As soon as I was out of the airport, I could feel a difference in the air- and I’m not just talking about the heat- it was a very relaxed atmosphere. Maybe it was the 25hrs of travelling with little to no sleep (and smokes), maybe the Nicaraguan air but I instantly went against all advice I’d read online and took a taxi from directly outside the airport. The second I’d cleared customs and got outside I was rushed by about 8 or 9 drivers for fare.
Now this can seem a little intimidating if you’re not used to these kinds of customs, but I used it to my advantage. Everyone telling me $50 to Granada so I asked if someone would do it for $40, the price I was told I should get the fare for after midnight. Only one guy spoke up then and said “forty five”- he’s my driver now! Although I did agree a price a little over the odds with the driver, my biggest problem was conversing with him in my very broken ‘Spanglish’ for the 45min drive to the hostel- I’d seen a few horror stories online from people about the kinds of trouble they had: being driven in circles to get overcharged; or taken to the wrong destination; other cars following you to your stop and taking your bags when you get out; even things about ‘express kidnappings’ where they take you somewhere, hold you hostage and demand all your money before releasing you.
Gratefully, this didn’t happen to me but was I paranoid for the whole journey!
Waking up in an extremely comfortable bed in Granada just a few hours after I arrived in Nicaragua I half felt like a new man. This was my first day as a solo traveller how was I going to spend it? With the exception of checking-in online with everyone back home to say I’d arrived safe, I’d made no plans as such. I just wanted to explore, keep my options open and see what happened really.
So it starts with a walk around Granada, I orientate myself to the town, see what’s around. I like walking, not only does it keep me active but its free- the best price for a traveller! The people here are very quick to come and try to sell you something but a simple “no gracias” and they go away again. There are a few museums around, plenty of market stalls, lots of tours to other parts of town and so many different types of places to eat or drink. I had no idea how to pick just one.
As always, time moves fast and before I know it I’m on a bus for the ferry terminal to take me to Isla de Ometepe (check my ometepe story here). I fell in love with this island! Sadly I can’t say too much about it as I’d injured myself the 1st day and couldnt really walk anywhere. But the views, the laid-back lifestlye and just being able to relax myself made some of it all worth the pain.
About an hour after I’m off the ferry and back on the mainland, I’m already in San Juan Del Sur. A ‘sleepy beach town’ or party capital of Nicaragua. My first night is spent in the hostel shaking off the ache of carrying a bag everywhere all day. I sit by the pool drinking beer quietly to myself, my head still spinning from the fact I really am the other side of the world now!
I wake early the next morning for some reason, so early the staff aren’t even here setting up yet. It’s a little overcast and raining gently so i watch the ripples on the surface of the pool for a few mins. So far there’s been few experiences better than waking up alone in a foriegn country; that uninhibited sense of freedom when you leave the world behind and things just flow.
Porta Do Sol is just a few Kms from the main town, about a 30 minute walk, so I casually stroll down the road. Plenty of fincas and tiendas on the way in case you get hot or dehydrated (or run out of smokes and lose your lighter like i did).
In San Juan Del Sur it was a little hard to differentiate some of the places. The pizzeria was also a supermarket, the cinema did tattoos (or vice versa), and there were so many places offering the same merchandise almost everywhere so if you’re in San Juan, shop around first.
The majority of my time in San Juan Del Sur was spent in Porta Do Sol, my own private paradise for 3 nights- 2 actually, the last night there was a powercut so they transferred me to another hotel free of charge and still arranged my transport to San Jose for me from Hotel Esperanza, my new location. It was a nice touch to what could’ve been a misspent night.
Esperanza was right on the beach of San juan, the statue of Christ still visible from the far side of the beach. I met one guy there that was Nicaraguan but finishing his travels in his home country and we went for some beers. Being the only conversation I’d had in english basically all week it was refreshing to fully understand what was being said to me!
After a few bottles we casually strolled back to Esperanza since I had to be up early to catch my bus to Costa Rica. Worrying if I’ll actually wake up in time or not for my ride to the bus must have kept me in a light sleep, bang on 5 a.m. I’m up and ready. Which gave me just enough time for my last snap of Nicaragua, pre sunrise.
My time in Nicaragua may be finishing, but I’m just getting started.