AdventureCentral AmericaNicaragua

Thursday, November 27, 2008 – Ometepe to San Juan del Sur

Thanksgiving Day in Nicaragua

A very clear Concepcion
I was covered in bug bites this morning. The island is full of all sorts of bugs (see yesterday’s entry re: gnat swarms), and our room attracted quite a few of them. Apparently one or two got into the covers with me last night and ate away at my legs. On the back of my right thigh I have an area four inches in diameter that has about twelve of the same bites. On my left knee I have three of a different kind, larger and all in a straight line. My ankles and calves were covered in them. It’s good stuff!

In addition to the bug bites we were each walking funny; our quadriceps were horribly sore from our mountain climb yesterday and whenever one of rose from a sitting position it was inevitably accompanied by a groan and possibly an “oof”. We were ready to get off the Isla de Ometepe and get to the beach where we could sit for a few days and rest our weary bodies.

Pretty birds at breakfast… though they’re Nicaragua’s version of pigeons

We dined on the hotel restaurant’s “famous pancakes” (which are really crepes with fresh fruit and honey) and café (because this island has absolutely no Diet Coke. Not even one) before catching our 8AM ride to the ferry. On the way there, we had a funny conversation.

Shannon: “Did I dream last night that we had a phone call? Or did we really have one?”
Me: “No, you weren’t dreaming. We had a phone call. You and I had an entire conversation about it.”
Mindy: “There was a phone call? Last night?”
Shannon: “Yeah, you didn’t move.”
Me: “Some guy from the hotel knocked on our door a few times before I stumbled up to answer it. He said ‘telelphono’, and I said, ‘OK. Uno momento por favor.’ I put on my shoes and went to the front desk, where the clerk said, ‘Cinqo minutos’. So I waited cinqo minutos for the phone to ring, and it was Karina from the San Jorge tourist office calling to confirm today’s car and driver from the ferry to San Juan del Sur. She basically reiterated everything I’d said on her voice mail earlier, but apparently wanted to repeat it all.”
Shannon: “And you and I talked about it?”
Me: “When I got back in the room you asked if everything was okay. The funny thing is that it never occurred to me that the call might be from one of our families; I’d automatically assumed it was Karina. But you asked if everything was okay and I mumbled something about it being a silly phone call, and you said, ‘Silly?’ so I went into a bit more about Karina and rides to San Juan del Sur. And then we went right back to sleep.”
Mindy: “How did I miss all this? I usually wake up for conversations.”
Me: “You were sound asleep.”
Mindy: “Who calls in the middle of the night, anyway?”
Me: “That’s the funny thing. It was 9:30.”

Ferry to San Jorge
This ferry ride was much less crowded than the one to the island on Tuesday, so we were able to get seats on the first floor and didn’t have to lug our luggage up one flight and one ladder. Some funny business, however, was that the entertainment on the ferry ride comes from the blaring TVs that start with a safety briefing, continue into a few well-placed ads for Nicaraguan hotel, and then into the ultimate show: Karaoke. The video they played seemed to be perpetually stuck in the 70s, starting with a video of ABBA’s “Chiquitita” in which ABBA sings in front of a large, fake snowman. Then was the Bee Gees, then some other bands from the 60s or 70s, and then back to ABBA – but this time was “Dancing Queen”, which they sang while dressed in full colonial dresses. With hoop skirts. I’ve never seen anything like it but we had a good time laughing and deciding Shannon should name her future child “Chiquitita”.

Walkway to the ferry

Shannon and me on the ferry
(pic by Mindy)

Singalong time


Drive to San Juan del Sur
Our drive to San Juan del Sur was a nice little man in a little taxi that drove us quickly to San Juan del Sur – the place that would complete our vacation with a few days on the beach. The driver was nice and the drive interesting, but when we got to San Juan del Sur the drive got very interesting because the road became a dirt road and eventually a bumpy, rocky, steep dirt road that our little taxi/car wasn’t made for. A 4WD truck heading in the opposite direction stopped the driver and the two had a conversation hanging out of their driver-side windows. We couldn’t catch the dialogue, but we definitely understood the gist. From his higher perch, the truck driver would look at the bottom of the car, shake his head, look at the wheels, scrunch his face with a doubtful look, and say something more. And our driver would respond with questions and his own glances at the bottom of the car.

Minor roadblocks
He kept going, though. And the further he continued the more obvious it became that (1) these roads are passable by only 4WD, and (2) he didn’t know where he was going. Eventually the roads and hills became so cumbersome that he pulled over at the top of a particularly steep incline and asked directions from a bunch of construction workers. They described how to get to the Buena Vista Surf Club (down, around, and then up, apparently) and then looked our car and shook their heads. Our driver walked down the hill, looked up the hill at our, down the hill, and stood at the deep crevasses for a very long time.

Long story, short: He pulled the car over and told us to stay put so he could walk the rest of the way to the BVSC. We did exactly that, enviously watching as the occasional truck full of surfers would pass us by. But it wasn’t long – not even 10 minutes – before our driver showed up again and just a few more minutes when Mark – the owner of the BVSC – arrived in his truck. Mindy had to sit in back with the luggage while Mark navigated the twisty, bumpy roads just a short distance to the hotel. Our driver had almost made it, but there was no way the car could have navigated this last kilometer.

Left in our little taxi

Mark’s saving truck

Mindy in the 4WD limo

Buena Vista Surf Club
The Buena Vista Surf Club (henceforth referred to as the BVSC) was built by a wonderful young Dutch couple named Mark and Marielle who met while traveling a few years ago and decided to start their own eco-friendly bed and breakfast. It’s a gorgeous spot high on a hill overlooking the ocean, with no electricity during the day and fabulous (not warm) outdoor showers. The main room (“the living room” Marielle told us) was a large tikki hut with a dining table, a bar, couches, and a long, extended wooden patio elevated above the treeline for the ultimate view. “There is only one rule,” said Mark. “No shoes in the living room.” This is to protect the beautiful wood planks from being ruined and needing replacement. “Keep the trees in the forest.” Is their motto.

They weren’t expecting us this early – we had originally said we’d arrive closer to 5:00 – and they apologized that our room wasn’t made up. We laughed, asked for some beach towels, and said they wouldn’t see us until it was 5:00. It would be as if we’d never arrived.

Playa Maderas
The beach was just a bit down the steep, bumpy road and around the bend. We couldn’t miss it for a few reasons: Well, the waves, of course, but also because of the tiny hostel filled with surfers, their boards, and the trucks that brought them there. There is one wave that travels along the coastline of Central America and apparently makes a very decent surfing stop here in Playa Maderas. So it becomes a Mecca for surfboard-carrying travelers.


Surfer… and an artistically captured bug

We had lunch at the hostel and watched the surfers catch wave after wave, and then we went exploring along the beach. We walked about 20 minutes north over some rocks and took pictures of the tide pools and the cliffs that ran along the coast, until we finally settled on a sandy spot on the northernmost end (Playa Mathilda). And we sat right there for another hour until the tide began to move in and we needed to head back to the main beach. We stopped by the smoothie hut at the hostel and spent the next hour or two watching surfers as the sun got lower in the sky. I waded out into the water, which was cold but crystal clear and refreshing (that sounds like an iced tea commercial) and I was surprised at how shallow the shoreline was for such a distance. I swear I walked for about 200 feet and the water still came to only my waist. By this time, though, I was close enough to the surfers to worry about getting in the way of their waves, so I backed up and watched them from a distance. Just enjoying the sun and the waves and being in the ocean again. It’s been a while since I’ve done that.

Shannon and Mindy on the rocks

Playa Maderas

Mindy and Shannon the sunbathers

Shannon and Heidi on the rocks
(pic by Mindy)

Smoothie goodness

We arrived back the BVSC in time for sunset (after an accidental detour up a very steep hill that had our sore muscles groaning in pain) and indulged in some very happy photos before showering and dinner. There are two other couples staying at the BVSC – Sam and Phil from Atlanta, and Mike and Christine from Madison, WI – so we hung out while Mindy and Shannon took their turns in our shower. Which was outdoors, by the way. Did I mention that? I love taking showers outside – there’s something so liberating about it.

Sunset from the beach

Shannon on the BVSC patio

Mindy, Shannon, and Heidi

Thanksgiving Dinner
Marielle prepared an amazing Thanksgiving feast with turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing, green beans, gravy, stuffed peppers, and squash patties. We did our part to observe tradition by drinking much red wine and eating entirely too much food, and I was particularly “thankful” for my waistless sundress. Especially since dessert was a delicious raisin-rum cake that was as fluffy as a cloud.

Thanksgiving spread (darn camera)

Phil carves the turkey

No one goes hungry…

Instead of watching post-dinner football, the girls and I pulled some cushions onto the long wooden patio to look at the stars and giggle about Shannon’s recently inspired child “Chiquitita”.

Dancing and Bug Alerts
But since the song had been stuck in our heads all day, when we got back to the room I fired up the laptop to play “Buttercup” – an equally catchy but somewhat less annoying song. This prompted much fun dancing while we brushed our teeth and prepared for bed. At least, until the bugs appeared.

Blurry dancers

Me and Mindy
(pic by Shannon)


Bug Hunt

Since the BVSC is eco-friendly, there are a lot of open slots in the doors where critters can crawl through – and we definitely had critters. Roaches, spiders, and a dead scorpion; all of which sent Mindy and Shannon on a Bug Hunt with their shoes. There was a lot of smacking of flipflops and girlie squeals as they tried to extricate all the multiple-legged creatures scurrying around our rooms. And in our suitcases. We had innocently gone upstairs for dinner, leaving the suitcases wide open for all these critters to make themselves comfortable in our clothes. Ew. Ew. Ew. Those suitcases would stay zipped closed for the rest of our visit.