Or was it the other way around?
Both, as the title suggests, is of a temperature that can only be experienced when you are there. You have yourself that pure ground medium roast Nicaraguan coffee, brown-black like volcanic sand with no sugar to really savor the earthy aromas. Even while it is brewing it can fill an open-air kitchen with the most amazing of bouquets. It is not the kind of coffee you have bottemlessly, you make a good cup and then have an early morning affair with your java. The coffee is blue-chip in Central America. The only other coffee I have had that could beat this stuff here is the one my Ouma would make me when I was little.
Buying Chocolate in Granada
It is clear skies when we fly to Managua. We leave the towering volcanoes of Guatemala behind and soon San Salvador looks mighty from above. I cant help but wonder about the gang activities happening as I see this massive city from the safety of above. This is partly due to Ross Kemps on Gangs’ documentary on El Salvador. It looks like a pretty hardcore place. The Pacific Ocean stretches into the beyond and as we descend into Managua the sultriness can be seen through the small windows of the plane. It is seriously dry here, even though it is raining season. The donkeys look like skinny piñatas and cows and goats graze at the high branches where few leaves are left on Acacia like trees. The old man drives the eternal damnation out of the taxi van and gets us to Granada at midday. Navigating through the busy streets is mirror to driving through Umtata in the Transkei on a Saturday when there is a funeral happening. EVERYONE is out and about. The same guy selling you avocados can fix your watch if needed and you can buy a bottle of rum at the makeshift street pharmacy. It’s a mix match of chaos and awesomeness. It is so hot here that a beggar asked if he could have a bite of my ice cream. You have to get amongst it and I love studying the peculiar activities and sights. Granada has some very photogenic buildings and characters, but we are using it only as a stopover for the night. We need to get to the ocean.
You can write a book on San Juan Del Sur and its Sunday Funday vibes. It feels as if the cracked doors and walls of the sun bleached town could speak of an under the radar seediness that occur. It is a place where people from all over the world meet, its streets filled with backpackers. Some of the traveling folk avoiding sunscreen turn into pink crayfish at the end of the day wearing bright Sunday Funday tank tops. Clearly they want to make statements about how cool he/ she is for having been to one. The more traveled individuals however are shimmering golden brown in the fading light, lazily swinging in hammocks reading tethered Lonely Planet guides to other utopias. There are always chilled out Canadians though and they make up for the cliquey Israelites that seem to frequent the town too.
If the walls could speak…
We have a lot of bags with us and it may seem to the outsider that we’ve got it down on how to carry it around. But I assure you I curse my bloody bags more often than not. If I could I’d travel with just the clothes on my back and a board under my arm. Tam on the other hand is a pro at fitting everything into her bag. Magically, more stuff can always just fit into her bags. The stories our bags could tell would be a great read. We arrive at Playa Maderas and the hill we have to climb to get to our hostel has got to be tackled with a 4×4 only. We have to figure out where our hostel is but I can’t be bothered worrying. The fruit in the box full of food we bought got smashed on the bumpy road down but it does not faze me. Apparently there are plenty females in bikinis but I cant see them. Something else has my full attention. Like seeing snow fall for the first time, the waves breaking perfectly mesmerized me to the point where nothing else matters. Immediately I know I will spend 85% of the time surfing. 10% will go toward sleeping and 5% to the other important holiday stuff. I am stoked. After organising a board with Abe, the most relaxed hippy dude under the sun, I set about finding the Chilean guy to come and fetch us. When I get to Hostel Clandestino at the top of the hill I instantly know that this is where we are supposed to be.
Juan, the hostel owner, reminds me a little bit of me and it’s not because we have the same name. I haven’t figured out exactly why yet, but perhaps in him I see how I would be in another life. He has built a meticulously planned amazing open-air style backpackers among the treetops. A lot of time has been put into the place and his pride shows in the work and daily maintenance. He has a demeanor about him that speaks of patience and intuition. In this day and age you can tell a lot of a person by looking at the way in which they reply to your emails and from the first time we corresponded, while we were still planning our trip, I could tell that he is a nice guy. Juan takes me back down the hill in a classic Landcruiser that has seen plenty action in its life and we go fetch Tam and all our bags. We settle in quicker than the perfect offshore wind comes up in the mornings in Nicaragua and when we take a seat on our rustic balcony the howler monkeys greet us with their calls.
Besides just getting to surf a new spot, I always look forward to the point of view you have from the water. There are some places in the world where the landmarks are just iconic to that region, such as the aloes in Jeffreys Bay or Diamond head at Waikiki. The majestic views of the Kogelberg Mountains at Betty’s Bay or the rocky outcrops of Gurupuk in Lombok Indonesia could easily distract you to miss waves. Here in Nicaragua I find a view from the surf that is just absolutely mesmerizing. The invisible pallet in the sky keeps overflowing with reds as the sun goes down which turns the water into a fiery medley of contrast and shape. It is beautiful and I have clocked in my 85%. With the lightning, the thunder announces the arrival of the raining season and with that the heat of the day gets washed away and drains into the golden sand.
There is a well-used travel guide on Costa Rica standing next to the brewing coffee percolator. I take it and from the top deck I look across the bay and at the mountains of the Guanacaste region in Costa Rica. In my minds eye I go through the route from where I am to those two classic Endless Summer waves- Ollies Point and Witches Rock. It involves a bumpy ride to San Juan Del Sur to get a taxi to the Border. From there you need to catch a bus to Liberia, which will get you to a bus station where you take the next bus to Tamarindo. From Tamarindo you need to catch a boat out to the breaks. It will take a day to get there. I snap out of it and decide the waves down at the beach are closer. For now. It works best on high tide but I score some fun insiders on the low tide to the right of the beach. We quickly get into the laidback vibe, filling our days with fruit smoothies and long surf sessions. It is offshore everyday, all day. Lake Nicaragua is big enough to generate its own wind and God strategically put it there so surfers can have offshore winds 360 days a year.
The people you meet on trips can often change your plans. We did not plan to venture into Costa Rica but the stories shared about epic waves got us packing a small bag and we left for the border. Getting to Tamarindo was as it played out in my mind with a combination of transportation. It is a smooth trip though and we arrive in Tamarindo before dark to set about looking for a place to crash.
The best way to describe Tamarindo is to say its like little Hawaii. If you’ve been there you will understand. The vibe is mellower than a Caribbean accent and everything is based around surfing. My back didn’t see a t-shirt on it for most of the time there. We walked along pristine beaches finding classic waves. In times like these I miss my buddies most. I wish all of them could be here so we can catch a boat to some classic waves. I like solo missions and surfing on my own, but in some places you need to share that stoke with friends. My last session in Costa Rica is one I have on my own. There is NO ONE else out and I can’t believe it. I sit right next to a rock boil and take off quick to avoid getting grated over the reef that is getting shallower as the tide is going out. Once you are on the wave you have to pump and get as much speed as possible to make the barreling section. On my first one I pull in and the colors inside the barrel make me question the possibility of it. The green-blue water transforms into marmalade see through orange as the lip throws over and in front of me. I hold my line and gently touch the wall of the barrel and as I exit the colorful chamber I let out a scream of pure elation.
Costa Rica is about monkeys and afternoon thundershowers. It is about sandy bags at the end of a day as much as it is about the greeny ocean water that transforms the soul. It is about the smell of excellent coffee early in the morning and scent of tropical sunscreen throughout the day. Costa Rica burns into your tan and it leaves you wanting more each new day.
We celebrate Tams 30th by starting our trip back to The States. We pass the same farmlands we did two weeks before and it’s significantly greener. We stroll around the airport terminal and wonder what to do with the last few Cordobas we have. We don’t even think twice when we see it. We choose that medium roast Nicaraguan coffee and then pack it into the magical bag that can always take something extra.