02.12.2005 - 12.12.2005
Heading south for San Juan del Sur, we finally hoped to get in our laid back beach vacation. Don't stop there, we heard. Go down 15-20k to Playa Majagual. You'll find a beautiful and largely wild place to swim, and yes, the water's warm. We took a two hour, 2nd class bus ride to Rivas,previous site of Vanderbilt's stagecoach service, and still a crossroads. From there another hour on a different bus got us to San Juan. Arriving in the mid-day heat, we stopped at Wavy Dave's for a beer. and asked about the next boat to Majagual. The boat ran infrequently, but for $15 US a piece, he knew a guy who'd take us by road. San Juan is in the midst of its own building and land boom, complete with another Century 21 office, and new houses and hotels sprouting up on the hills near the water. About an hour later, our American driver showed up in a beat up old truck, and took us down a dirt track which was dry and dusty at first, but as we headed further into the jungle, there were big puddles and mud. The truck lurched wildly from side to side, shocks totally gone. We arrived covered with dust, not long before sunset, at the Bahia Majagual Lodge, a small backpacker resort, complete with concrete cabins and a thatched roof bar and restaurant.
From there, we headed on foot to Matilda's, a small guest house further up the road. Definitely funky, the wood and concrete house was festooned with shells and Christmas lights, and had a few other guests, most of whom were camping in the grassy sand that separated the house from the beach. Though our room faced the water, the window was tiny, but at least you could hear the surf.
"No meals served, but I do sell beer and soda," the dueno told us, hanging our hammock over the concrete patio. "Dos cervezas por favor," Nanette said, as she plunked down on the hammock.
We made our way back to the Majagual Lodge for dinner, walking back along the road with our head lamps. Traffic was not a consideration. We sat at the bar, watching the last pink daylight fade over the water as Bob Marley sang on the stereo. There were perhaps 10 other people there, mostly European surfers it seemed. Ah, after the second Pina Colada it felt as though we had finally arrived at our tropical paradise. The food was not bad, curried chicken and some kind of fish, although they were out of more than half the stuff on the menu. Manana they said. Yeah, that's right Manana. We walked back to our room underneath a very starry sky.
The beach lived up to billing. Practically deserted, the white sand stretched for a half mile or so with volcanic rocks jutting into the water on one side, and a small cliff with cacti growing out of the rocky soil on the other. There were 2 or 3 upscale new houses that had recently been built a few hundred feet into the woods behind the beach, but other than that, nothing. There were even a few trees, which provided much needed afternoon shade. Our routine was to spend an hour or two on the beach in the morning, have lunch at the Lodge and then a siesta in the hammock, before going back out for another 2 to 3 hours or so in the latter part of the afternoon. The sea was very changeable. At times very calm and ideal for swimming, at others the surf was huge, with ten foot waves and a nasty undertow. Luckily, we had plenty of time to pick and choose when to go in the water.
Sitting on the beach at night, without any lights nearby, and looking up at the milky way was one of our favorite times, and so was looking at the sun setting over the Pacific every evening.
The weather was ideal. After a few days we got to know the other guests. There was a a young German girl, camping and traveling alone for a few months, as well as two Israelis, also alone. Yigal, a surfer who had finished his stint in the army and was traveling for a year, often the thing to do for young Israelis after they get out of the armed forces, and Sarah, a few years older, had taken time off from her teaching job to travel until her money ran out. A few times, we all chipped in for food to cook meals together on the outdoor fire pit. This provided a welcome change from the food at the Lodge. Sitting around the fire eating, drinking beer, talking about upcoming plans, and ogling the stars, was the primary entertainment. One evening just before sunset, I clamored up over the rocks on the beach and brought my camera. It had been somewhat overcast on that day, but as a result, the clouds created a spectacular sunset. In between tokes of weed, supplied by the Israelis, I took shot after shot of the rocks, as the sun dropped below the water line.
I just couldn't stop shooting, and had to remind myself that the tide was coming in, and I needed to get back before the rocks I crossed were submerged.
After a week, we decided it was time to to tear ourselves away. We considered going to Ometepee, but decided we didn't have the time, and still make it back to Guate for our flight to Quito. So even with 8 months, there is always the road not taken. Instead we headed back to Granada, and then to Lago Apoyo.
We stayed at the B&B run by the American couple we had met previously. Directly overlooking the large,volcanic lake, their place was beautiful. Our room opened to an inner courtyard, Spanish style.
We spent the day relaxing on their dock, and swimming in the lake.
In the evening we spent time talking to our friendly hosts, who gave us the use of their kitchen since restaurants were scarce. While drinking rum shots in the courtyard, we got the story of how and why they came to Nicaragua, and started their business. As promised, the slight elevation gain from Granada made the night air refreshing, as the breeze blewoff the lake. "Don't forget to check for scorpions," they said, as we turned in for the night. " What scorpions?" "Oh, they won't kill you, but you don't want to get bitten if you can help it. Makes you pretty sick for a few days, and you'll probably wish you were dead." " Where are they?" "Oh, they can be anywhere. Shake out your clothes, and look up in the corners of the room. They can drop down from the ceiling. We found one the other day." They showed us a dead one outside, squashed by George a few days earlier. So with some trepidation, we went back to our room, diligently shook out all our clothes, and looked in the bed and on the ceiling, carefully.