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2017 MARCH, NICARAGUA, SAN JUAN DEL SUR

TO THE PACIFIC COAST WE TRAVEL

sunny 34 °C

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DAY 53 THURSDAY 30TH MARCH

After our pancake breakfast (swear to god I will never eat pancakes again AFTER this trip, hey free breakfast is a free breakfast) we packed a small bag to take away with us and stored our big bags for when we come back.

Due to having a bit of time on our hands we are travelling backwards to San Juan Del Sur for 4 nights. Usually we would not go backwards, but we seem to have too many days left in Nicaragua to continue forward at this stage. Have heard mixed reviews about San Juan but I have booked a hostel will a pool so if the beach is complete shit we at least have somewhere to swim.

San Juan del Sur is a municipality and coastal town on the Pacific Ocean, in the Rivas department in southwest Nicaragua. It is located 140 kilometres (87 mi) south of Managua. San Juan del Sur is popular among surfers and is a vacation spot for many Nicaraguan families and foreign tourists.

Its population is approximately 15,553, consisting largely of families engaged in fishing or the tourism industry and foreigners from the United States, Canada and Europe. While the local economy was, for many years, based on fishing and shipping, it has shifted towards tourism in the last 20 years. In October 2002, to mark the city's 150th anniversary, it was formally designated the "Port of San Juan del Sur" and a "Tourism City of Nicaragua."[3]

San Juan del Sur, set beside a crescent-shaped bay, was a popular resting place for gold prospectors headed to California in the 1850s. Correspondingly, San Juan del Sur served as a hub for Cornelius Vanderbilt Lines.

Bus stop was a couple of blocks away and we had to walk thought the market street to find the correct bus station. Next bus to Rivas was at 11.30 and when we got there around 11.15 and the bus was almost already full. Still room for us as we took seats near the back. Chicken bus C$31 = A$1.37 and it took 2 1/2 hours to travel approximately 70km. The bus was full for most of the journey with local passengers coming and going, mostly gringos were on for the entire ride.

Just before arriving at the bus station in Rivas, taxi touts had boarded the bus and were trying to con tourists into taking a taxi instead of buses for the next journey. They tell lies like the next bus is hours away and try to con you into taking their taxi which is like 500 times the price of the bus. Must admit the prices they quote are cheap for a taxi compared to at home, but the chicken buses are soooooo cheap that the taxi fare is just ridiculous and they would have to catch a real green gringo to con them into a taxi ride.

Arriving at Rivas bus station we were asked where we were going next and were advised the next bus to San Juan Del Sur was due to depart in about 40 minutes. Just enough time for us to save a seat with our backpacks and then disembark again to sit in a café and have a beer.

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Bus conductors are very thoughtful here, he'd seen us sitting in the bar so gave a whistle when it was time to get back on the bus.
It took another hour to travel the 30km from Rivas to San Juan Del Sur.

On arrival we followed a little mud map I had taken a photo of on my camera to find the hostel. It was nothing flash but did have a tiny little pool which made up for the non descript room. Unfortunately, this place is like the most expensive place we have stayed at US$50 a night but it was the best I could find in this location that had a pool, cooking facilities and breakfast is included.
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We dropped our bags in our room, and went straight for a dip in the pool. It was tiny, but it was clean and it was nice and refreshing after our double chicken bus day.

Feeling a little cooler we walked the couple of blocks back into the centre to find something to eat. We soon realized there was not much to town and what little there was is expensive and not very interesting. We found a hole in the wall to have something to eat and then went in search of a supermarket of some kind to buy supplies for dinner. Again not much around and not much to chose from.

Best part of the day came when the sun started to go down. We found a waterfront bar that sold beer at a price we were happy to pay and watched the amazing sunset.

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As good as the sunset and the hostel pool was we made an unanimous decision to stay here only 2 nights instead of 4.
Back at the hostel Dolly cooked us poached eggs on bread for dinner which we washed down with a few rums and cokes.

DAY 54 FRIDAY 31ST MARCH

Breakfast was a choice of eggs, gallo pinto, bread and fruit or pancakes. No prizes for guessing which option we took, eggs and bread no gallo pinto, not quite up with rice and beans for breaky.

We took a taxi C$200 A$8.84 to get a closer view of Jesus today. Well at least to the statue of Jesus that overlooks San Juan Del Sur. Entry fee was US$2 for foreigners and US$1 for locals, which apparently pays for the upkeep of the statue.

The Christ of the Mercy is a colossal statue of Jesus Christ in the city of San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua, to a height of 134 m .The statue is located highly above the northernmost seawall in the bay of San Juan.

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Fabulous views over San Juan bay and the town and also a little of the cliffy coastline.

Although we had taken a taxi up, we decided to walk the 3km back down into the town. The road was steep and lined with very expensive looking houses which all had magnificent views of the San Juan Bay.
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With the tide out we walked along the great expanse of beach which at high tide is lapping at the bars and buildings that line the beach.
It was hot work and we needed a vital refreshment break at an aptly named beach side bar.

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Lunch was back at yesterdays hole in the wall, then we returned to the hostel for a swim in the pool. Well a dip in the pool anyway, not really big enough for a swim, but sure did cool us down again. After semi drying in the sun we all 3 had a laze in a hammock for an hour or so waiting for the time to go out for our sunset beer.

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Dinner last night was so good we had a repeat performance and enjoyed poached eggs on bread with rum and coke chasers. A quick dip in the pool before bed and we are still happy with our decision to just stay 2 nights. There are shuttles that you can catch to so called nicer beaches, but they still are relatively surf beaches, good for surfing not so much for swimming in the ocean.

The white-throated magpie-jay (Calocitta formosa) is a large Central American species of magpie-jay.


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DAY 55 SATURDAY 1ST APRIL

Enjoyed an egg breakfast before we headed out to the road to try and find a bus to take us away from San Juan Del Sur. Yesterday we could not find out what time the buses go or where exactly they depart from, so we just walked towards the main street. It was not long before we heard some guy yelling out Rivas, Rivas, Rivas and around the corner was a big yellow bus. All buses here do have the destinations written on them, but you will always hear the bus conductor yelling out the destination before you get a chance to read anything on the buses.

So basically we are just retracing our steps to get here a few days ago. The bus was only half full so we were lucky enough to all get seats and only had to wait about 15 minutes before it took off.

Arriving in Rivas less than hour later the next bus to Granada was about to leave. First thought was great timing, but after I climbed in the bus and saw it was already full what looked like capacity and that we would have to stand for the next leg of the journey we decided to wait for the next bus were we would be assured to get a seat. Rivas to Granada can take anywhere between 90 minutes to 3 hours depending on the amount of stops so this is not a ride we want to stand up in a full bus for.

So we went and sat in the same café and ordered a nice cold beer. It was only 11am but hey, it was hot (good enough excuse I reckon,) Within 2 minutes the next bus to Granada pulled up so I took our small backpacks and put them inside on seats for us. Buses go every hour so we still had a good 40 minutes to wait. Best to wait with a cold beer than in a stuffy bus. Good thing we learnt from locals is that if you put your bag on a seat it means you have saved it and when we boarded the bus it was full bus our seats were still waiting for us.

We are professional chicken bus travellers now and just tend to sit back and enjoy the scenery. Dolly always manages to have a snooze (some people can sleep in any conditions). Sometimes we get to sit with a local that speaks a little English when we can have a little conversation, or a chat with another traveller from a different part of the world. Or sometimes just a smile and a shared seat is what passes the time.

Back in now very familiar Granada we made our way back to Oasis Hostel, which is turning into our home away from home. Some familiar faces still there, plenty of new faces and a welcome back from Maria the owner.

As we returned back a few days earlier we could not get a room with ensuite bathroom. But the room we did get was a little bigger and just as clean with the toilet and shower just a few steps down the hall.

DAY 56 SUNDAY 2ND APRIL

Finally we managed to get up early enough for a visit to the butterfly reserve just 3 km outside of Granada. After our pancake breakfast of course.

Not sure exactly where it was we took a taxi for just C$200 = A$8.86. The taxi driver did not speak any English so he was not able to advise us that before taking us to our destination he had to drive across town and pick up some young girl on the side of the road that seemed to be waiting for him. Not sure who she was and they did not even greet each other, but she was obviously waiting for him so it might have been his daughter and they had a pre arranged meeting agreement. So we got a bit of a tour of the town and then he turned up a dirt road just on the city limits and passed shack homes for 3 km to the entrance of the Butterfly Reserve.

We were dropped at the reserve all wondering how we were going to get back into town as this was not a road where taxis are driving up and down. However we did see a couple of tuk tuks which we hoped would be some kind of transport for us later.

A little old man greeted us swiftly giving us very useful information all in Spanish. He soon got the gist we had no idea what was being said but we all smiled and said 'Si' when we recognized the word mariposa - Spanish for butterfly. He indicated for us to follow him as we walked to the back of the property. He pointed to a path that I guess was a walk around and then took us into the butterfly enclose. Again he prattled on for about 5 minutes and all I understood was that he grows the plants in the enclosure as they attract butterflys and then named the fruit that he feeds them. With that he left us to enjoy. There was a lot of butterflys fluttering around the enclosure including the big blue ones we had seen when in the jungle. These beautiful bugs were magnificent and in abundance for us to admire, but impossible to photograph. A video I took did a little justice but they were awesome.

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Before leaving we did a small lap around the surrounding bush and spotted a beautiful mot mot in a tree. We are getting good at seeing wild life everywhere now.

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Our only option was to start walking down the dirt road back towards Granada and hope we catch a lift. We walked for about 15 minutes which was not very far as I am travelling with EXTREMELY SLOW WALKERS. A tuk tuk passed us but it was full of passengers and again on its return. A second one came along that was also full, but on its return journey stopped to give us a lift. We had no idea how much it was and presumed he would only take us to the end of the dirt road, but that was good enough.

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Sure enough he dropped us at the main road and the fare was only C$30 (10 each) = A$1.33. We were more than happy with that and decided to walk the short distance back into town. Straight into Marcelos bar for a cold beer.

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Back out again in the afternoon, walk through central park to our favourite cocktail spot to finish off the day.

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DAY 57 MONDAY 3RD APRIL

Still in Granada as I did not hear back from Paradiso on the lake about our request for an extra night. They just did not answer my emails so we could not take the chance of just showing up there without knowing we had a bed for the night.

We are becoming part of the furniture here at Oasis Hostel Granada. The owner, Maria (originally from Puerto Rico) has sat chatting with us several times and has told us of her plans for the hostel. I think perhaps that we are closer to her age and honestly the young backpackers really could not give a shit what she is doing with the hostel. But she is nice and we enjoy having a chat with her.

It's hot today, correction it's hot everyday, but today is another lazy day for us. We spent the time hanging out in the hostel making use of the small but efficient pool.

We did head out late in the afternoon to catch the post office before it closed at 4.30pm. Stopped off for a beer in a different bar just for a change of scenery and walked back to the hostel via a roundabout route which took us through the poorer side of town. Now Granada is a pretty colonial town with lots of restored lovely buildings, but just 3 blocks off the main streets are the real people of Nicaragua living in much much less exuberant dwellings. They are in shacks of what looks like trash wood and rusted iron roofing. Still happy to say hello to us as we walk past, and the cheeky youths asking for one dollar. Such a contrast, we just happened on these streets by taking a wrong turn but I can guess most visitors would not dream that state of housing just blocks away from the beautiful grand Granada. No photos as I thought it would be an invasion of privacy, but just makes you think.

Filler:
On a lighter note I would like to give you an update on travelling with my short hair. As most of you would know I usually have long hair but after a few cuts at the beginning of the year. I left the country with the shortest hair cut I have had since I was 12.
I thought as we were travelling to hot countries and a long trip, it would be easier to look after and manage if I had short hair, compared to many previous trips with assorted lengths of long hair.
And my verdict:
Long hair is much easier to manage. With long hair if it's hot you just need to tie it up and its done. Or for any occasion, just tie it up and its done. Short hair is much more of a pain. The fact that its short means it really needs to be maintained and styled, something I am not prepared to do while travelling. So now that it has grown out a little and really should be getting some attention, its not. Which leaves me with a style that is crossed between Eddie Munster, Ray Martin and Scary Mary, as I'm sure many of you would have noticed from any photos posted. At what stage of growth will it sit down flat??? I'm currently supporting hair 5 -6 cm in length that still has the ability to stand on end with no assistance from me and combing it gives me a helmet head look.
In future please remind me to keep long hair when I travel and Scary Mary may not appear in so many photos. Just sayin'...

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Posted by Cindy Bruin 18:58 Archived in Nicaragua Tagged san del sur juan rivas Comments (4)

2017 MARCH NICARAGUA, DEEPER IN

CHICKEN BUS FROM SAN CARLOS TO GRANADA

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DAY 44 TUESDAY 21ST MARCH

We had a relaxing morning as today is a travel day, but our bus does not depart until 3pm. We hung around at the hotel using the internet until checkout time which was 11am. We were able to leave our bags while we had a last little stroll around town and then back to our usual restaurant for a beer (at 11.30am, is that too early when on holidays?) and something to eat.

We walked via the huge big yellow church on the hill.

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Yesterday while sitting in the restaurant we saw another patron eating chicken wings and chips so this is what we decided to have for our lunch. Lucky when it came to order there were some young Americans there to help us ask for chicken wings. It took 30 minutes for our food to come out but this gave us enough time to finish our beer. Nice every so often to have a meal that does not include rice and beans. Not a bad deal for C$140 = A$6.20 each.

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We lingered over lunch until about 1pm when we decided it was time to go collect our luggage. It seemed we had walked this path many times before so it was only just after 1.15pm when we were back in our lunch seats and ordering our last C$19 = A$0.87 Victoria Frost beer, our farewell to San Carlos.

Just after 2pm we dragged our luggage the short distance to the bus station. It seemed that a lot of the shop owners were saying adios to us, perhaps we had stayed in this little stop over town longer than others, or just the fact we had luggage and were leaving they bid us farewell.

We were at the bus station by 2.10pm, lucky there were benches that we were able to sit at and wait for the bus. The station was a hive of activity, surrounded by shops and swarming with walking vendors selling everything from food, drinks, fake jewellery and belts to a lady (who was in great need of her own product) selling bras!

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I had a walk around taking a few photos of some colourful chicken buses, not realizing that just before 3pm we were instructed to board one of these un-coach like machines.

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We sort of knew it was going to be a long ride when the first 25 km took about 1 1/2 hours to transverse. This was a long distance bus for us, but it was the normal getting home bus for the locals, so we stopped at just about every 2nd tree to pick up or drop off passengers. At least the seats were comfortable and there was plenty of leg room, even for me. It was not air-conditioned, but there was a fair breeze coming in through the windows so although the travel was slow, it was not uncomfortable. Throughout the journey we all had 2 seats to ourselves intermittently shared with oncoming and offgoing passengers.

At one stop, the bus conductor (guy collecting the money and loading the luggage), there were great huge heavy tubs loaded onto the roof of the bus. This was done by 2 other men lifting the tubs onto the conductors head. With this load he scaled the bus loading ladder and passed the big tub to men waiting on the roof, this was done with the great weight balancing on his head. A man sitting next to Lyn advised us it was queso (cheese). I was impressed, especially when he repeated this action about 15 times lifting the tubs up onto the roof.

The trip continued and continued and continued. We witnessed a beautiful sunset, I took photos through the dirty bus windows. Darkness fell as the bus continued, stopping and starting as it picked up and dropped passengers. The end of the line finally came just before 10pm, after we had driven through a very quiet and deserted looking Granada.

Not having any idea where the hell we were, the bus stopped in a back street with no visible street signs. The conductor pointed us in the direction of the central plaza so we started to walk in that direction. I had pre booked our hostel accommodation, thank god, and had a map that I could follow from the central park. There was a security guard standing on the corner so I asked him for directions to Calle Estrada, he did not know but did not hesitate to flag down a passing car to get directions. Luckily for us the driver spoke English and shouted out the directions to us. Another plus we were not far from the hostel and only had to drag our luggage for about 10 minutes.

We checked in and were shown to our room. First up was a coffee and tea, even though we had not eaten since the early lunch none of us seemed to mention needing any food. It's surprising how exhausting sitting in a bus for 7 hours can be. After 3 tepid showers we went to bed, it was midnight by now and although we had all 'napped' in the bus we still seemed to feel buggered.

Catching up on internet, I posted photos until about 1am and then crashed.

Posted by Cindy Bruin 10:39 Archived in Nicaragua Tagged bus san granada chicken carlos Comments (0)

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