Everybody's goin surfin, Popoyo peak, La Bocana, Swine flu, and manhandling maxxie....
13/05/2009 30 °C
Up dark and early for a 2am departure, the Tica bus from San Salvador saw us cross back through Hondurus before entering Nicaragua.
By midday we are passing Lago de Managua and arrive shortly after in the capital. We spend all of 5 mins in the capital and shoot a short cab ride from Tica depot to Mercado R Huembres for the bus to Rivas. As soon as we get out of the taxi we are swamped by half a dozen middle aged Nicas yelling what we could only guess to be what bus they think we should catch.....Rivas? Autobus a Rivas? They grab our bags, No Necessito Senor, Permiso, NO NECESSITO! Our bags are getting carried off by 3 men, shite! VAMOS, VAMOS!! Could have been very bad but it all was good, we were rushed and jagged the next bus to Rivas by about 10 seconds, all our bags were waiting beside the bus, but now we have to cough up the tip!
We get off the bus at Rivas and its an 'all in' on our bags round 2!!
INSERT STRESSED PHOTO OF JESS AND STEVE HERE
It was hard to handle second time round, but at least they listened to us this time and left our bags on the ground while still yelling over each other at us. One cab driver was just siting back watching, he must have seen this a thousand times, yep we get sick of all the Nicas yelling at us and take the mellow cab driver option. A set up?? Who knows but we take that option with result now being only one person telling us where we need to go rather than 5 all at the same time.
Its 3pm and we catch the cab all the way to Popoyo rather than another chicken bus to Las Salinas which would then see us having to hitch or walk the last 5kms to Popoyo. The VERY bumpy dirt road wound endlessly through hills and valleys, small local villages, and across dry river beds.
When are we getting to the beach YO its been 15hrs in transit!? 1.5hrs later we come to a grinding stop and the dust swirls up around us. We had only passed just a few places that looked like accom in the last 500m and we find ourselves standing in front of only a couple more. Its quiet with hardly anyone around, and all of a sudden you realise that we are extremely isolated. The nearest town is no more than a few farmhouses, couple of corner stores and cows. The nearest ATM a 2hr bus ride away.
Absolutely knackered after 15hrs plus in transit, and slightly uneased at where we had got ourselves we hear a HEY STEVE!? Uhhh (like homer), turn around, What, ahhhh HOLA NIR! A familiar face! We settle into La Tica accomodation, open our account, have a bite and a beer, sit down and talk about what we've been doing since meeting in Rio Nexpa, Mexico. Arvo surf shortly followed out at a left (and right) reef break called Popoyo... Back at La Tica we meet up with another guy, Max, who we also met in Rio Nexpa, Max´s dad, Luis from Brazil and an Aussie guy from Melbourne, Christian.
We spend the next 5 days at Popoyo, however, we only stay 2 nights at La Tica and then score ourselves some beach front camping at the restaruant across the road for the next 3 nights.
The resturant is located right on the beach, next to the river mouth you cross to get to the surf break. The owners son Angel (friendly legend), arranged for us to camp in a partially built villa at the front of the property right on the beach! Apart from delicious food on tap the resturant was home to a menagerie of critters who we would call our neighbours for a few days. There was Roy and Brenda, a constantly scwabbling scarlet macaw couple, Scoobie the dopey hound and maxxie the white faced monkey.
Maxxie was set up on a zip line in a tree close to our tent. He was amazing to watch, such agility, but it was all a bit sad. Numb skull surfers would give him a hard time with constant teasing, even the resturant staff razzed him up. We did see some tourists give him cuddles which he seemed to enjoy for 2 mins before he was back in attack mode.
One afternoon we shared some fruit with him. Jess fed him some orange but something else had caught Maxxie´s eye. SNATCH - within a split second Maxxie grabbed Jess´s perscription sunnies off her face and was making his way back to his tree house to begin the dismantling process. Quick thinking Steve grabed maxxie around the neck/chest, squeezed hime and with a squeel the sunnies were released and the monkey retreated. Who´s evolved now bitch! We make friends again with more fruit and we are back in the good books with our neighbour.
About 2 seconds before the drama unfolded....
While at Popoyo the reef break remained at 3ft, got to 4ft on one day, and was absolutely smashable. The left was the pick but some naturals were also going right. As he does Steve wasted not a second and clocked up some serious surf tiempo all day every day.
Small to no crowds for the early....
In Nicaragua this time of the year the wind is offshore ALL DAY! You never think you would get sick of offshores but you do here. Just back off a bit! And because of the constant offshores their are upwellings and the water is at a cooler 20-21 rather than 26-27 back in El Salv.
To get to Popoyo reef you have to cross La Bocana, a river mouth. The tide differences are massive here. On low tide it is a slight trickle into the ocean, on high tide their is a sweet little 1-2ft right hander breaking along La Bocana sand bar with a 2m chanell!! GGGGET OUT THEIR JRAE!! Jess has her first surf in yrs and tears it up. Her best wave not caught on camaera but in one session she was standing up!
Our days camping on the beach at popoyo were magic! Highly recommended if you are ever in the area. We explored rock shelves and beaches further to the south, beach fire parties, and surfed another break called El Rancho, or the wedge....
Popoyo being pretty isolated, the only internet access was via satelite and was a wallet busting US $5 an hour. Not to mention some of the keys not working and the 20 or so mosies biting you at any one time....One afternoon we hear some surfers talking when they get back from the internet, the first news of the Swine Flu. Rumours spead like wild fire, we heard on guy say that 1500 were dead in Mexico. Neither of us slept well that night... Next morning we hit the internet first thing, 8 dead, 400 confirmed cases world wide and a lot of hype, fear and hysteria. What to do? It would probably be safe to stay in an isolated location but the funds are running low (been sharing the cheapest meal - desayuno Nica - BLD 2 days) we need to split and hit an ATM, may as well keep moving.
We score a lift with Dan into Rivas, Dan is flying back to the States from Managua. There are rumours that the airport if shutting down due to swine flu. Christian and Luis also hitch a ride. We all go our separate ways in Rivas. Swap contact details and adios! Our plan was to catch a Tica Bus accross the border direct to San Jose. At the Tica Bus office we get the bad news that no vehicles are crossing the border, hence no Tica buses are running. Shite. At a nearby service station (everyones wearing masks) a taxi driver informs us that apparently you can cross the border by foot and catch a bus at the other side. One problem though, there is a truck protest and no buses can get to the border so we will need to walk 1km to the end of the protest. Great... we will give it a go!
Cab to the border, there are abandoned semi trailers parked one after the other at the side of the road. On the way there we spot Christain in the back of the bus in front. 3 aussies take on the border. First go we talk to some Nicaraguan officials near the cargo gate, they are all wearing masks. We go to hand them our passports and they refuse to touch them, telling us that the borders closed, turn around. A local lady walking back from the border says with a dispairing look ¨impossible¨. Next we go to the border authority office where the entry and exits are processed. We line up only to be told that the border is closed. The official stamps Jess´s passport but no one elses? We decide to try another officer, line up again at the next window... same story, borders closed, and get the cold shoulder noticing its our 2nd attempt. We talk to a Canadian girl that crossed into Costa yesterday, and entered back into Nicaragua that day with no hassles. Others we getting entry into Nicaragua from Costa but no one was being allowed into Costa Rica. No cars, not by foot...we sit back and watch for a while and yep all the locals were getting turned away also.
To make matters worse there was a little bit of confusion as to why the border was closed. Trucks were blocking the border on the Costa side but there was also a suspicious sign on the wall that stated in spainish that there will be no entry into Costa Rica for 2 months due to the Swine Flu. What now? We aint giving up that easy. We huff, puff, scratch our heads, look at each other and agree to walk to the Costa Rican border. They check the passports and say that they will let us in if we get our passports stamped exit in Nicaragua. But they won't stamp it saying you are closed!! You need stamp!
OK then, we walk back to Nicas officials sweat dripping off all of us, its hot, and confront the office. The officials are not happy with us and our third attempt. Steve trys explaining what the Costa Rican oficial advised. the Nicas oficial says no, we stand our ground and ask again, the oficial turns to his amigos, chats briefly, then gets off his chair and walks to the door. Oh ow, did we just push things to far?? He calls us over away from everyone and says in broken english ''I will do this for you, pauses and looks around, BUT, if they do not let you through you will come back to me and pay me money'' - RIGHT YOU'RE ON! Gracias gracias gracias.....
After 5 minutes of paperwork we hand over our payment in US dollars and walk off with passports stamped. Sweet, now the Costa Ricans have to cooperate with the Ausies!!
It was like a ghost town, we were the only ones lined up to enter Costa Rica and there was only a few exiting...it took Nicaragua 2hrs to stamp our passports, it took Costa Rica 2 minutes no questions asked????????????????????
We begin our walk past the truckies protest and ask some tired looking backpackers that have just completed the walk and about to enter Nicaragua ´Is it far, how long have you been walking'?? Their answer 'Don´t bother, turn around and do it another day, we have been walking for over 1 1/2 hrs....' Ahhh ok, thanks, but that isn't an option, and on we go, walking past one truck after another........