Archive for March, 2010

This group of Americans that hiked Volcan Maderas with me happened to be in San Juan del Sur while I was there.  They were going out one night to celebrate a birthday.  We drank a lot of rum and went to the bar where everyone goes, called Iguana something.

At some point in the night I had lost a bet and had to do a “birthday dance.”  Somewhere along the way I had acquired this truly bizarre cardboard mask.  It only covered the top half of my face.  The mask was what appeared to be an old man, maybe 65, wearing some kind of electoral victory hat.  And in black and white.  Needless to say, anyone wearing this mask looked really creepy.

So I am wearing this mask and do the birthday dance.  I utilized a combination of dance moves that I have learned from friends over the years: Thomas´ levels, Weber´s stomp dance, and Conor´s move that I will refer to as pinwheels, where you run back and forth, and move both your arms like pinwheels.  It´s actually more like the hands of a clock, where you stop each arm at certain times.  Obviously in rhythym with the beat and running back and forth continuously.  So after level-stomp-clock-dancing to a particularly epic “Evacuate the Dancefloor” remix while wearing this creepy mask, I look up and the entire bar is watching me.  Two different groups came to join us, with one dude commenting “this is obviously where the party is happening.”

When we were leaving the bar, it became clear that my sandals had been stolen.  Who steals sandals?  Most likely they were jealous of my dance moves.


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I decided to start with a lesson.  Jose was my instructor.  On the way to the beach he picked up some pizza, so I offered to drive.  As I am driving we notice a police checkpoint.

Oh shit man pull over.

(I pull over)

Do you have a license?


(Checks his pockets) I don´t have one either.

Just tell them I have a license but I left it in my hotel, and I don´t speak Spanish.

We get to the checkpoint.  The cop is trying to get a bribe out of my surf guide who just keeps saying he doesn´t have any money and besides aren´t they friends?  Finally the cop turns to me and I just respond “No hablar espanol” (Lit: No to speak Spanish).  He gives me a look of disgust and we are on our way.

I always forget how hard surfing is.  As a beginner, they give you a funboard.  Getting that thing out past the breakers is ridiculous.  But on the positive side once you get out there, it´s very easy to stand up on.  It´s like a sidewalk.  You can run around on it.

The next day I went on my own to another beach with much bigger surf.  Also a smaller board.  That day there happened to be an earthquake in Chile and all the gringos were scared of a tsunami.  Jose said “No way man.  No tsunami.” so I headed out there.

While surfing I am only thinking about one thing: death.  Death is right around the corner at any moment when you are surfing.  One time while paddling out, I ducked under a wave.  I thought I had made it, but I got caught right at the very tip.  I ducked too early.  The sensation was bizarre.  It was like the wave was sucking me in and taking me along with it.  I was caught in the tube and being twirled around voilently.  After a few revolutions I was completely disoriented and I really needed air.  I swam in what I thought was the right direction and barely made it to the surface in time.  So right there, no big deal, just ducking under a wave, and I almost drowned.

You could also be hit in the head by a surfboard or attacked by a shark.  And that day I also had to watch out for tsunamis.

Many surfers say that the best part about surfing is how you feel after you get out of the water.  Your mind is totally clear.  You feel like you can do anything.

I can´t speak for others, but for me this is true primarily because when I get out of the ocean I am so thankful to have made it out alive.  The world is brighter.  My smile is more common and wider.  Oranges and beers taste better.  And I feel great.

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I am currently on the Rio San Juan.  Very little internet connectivity plus I spend most of my day on a boat.  So may be a little while until more updates.

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San Juan del Sur

San Juan del Sur is a small beach town on the Pacific Ocean that is either the best place or worst place in Nicaragua depending on your perspective.  Ok, the capital city Managua is definitely the worst place, but you know what I mean.  Some people love the overpriced cheesy tourist places and the plethora of English speakers with good ideas about how to comfortably spend dollars while others describe it as artificial, ruined, etc. “Like Costa Rica” which is a terrible insult here.

I had originally planned to go, then decided to skip it after talking to some turistas and locals here, but then I met (I kid you not) six more Swedes after getting back from Volcan Maderas who raved about it.  Awesome surfing, parties on the beach, resorts with cheap Nica Libres and three infinity pools (they kept repeating this point, “three infinity pools!”,  then explaining again what infiinity pools are.  Should have been a clue).

Good arguments were made by the Swedes, particularly David who passed along great wisdom by saying ¨You know, there are two sides to every story.  Hiccup.  You know, there are two sides to every story.  There are always two sides to every story.”  Needless to say I was convinced.

Since arriving in Nicaragua I had heard that the two most dangerous types of people were cab drivers and the police.  The police are always stopping you for bribes for some weird infraction that they have clearly just invented.  They are nice about it though.  They just aren´t paid very well.  The cab drivers are apparently quite evil.  Every single one, whether “official” or not, is apparently hell bent on getting you to trust him and get in the cab so he can drive you out to the middle of nowhere, strip you naked, and leave you to find your way back.

I ask my hotel to arrange a cab to take me from the Ometepe ferry dropoff to San Juan del Sur.  $30 they say.  I am wearing a shirt that says “45” on the front so they say a cabbie will be looking for “cuarenta cinco.”  Sure enough, no cabbie hailing 45.  Big dude walks up to me.

Cab to San Juan del Sur?

Si, cuanto cuesta?



I get in the cab.  By no means official.  The guy is really friendly.  Maybe too friendly…  He asks if we can pick someone else up.  This is pretty common so I say sure, but in a miscommunication he is led to believe we can only pick up a single additional person (there´s always room for 4 plus luggage even in tiny Nica cabs).  We pick up this guy.  They don´t really say much to each other, just “San Juan del Sur” and a nod.  Seems a little suspicious.  A knowing nod.

As we drive the driver starts explaining something to me.  His Spanish is really fast and accented.  He is not slowing down because I am stupidly nodding my head pretending that I understand when really I am trying to look into his eyes in the mirror to see if he is lying.  Something about being a bus driver.  He also drive a bus.  He went to school for it and is the only one allowed to drive it.  But anyone can drive a taxi.  He likes to drive the bus at two o´clock.

We start heading out of town onto a highway and he pulls off the road.  Uh oh.  He gets out of the car and comes around to my window to assure me that this new random dude from the side of the road is a really good driver, too.  What the hell?  Dammit I am definitely getting robbed.  This is some kind of switcheroo so when I try to explain what happened to the police they have an alibi, or something.  God knows.  I am so hungover.  Hard to think.  Oh well let´s just see what happens.

Turns out the new guy is very friendly and much easier to understand.  The other dude had to go drive the two o´clock bus to San Juan del Sur.   No idea why he was then picking people up from the ferry at one thirty in a taxi.

San Juan del Sur has a very touristy feel to it.  Jaded locals, lots of gringos and chules walking around with hats, sunglasses, flip flops, board shorts and pale skin.  Overpriced coffee shops and cheeseburgers.  However, the bay is beautiful.  It´s set between two cliff faces that are largely undeveloped.  Beautiful sunsets.  I am able to get some surprisingly good gnocchi in town.  I like the town ok.  The real reason you come here is the surf at the nearby beaches.

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