Nicaragua and Pacific Costa Rica

March 10th

Subject: Riders on the Chicken Bus
Current Location - San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua
Local Currency - Cordoba (C15 = US$1)
Language - Spanish
Temperature - 85ish
Song defining this leg of the trip - Absolutely Live album- The Doors

"You know the day destroys the night, night divides the day. Tried to run, tried to hide, break on through to the other side..." Gently rocking in a hammock on the edge of a courtyard at a hostel in Leon, Nicaragua as a mild breeze blows through. An awesome compilation of old Doors tunes pumps out of the speakers in the streetside bar in front of the hostel. "....We chased our pleasures here, dug our treasures there. But can you still recall, the time we cried. Break on through to the other side...." In my lap sits my book, closed, pushed aside in favor of a nice cold Toņa Cerveza. The 60's feel of The Doors seems to fit perfectly with the 60's feel of this country. Music from an era when America was in the midst of redefining itself, in a country currently in the midst of redefining itself after years of turmoil. And you can even feel it in the air. "...I found an island in your arms, country in your eyes. Arms that chain us, eyes that lie. Break on through to the other side, break on through, yeah...." Fireworks explode just behind the courtyard brick wall muraled with unusual skeletons in various poses. Why the fireworks, I wondered. Was it some Nicaraguan holiday? Nicaragua. What am I doing here? "...Made the scene. Week to week. Day to day. Hour to hour. The gate is straight. Deep and wide. Break on through to the other side...." I really never thought I'd be here. In Nicaragua. In a hammock. Watching fireworks. Jammin to the doors.

I was snapped from my inner monologue when a couple Dutch people and a couple Germans asked me if I wanted to go see a reggae band. Ya mon. This band was supposedly the biggest band in Nicaragua, most of their songs being salsa-dance'ish, but they were starting to do reggae songs. They had quite a good little turnout, but ended at 1am. We had met some locals at the bar who told us of a couple after-hours events going on. We roamed the streets of Leon in search of something, but everything was closed.

Focused on my trek southward, I left Leon the next day for Grenada. Grenada is a very forward city. Like in Guatemala, the city shows a lot of Spanish colonial influence. I found a really nice hostel and spent a couple days there. My first night, we went out to the grand opening of Grenadas first ever upscale night club. It was strange to see local curiosity seekers walking by, and not wanting to come in. Like I said, this place is still redefining itself.

The second day in Grenada, I headed out to the lake house owned by the Hostel, which was only 30 minutes from town, on lake Apoyopo. Quiet and serene lake surrounded by mountains.

Again, trying to move south, I found a couple Norweigans headed to the beach here at San Juan del Sur (on the Pacific), and decided to join. Its probably one of the poorer beaches I've come across, but it would go to reason as Nicargua is poorer than most of the countries in Central America. People are still very nice. Beach people generally are no matter where you go.

We found a hostel with a nice vibe, and checked in. The hostel has lights-out at 10pm, which was fine with us after a day of travelling. One of the crazy things about San Juan del Sur is the wind. First, it comes from the land not the ocean, and its rather fierce for most of the day, then picks up at night. Last night, the wind was howling through the windows and open half-doors of our hostel room. It would also bang the loose panels of corregated steel which make up the roof. Normally, this type of thing might annoy me, but as I've been in a very Doors mood this week, I had my headphones on, and the gusty winds and banging metal made the perfect background sounds to Riders on the Storm. I fell asleep no problem.

Nicaragua has a good feel to it. People are nice, friendly, and seem to like Americans and love Americana. You find lots of American flags on clothing, bags, posters, etc. Its a nice place, but I'm happy with my decision to spend more time in Guatemala, and less time here. There was just something about Guatemala.

Well, plans now are to head to Isla Ometepe, a small island in the middle of Lake Nicaragua, and then Costa Rica bound.

March 20th

Subject: Finally found the full moon party
Current Location - Playa del Coco, Costa Rica
Local Currency - Colone (387C = $1US)
Language - Spanish
Temperature - 85ish
Song defining this leg of the trip - Red Red Wine - UB40

So I spent the rest of my time in Nicaragua at a cool little beach town called Majagual. Majagual isnt really a town, you'd probably be hard pressed to find it on a map. Theres a hotel/resturant/bar there, and a surfing beach, and thats about it. But its a great place to spend time if you dont feel like putting on shoes or a shirt for 3 straight days. I was hanging with some really chill Canadian surfers who were headed there, which made me pass on going to Isla Opotepe and head to Majagual with them instead. One of them, Cyrus, had a flight out of San Jose the same hour my brothers flight came in, so that worked out well for travellig partner purposes.

My first night at Majagual, I rented a hammock rather than a room. Nice concept, bad hammock. I didnt sleep well, which was actually a good thing at 5am when a family of monkeys passed overhead through the trees I was tied to. That was one of the cooler things I've seen, I dont think they knew I was there. I tossed and tried unsuccessfully to get back to sleep, I got close but at 5:30am the howler monkeys started howling. Darn monkeys. You know its about time to leave a place when the indigineous animals you once thought were "cool", are now slowly slipping in to the category of "annoying". But that morning I did see all sorts of bats, birds, geckos, and other neat animals. That didnt deter me from getting a bed the next night.

Nights at Majagual are pretty cool. Bonfires just about every night, BBQs during the day, and these seemingly stray horses wandering all over the beach and hotel.

As hard as it was to leave, Cyrus and I had obligations at the airport in San Jose, which we decided to try to make in 1 days travel. Apart for getting swindled out of $1us at the border, the trip was smooth. Oddly enough at the Nicaragua - Costa Rica border, they only take US dollars regardless of where you are from. I really found that odd.

We found a cool little hostel in San Jose, despite the fact its in a seedy part of town. Its a new place, and the guys who own it are [[[there are howler monkeys in the distance howling right now. darned howlers]]] fixing it up to be a really awesome place. However, you have to dodge the pickpocketing transvestite hookers 2 blocks away if you want to get to the shopping area. Anywhere else, you get a cab.

Als flight came in no problem, and we headed out around San Jose before having my little christmas. I ordered some things from on-line, and a few people had sent me CDs and gifts, to be brought through Al. I cant thank you all enough. Once Al heads out this weekend, I am going to take the time to send personal letters. Time is tight now.

After christmas, we headed out to a bar area called El Pueblo. Its one of the more bizzare things I've ever seen. There were about 30 bars/nightclubs/pubs all in this sort of mall-of-bars. You could walk from place to place until you found what you wanted. Some where huge 300-person nightclubs. Others were tiny bars with 3 stools and no standing room. It seemed like all of San Jose was there. As we were getting ready to leave, we were talking to a couple locals asking them how they liked living here. After a few minutes, we said we had plans to leave, and as they were leaving too, they offered us a ride home as it was on their way. Thus begins one of the weirder drives I've ever had. The owner of the car was drinking, so her freind who had not been drinking planned to drive home. Her friend had a licence, but was not used to driving, especially not that particular car. Al and I were trying to correct the drivers numerous mistakes, but she only spoke spanish, and the friend was the only person who spoke english and spanish fluently and she didnt see anything wrong, because she had been drinking. Example. Al notices the headlights arent on. I egree. I tell the passenger to tell the driver to turn on the lights. She tells me they are on. No, they're not. The same thing happened with a one-way street, and a few other wrong turns. I cant fully explain how unusual this crockpot mess of translationless conversations and bad driving really was. I was about to jump out the window at full speed and take my chances with the pickpocketing transvestite hookers. It was that bad. I should learn to just take cabs.

The next morning we headed to Montezuma, as someone in San Juan del Sur had said there was a full moon party there. After a bus, then ferry, then bus ride, we arrived only to find there was no full moon party there. Only when the full moon falls on a weekend. Rats. Montezuma is a real cool little town though. Neat place to spend a couple of days. Most locals are hippies, and there are drum circles and street shows just about every night. I ran in to about 4 sets of friends I had met in various countries and places along the way now, and Al got to glimpse how the "gringo trail" works like that. Its crazy, but it works, you keep re-meeting the same folks.

The next day, we took a day trip to Tortuga island, about an hour away by boat. It was a gorgeous beach, albeit a bit touristy. The group that takes you out there cooks up a BBQ lunch, and brings all your drinks for the day. Later, after lunch, they take you to a neat snorkeling spot, then bring you back to Montezuma.

I was about to go do email in Montezuma, when the town suddenly had a power outage. It lasted for about 90 minutes. Al and I decided to walk to the center of this little village to see what might be open. Well, just about every store and resturant was lit by candles, as well as the table vendors selling neclaces and beads. Every person staying there seemed to be in the street, probably due to the fact there was nothing else to do with the power out. A whole village lit up by candles... and one person in the center drumming out a fierce rythm on a drum. The drum solo lasted about 10 minutes and the whole village clapped when it was done. Very cool.

That night after the power was back, we went to the only real bar in town, where everyone goes. And as if by the hand of the celestine prophecy, the news fell in to my hands. Talking to a couple guys who I never would have met if it werent for the fact they knew my friends from Guatemala, they told me of an Isralie family throwing a full moon party tomorrow. Oddly enough another friend had just introduced me to a girl who was from Israel 5 minutes earlier. I ran back to her and asked her if she knew about this party, and sure enough, 17kms away in Santa Theresa, was the last full moon party of the year. Right on.

With one more day to spend in Montezuma before heading to Santa Theresa, we decided to check out the local waterfall. It was about a 30 minute hike along a river to get to the base. Then another 30 minute steep and challenging hike to get to the top, where you found another swimming hole and yet a smaller waterfall. There were probably 30 other travellers hanging out, jumping the falls, swinging on the rope swings, and generally just trying to beat the mid-day heat. Awesome place to spend a day. On out hike out, I spotted the most amazing looking lizard. It had a horned head, and a huge fan on its back and another fan on its tail. I wish I knew what it was. We even got to hear some more of them howlers...

Before heading to Santa Theresa I wanted to get money out of the machine, but unfortunately, the nearest one was in Cobano, 7kms away. The busses run every 3 hours. I didnt have that kind of time, but cabs are expensive. A girl who works at the travel agency told me to hitchhike. She said everyone hitchhikes around here. Fair enough, its a hippie/surfer kind of place, nice people. In fact, there was a guy leaving in 10 minutes who'd give me a ride there, and I'd just have to find one back. Well, nobody wanted to pick up little ol me, and I ended up walking 5km of the 7km in the raging mid-day heat before being picked up by "Steve" who was running from the law in the US, accused of drug charges. I should learn to just take cabs.

We got in to Santa Theresa that night and got a room at a surfer hostel. Man what a cool place, and a cool town. Great vibe, great people. Most of them just come there to surf for a few months, or learn to surf. Just about everyone is staying for a month or three or twelve.

At 10pm, we headed out to the party, a short walk away. Walking up on it, I couldnt believe I had actually found one of club lighting systems look so much cooler when the lights are shining off the leaves of palm trees, lighting up the sand, and refracting through the waves as they crash on the beach. Awesome break-beats were pumping out of the biggest sound system I'd ever seen set up on a beach, and scores of people sat in the bright moonlight watching the ocean and talking. We ended up staying for quite a while, talking to people we knew from Montezuma and our hostel, and meeting new people. I actually met someone who graduated with my cousins in Wisconsin. Small world. Very small.

Next morningm, we caught the 7am bus to try to make it here to Playa del Coco by nightfall. We did and found a good resturant, and a fun little bar called Pura Vida, which you had to cross a rickety plank bridge to get to. Pura Vida is owned by an American named Jimbo who got tired of his life in the US 4 years ago and came here and opened his bar. His sidekick is a Frenchman named Charles who speaks no english. I don't think the two of them put together are playing with a really full deck, but this made them all the more amusing. Way amusing. We stayed there until late. We might have tried to stay until it closed, but I'm not sure it ever does.

We travelled all yesterday as we wanted to get in a full day of diving today. Playa del Coco is claimed to have the best diving in all of Costa Rica. The diving was actually pretty amazing. I saw the largest stingray I ahve ever seen, and that includes ones in city aquariums. Wingtip to wingtip it must have been 8 or 9 feet. We saw a couple whitetip sharks as well, the biggest only about 4 feet. Also an amazing amount of eels, puffer fish, and other nifty thingies. I love diving.

And that brings us up to about now. Al is wandering somewhere, likely meeting more interesting characters who we will spend the evening being entertained by, while I whap out another journal. I'd better find him before he gets me signed up for something wacky... :)

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