San Juan del Sur, NicaraguaMarch 20, 2017 in Nicaragua
San Juan del Sur - or just 'del Sur' because every second place around here is called San-something and at least half of those are San Juans - is a beach town on the Pacific Coast of Nicaragua. It's our last stop in Nicaragua and we're here to party.
I feel quite confident now that we have seen tourism in Nicaragua at all stages of development. Popoyo in it's very early days - still sleepy and hustle free - to Granada in it's maturity, catching unwitting tourists at every turn. Del Sur has strayed from the scale. It has a lot of tourists, and a lot of locals, but it has a very heavy influence - or should I say affluence - from American expats and tourists alike. In fact, the entire northern half of the beach is littered with Miami-style mansions; infinity pools and four car garages, as obvious as they are obnoxious. To be fair, many of these are owned by rich Nicaraguans, but it doesn't take a petrol head to recognise a six-wheeled Dodge Ram and there's no doubt who's behind that wheel. If I were to make a prediction, it's only a matter of time before Del Sur is another South Beach, Cancún or Gold Coast; high rises lining the beachfront, loungers for rent on the beach, overpriced clubs and valets for the hummers and soft tops. I could be wrong but it's half way there already; beach clubs with horrendously loud music, surf shops and western restaurants, fishing and surfing tours, and prices and payment regularly in USD. It's very different to the rest of Nicaragua and a bit of a shock for us!
After we had settled in to our prime location accommodation, Javiers Hostel (another great get from Cat!) we headed down to the beach to see what all the noise was about. We stumbled across a very haphazardly organised rugby sevens tournament, much to our surprise! There were four mens teams from the surrounding regions and two womens teams. Some Canadians, Americans, an Aussie and a Brit are working on developing the sport here in Nicaragua to get a team in the Centro-American Games and then hopefully the Olympics - good on them! The lads are in their very early days - plenty of big hits and not a lot of smarts or ball skills - and some of the teams had only been together for a few weeks. They were all surprisingly big boys considering that until that moment I don't think I'd met a Nicaraguan taller than me! We dwindled away much of the afternoon watching Nicas brutally smash each other into the sand and on occasion, trot over to the sideline to wash the beach out of their eyes and mouth. The girls were no less intense, absolutely tearing each other apart - one girl opting to don a bikini which was probably one of her poorer life decisions...I hope. Great to see such passion for sport and I hope they can qualify for the games!
The rest of that day disappeared as we explored the town and it's eateries and bottle shops. As you do when on the pacific coast here, we watched another cracking sunset on the beach with our mate Toña. A live band brought in the evening and we drank rum and dined in its deafening sound checks (honestly I think it was well over an hour of squealing at full volume). The local Saturday markets served up a mountain of food to satisfy the afternoons hunger and it was delish! As we were finishing up, the band stopped and the big screens on the beach stage turned on. Hundreds and hundreds of people gathered on the beach to watch a local Nicaraguan contend the World Featherweight Boxing Title - another sporting event riddled with passion. The fight went 12 rounds and our mate lost by two points, a gutting finish to the night for us, but it didn't stop the rest of them!
Sundays in Del Sur are reknowned for the Sunday Funday Pool Crawl and people come from all around to party. I'm not exaggerating when I say almost everyone we've met in Nica in the last week was there. Lots of guys from Popoyo shuttle down and back just for the day! At 30USD pp we'd blown our daily budget before the day began - might just write this one off. The day kicked off at Pachamama hostel in the baking sun with beers and rums, loud music, swimming, bar games and a bucket load of glitter. I hate glitter. It's the permanent marker of sparkles, and sparkles are exclusively a temporary affair. Next stop was a beach hostel, where things got lively and the pool came to life in all forms of bombs. We headed up the hill in the back of many utes to watch the sun go down at the Naked Tiger Hostel - this place has an epic location overlooking all of Del Sur and some. The night deteriorated from there but it was definitely a day well spent!
The following day was spent largely in recovery, and another day-long power cut made it all the worse. We did, however, make it up the headland at the northern end of the beach. Said headland hosts a 25m statue of Jesus not unlike Christ the Redeemer in Rio. In fact, Giant-Christ-on-a-headland is very common in spanish speaking countries - at least 17 other Jesuses tower prominently all through the Americas and Europe, we discovered. Just another emphatic reminder of how important religion is in these parts.
Remember that offshore breeze I mentioned in my last blog? It's in Del Sur too. It's in every town and field between Lake Nicargua and the Pacific, and it howls! Literally blinding winds which whip up all kinds of sand and dirt leaving you permanently rubbing your eyes like the big baby I might sound. It's been up around 30kts since we hit the coast, blowing us around like shopping trolleys in a carpark. It might be good for surfing, and if you gave me a windsurfer I'd be giggling mad, but when I'm trying to sit on the beach or eat off a paper plate it's quite the nuisance!
This brings up the end of Nicaragua for us. Another country scored off the list with some unforgettable experiences added to it. The sunsets, surfing and the cheap food undoubtedly the highlights and the hours and hours of chicken buses definitely hosting the lows. We cross the border at Peñas Blancas today and head south to the capital, San José. Costa Rica will be brief, so we'll be doing our best to make the most of it!Read more