We met Rebecca in Popoyo, a small beach town in central Nicaragua. And we booked a cozy room at Hotel Wild Waves with a queen and a single bed in it so we could hold hands while we slept. Proprietor, Johnny, was a lovely host, and the crew of miscreant local boys who hung out at the hostel kept us entertained, and stole all the hammocks. Most importantly, the ocean was right outside.
There is also a river that runs through town and into the ocean. One must cross the river to get to the main Popoyo reef break. The address of Wild Waves’ official documentation, like their business license, is “200 meters north of the river, Popoyo.” This didn’t help us find it when we first arrived, but in general is an amazing address. This river haunted us a bit, due mainly to the lovely Frenchman who was staying at the hotel. Julien spoke French and Spanish, but no English, so it was entertaining to talk with him. When we asked Julien if there were sharks I’m the waters around Popoyo, he said no, but “en la rio, hay cocodrilos.” When written down it is obvious what this word translates to, but in French and Spanish spoken with a French accent, it took us ages to understand what he was saying. “Cocos,” Julien kept saying while miming jaws snapping with his arms. Finally we understood what he was saying and Rebecca and I both blanched. This is the river we had walked across and must continue to walk across to go surfing! Who cares about sharks when there are bloody crocodiles waiting patiently for high tide so they can chomp us to bits! Our fear heightened for some time until finally, hours later, amongst a group of other people we said, “Julien, there’s crocodiles in the river, right?” And with an impish grin at the corner of his mouth, he flatly said, “no.”
Alas, we were saved from death by fear of crocodiles, and we quickly forgave Julien because he is so cute and French, and didn’t wear a shirt all week.
And then we crossed the river and surfed. Rebecca has gotten so good at surfing, at times I just sat at the bar overlooking the reef and watched her like a good surf girlfriend. I even took bino-photos of her being awesome. And in turn she accompanied me down the road to a small lake where I claimed I had seen bright pink birds and no one believed me. We saw giant wood storks, comorants, herons and roseate spoonbills! They’re hot pink and have long funny shaped bills and they’re awesome.
After a few days of surfing the local breaks we got in a car, and then on a boat with all our boards and we motored out to the (locally) famous Lance’s Left, a break only accessible by boat. The boat left from a little fishing village down the road and we launched off the beach. To get the boat from the land to the beach it was put on two very cylindrical large logs, one on each end, then rolled slowly forward until the back log came off, the front log ended up in the back, and the boat’s front end hit the ground. Then the back log was dragged to the front, the boat was levered onto the back, and the log was put underneath to start the process again. It sounds simple and obvious, because it was, but I’ve never seen regular people doing such a regular thing and it was a bit astonishing how clever it must have felt when the first dude in the village thought of it. And also made clear how so many large things could be moved, like giant British stones, and pyramid blocks.
After a short boat ride we stopped and jumped out of the boat, had our boards handed to us, and paddled over to the wave, facing a cliff, and peeling to the left in the middle of the ocean. Four of us had come from the hotel, and no one else was there. We all got wave after wave. As soon as one could paddle back out there was another perfect wave to catch. After a while the wind picked up and our arms tired from so much surfing, and we made the much longer paddle back out to the boat where we were hauled back in by our armpits. It was amazing.
A few more days of surfing and then we drove to Granada where we stayed in a lovely colonial B&B, Casa San Martín. Granada is an old Spanish town that was sacked and burned a bunch of times because it’s right on Lake Nicaragua which is accessible from the Caribbean (ergo Caribbean = pirates = sacked cities). Right on the lake the city turns into a country town as locals graze their livestock. The calves were all hobbled together, or for one unlucky calf, to a goat. We couldn’t decide who was keeping whom out of trouble.
We took a boat out on Lake Nicaragua and our guide speaking very slowly explained about the 360+ islands so that we could understand him. We asked him about the sharks in the lake and he was adamant that they were there, but stayed to the deeper waters on the other side. Of course they do, they’re only over there where we aren’t, right? Tiburones Toro, bull sharks. It has been well documented that bull sharks can live in salt and fresh water, and have been known to swim up the Amazon River as well. For many, many years they have been swimming from the Caribbean Sea up the San Juan River and chilling in Lake Nicaragua. Scientists have tagged some of the sharks and they move back and forth between the sea and the lake, adjusting the levels of salt in their body as they go. Our guide also mentioned lightly that there were crocodiles here too.
We also saw some awesome birds from the boat, including a jacama, a kingfisher, a green heron, and a thousand great egrets. One of the islands on the lake is home to some monkeys, left their by some people, and now fed by tourists.
Rebecca also brought us a bunch of important stuff from the states, like extra underwear for Chris, and my brand of shampoo. This left her with a hole in her suitcase the size of two hats. Sorry dude, not seventeen, just two.
After all that fun it was time for Rebecca to fly home (at 4am), and us to hustle to Panama to meet Kathryn! Coming up next: Cuban refugees, where the real crocs live, and how to see Costa Rica in 36 hours.