Dates: 12-19 March 2014
DAYS 129-134: “San Juan del Sur” (12-17 March)
The whole “chicken bus” experience was not as horrific as we had imagined it to be. We got a taxi from La Fortuna to a neighbouring town 15 minutes away and were to told to wait on the side of the road where the bus would pick us up to take us to the border, Penas Blancas. Thankfully when we got out of the taxi we were greeted by some fellow travellers waiting on the corner, telling backpacks nearby…safety in numbers and all that! The bus pulled up and we all piled in, we even managed to bag a seat – a valuable commodity on this mode of transport. We were a bit disappointed though as there were no chickens in sight! We got to the border and exited Costa Rica and entered Nicaragua without any issues…we’d become pros at crossing borders by this point. From Penas Blancas we shared a 40 minute cab to San Juan del Sur with a Dutch couple we’d met on the chicken bus.
San Juan del Sur is a coastal town about 1 hour from the Penas Blancas border. We took our chances on the much raved about Casa de Olas (English translation is House of Waves) hostel and luckily it paid off. This fantastic hostel situated on the hill overlooking the town and ocean, neighbouring the infamous Naked Tiger Hostel, welcomed us with open arms. Little did we know that this ‘home away from home’ would suck us in and hijack our plans to see the rest of Nicaragua. We had done our research and put together an itinerary of the key places we wanted to see in this country – Ometepe, Granada, Corn Islands, Leon…we managed to see San Juan and Leon, our bad!
Let us explain how Casa de Olas sucked us in and stole our travelling souls. For starters the setting was beautiful, watching the sunset from the infinity pool, sipping on a happy hour Buzz Punch is a truly breathtaking experience. Secondly, even at the ripe old ages of 29 and 30, we still miss our folks and Carla & Fred, the Australian couple who own and run this hostel, became our surrogate parents. Thirdly, the people we met there (Jesse from Canada; Charlie, Kirsty, Sam from NZ, Liz from Sweden, Richard, Joshx2 from the USA, Steve and Dani from the UK and Shea from Aus) were some of THE best people that we have met on our trip – this bunch were so much fun, full of interesting stories from their travels, absolutely hilarious and as caring as your oldest friends. We all had some great times together, assisted with by a few Buzz Punches and the odd shot. The combination of these factors led to our planned 2 nights becoming 5, to the detriment of some of the other sites Nicaragua had to offer.
Highlights of our time in San Juan del Sur included the Thursday night pub crawl. This started in a Canadian pub called “The Loose Moose” where Tam, Charlie and Liz took up the ‘Caesar challenge’, which involved downing 5 double shots of spicy chilli tomato and vodka mix in 15 seconds, they all succeeded and proudly wore their victors vests for the rest of the night. The next day a group of us hit Playa Hermosa where we nursed the effects of the previous nights debauchery and watched a surfing competition. On Friday we were surprised yet again by the arrival of Breda and Darren (if you’ve been paying attention these names will be familiar) so we spent the day and evening catching up with them.
The absolute must-do activity in San Juan is the notorious “Sunday Funday”. People have been known to change itineraries, back-track, basically move heaven and earth to be in this little town on a Sunday. We tried to avoid this epic day (being the responsible girls that we are) however to no avail. Sunday Funday is a ‘pool crawl’ which involves drinking around/in various swimming pools around town. Let’s just say we had a lot of fun at Sunday Funday, portraying very convincing impressions of 2 ‘spring breakers’.
Monday was St Patrick’s Day, however much to Breda’s dismay, we did not partake in the green nations festivities, opting for a roast and movie night at our casa instead. How responsible…
On Tuesday we finally managed to tear ourselves away from Casa de Olas and San Juan del Sur and headed up to Leon with Darren. Once again, in the name of frugality, we ‘chicken bused’ it which was a pretty painless exercise even though our route involved going from San Juan to Rivas then on to Managua before changing buses again to head on to Leon.
DAYS 135-136: “Leon” (18-19 March)
When we arrived in Leon we decided to stay at the Lazy Bones hostel which was the more relaxed alternative to Bigfoot hostel, where all the party people go. We spent 2 nights and 1 day in Leon, just really checking out this shabby-chic town. We had a wander through a modern art museum taking in the work of Latin American artists, perused the local market and admired various churches and cathedrals in the town. Most young visitors to Leon come for one reason and one reason only, to board/sledge down the side of a volcano. We spoke to a guy in our dorm who had done it and he strongly advised that we give it a miss as it was one of the most unpleasant things he’d ever done….we heeded his advice and opted out.
From Leon we needed to get to Antigua in Guatemala, which was easy enough as there was a direct shuttle which we booked through our hostel. So we bid farewell to Darren and left at 2am for our 18 hour journey to Antigua…joy.