Surfing el paraiso en Nicaragua!

Nicaragua is different from Panama and Costa Rica. There is barely any trace of tourism and the people are very nice. Playa Gigante is a great place to visit, but you should go there to appreciate the sports and underwater life, not for partying. The Nicaraguans in the village still live very traditional – I hope you show them the necessary respect when you go there! The kids are great surfers and I bet we will see some of them becoming pros.

An hour after my arrival at the Playa Gigante I have done all the check-in. For my sake I am able to pay up my stay and the food I consume with my credit card – since I don’t have too much cash on me anymore due to the cab ride – this feels like lots of money when you are used to get a full dinner for around two dollars. I will stay the next two nights in a hammock, in a high room without air condition, for seven dollars a night. That’s great and actually what I was looking for. I get a locker and place all my stuff, get me a big bottle of Toñar, a Nicaraguan beer and chill out. It’s a most peaceful mood and the sun sets over the Pacific.

Dani writes me on WhatsApp and we have a lively English / Spanish conversation while the night takes over and the rum starts to make me tipsy. I enjoy a local dinner for pilgrims, which is just two dollars and very tasty. From time to time the power goes down and up again. When it is totally dark I decide to have a swim, naked, it’s awesome! When I lie in my hammock later I can hear the roaring “thunder” of the Pacific, it’s powerful, and a great experience to fall asleep like that.

It’s around 5:30 am when I wake up the next morning. I walk around and take a closer look at the beach. There is not much, mainly just the beach which is most beautiful. My breakfast are cereals with fresh and tasty fruits from the region. I could really get used to this, although I have never really been into breakfast!

I try to rent a surfboard but the guy tells me that there was a group of Americans the last week who broke three of his boards and he doubts my skills and is obviously worried that he will lose just another board. I guarantee him to stick to his advice and that I am a pretty good snowboarder who knows about the dangers of those action focussed sports and that my surfing skills are acceptable for doing it just as short as I do (it will be my 12th time). He agrees to rent a board to me after lunch, says that the surf will be better in the afternoon anyways. So I go snorkeling for the time in between and what I see totally overwhelms me. The current is strong and I have to struggle to get close to the cliffs. Again I really regret not to have a GoPro. There is a mooray eel feasting directly on the cliffs without any fear. It is a white mooray with black spots, one I have never seen before. Different kind of fugu is swimming around, the ones with stings and some without. I see some really colorful and big emperor fish and so many more animals in those 45 minutes it’s unbelievable! The only thing I miss are colorful corals, there are basically none – especially if I compare my snorkeling experience from San Blas – but what I see is new and the fearlessness of those fish is sapid. For my dislike I swim into several nettles of jellyfish, it hurts pretty much…

Lunch is the pilgrims food again, Gallo Pinto with fish. Easy going, good, cheap. And I receive my board thereafter. It is 8’2”, a little bigger than the one I had in Santa Catalina. I follow the surfer dude, who rent the board to me, and two of his buddies. One is a local Nico (male Nicaraguans are called Nicos), the other one a shitfaced American from Colorado – shitfaced because he is already hammered at 1 pm – which I dislike – he is funny, tho. But that’s how they are on vacation and that’s why I chose to skip San Juan del Sur. The surf is not as big as expected, but some bigger waves of 2 m come in and it’s lots of fun to ride here. I basically spend the whole day surfing and later the day I get some company of Matt, who I met already the evening before. He has a very short board and is at the same level as me. We get along very well and while I have a break I start building a sand castle, which arises the interest of some ladies at the beach who come by one after another to ask me what I do there. Being infantile sometimes is just a great thing to do! 😉

On my way back to the hostel I see a scenery I would have loved to take a picture of. But for the respect towards the Nicas and Nicos I don’t do it. A family of six people, the parents very young, live with their animals in a very small hut. The garden is muddy, pigs are lying around, the chicken is going all over the place, and their horse is feasting.  A little baby Nica is sitting in kind of a bucket, having a bath looking at us while we pass by. It’s such a different world, but taking pictures of them is disrespectful so I continue to get my camera just to take some pictures of the beautiful evening at the surfer beach, which is the next bay to the one the hostel is at.

The night comes fast and it’s already my last night here, since my plan is to continue to Granada, from Granada to León and there to meet up with Eric, a friend from Florida to do some vulcano boarding…

There is an open mic session this night at our hostel and I get to know Conrad from England and Sam from New Zealand, who hung out the evening before with Matt already. The four of us have a good time and the boys tell me they want to continue to Isla de Ometepe early the next morning. And of course I’m in…

Santa Catalina, hidden surfer gem at the Pacific

Santa Catalina is a dreamy village at the Pacific of Panama. It is mainly popular as a surfer village with a great beach and a beach where you can relax without the big waves, protected by a small island. It also is the hub to Coiba Island, something untouched like the Galapagos. Trips there are most expensive and I chose not to go, this is something for the future 🙂

After some really good sleep we start the day with our standard breakfast. White bread with green pepper, tomato, cheese and thunfish.  First of all we visit Surf and Shake, a shop for nice fruit shakes and everything connected with surfing, run by a girl from Munich. She tells us to attend the second beach for surfing, not the first one, protected by an island, the one we visited last night after we arrived. Santa Catalina is small and we are looking for another hostel which is closer to the big surfer beach.

Stefan and me enjoy a little chillout after the tough ride the day before and after some coffee Columbiano and our custom thunfish sandwiches.
The Surf and Shake of Santa Catalina
The beauty of the hibiscus is everywhere and beautiful insects and colibri swirl around it.
Stefan and Anne in Santa Catalina at our morning stroll to check out where to stay.
Most beautiful butterflies swirl around everywhere in Latin America. This is a big swallowtail.
A gas station in Santa Catalina, we would have been lucky and could probably have gotten gas over there…

We find a place called Mama Inne’s and move there. It has a great garden and direct access to the beach.

Mama Inne’s in Santa Catalina, a nice terrace but the dorm was not the best you would expect for the price paid. Take the apartment upstairs, you shall be good!
Hola, Hooola! A smart green parrot who always stopps talking when you want to film it… 😀

I rent a 7’7″ surfboard at a place called Rollo’s which is much smaller than my last ones in Florida but it is still the biggest I can find. The surf is gigantic for my current skill, the waves further offshore are probably 5 – 6 m high and the ones which hit shore are still 2,5 to 3 m. It costs lots of power to get outta there and surf back in but it works very well to my surprise so I spend several hours surfing, observe skilled surfers and try to do the same to handle the massive force of the incoming waves. In my breaks I chill and chat with Anne and Stefan. It’s just relaxed and awesome – for the first time I miss that I don’t have a GoPro! The whole day is so relaxed and it flies by in a second.

At night we try to find something to eat which is quite challenging. We leave one restaurant since we get ignored for 30 min, leave another one where nobody shows up for 15 min and get back to our hostel to eat… It’s crowded with visitors having dinner and we wait another good hour until we finally get our food. This is probably part of being here, to adjust to the time you need for everything? The food is not very good and the room is really hot.  The bedding smells of the many people who slept there as well and the night is a disaster, with bedbugs in Stefan’s bed and very few sleep.

I flee from the bed at something around 6 am to take some photos and spend the time outside. After a little breakfast we catch in the little shop back in the village I go to surf. Today the surf is even more aggressive than the day before. I get to know Miri a girl from Munich and surf a bit with her. Later Laura joins our little chat. She is just 19 years old, from Berlin and travels alone and for a long time. She is half Venezuelan and tells us about her experience there, sounds absolutely great and totally in contrast to all the news about the riots…

At lunchtime we leave Santa Catalina since Stefan and me want to be in Panama City at around 6:30 pm to book the trip to San Blas which you have to do the night before the trip until 7 pm. In Santiago we drop off Anne who wants to continue to Costa Rica alone. It’s a lively but ugly town and going around there with the car is really difficult, everybody shouts and honks at us. We are glad when we are back on the Panamericana on our way to Panama City. The ride takes forever although I push the gas quite strong in the frame of opportunities – we don’t want to be stopped again. Short before we reach the city we miss an exit and have to pass downtown to reach Casco Viejo and the hostel. This is my worst city driving experience so far, speeding through traffic stuffed downtown, maneuvering around standing cars and walking people. We make it to lunas castle at 6:55 pm, basically in the last minutes before closure of the lists, and are the last ones for tomorrow’s trip to San Blas, what a relief!

We need to get rid of the car and while we try to find a gas station the police stops us again. A fiendish cop shouts at me in Spanish and I reply about 3 times with ‘No hablo Espanol!’ He doesn’t want to believe me and accuses me that I would have taken drugs. Stefan talks to another cop and tells him that we have to return the car quickly. It’s already 8:40 pm, we haven’t filled up the gas yet and it’s still some way to the rental station that closes at 9 pm… After a full inspection of the car and of us the cop let’s us go, phew. 5 min before closure we finally turn in the car and are somehow totally relieved. Back at the hostel we have way of too much Rum with Anika, a nice girl who lives in Zürich and Jonas from Hamburg. I can’t sleep that night, it’s hot and loud in the dorm and the guys under my bunkbed have sex and it feels like an earthquake. I decide to go to the hostels living room and chill the rest of the night there. It’s way more comfortable and relaxed and early in the morning a trip into Paradise waits for us…