Río Nagualapa

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    • Day 151

      Popoyo, Nicaragua

      March 17, 2017 in Nicaragua ⋅ ⛅ 30 °C

      The end of the road.

      Well, at least it seems that way; Popoyo is hard to get to. It took us literally the entire day from Ometepe - bus, boat, taxi, walk, bus, bus, walk. We had to go through Rivas again, a hectic transport hub where you are hustled and bullsh*tted by every second person. Craving avocado, Cat and I had a throughly enjoyable avo, chip and cheese sandwich in a throughly unenjoyable location: a stinky nook on the roadside by the bus station - litterally the only spot we could find to put our bags down. Gross. But it made for an easy and timely transition on to the bus. The roads steadily degraded as our journey progressed, eventually leaving us wandering 2km down a gravel road with all our stuff - chasing the last of the daylight. Our accommodation was all but at the literal end of the road. We were absolutely buggered when we arrived, but it was all worth it. There's something magical about watching the sun go down with a cold beer - it instantly makes you forget the days hardships, stopping time for that wee moment. Bliss.

      Popoyo Beach Hostel sits right on Guasacate Beach, a massive stretch of fine brown sand which looks out to...well...New Zealand I suppose. It's a surfers paradise and you get that feeling from the moment you see it. Theres only one road and a dozen or so buildings. Signs are made from rickety old surf boards, transport is primarily dirt bikes which are all fitted with surf racks, nobody is wearing a shirt and shoes (or even jandals) will get you awkward looks. Fresh water is a luxury (we only got it at 4pm for a rinse and that ran out way too quickly) and food is sold off the back of a truck - actually there's a shop, and a few restaurants if you want to spend a fortune. Alternatively, you can buy fish from the fisherman on the beach, if youre quick enough. Luckily we heard this was the case and did a supermarket shop on the way - not enjoyable carrying groceries plus all our baggage - but well worth it!

      Everybody here surfs. They eat surfing, sleep surfing, talk surfing and then drink beers - before and after surfing. There's numerous breaks, reef breaks, point breaks and beach breaks to suit everyone - beginner through pro, goofy to natural and just outright useless - like myself and Cat. The best part? You can surf all day, everyday. Lake Nicaragua helps form offshore breezes as many as 360 days a year making for clean waves all day long on any tide. If you want a surf holiday - this is it. Hostels and lodges tuck themselves away in the hills and headlands and offer surf camps for those who want to spend a little more. Get in quick - construction here is booming and a huge plot of land just got sold to a developer for units. Dreadded units.

      Cat and I got with the program and rented boards for the time we were there. We surfed two breaks, both around 15 minutes walk from our hostel. It's fair to say not a lot of time was spent on the board, but we were stoked to come away with only bruises and soggy lungs. A solid effort conisdering the swell was under a metre. It took many sessions, the water was surprisingly fresh and warm ups on the beach were frequent. Time was easily spent watching others make it look easy and holaring at locals, surfers, dogs and the odd pig which tried to eat my surfboard. The rest of the day we swung in hammocks, read books and sank Toñas - such an easy spot to chill out. I even went down 3-0 to Cat in a ping pong battle which I'm sure I will be reminded of regularly. Unluckily for us there was no power for almost the entire time we were there. No power means no fans and when nature turns off her 25 knot turbo fan at night it warms up super fast! That was not a good night's sleep. Lucky for a gas stove or we would have gone hungry that day too! You should have seen the mess in the kitchen after everybody cooks in the dark...I felt sorry for the cleaner!

      On the first night we were there, our hostel lit a huge bonfire on the beach in front of the terrace. The whole hostel gathered round and drank beers and rum, while strangers wandered out of the darkness to join. Another unreal evening! For lot's of people, this is their end of the road. They've drifted in and never left, and it doesn't appear that they're leaving anytime soon. One such fairy lady (or gypsy, I never know but she danced and hula'd a lot) had a young kid who was a spitting image of Mowgli from the jungle book. The three year old was an absolute menace, kicking and thrown sand, demanding rides, pulling hair and stretching clothes while his mother hula'd away carelessly. Hilarious entertainment when you're not the subject. Eh Cat?

      Popoyo came and went just as fast as every other stop on this journey has. We spent the next morning retracing steps to Rivas (I am so over that place now) and then onward to San Juan del Sur for Sunday Funday Pool Crawl. Sounds dangerous.

      PS: sorry for no surfing pics. We have no waterproof camera and I wasn't about to leave my phone unattended on the beach. You'll just have to believe us. We did it. Promise.
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    • Day 72

      Playa Popoyo

      March 9, 2017 in Nicaragua ⋅ ⛅ 31 °C

      My first night in Popoyo I stayed in the weirdest hostel: the Melting Elephant. More people had recommended it to me so I wrote them an e-mail asking about a bed without really looking at pictures. When I got there I suddenly realized that they had literally built a melting elephant. The whole house looked like it was slowly melting. Also inside lots of furniture were built in the walls with melting shapes. Actually the hostel was quite nice with a big kitchen and some hammocks in the back towards the beach. But when I got there I didn't really meet anybody and it felt the Popoyo Beach Hostel next door was much more social. So I booked only one night as I thought I could easily change to the Popoyo Beach Hostel the next day. Turned out the whole "town" was pretty much fully booked and I ended up staying in a room above the super market. Sounds weirder than it was. There were a few rooms and it was actually quite useful to have the tienda just downstairs for late night chocolate cravings ;) And I mostly spend my days hanging out at Popoyo Beach Hostel as they didn't really mind.
      Guasacate (which is the actual town at Popoyo Beach) was not much more than a dirt road along the beach with a few hotels and restaurants. It had the vibe of a surfers home. Opening hours of the super market would vary depending on the tides.
      For me it was the first time surfing by myself after a week of lessons at the surf camp. Luckily Kajal was here and gave me a proper tour of the different surf spots. For me only one was of interest: beginners bay.
      I was super proud after my first session as I caught a really nice wave and people actually cheered me for it when I paddled back out afterwards. So it must have even looked good 😏
      I was spending most of my time with Kajal and his friends. One of his friends made a super nice yoga session on the beach for us one morning. A perfect way to start the day!
      My last day here I was having breakfast at this little hat when a taxi stopped and Jens, a guy I had met in the surf camp, jumped out. It's always nice to see familiar faces. We spend the day hanging out at the Popoyo Beach Hostel talking about what had happened at the camp since I left. At night we went all together to the Magnific Rock Hotel which has a party every saturday night. On our way back we walked out on the magnific rock which goes pretty far into the ocean. It was amazing standing there in the moonlight while the waves were crashing against the rock everywhere around us. When we turned around to walk back we realized that the tide was coming in and we couldn't make our way back with dry feet 😬 Luckily the water hadn't risen to much. But this is why you should always be aware of the tide at the ocean, right?
      The next morning I wanted to catch the bus from Las Salinas back to Rivas. There were 2 options to get to the bus. Walk for about 25 minutes over the beach or go the other way around along the street which takes about an hour but here you have the chance to catch a ride with a car passing by. I decided to try to hitch hike but was actually walking for a while till the first car past by. It was a police truck and somehow they didn't wanna take me. The next car was a guy stopping every 100 meters to write down some numbers. He wasn't much faster than walking and was not really going to Las Salinas. I already thought I would have to walk the whole way when an air conditioned hotel shuttle pulled to the street in front of me. He stopped without me even giving a sign and even offered to take me all the way to Granada. This felt a little weird so I declined but was happy to have him take me to Las Salinas.
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    You might also know this place by the following names:

    Río Nagualapa, Rio Nagualapa

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