Seven buses. That’s how many were required to get from El Salvador to Leon in Nicaragua. Seven buses, two border crossings (through Honduras) and a taxi. It took 13 hours. The taxi was the most interesting as we shared it with a bunch of Nicaraguans who were returning from a cock fight, upon which they’d won a rather large sum of money. The source of their income, a blood stained rooster named ‘Hop’ was cradled maternally by the leader of their gang – an interesting chap who’d spent 14 years in a Los Angeles prison. He was nice to us at least, (I presume as we were paying for the majority of their taxi fare), unlike the guy who promised us a safe passage over the Nicaraguan border to Leon, only to dump us unceremoniously in some town beginning with ‘C’ and driving away as we attempted to kick lumps out of his dirty, rip-off van. It was here we met the cock-fight boys, who rather appropriately, took us under their wing (waheey!).
Once we eventually got there, Leon was very pleasant though. Big cathedral, big square, colourful buildings and an excellent line in street BBQs. We met some ex-revolutionaries (to qualify as a Central American country you have to have A) had a civil war, and B) had the USA meddle in it to everyone’s general dismay and detriment) who took us through the story of Nicaragua’s turbid past. I got to wield a bazooka which was A) really inappropriate and B) awesome. No shooting though. Just pretend.
We also moseyed into the obligatory gringo party hostel and signed up to a beach shindig and a surf down the local volcano – Cerro Negro. Beach shindig ending rather late and volcano surf starting rather early perhaps contributed to me crashing spectacularly on the fiery mountain in question, breaking my camera, the sled and losing my goggles in the process. There was a bloke clocking everyone’s speed and I was whizzing along at a healthy 65km an hour when it all went pear shaped. Despite the financial and physical pain it caused me, the experience was well worth it.
Also, watching Catriona careering diagonally across the black mountain between the two assigned “tracks” at a healthy pace was deeply hilarious. To be fair she looks a lot more in control than me…
We opted to head to the Pacific coast for a few days to lick our wounds.
“Oh look!” I exclaimed, “A little sheltered cove all to ourselves that we can relax in, between our surfs.” Sniffing suspiciously, Catriona opined that we should maybe move – “It doesn’t smell very nice here Alex,” she said, “I think we should go somewhere else on the beach.” I cavorted around the wee shaded area trying to locate the origins of the smell. It was then that the large mound of human poo (You can always tell it’s human. Always.) was discovered. My flip-flopped foot was placed firmly in it. The poo had somehow covered much of my right leg and while Catriona cried with laughter, I cried in horror as I attempted to cleanse myself in the sea. Apart from this, we surfed for three days and there were improvements on all counts. The waves down here were much more forgiving than the tempest in El Salvador and despite the crazy levels of tourists in San Juan Del Sur – it being the national week holiday of Semana Santa – we managed to have a very chilled time indeed.
With only days left though, we’re planning on some more of this relaxation on the east coast in the shape of the Corn Islands. Meant to be tricky to get there mind, but what’s a prize without a fight?
On another note, Catriona proffered this scenario to me – imagine Stonehaven was suddenly invaded by a bunch of super wealthy, pyjama wearing backpackers, who very abruptly bought over all the properties along the beachfront and overpriced everything so that only other pyjama wearing loons could afford them. Would Stonehaven remain Stonehaven? Or would it become a pyjama playground for bare-footed bangle wearers who’d go on pub crawls together and shag on the beach? It’s worth thinking about as many places in Central America have become this. There’s actually a place on Lake Atitlan in Guatemala nicknamed Gringo-Landia. They’ve not even tried to make it resemble what it used to be. It’s just a retreat for listless foreign teenagers next to a lake. It’s like the west (or should that be east?) came back and took over again. The Empire Strikes Back but in bloody pyjamas. It’s worth considering if you’re ever planning to come to this neck of the woods. It is very, very easy to escape all the fakery, but very, very tempting to join in the fun. Maybe I’m just bitter about breaking my camera on that bloody volcano.