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Monday, November 06, 2006

The Border Jump, part 2

"Lisa, I believe, is going to write next about the actual town of SJdelS (which was a really great place), finding a hotel, where to eat, what to do "... "hopefully Lisa can write about the remainder of our Border Run trip in the next day or so"... Thank you for the intro Bruce, I would be happy to write about the remainder of our trip! It's my pleasure.

So here's the scene- 6 20-some year olds pile out of a half-working, half-clunking Land Rover/Taxi in the beautiful and hot afternoon in San Juan del Sur. It's Friday afternoon. We have been traveling for almost 12 hours. We're tired, but thrilled to finally be on our feet for a while. 2 people from our group (friends we made on the bus) headed to a family friend's place, 2 more headed to the local hostel (Casa de Oro, quite nice for those travelers on a budget), and the last two, the lone Bruce and Lisa, wander the streets in search of a place to stay. We decided somewhere a little nicer than the hostel (at $10 per night), and a little cheaper than the gorgeous Pelican Eyes (a GORGEOUS hotel over looking the town, at a whopping $100 per night). After checking out a few hotels, there are at least 15-20 in the town, we decided on "Landmark Inn On the Playa." Yes, that is the correct name. A little Spanish, a little English, todo bien. The owner, a Virginia native, gave us a seemingly good deal at $25 per night, if we paid to stay all three nights right away. Our 'comfortable' room came with 'cable TV, a private bathroom, and an amazing breakfast.' Interestingly enough, the cable TV was literally a cable (perhaps for a TV, if you happened to bring one) sitting on a table in a corner of the room. The private bathroom, coincidentally right next to the bar (see picture), was also the private bathroom to half the hotel, nice. And the amazing breakfast consisted of 2 pieces of toast, coffee, and OJ. But the room was clean, sans bugs, and with air conditioning. Tricky thing though, the power is turned of several times a day in San Juan del Sur, and when it's at night, it's not too comfortable without AC. Also, walking to my 'private bathroom' at 4am with the light of my iPod's back light to guide me is less than desirable and quite scary. But, an adventure is an adventure. All in all, the hotel was fine. Free bike and snorkel rental, wonderful hammocks on the porch, 20 feet away from the beach (no joke, actually on the playa - the picture on the left is the view from the lobby), and tons of harmless townies and travelers to keep you entertained for hours. Bruce and I befriended a local by the name of Rafael, who I lovingly refer to as 'the pirate'. He speaks 14 languages, does magic tricks, acupuncture, and can chug a beer faster than anyone I've ever seen, at 9am, no less. So our hotel, though somewhat misleading, was a great place to meet a lot of great people with great stories. And it was clean(ish). Enough for me.

Our days were spent on the beach, drinking beers with Nicaraguan karate expert Jonathon, and fun-loving-stoned-out-of-his-mind-family man, who Jonathon said was not welcome with us. Fine by me. So we got rid of him, only to find him doing splits in our hotel's lobby several hours later (after spotting him playing in the sand with his daughter, and by playing, I mean, staring blankly at the sea while she laughs and giggle, not the happiest sight.) We also ventured down the beach a bit where the waves were bigger and the beaches were quieter. Also, there's plenty of snorkeling right around the cove, for those who are interested. We were more into the wave jumping. A word to the wise- though the beaches might be safe, we never left our stuff unattended. However, it's easy to find trustworthy gringos lining the beach who will watch your stuff, no problem, but don't leave it alone, bad idea. During the day, we also explored the town, the whole 6 blocks of it, took pictures, rode bikes around the streets, snuck up to Pelican Eyes for a drink (in the picture you see the Macuas we ordered; the Macua is the newly elected "national drink of Nicaragua"), refused to pay $5 to use their pool but drank there and enjoyed the view anyway (see picture below), and met some great people. The town has so much personality and it attracts people with personality, too, I can't wait to go back.

As for dining/going out, there are plenty of restaurants and bars. The ones off of the beach are about 40% cheaper, and just as delicious and fun. We got a great meal at Jerry's, we each had 1/4 roast chicken, curly fries, and two beers for $7 (that's combined). I hear their lasagna is to die for, but we weren't quite in the mood for lasagna in the hot hot sun. The other restaurants were good, great deal at Soda Margarita (casados for about $3), but nothing too special. Oh, do check out Gato Negro for their Banana Chocolate Pancakes. Neat little bookstore attached, too. Definitely go for some seafood from any beach front restaurant, try the dorado or wahoo, you won't be disappointed. As for places to go out at night, there's a disco at the end of the beach, plenty of bars along the beach, and a nice little gringo hangout known as 'Big Wave Daves.' 50 cent rum and cokes on Saturdays- gotta love it! Bottom line, buy a bottle of Flor de Cana from any local store, have some drinks in your room, then follow the hoards of people towards the most happening spot of the night. Quite reminiscent of freshman year, heading to the frat party. Sad but true. If that's not your scene, there are plenty of quieter bars with nice atmospheres to enjoy a drink or two with friends.

This post is long, and this is my last point. Unfortunately, Bruce and I ran into some money problems while we were in San Juan del Sur. Basically, we brought about $100 in cash between the two of us, two credit cards, and my ATM card for Banco Nacional (a CR bank). Unfortunately, between the departure taxes, cab rides, a meal or two, and some groceries, bruce and I were close to running on empty, with a full day and a half to go. Not many places took credit cards (only the expensive restaurants on the beach and hotels), and out of the two ATMs in the town, neither accepted my bank card, even with its MasterCard logo. So, I suggest two things 1) Take cash, 2) Take a US debit card. If you do get in a bind like us, try this, 3) Pay for lunch/dinner with your credit card and ask them to over charge you by however much cash you would like, and then get them to give the cash to you. Bruce and I did this our last day there, and they only charged us 4% on the extra money- most definitely less than the ATM would charge you for a foreign debit card! Needless to say, it turned out ok, but we definitely steered clear of pricey activities due to lack of cash. We had a great time, nonetheless.

Bottom line about San Juan del Sur- Lots of personality, cute town, but only stay for 4-5 days max, any more than that and you might get a little cabin fever. Next adventure to Nicaragua... Grenada! Hopefully this spring!

Check out more photos from our trip by clicking below