The real Central America- Nicaragua

21st June 2014

Borders are hot, dirty, dusty, weird places. The surrounding towns are not somewhere you would want to spend much time either. Arriving at the border, we first had to find somewhere to park Jimmy and hope he still had wheels when we came back. Getting our passports stamped is easy, its getting Jimmy out of the Costa Rica and permission to enter into Nicaragua thats tricky.

Go here find this person and then go there, where’s your copy of this and that, blah blah. Poor Tomy chasing people around that really don’t want to be found. Anyway after a short 2 hours we were through and away, only to be pulled over 5km up the road by the police. License yep all good. ‘Triangles and fire extinguisher sir?’ says the officer. ‘Arh yeh they are in the back’. He glances to the back of the car…No one wants to go near the back of our car, as it overflows with all our stuff. So he nods and on our way we went.

Popoyo 21st June

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About 3 hours drive from the border we found the perfect spot to set up the tent in an open shed, right in front of a perfect wave. A little rustic rancho that served beer, has internet, toilets, limited water and camping.

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The wave is awesome. Because of the big inland lake, it blows offshore all day and over 300 days of the year. It’s a reef break with a peak that breaks left and right. It does get a bit crowded, but as were pretty much the only people staying right there we just had to wait till there was not many people in the water and surf then.

They don’t have any accommodation at the farm (yet), except camping. So it’s was just us and one other Argentinean couple that have a big caravan (just a little bit jealous). They brought the car and caravan in America and plan on driving to Chile.

The cheap $7 stove ‘blow up’ half way through cooking dinner. So the next day we headed into the nearest town Rivas, 45mins away and brought a stovetop and gas bottle. For some reason the gas man liked us and upgraded the bottle, at least now we can have endless cups of tea, and dinner doesn’t take 2hrs.

The days squished into one. We would usually wake up around 6am to the door slamming on a hilux ute and a loud American yelling to his mate ‘hey you got any wax bro’. We could sit up and check the wave. Someone puts the kettle on. If there’s not too many people in the water, we go for a surf, then have breakfast, which consist of eggs on toast or cereal. The rest of the day is easy- surf, snack, surf, snack, lie in the hammocks, listen to music or play cards. Dinner is a rotation of rice or pasta with veggies or beans. Tomy had mastered the art of the one pot wonder but now we have our new stove we can get a bit more creative. By then its dark and we head off to bed. If we have charged the computer, we have a bit of luxury and watch a movie.

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We did venture away from our little spot and went on a mission to another beach called Playgrounds with some friends, Gary and Danny. About an 1.5hr drive on one of the worst roads yet. The wave is a long fun left that breaks over some rocks. Only problem as we walked onto the beach we saw 4 boats and about 30 people in the water. Everyone had decided on the same adventure that day. We surfed for a bit, but got pretty frustrated with the crowd and the strong cross-shore wind.

On the way home we stopped at the hot springs. Bloody amazing! The water is 30+ degrees and it was the first hot water we had for over 9 weeks. The locals go there to wash their cloths in the little concrete cloths washing place and us tourist pay $1.50 to soak ourselves.

For the next 6 weeks we surfed pretty much every single day, the only days we didn’t surf all day were on 3 unsuccessful missions to Managua (the city) to extend our car visa and 1 day when it was completely flat and we hadn’t brought the longboard yet.

Our first trip to the city was a disaster. We needed to extend the visa for Jimmy. We went with Gary as he had to go to the knee doctor to look at his MRI results. It turns out he snapped his ACL!

5am up and on the (gravel pot holed) road to the city, just a short 2 hour trip! First things first we had to get money out. So Tomy goes in to the little box ATM and comes out shaking his head not an unusual sight as half the machines don’t work. But this time was different ‘insufficient funds’ he says. ‘What?!’ Just 2 days ago we had transferred money onto our trusty travel card. After 4 ATMs saying the same thing we began to wonder what was going on…

As we had $8 cash to our names we quickly concluded we wouldn’t be renewing any visas today. Instead we went from doctor to physio, while Tomy played translator for Gary, I waited next to the fan that was blowing warm air. We did get to watch the Brazilians get smashed by the Germans in the waiting rooms, so that was entertaining.

When we finally made it back to our little home by the sea. We did a quick internet bank check and noticed that 2 days ago our card had being used… a frantic search for the missing card and we realized it had being stolen… We can’t even figure out when they stole it and why they wouldn’t have taken anything else. The statement shows them filling up petrol then doing shopping at one supermarket and then another one, then filling up their car again and so on! They must have had a big party with all the stuff they brought!

The second mission to Managua was another unsuccessful mission. Leaving Popoyo at 4:30am to be at customs by 8:30 only to be told that we couldn’t renew the car visa because it was 10 days before it expires and that we need to come back 2 days before it expires. Even after calling customs the day before to check and make sure we could renew it, they said they could do it for us any day. They advised we come back at 8:30 in a week as the paper takes 8 hours to process and would be ready to pick up in the afternoon on the same day.

So a quick shop to stock up on supplies and picking up a great deal for a massive two-person hammock, we headed back to camp in time for a sunset surf and wash off the frustration of the way things happen in Central America.

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A week later back to the city we went. Strolled into customs right on 8:30. We lodged the form for the car and only received a voucher saying we needed to pick up the visa tomorrow! Just another hiccup and part of how it all works. History repeating, we did a quick shop, ate an amazing cheap lunch and ice cream and headed back to camp. Resigning to the fact that we weren’t meant to have permission for the car as nothing was going right and instead enjoy another week in Popoyo surfing offshore everyday.

On the 5th of July we scored a big swell and Tomy got to surf the outer reef and get a few nice barrels… I took photos; someone’s got to record the good times.

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Then it went small but still fun so decided that a longboard was a good idea. I saw one on the beach a nice big 9’4 single fin and jokingly I asked the owner how much he wanted for it. He replied ‘$150 I’m leaving on Tuesday.’ Big smiles overtook our faces and we arranged to pick it up in 2 days. We were like 2 kids waiting for Christmas. Tuesday came and we were the proud owners of a longboard. Hours of entertainment for the next month when the surf was small. We did agued who went first, but while one surfed the other got the giant hammock to themselves so it wasn’t that bad!

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The owner of the property Phil turned up one day with his son Ben, so we had neighbors camped next to us and we could sus out how much it would cost us for a little piece of land. He has plans to create a gated community with a focus on sustainability. A turn of events and a little argument with him just 2 days before we left and we decided that Finca Popoyo is a great place, with an even better wave but not the best place to invest our life saving into. I think the wave will become even more crowded and the project is more about money than the sustainability of this incredible place.

We were ready to leave but we needed to replace the wheel bearing on Jimmy. The part finally arrived and we waited hoping the mechanic would turn up. He did and with the part only slightly different to the originally, Jimmy and us were ready to go.

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The next day we left and our new friend Jordan who we had met in the surf and had camped with us for the past week decided to come along. His actually a born and bread Margret River boy and we are happy to have company for the next part of our adventure.

Up early to say our goodbyes to the guards who work at Popoyo, as security during the night and serving beers in the day. When the surfs pumping the rancho could be packed and the guards working had, but mostly they hang out and use the wifi or watch the world cup.

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The guards had quickly taken a liking to Tomy and his cooking. His generous nature showed, as he was always giving them cookies, coffees and smokes. They also looked after us, keeping an eye on our tent and Jimmy while we were surfing or out and about. However, there is crime in Nicaragua, like many places. Nicaragua is a really poor nation and its government and police are extremely corrupt. We made friends with many of the young surfer locals, but we weren’t careful enough and we think this is how our bankcard was stolen. However, in saying that, as a whole the people of Nicraugua have being kind and welcoming and it’s a great place to travel to.

So finally on Friday the 1st of August we squished into Jimmy and headed north to a place called The Boom. We had planed to stop past customs and pick up our visa for the car (4th time lucky) but had learnt only the night before, that of course it was a public holiday in the city of Managua and everything would be shut. Just our luck.

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