Oil on Canvas 30″ x 40″
Okay, I’m now well on my way back home to Arizona. I flew from Lima, Peru to San Jose, Costa Rica which cost a bit more than I had planned. When I arrived at the ticket counter in Lima the young lady informed me that Costa Rica would not allow me to enter the country after being in Peru without a yellow fever vaccination, ten days prior to entering Costa Rica. How could I do that? I was not allowed to switch my flight to another country, and staying in Lima for another 10 days would cost hundreds of dollars. As it turned out, the airline is accustomed to the situation and set me up with a valid vaccination document pre-dated by 15 days from a nearby hospital, and I just had to pay $210 (to tip everyone involved) Well it sucked, but everything went smoothly after that , and I was so happy to land in Costa Rica. I immediately felt my spirits rise as I stepped out into the relatively fresh air of Alajuela, and I enjoyed a good night at the nearby Hostel Maleku, where I had stayed before.
The next morning I took out just a little bit more colones from the ATM than I had caluculated to get me to San Juan Del Sur, Nicaragua. The bus ride was a bit long, but not uncomfortable, and we stopped halfway to Liberia for a break, which has been rare on my trip. In Liberia I met two Swedish girls who were also on the way to San Juan del Sur, so we went through customs together, lucky for them, for they had no dollars, and Nicaragua doesn’t accept anything else to enter the country. I lent them the $24 they needed, then we shared a taxi to San Juan, and they paid me back when we arrived at the Surfing Donkey. It was great to see friendly faces, and I was amazed at how many of the guys had stayed on to become employees there.
I rested at San Juan del Sur just a couple of days, and it was great to hit the beach and swim in the pool and eat Nicaraguan food. The second and last night I was there, the Surfing Donkey folks decided to try out a new drinking game concept: 1 shot of rum every 5 minutes until you pass out or vomit. Sounds fun huh? right, well I was one of a number of observers and eventually caregivers to the four participants. It was pretty funny the first hour, then it got a little scary. Three folks were sick or passed out within 1 1/2 hours, and the winner, Dan the Bear that Grills, was still steady.
I woke up early the next morning, did a short Qi Gong workout, then heaved my backpack on, picked up my guitar, and walked a few blocks to catch the direct bus to Managua. When I reached Managua I had to take a taxi across town to the station for buses to Leon, but it all went smoothly and a couple of hours later I was paying another taxista in Leon just $1 to take me to Lazybones Hostel, where I had spent a week back in November. This time in Leon I decided to make an effort to photograph people, which I am rather uncomfortable doing. Most of the time people don’ t like to be photographed by strangers, so some of the photos I just shot from the hip so to speak ( more like from the chest.)
Besides the swimming pool at Lazybones, I had been looking forward to two things in Leon: Asado Pelibuey (bbq lamb) and some excellent French pastries. Saturday night they ran out of pelibuey, so I had to eat chicken, but it was awesome with the gallo pinto, tortilla, slaw and fried plantain. Then Sunday morning the French bakery was closed, but I bought some delicious bbq pork at the market served on mashed yuca (manioc) and slaw, wrapped in a banana leaf. Monday I had my pastry and my pelibuey.
Yes that is iguana for sale in the Leon market downtown, although I never saw it offered on any menu. I just stayed in Leon a couple of days but as luck would have it, or as a gift from above, I stopped to listen to a band begin their set on an open-air stage downtown and when I heard the Santana style I hurried back to the hostal for my guiro. I started playing along and the band members called me up onstage and we jammed out for a couple of hours to a very appreciative crowd.
I woke up before dawn and did some Qi Gong under the stars by the pool, then I grabbed my belongings and took a taxi to the bus station. The direct bus to the El Salvadoran border had left at 4:30 AM, so I took a chicken bus to Chinandega, then a shuttle to the border, watching the Volcan Chinandega as I left Nicaragua.
Arriving in Granada, Nicaragua was very easy from Masaya. It cost a few cents by chicken bus and I arrived in less than an hour. I could tell I was near the central plaza when I saw the colonial buildings and I signalled the bus-driver to stop by banging on the ceiling of the bus. Luckily, I turned out to be only four blocks or so from the hostal Oasis, so I didn’t have to hire a taxi. When I entered Hostal Oasis I had a tremendous case of deja-vu, the layout was almost exactly like Lazybones in Leon. The reception, garden, pool, dorms, common areas all were almost identical. Then when I entered my room I encountered two fellows I had met at Lazybones! is that funny or what? I’m beginning to get used to this sort of thing along the “gringo trail.”
At first glance I liked Granada, there’s a lot to like: colonial buildings, cool breeze from the nearby lake, and everything designed with the tourist in mind. Therein lies the rub. Because of so many tourists the prices are inflated in restaurants, and anywhere you go you are accosted by salesmen, taxistas, moneychangers, tour guides or just plain beggars.
Hostal Oasis was an oasis from the chaos outside, and I enjoyed cooking my own dinners in the kitchen and meeting lots of travellers from all over the world: Israel, Austria, Germany , and of course Canada. I couldn’t imagine what to do with my time outside of the hostal, and though I enjoyed playing guitar and using the free internet, I decided it was time for San Juan Del Sur.
I took a short, cheap bus ride to Rivas, then another to San Juan. I realized immediately why everyone adores San Juan del Sur: the streets are clean, the air is cool, and it is small and well arranged around the beach, plaza, and market–all just a few blocks from one another.
Just as I stepped off the bus I spotted a young lady wearing a Surfing Donkey T-shirt, the hostal I was looking for. Giselle from Argentina guided me three blocks to the hostal, which was $7 a night for a dorm with breakfast and kitchen facilities, and a cold swimming pool. I think I´ll be staying here a few days.
A funny thing, or two, happened today: just after having lunch at a comedor in the market I bumped into Matt, who was one of the guys I had met in Leon AND Granada, so he holds the record for the most times I’ve met someone on my trip by accident. Then a few minutes later I was talking to Elena from Italy who promotes Surfing Donkey as well as her macrame bracelets, when I spied another familiar face– Do from Israel, whom I had met way back at Casa Verde in Santa Ana, El Salvador. He told me he had just put Megan on the bus, so I just had time to wave hello/goodbye to her. Like I said, I’m getting used to this sort of thing on the gringo trail.