San Juan del Sur: I've got them Flor de Caña Blues...

Published: October 18th 2013
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Monteverde to Playa Maderas via San Juan del Sur

Flor de Caña is Nicaragua's, and Latin America's finest rum, and over the last week a group of us have drunk enough to keep the company afloat for many years to come.The border crossing from Costa Rica into Nicaragua was quite a hectic one, with full luggage searches and the buses fumigated inside and out as we stood under a big open outdoor roof area sweating away and politely shooing away the numerous money exchangers and spruikers selling all sorts of wares, from hammocks to chewing gum.

Departing the bus at Rivas on the Pan American highway, about 30 minutes past the border, we were greeted with lots of horse drawn carts and aggressive young men with bicycle tuk tuk's vying for our business. Not knowing where the chicken bus terminal was, we got into one of these tuk tuk's and duly got ripped off as we were driven around the block and charged way too much. Having got up at 3.30am, we were tired and found an official taxi and decided to take that to San Juan del Sur, about 30min away. He was a nice guy, and as we explained our story to him about getting ripped off, he shook his head in mix of disbelief and anger, and said Bienvenidos a. Nicaragua (welcome to Nicaragua)!

Dropped off at our hostel, we were glad to find it a great little place and waited for the imminent arrival of Shane and Abi who were coming from Granada to meet us here. The original intention was to spend 3 days here over the weekend to party a little bit and then move on, but we find ourselves still here after 8 days. Shane and Abi had met Robin and Daina on Ometepe, a lovely couple for Lichtenstein who are riding from Guatemala to Patagonia on bicycles, and they also arrived in San Juan del Sur later that afternoon. Over the next 2 nights we drank copious amounts of rum till the wee hours of the morning, seeing daybreak on the second night. The next day we were all supposed to make our way over to Playa Maderas, a fairly deserted surf beach 10km's north. Robin and Dina somehow managed to ride over there, but us other four were too slow in getting our shit together and missed out on making it there in time. We at least found a 4WD taxi who would take us the next morning, as the road is so bad that a 2WD will not make it.

As the driver slowly traversed his way through the potholed and muddy quagmire, there were howler monkeys screaming at us from the trees by the side of the road as well as some very fancy houses that have been built by US ex pats. Soon the area will unfortunately start to resemble the north pacific side of Costa Rica.

Playa Maderas is one of those beaches you see on the surf videos, surrounded by coconut palms and jungle lined sand, and with big, consistent swell. The southern end is where the day trippers from San Juan come to surf, but Shane knew of a place on the north end of the beach where practically no-one goes. This involved a fairly gruelling 15 minute walk with all of our gear over slippery rock ledges and deep hot sand. God know's how the Lichtensteiners got through here on their bikes, but there they were on the beach when we arrived.

The north end of Playa Maderas looked like something out of a pirate movie, with jutted rocks coming out of the point and into and out of the ocean, and with a cave that is only accessible at low tide, many years ago it may have been filled with treasure and booty. The beach was stunning, and all afternoon we body surfed in the perfect waves. We had the place to ourselves, and that night we behaved like a bunch of pirates, building a big fire on the beach and buying a crate of beer and all of the rum that a local restaurant owner had in stock. We had a few people join us around the fire, but they did not last long, realising that we were all in some stupor and probably wondering who these crazy, jabbering idiots were. There was also a policeman patrolling the beach with a shotgun, not to protect people, but to protect the turtles that come here to lay their eggs here, from poachers. He seemed mildly amused at our antics, and at one stage came back with a bucket full of freshly laid turtle eggs to show us before taking them off to an incubator. The stories from that night are best told over a few beers at the pub with mates, needless to say it was one of the craziest, and most enjoyable nights of my life.

Everyone was extremely rotten the next day, a perfect day to lay in hammocks, read a book, slowly sip water and watch squirrels run up and down the trees in search of sea almonds.

Back in San Juan del Sur the following day at 6.30am, it was a sad goodbye to Abi who was heading to San Jose to fly home. Later that day Shane and I went in search for a big fish that we could cook up and feed everyone. Wandering down to the pier where the fishermen sell their daily catch we bought a monster 12lb Red Snapper for $25 and raided the mercardo for items to stuff the fish with. Orlando the owner of the hostel, and Brendan joined us. We had met Brendan on our first stay here, a 65 yr old Irishmen who is travelling through Latin America for 4 years, after teaching Buddhist Monks in India English for the last 10 years. We thought that Shane was a crazy Irishman, but Brendan is the craic, a larger then life character who can hold his rum better then us. Between the 7 of us we devoured the delicious fish and then proceeded to get rollicking drunk again, it was another hilarious night best left unpublished...

Today Shane has left, and we will not see him again on this trip. From Peru to Panama to Nicaragua we have had some memorable times travelling and partying together, but i am sure we will meet up again sometime in the future. Maybe in Africa in a few years. Tonight will be our last night in San Juan, and i am sure some more rum will come out as it will be goodbye to Brendan, Robin and Daina, who we have grown great affection for.

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31st October 2013

amazing photos Neil and will have to have some of them framed when you get home.

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