Playa Maderas for the day

We switched rooms yesterday. We opted for the smaller, darker and quieter room tucked at the back of the property for the extra days we added on here in San Juan del Sur. Probably a good choice as we now can’t hear the trucks noisily climbing the hill out front or the barking dogs nearby. We also have a bathroom window we can open since there seems to be a lack of bathroom fans to clear any stench from the air…hint, hint.

The eggs were a bit plain. The toast underwhelming, but that’s because bread is a bit of an art form for us spoiled North Americans. Cake-like white bread is standard around here. A multigrain bagel in these parts would probably sell very well amongst the tourists passing through here. We did find a lonely donut shop tucked in amongst the streets here, but it is so far back from where the gringos are it seems hard pressed to even pay the rent with only the occasional donut sale. The donuts here are not sexy.

We got chatting with a couple that came in yesterday. They are in from Seattle. Both of them work in a French immersion school back home and they have a couple weeks to make their way from Managua to San Jose. Today they were planning on squeezing in both the climb to the Jesus statue on the hill and a surf lesson at Playa Maderas. We too were planning on a beach trip to Playa Maderas, but that alone…and no surf lesson. We both wrapped up our breakfast and started packing up to head out.

A quick side note. Our housekeeper here is timid, but friendly. She is trying to learn a little English, but finds it difficult. She sees the benefit of learning because so many guests that roll through here speak very little Spanish, however she doesn’t really get the support from her employer. The host gal we have here is an onsite manager, fluent in English because she is a German traveler, but because of her willingness to work at a job illegally for essentially free…it reduces the opportunity for local Nica people to improve themselves and earn a bit more. This I gathered from broken conversations with Sonja this morning and other chats with business owners around town. Now that we are parked in one place for a few days, it is great to start chatting with people that live and work here.

After outlining the correct pronunciation of raspberry to our cook, and me learning that passionfruit is called one thing in Nicaragua and something completely different in Costa Rica, I fetched Melanie and we headed off to find our ride. Casa Oro, a sister property to this one… but they call themselves and eco hostel. That probably means they can charge more and wannabe millennial tree huggers will pay a little more to know that their food scraps are being composted. We found the place, bought our round trip tickets, and piled into the back of a truck with duct tape padded rails and three surf boards.

The ride was rough. Washed out roads and steep inclines required the truck to stop and engage the front hubs for 4 low driving for the last stage. Only a 9km drive that shook and bounced us about on the wooden benches for a solid 30 minutes. It was only 4 bucks a person though. I wonder if they have partnered with any local physiotherapy clinics to deal with the injuries just from the ride. We emerged relatively unscathed and headed down the beach in search of some photos.

Again, no shade on this beach. It was a bit of a cloudy day, and well prepared with loads of sunscreen and hats we were determined to finish the day without a burn. We marched our way over water washed rocks. We stared into little tide pools filled with urchins and crabs. We found the far end of the beach which held only a few humans other than ourselves. Time to put the stuff down, play and take pics.

We rolled in the surf. Gulped some very salty water and shook the sand from our shorts. After an hour of goofing around we had our pictures and started back to the pickup point for a bumpy ride back into town. With a 30 minute buffer, we were able to enjoy a couple expensive passion fruit mojitos before climbing into the back of a classier Jeep for the ride back to town. Again, 25 minutes of jostling and we arrived in one piece back in amongst civilization.

Feeling bit queasy, we stopped at a little hole in the wall for a bit of lunch. We saw the place was packed with gringos the last few nights we wandered around town, so we thought we might as well try. Only one place to sit though, at a table with a well tanned Asian guy with an oversized laptop on the table and a stack of marked up papers. He shuffled his goods into a pile and invited us to sit.

This was Ken. He is the owner of this little noodle and wrap shop. He has had this joint for 6 years and came down here 10 years ago from Orange County. We chatted for probably a good hour about how he came down this way, expat support after the storm, and entitled kids these days. Apparently San Juan del Sur has changed quite a bit in the last decade and he is used to seeing gringos with all these big ideas of moving down here to start a business. He figures they typically last 8 to 12 months then pack up after losing 30k because they couldn’t weather the low season along with the high. He says there are now 80 restaurants all in the city and local Nica people dont understand why gringos go out for dinner. If locals dont support your business, it is really hard to make something thrive off just tourist dollars.

There are other complications with gringos coming into town trying to create their own opportunities. They pay anything for rent, which drives up prices for everyone. They pay much more for supplies, which also messes with the local economy. As mentioned before, they employ other gringos under the table and reduce opportunity for local Nica people.

A very interesting chat. Ken’s food arrived, so we headed back to our room for a dip in the pool. We also felt that the food at Ken’s place might not be sitting so well with us…so best to be close to the necessary facilities if need be. Sure enough, those facilities were needed… and so was that bathroom window.

A few hours later we headed out for dinner and ended up at one of the badly smashed up restaurants on the waterfront. I remembered a sign our front mentioning happy hour all day…which was exactly what we wanted. After our last mediocre waterfront dining experience though, this would again test our tastebuds and patience.

We ordered a couple cocktails and some small plates. With those first sips we realized the place only had 5 tables set up, as well as a kids swingset…you know, the one with the slide attached to one side. Almost all the tables were full. Why not more tables? Well, half of the floor in the place was missing. The top deck was hanging low and supported by only a couple temporary posts…so that was also out of commission. Interesting place, drinks were tasty…and our small plates of shrimp tacos and chicken fajitas with French fries showed up. Amazing. Super tasty, plump and moist. We added some ceviche for dessert and were happy. We will be back. They can probably use the cash to help with the rebuild.

So we are back. Bought a half bottle of rum for 6 bucks and are back in the room for the night to write and research. As much as we tried to avoid the burn, the speedos I wore exposed a little too much upper thigh. Although i might normally have pigment on those parts, they have not seen sun in many years so just a little beachy exposure and they have pinked up real nice. Long shorts from now on


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