After leaving Ometepe, we had one more destination in Nicaragua before heading to Costa Rica. Ram wanted to do some more surfing and it had been weeks since we had seen the ocean. So, after filling our fridges in Rivas, we pointed our rigs south for the beach town of San Juan del Sur. This last stop on the pacific ocean is a well-known surf and party spot, popular with Nicaraguans and international backpackers alike.
This not so little town hosts everything travelers would need. Ice cream shops, lavanderias, several surf hostels with beach transport and lessons included, late night bars, Israeli falafel, a French bakery, real estate agencies catering to expats, etc etc. We arrived late in the afternoon and stopped for falafel and bought some steaks at a butcher. After quickly driving thru town, we headed north about 15 minutes on gravel roads to a quiet beach camp spot where we met some old overlanding friends. I believe the spot is called Playa Maderas. Behind a small bar/restaurant next to a surf hostel, there is a small place for overlanders to park. About six or eight rigs could fit in together here. The restaurant provides wifi and an electrical outlet.
By this point, the solar panels were unable to cope with the clouds to generate enough juice to power our fan all night long. The nights in the low lands of Nicaragua are hot and muggy and we became accustomed to finding camping spots with electricity. The coast is great, but it sure it hot!
We hung out here for three days playing on the beach and making small trips back to SJdS for laundry and ice cream. At night time the ground would become swarmed with orange and purple crabs. After our stay here, we tried to head south past Playa El Coco and Playa El Ostional and take this route back to the main road and the frontier at Peñas Blancas. We talked to the locals who said the road wasn’t really a road and our travel mates decided against attempting it with their fully loaded Westy. After conquering the Jack Ass Ridge road back in Mendocino, I was willing to give it a try. How hard could it be in the dry season? We stopped at El Ostional to read about the turtle nesting, but were quickly swarmed with mosquitos. We doubled back to El Coco and found nice looking house which had a family of caretakers. They allowed us to camp there for one night. That night we went onto the beach and saw the flickering of many flashlights spaced evenly every 20 meters or so as far as we could see up and down the beach. Turtle hunters. We were surprised to see this happening, since in most other places education about protecting the turtle nesting has greatly reduced poaching. Even at Ostional, not 6km to the south, there were signs explaining how the turtles are endangered and protecting them is of great importance.
The next morning, we were rushed to leave quickly by the caretakers. I think they were paranoid they let us stay and didn’t want to get in trouble. Back on the road, we doubled back to San Juan del Sur and headed for the Costa Rican border. The border on the Nicaraguan side was uneventful and fast. We had got the hang of this by now and even my Spanish was not so bad for these things. The Costa Rican side was expectedly a bit better put together than anything we had seen in a long long time. There was even A/C in the main customs office where we all got our passports stamped. Later I registered the truck and attempted to enter the country without the obligatory insurance (as usual). We hadn’t had insurance since our coverage lapsed when we were in northern California and I never bothered to reinstate it. When we got to México, we had been pressured by everyone and other travelers to get it, but the combination of cost and complication turned me off. I don’t do things because of fear. Fuck fear and damn the man.
Anyways, we’ve had absolutely zero problems with any of this until we were officially not allowed to enter Costa Rica without insurance. There is a little office one must enter and purchase the required coverage for three months. I can’t remember what it cost, but it wasn’t too ridiculous and I had no choice at this point. We had never been asked to have or required to show proof of insurance before this. So after all this was straightened out, we could finally enter the country we set out to come to in the first place!
In total, we spent about one month in Nicaragua. We loved to visit this varied and pleasantly surprising country. We were invited to stay in several peoples homes and met great people at every turn. One day we will return for sure!