Nicaragua Part One: Testimonials From An LBW Traveler
I arrived in Nicaragua a few days early and spent some time bumming around the charming surf town San Juan del Sur before the tour officially started on July 8th. Landing in the capital city Managua, I took the advice of other experienced backpackers that had come before me and hopped onto the infamous "chicken bus" for the final leg of my journey from Managua to SJDS. These rigs are retired school buses from the US refurbished for public transit use in Nicaragua; they are known for being a choatic, sweaty yet efficient means of transportation in Nicaragua, and you seriously can't beat the price! (approx 3 US dollars took me 140km south of Managua to SJDS). Passengers (and the odd farm animal) are stuffed inside these buses like sardines, and street vendors hop on and hop off constantly, hawking everything from cold pop, candied coconut and peanut brittle to empanadas and fried chicken. I ate my fill for lunch on the 3.5 hour bus ride for less than 3 US dollars.
San Juan del Sur is a cozy little surf town that has seen an incredible boom in tourism in the last 5 years, and now is full to the brim of surfer dudes with sun-bleached locks and tanned girls sporting arms full of colourful bracelets. I'm sure everyone on the internet has heard the phrase "no bad vibes" - in SJDS, this motto rules supreme. It's impossible to feel sad when you're sitting munching on a delicious (and cheap!) burrito, sipping an ice-cold Tona (Nica's local brew), grooving to the notes of a reggae tune floating by from the shop next door. "What shall I do today?" you ponder. "Surf lesson? Ziplining? Boat trip? Rent a scooter or bicycle and explore the area? Tan on the beach and body surf in the waves? Or just hang out around the pool at the hostel making new friends from every corner of the globe?" Seriously. These questions are your biggest concerns when you wake up in the morning. This place is a dream.
I met up with the tour group in the evening on July 8th. I was a bit late joining them at our accomodation (the "Pink Palace", or more formally known as Nomadlife, LBW's co-working and co-living space for digital nomads that we were lucky to stay at for a few nights in SJDS). It was 10:30pm and I was walking down a dark side road looking for Nomadlife, all my wordly possessions in my giant 60L backpack strapped to my back with my daypack worn on my front classic-backpacker style, sweat streaming down my face. A large group of people were approaching me from the end of the road, laughing and talking, but I didn't think anything of it. As they came nearer, I marched through the center of the group, too focused on my task of finding Nomadlife to say hello or scan any faces. Suddenly, someone yells out "KIRKLIN?!" I look up and respond "Ya?!"
The whole group erupts into jubilant cheers. People high-five me, help me with my packs, all while exclaiming "Oh my GOD, we were LOOKING for you!!!" Turns out I'm more than a bit late (whoops, classic Kirklin), but immediately these people welcome me into their crew with open arms. After dropping my bags back at Nomadlife, we head back into town, to "Gringo Alley" (pubs and shops all owned by "gringos", mostly Australians, Canadians and Americans) to have some dinner and then onto the beachside club "L.I.T. aka Lost In Translation" (punny, right?) where we join 100's of people streaked with glow paint packed onto the dance floor bathed in the glow of disco balls and black lights. We dance until the wee hours of the morning, then spill out onto the beach to cool down in the waves lapping onto the shore. I have a feeling I'm going to fit right in here.
Anything we missed? Have you travelled through San Juan Del Sur, Nicaragua? Let us know in the comments below!