This week, the photo of our little plastic travelling companions was taken with Jesus. Well actually, near Jesus, because it cost $4 to get in to see a Jesus statue and we weren’t that bothered. Like the much bigger and much more famous one in Rio, the Nicaraguan concrete imitation of our Lord and Saviour is at the top of a big old hill overlooking a bay. The similarities between Rio and San Juan del Sur pretty much end there though, this tiny little surf town is about as far from a buzzing metropolis as it is possible to be.
Our last week has been something of a misadventure. It’s been trying at times, amazing at others. Honestly though, it’s been one cock up after another and it all started with a traffic jam.
Let me paint you a picture. It’s 30 degrees, about 90% humidity and you have been on a minibus for 10 hours, going across three countries and dealing with all the fun that Latin American border crossings throw at you. You are 100km from your final stop, at last in the country you were aiming for, the roads actually have some tarmac on them (I’m looking at you, Honduras, seriously sort your shit out), it’s the home stretch.
And then you stop. Your driver gets out, which is never a good sign. He surveys the scene, there’s a bit of a jam. Roadworks, he tells you. But not one-lane-closed-we’ll-be-through-it-in-a-minute roadworks, but they’ve-closed-half-the-road-in-one-direction-for-a-few-miles-and-this-is-chaos roadworks. Basically, they shut off half of a two lane highway, at the closest thing Nicaraguans know to rush hour. And it was utter bedlam.
Now forgive the stereotyping, but Central Americans are not known for their patience, especially behind the wheel. If this was in Britain, there would be a queue, much grumbling about how there were loads of roadworks but no road workers, you would wait your turn and then crack on with the journey. In Nicaragua, the system (I use the word loosely) seemed to be a cross between a Top Gear challenge and a destruction derby. Every man for himself, take up any free space on the road in any direction and fight your way to the front. Funnily enough, it didn’t speed things up, and it infuriated my British queuing sensibilities. We waited for 2 hours in the “queue,” it took the dulcet tones of David Attenborough to stop me from strangling somebody. Yes, we had enough time to watch Planet Earth in the queue, we literally didn’t move while it was on.
The upshot of all this was that we arrived in Léon in Nicaragua 4 hours later than advertised. 4 hours was enough for us to miss our connecting bus to Managua, meaning we had to spend a night in the filthy home of the Nicaraguan socialist revolution. A $30 night in a bogey-coloured room later and we were off to Managua, the fourth most murderous city in the world where the only thing scarier than the kidnap-happy inhabitants is the driving, at which even a Parisian would baulk. Truth be told, we didn’t even want to be in Managua – it was meant to be a stop-off – but we’d already paid for it so it was happening. The next day, two days later than planned, we finally arrived in beautiful Granada.
Unbelievably, our luck then got worse. Lost in the city, we got out Sadie’s phone to check the map. Seconds later, we were relieved of the phone by some sticky-fingered local on a bike. A chase ensued (barefoot sprinting on Nicaraguan tarmac; not recommended) but it turns out that bikes are faster than Mark, and once he turned into the ghetto there was no chance the phone was ever coming back. Consequently, we spent our first day in the former capital in the police station, trying to explain in broken Spanish that no, we didn’t see the bastard’s face – he was on a bike.
Granada did sort of redeem itself. The next day was beautiful, the city was lovely and we had the best western food. We then went to Ometepe, via a fly infested San Jorge (literally a cloud of flies, it felt weirdly apocalyptic) and spent a couple of nights with a Nicaraguan family in a not very insect-proof room. It was very pretty though. We were supposed to be there four nights, but because of our earlier mishaps we left after two to get ourselves down to the coast, which is where I am writing this.
San Juan is a welcome relief. The people are friendly, the hostel staff speak English, the sky is blue and the food is awesome. We are chilling here and doing very, very little until we leave for Costa Rica on Sunday. A cloud forest awaits us…
Oh, and today is our 7 year anniversary. We intend to be indulgent as hell, complete with imported wine, tapas, cocktails and an air conditioned room. On a soppy note – it’s been an insane 7 years. We first met at the tender age of 14, when Mark was in a torrid teen romance with our mutual best friend Kim (Lancaster is an incestuous little place) and romance was as from our teenage minds as could possibly be. Fast forward a few years and we went from attending – and graduating – from University together, bought our own house, got engaged, quit our jobs and went on this mad adventure. We’re proud, happy and very excited for the future. Here’s to the next 7 years being as good as the last.