We Go to La Laguna. But First, Jesus Rides a Donkey

  

“Hannah tell them…”

He’d explained it to us at least 3 times. His wife explained it at least 5 times. Of course, the directions they were giving us were in Spanish but through some sorta magic I actually understood. Or maybe it was a miracle.

But…as we stood on the front stoop waiting for the bus to come by so we could jump in front of it to hail the thing, Don Alfredo — the head honcho of the family — second guessed (or however many guesses it was at this time) his family’s ability to communicate with the newbies. Or maybe it was our (in)ability to understand Spanish that had him concerned. Upon reflection, it was probably the latter.

No, it was most definitely the latter.

Just before Jesus came riding down the street on a donkey (I shit you not…there was a processional/parade thing where a big Jesus doll rode a real live donkey. People were in front and behind and every where, waving palm leaf string wands in the air and chanting. As fireworks scared the crap out of unsuspecting people at 9:00 in the dang morning.)… 

…Why was Jesus riding a donkey? I have no idea. What do the palm leaf string wands mean? No clue. Why was there was a parade? With fireworks? First thing on a Sunday morning? Your guess is as good as mine.

I figure it’s because it’s almost Easter…or maybe it just happens every Sunday. Nicaraguans, they’re a festive bunch.

What was I trying to tell you about? 

Oh ya – before the processional ended, actually before it started, Don Alfredo called Hannah over. Hannah will be living with the family for 4 months as she does volunteer work at the English school. Her Spanish is amazing and her English is great (she’s from Denmark if that matters to you). She’s the perfect translator.

She explained what to do again. But this time in English:

Get on the bus. Tell the driver you’re going to La Laguna. Tell the guy who collects your money, too. They will tell you when to get off. 

Thank God they did just that. Because really. We had no idea which part of the middle of the highway we were supposed to jump off the basically still moving bus at.

Then cross the street and there will be taxis waiting. Take one up the hill and down the hill.

We couldn’t find a taxi. 

I thought we could walk the 5 kilometers. Matt thought that wasn’t the best idea. Then I thought, maybe any vehicle will become a taxi if you wave your hand around like you’re flailing and hailing. Afterall, we’re not in Kansas anymore Toto.

Then I thought, that’s how people get kidnapped and robbed and maybe killed so I’m not going to say my idea out loud. Or try it.

Shortly after, the taxi found us. Actually more like a couple of gringos found us and asked if we wanted to share a cab.

Great – yes we did! 

We started walking with them and turned a corner that was like 5 feet from where we’d been standing helplessly a few seconds earlier. And don’t you know, there was a row of taxis just waiting for people like us!

Finally we made it: La Laguna de Apoyo!

  

— Cyn



So long San Juan Del Sur

Yesterday, we said goodbye to a new old friend – San Juan Del Sur. 

New, because we only knew each other for 2 weeks. Old, because we got to know each other quite well. 

San Juan Del Sur is alluring, inviting, and hospitable. And yet, I must admit, it wasn’t that hard to say goodbye. Perhaps it’s the wanderlust. Perhaps it was the wind

Our year long travel really starts in San Juan Del Sur. We jumped face first into a home stay with a wonderful family. If you’re looking for a homestay, ask around for Dona Susana. 

She and her family live on the main (only) road going into the town in an orange house. They do a BBQ and sell the food every single night. 

At that house, we got 3 meals a day and a private bathroom (thank god for the privacy because I got the bad stomach the first week) and a fan that worked pretty damn well to cool us down. As it happens, the downside to living a metre from the main road is that a few times a night it sounded like a huge truck was going to drive straight through the wall and into our room. 

Scraping Matt off the ceiling a few times a night was the easy part, getting back to sleep was a little more arduous. 

That said, we somehow grew accustomed to the soothing sounds of trucks storming through our bedroom at night and very much enjoyed our stay at Susana’s house. I wish I took a picture of the house and the family but my Spanish wasn’t (isn’t) good enough…so ya. 

As part of our face first plunge into this new (awesome) life, we took Spanish classes at Latin American Spanish School. We did a modified version of the All Inclusive Program because we couldn’t afford the whole shabang. 

I think the classes were great and I totally loved my teacher Galdys. The last thing she said to me was “Cynthia you’re not normal” with a big smile on her face. Obviously she said it in Spanish 🙂 

Latin American Spanish School
Where all the action happens… LASS

Of course, it hasn’t been all work and no play!

We had a chance to catch some local celebrations, too. 

The first day we got to SJDS there was a beginning of summer party. We don’t have pictures because we didn’t bring our phones. 

That’s when we thought everyone was going to rob us. Not to jinx ourselves…but we bring our phones out with us now. 

I really do think that most people are good in this world, and they’d rather help than hurt you. I swear, nothing proves that more than travelling. 

St. Paddy's Day Ox Parade
St. Paddy’s Day Ox Parade
It didn’t take us long to get used to seeing Oxen (ox…oxes…oxi???) pull carts. The first time…you blink a few times and ask someone, “did I just see an ox pulling a cart?!” Then after that, it’s completely normal. Same with Cowboys – there are Cowboys too! (Except they wear baseball hats). 

So, to finish up and for your visual enjoyment, here’s a few final SJDS pics taken about town and at some beaches nearby.
 — Cynthia & Matt

Tiki Bar
Tiki Bar, San Juan Del Sur
 
Maderas
Crab McCraberson IV, Maderas beach

Simon Says in San Juan Del Sur
Simon Says in San Juan Del Sur
The Beach Boys
Los Chicos de las Playas
http://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g528745-d2626672-Reviews-Simon_Says_Smoothie_Bar-San_Juan_del_Sur_Rivas_Department.html
Stray dog watching the sunset
Busking San Juan Del Sur
It’s busking, just not as we know it
San Juan Del Sur
Rubber ducky for the big bath anyones?
Sunset, San Juan Del Sur
How sunsets are done on the westside

 

Why Backpackers Should Stay in One Place For a While 

 

Backpackers usually don’t really stay in one place for that long. Everyone has their own reasons for moving on — time, budget, bucket list, what have you. 

But there’s definitely something to be said for staying in one place longer than what’s comfortable. 

You really get to know it. 

And in San Juan Del Sur, we’ve gotten to know, among the restaurants and bars,  some of the animals. 

That bird up there, that’s Beach Bird. He (she?) trolls the same spot every day. 

Seriously, everyday when we walk the beach, Beach Bird is there without fail. Always on his own, always walking towards and away from the water. Lonely little buddy. 

It’s pretty nice to get familiar with things, but I must say, after 2 weeks in San Juan Del Sur, we’re looking forward to going to Granada on Saturday. Small towns do get smaller the longer you’ve been there. 

— Cynthia 

A Weekend at the Beaches

When you live in San Juan Del Sur, life’s a beach. Or, life’s next to a gaggle (plural, ed?) of beaches. 

After a week of Spanish language classes, there seemed to be only one way we were going to spend the weekend… checking out a couple beaches North and South of San Juan Del Sur and sampling the delights of the SJDS nightlife. Ok, two things. And, ok, we’ve been carrying out the second thing many times already.

Anyhow, our first stop was North of SJDS, a beach called Maderas. And what a beauty she turned out to be (yes, beach being la playa means “she beach”, correcto?). Great for walking, swimming, drinking cervezas, sunbathing and, apparently, surfing. 

  

On Sunday, and with a couple of mean hangovers, we went South of SJDS to the “private” beach of Hermosa. This is a long, wide bright sandy beach. I think the sunbathing would have been fantastic here was it not for:

  1. The aforementioned hangovers, 
  2. The burns on my feet from the previous day of beach time (kids, remember to apply sunscreen to the tops of your feet),
  3. The Nicaraguan wind pleasuring itself on this marvellous beach.

Anyhow, the one bar/restaurant/hostel here had many hammocks to rest up in and yours truly found himself swinging away the day in one. 

  

  

So, one weekend, two beaches, a great night out with a couple of Saskatooners (peoples of Saskatoon, ed?) made for a brilliant fin de semana.

 — Matt