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51. San Juan del Sur

Nicaragua

Traveling from Isla de Ometepe to San Juan del Sur wasn’t as simple as it should have been. Ferry to mainland: no problem. Taxi to Rivas bus station: problem. Once again we were harassed by every taxi driver in the town, all vying for our business. We tried to pair up with another couple to split costs, but apparently that wasn’t allowed this time (*roll eyes*). We accepted it and went with the one who persisted the longest. For the entire journey he tried to convince us to take the taxi all the way to San Juan, using every trick he had. It was a firm “no” from us. He stopped the taxi in Rivas and pointed the way to the bus station, down a road he claimed he couldn’t drive down. We paid the fare and started walking. That short walk ended up being four loooong blocks, only to find every other taxi driver parked at the bus stop, having had no problem finding a way around the pedestrian-only streets.

 

A bus heading to San Juan was pulling out of the station as we arrived, so we jumped on board. We thought our timing was perfect. It wasn’t. We must have been on some sort of local bus, as it took narrow, dirt roads most of the way and stopped at houses every few hundred metres. The journey ended up being an hour or two longer than it was supposed to be, according to the guide book. By the time we arrived at our destination, we were exhausted. Within 10 seconds of stepping off the bus an older woman approached us and offered a place to stay in her "hostel" (a converted house), right across the street. We were too tired to look around, so we just said yes. When she then presented us with a free homemade lemonade each, we thought we had won the lottery. (She later made us a huge snack of smoked cheese, plantain chips and salad – she was awesome).

Houses turned into hostels. The owners lived down the bottom, we stayed up the top.

San Juan was popular with tourists looking to surf, but there was no surf in San Juan itself. There was a nice, wide, flat beach, great for swimming, but no swell to speak of. Tours needed to be arranged to nearby beaches, depending on which had the best conditions that day. We checked out a few prices, keen to improve upon our last poor attempts at what we called “surfing”.

 

We eventually settled on getting the shuttle bus down to Playa Ramonsa, known as more of a beginner's beach. When we arrived the waves were crashing close to the shore. We had no choice but to play the waiting game. We waited. And waited. And waited. It was 2-3 hours before the conditions were suitable enough for us to enter the water. While others were getting lessons from the pros we subtly stood nearby, hoping to pick up a few pointers. They didn't help. Not surprisingly, we hadn't improved since El Salvador, and two further hours of practise did not advance our abilities in the slightest. It was somewhat depressing.

 

My day didn't improve when my third finger became wrapped up in the surfboard cord and was yanked as the board was pulled away from me in a wave. The pain was immediate and intense. I stopped for a few minutes to let my hand soak in the cool water, but that didn't prevent it from swelling up. Looking down at my injury I could see the tip of my finger was now on a slight angle, suggesting I had probably broken it. There was nothing I could do about it there, so I pushed the pain from my mind and continued my failed attempts at surfing. 

 

We didn't have great memories of San Juan.

The flat, unsurfable beach of San Juan.