created the negative stereotype of the American traveler.
We purchased return bus tickets from San Jose to Managua for $104 from Ticabus. Yes, that is for the whole family AND the ticket is open so a person can get on and off the bus along the route as long as they make a reservation. The tickets never expire!! When making the reservation you can ask them to pick you up at most locations as long as it is on the route. The bus is direct and only stops for people with reservations. We departed from Esparza at 9:20AM and were at the border getting our passport stamped by the Costa Rican Immigration service at 1PM. The stamp is important as the purpose for the
trip is to renew our tourist visa and without the stamp it doesn’t get renewed. The line at the immigration office was the location for our first encounter with the “feo Americano”. As we approached the immigration building we could see that there was a rather large line waiting to be processed. An official stopped us at the door and told us to wait until the lines were shorter. As we waited a small and excessively aggressive elderly man charged past us and the others waiting to enter the building and attempted to join the line. He was intercepted by the official and told to wait in line with the rest of us. Instead of heading to the back of the line like a reasonable person he stood beside us at the front of the line. He made no attempt at small talk or to explain if he was in a hurry. He just stood there with a determined look on his face waiting to be first. When the official waved us in the oblivious little man began to charge forward determined to cut in front of us. However, he was dragging a suitcase and we only had backpacks and
Nataghia, using her height and weight advantage squeezed the “feo Americano” out forcing him to the wrong side of the door once she swung it open. The boys were also in his way so he couldn’t cut behind Nataghia before she blocked him with the open door. However, he was determined and he shoved his way past a nice Nicaraguan lady who had given Owen a lozenge when she noticed he wasn’t feeling well. Weird…the only person who didn’t seem to think his behavior was obnoxious was him. We whisked through the Costa Rican immigration process in under five minutes. We were optimistic that we could be on the beach by 3PM. Unfortunately a traveler on our bus decided to wrap up about $2000 worth of merchandise in Christmas presents and never claimed any of it at the Nicaragua side of the border. We had to wait for the officials to tally the dollar amount of the items one piece at a time to see if he was over the basic exemption. Just an observation; they could have started with the large carvings instead of the box with 200+ rings in it. The scofflaw delayed us by about an hour
The travel agent we purchased our bus tickets through had us at the bus stop about an hour and a half before the arrival.
and we arrived in Rivas at about 3:30PM. I used the time to go to the duty free shop and buy a liter of rum for $8 and I also picked up a copy of Pirates of the Caribbean III and Shrek I-III for a total of $4 from an “entrepreneur” outside of the duty free shop.
As we exited the bus with transportation to San Juan del Sur (SJDS) on our minds I was immediately approached by a man who was offering what we were looking for. With the research I had done we knew it should cost around $8-12 dollars to get a taxi to the beach and this dude wanted $20 and as I was haggling down Nataghia was approached by another guy who offered his services for the price we expected to pay $12. Yes, we could of haggled him down but after waiting for the bus for an hour and twenty minutes in Esparza and then traveling on the bus for 3.5 hours and then waiting at the border for 2 ½ hours we were anxious to get to our destination. The taxi man from Rivas to SJDS was engaging and full of great
I don't want to wait
The border is all about waiting
information. He also spoke beautiful Spanish and was easy to understand. I think I liked him even more because he told me I spoke Spanish very well.
SJDS is a small surfing/tourist town about 25 KM North of the Costa Rican border. We stayed at the Hotel Gran Oceano for $57 per night with breakfast included. The hotel was located about 50 meters from the beach at the most Southern end of the town. We found our room and headed to the beach to have a quick swim and enjoy the famous SJDS sunset. We headed to Mary’s for dinner and totally pigged out on various shrimp dishes. Four mains and one appetizer, four drinks, including a frozen cocktail for a total of $35 AND it was delicious. The staff at Mary’s was very helpful in answering our touristy questions and we enjoyed our evening immensely. My intent was to go surfing at a nearby beach the next day so I went to book a board and inquire about transport. After getting the prices I checked with the family who were exploring the shops and we decided to wait to head to the famed Playa Maderas as the boys
I don't want to wait in vain.
I dunwanna, I dunwanna, I dunwanna I dunwanna, I don't want to wait.
were somewhat wiped as a result of the travel and the pills they took for anti-nausea. I forgot that they only need a half a pill and I dosed Owen with a full one when he started to turn green on the bus earlier in the day. The pills are called bromamine and they work really well and last 24 hours but for kids the dosage must be reduced. We headed back to the room and called it a night early after watching some English television.
The next day we spent the whole day at the beach in SJDS. We rented a couple boogie boards and confirmed my booking for the giant 10 foot surf board for Sunday. We all had fun with the boogie boards despite enduring some stings from the occasional Medusa (jelly-fish). We watched a group of local boys and men play baseball on the beach and I even got to attempt to throw a guy out after an over-throw at first base ended up near my feet. We at a terrific late lunch of whole fish, steak and shrimp at a beach side restaurant and I ordered the ¼ bottle of rum for the curiosity
factor. A micky of rum served with as many cokes as it takes to drink the rum for $7. Nataghia and the boys went for a walk and ice cream after lunch while I tried to finish my drink. The waiter/owner, an older gentleman, told me he couldn’t drink a whole one of the bottles and more and that he would be sleeping if he tried. I thought it was a great idea and as I finished my last drink I stared off at the ocean and faded into a sweet dream. I was woken gently by the man and paid my $35 tab and went looking for my family to tell them I was going to bed. ;-) We spent the evening wandering around the streets of SJDS and picked up a delicious pizza for a snack and I made arrangements to go see the turtles the next evening. Again we enjoyed some English television watching Elf for our movie night.
Surfing day…we woke up as usual with Benjamin being the alarm clock. It has become a ritual for Benjamin to wake either Mom or Dad up at about 5:30AM or first light. I have been taking Benjamin
Shiny Happy People
This is Nataghia's Facebook profile picture.
for walks to allow Owen and Nataghia a few more minutes of sleep. After our walk we were fired up for the Surfing Safari. I was hoping that I could get everyone in the family trying the board as a big 10 footer is supposed to be the easiest way to get up and actually surfing. We arrived at the surf shop to assure we wouldn’t be left behind. I had booked the board, two boogie boards, and transport to and from the beach for $50. Playa Maderas is very difficult to access because of the road but it has a nice little restaurant and perfect waves for beginner and expert surfers. Upon arriving at the surf shop I notice the giant red board I booked was not there. Then I noticed a couple of boards already in bags and was relieved. I waited while the owner, an American surfer dude (feo Americano #2), helped another customer. Marlin, the local guy who helped me earlier, was busy too. The owner asked if he could help me and I told him that I booked the board and all the other details. He looked at Marlin and told me he had rented
Why not another sunset picture?
This is just one of many nice shots of the sunset.
the board to someone else but I could have one of the eight footers. I said….uhmmm dude I’ve tried that before and I’m a little too large for an eight footer. He shoves one in my direction and says it’ll be fine. I ask him what happened to my booking and he says I didn’t reserve it. I look at Marlin with the inquiry face and he shrugs his shoulders. I leave heading to one of the other surf shops but am disappointed to find it is not open on Saturdays. I return to the shop and tell the guy it won’t be fine and won’t be taking the eight foot board. I rent the two boogie boards and head out the door to wait for the transport. As I walk out I see the taxi that I booked for the turtle tour and he pulls over and offers to drive me to the beach for $15 return. I accept and we start rolling. The owner rushes over and asks what we’re doing…I tell him we outta here and maybe another time I’ll use his transport and suddenly he wants security for the boogie boards. I tell him we’ll be
Boogie Board Madness
Owen is on his way to becoming a boogie board master.
at the beach if he wants them and we drive off. Boogie boarding with the family was great. Owen never left the water all day except to eat. The little restaurant was as funky as they come and we all had a big meal and drinks…extra beers for Mom and Dad for under $20. The road to the beach was actually pretty good except for the last two hundred meters. The taxi man took us to the bottom on the way but said we would have to meet him at the top for the return trip. Dutifully we headed to the top to meet him at 3PM. We didn’t know how long it would take us so we left early and waited at the top for about five or so minutes. This is relevant because as we started to load the boogie boards into the trunk Owen noticed some monkeys in the trees right beside us. We stood and watched a family of Howler monkeys eating lunch. It was especially neat because the family had the tiniest little baby and it was sooooo cute trying to climb around and get away from its Mom. It turned out that I saw
Fish for Lunch
Yes, I'll need a fork and knife please.
“my” board was rented to a guy who was taking a full day lesson so it was probably more profitably for the surfer dude to rent it to someone else. It turned out to be a blessing as we wouldn’t have seen the monkeys if I had been able to rent the board.
After a long day at the beach we took a little rest and got ourselves ready for the 45 minute ride to Playa Flor where the sea turtles do their nesting thing. It was our hope to see a giant turtle laying her eggs but upon our arrival we were told by our driver that they are not really coming any more. Uhmm…why didn’t you tell me before we drove 45 minutes over crazy pot holes and through TWO rivers? You never asked. OK we could see one or two but we would have to wait for an undetermined amount of time. They could come in five minutes or five hours. A week or two earlier and we could have seen hundreds arriving all night. As we discussed the patterns I noticed the sand just to my left looked like it was moving. Hey…those are baby
Quenching the Thirst
A day at the beach makes a man mighty thirsty...don't worry there is water in that bottle nothing else.
turtles coming out of the sand. We watched in awe as twenty or more turtles crawled out from under the sand in what could be the start of a life that might last four hundred years or four minutes. The boys squealed with excitement as we picked them up carefully and helped them to the water. We managed to get the whole batch to the ocean protecting them from the predators that love baby turtle for dinner. With Benjamin melting into the beach we decided an evening of waiting for a mother turtle was not going to happen tonight. It was actually kind of cool and raining off and on. The ride home seemed really short for all of us as we all faded in and out of sleep. Of course the occasional crater at 60KMPH will keep a person from hitting the REM phase.
Sunday morning and time to make our way home to Esparza. We had reservations for Rivas and our SJDS taxi driver Miquel picked us up right on time. I did have a little time to drop in at the store and buy the first shirt that actually fit me since I started looking for
Great light or not...what a face!
one two months ago. Nataghia also found a suitable top and I also found a 1.75 liter bottle of 7 year old Flora de Caña Rum for $12. We arrived in Rivas early enough to go for lunch and after confirming our seats and inquiring about a good restaurant we took a special bike taxi to the restaurant Princess Principal for some Chinese/Nicaraguan fusion. It was delicious….we headed to the bus stop at 1:30 and waited for our bus…and waited…and waited. Finally at 2:30, nearly an hour late, the bus arrived much to the relief of Owen and Benjamin. Despite the whole family getting accustomed to waiting Mom and Dad were pretty happy about it too as the boys get pretty antsy after about a half an hour of standing around playing time killer games. As we board the bus we see it is very full. It looks like our seats are open but as we approach them we realize that someone is sitting in them. No problem we have the reservation slip. NOT- despite sharing the information on the reservation slip with the “nice” young American girls (feo Americano encounter #3) they are not willing to move as they
claim someone has stolen their reservation spots. So we can deal with it by allowing our four and eight year old boys to sit with strangers as we sit by ourselves with strangers as we pass across a border. Thankfully a nice Nicaraguan lady moved so Owen and I could sit together and Benjamin and Nataghia sat across the aisle from each other. I found it pretty amazing that the 8 girls in the groups all had seats with each other and all across the aisle from each other. As a couple of more people boarded we found out they were sitting in seats of other passengers as well as ours. Another family no less…and did it faze them in the least? Well, when you are cool and beautiful as these girls I’m sure nothing can affect you. Needless to say I was disgusted by their obnoxious and boorish behavior for the entire trip. Thankfully it was very smooth across the border and swift through to Esparza where we arrived at 8PM exhausted from our journey.
It should be noted that the encounters with the “feo Americano” did not detract from our experience and if anything taught us a
valuable lesson. I’m sure that there may have been and will be in the future events that occur at the wrong time and wrong place that might have me acting ugly. When this happens I will always be reminded by the irony of one of our encounters that weekend in Nicaragua. The pushy little man from the border crossing ended up at the same hotel as us in SJDS and he saw the same sunset that evening. What did he gain in his haste and overbearing behavior? Really nothing; other than reinforcing a stereotype, which for most Americans, is undeserved. Another lesson from the weekend worth sharing is a result of the three day travel hangover we suffered from upon our return to Esparza. There should be a rule established about travel. If it takes two days of travel go there and back a person should have to stay a minimum of three days. We really loved our time in Nicaragua. We met some very nice people, some of the nice ones were American too, and loved the vibe. Nicaragua really is unspoiled and if you are looking for some authentic tourist action in Central America it would be worth
Baby turtles hatching right in front of our faces.
checking out. I know we are planning a return trip that includes Granada and Managua. Actually after such a nice bus trip I looked into an open trip through to Mexico to see some of our snowbird friends from Eastend and found out that it would cost $136 return per person for an open trip from San Jose to Tapachula, Mexico. Something to consider… Thanks for reading, if you are still reading, and of course for your comments. We will be pumping out a few entries over the next week as we are now caught up from our travels, parties, and class excursion of which the latter we will share the experience in our forthcoming blogs. Until then….Tuanis!
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