Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Hostile Waters! El Salvador

I haven’t updated in about two weeks so I will try to be succinct about my adventures! We ended up staying in Popoyo for another 10 days because the surf was so prime. A solid swell rolled in and we had about 8 days straight of 5-7ft waves. The offshore winds were kicking the whole time so the waves were epic. Chris and I surfed 3 times a day every day we were there. We both got some pretty gnarly surf rash on our bellies from the abuse and the sand that upwells from the shallow bottom and gets stuck between your stomach and board. We met two Frenchies named Sophia and Julien who were staying at our Popoyo Loco Hostel. They had a super tiny Toyota Alto car that we would cram into. We went to Lance’s Left a few more times and scored big there one of the days. Some of the longest waves I’ve ever surfed in my life. We also did another boat trip out to Manzanillo but it wasn’t really happening out there. We still scored some great lefts when the big sets would roll through.
Hiking out to the break - "what a beaut"
The one afternoon we were surfing Popoyo it was more crowded than usual. I was having one of my best sessions yet. Chris and I were trading waves when an Argentinian guys who I later found out has been living there for a couple years paddled up to me. He started yelling in Spanish and from what I understood he was saying that I was getting too many waves and needed to be tranquillo. His buddy paddled over too and said “go home”. I definitely didn’t paddle in because I had been surfing three times a day there for almost three weeks and had never seen either of these guys and they weren’t local Nicaraguans. I was getting a bunch of waves but I wasn’t being overly aggressive in the lineup. I found out later that he didn’t realize that Chris and I were twins and thus thought we were scoring twice as many waves as anybody else. He was a close friend of our hostel owner so we were able to apologize and make amends. It was a really weird situation because I was minding my own business when all the sudden I was being yelled at for getting “too many waves”. Oh the joys of having a twin!
New Friends!
After about 10 days in Popoyo we were ready for a change of pace. We left Popoyo and went back to San Juan del Sur to figure out our next step. Luck was on our side! When we got to San Juan del Sur we found out that the crazy “party” hostel called the Naked Tiger was having their one year anniversary party. We had been hearing rumors about this party for the past two weeks even out in remote Popoyo.  From what I gathered, The Naked Tiger was acquired by a young 23 year old American guy from his parents.  Basically, he lets everybody do anything they want up there (write on the walls of the beautiful mansion) so we knew the party was going to be silly silly. When we got there around 1030 the place was packed with about 400-500 travelers dancing in the pool and all over the property. It was definitely the best party I’ve ever been to hands down. It was a great change of pace from almost too tranquillo Popoyo.
Party People!
The next day in Popoyo we made plans to head further north to El Salvador. The direct bus options from Managua (capital of Nicaragua) to El Salvador were tricky. We had been hearing horror stories about traveling into Managua, especially at night. The direct bus left at 5am and you needed to be there an hour early to store bags and get tickets so we were looking at getting in around 4am, not a good time for two blonde American guys that don’t exactly fit in. San Juan del Sur is about two hours south of Managua. The first cab we tried to organize refused to go into Managua at the time of night, that’s when we knew it was going to be a little hairy. We made friends with the young local guy running our hostel and his girlfriend’s dad operated a cab. We left at 2am with both of them and we got to the bus station a little before it opened at 4am so they hung out with us in the cab until it opened. Driving into Managua was worse than what I imagined.  Imagine a poorer and sketchier version of Tijuana if that’s possible. Not even bars on the windows, no windows or glass on anything! Everything was covered in metal plates. It looked like a post-apocalyptic city. The bus station itself was really nice and safe and had security.
Chris is so fuerte!
We bought directs to El Salvador and watched the sun come up as we left the city. We had to cross two borders to get to El Salvador. The Nicaragua-Honduras border was easy. The drive through Honduras was really beautiful. Nicaragua was really drive and barren while Honduras was more tropical. The Honduras-El Salvador border was a little more established. They ran German Sheppard’s through the bus and everybody was armed to the hilt. Once we crossed into El Salvador the scenery was amazing. They had just received a bunch of heavy rains and the hills and mountains were very green and tropical! We got off the bus in San Benido which is just south of the capital, San Salvador which we heard is a little more dangerous. We were up for a little adventure and opted out of taking a cab to the surf town called El Tunco. We met a guy on the bus who drew a little map of how to walk to the bus stop which goes to El Tunco. Talk about getting stared at! Walking downtown during San Benido rush hour with a surf bag gets some attention, and being Gringo! We found the bus station pretty easy but we were having a hard time hailing the #102 El Tunco bus. We figured out that because the busses were so packed, or would be packed after a few more stops didn’t want us to have surf bags. Also, the bus system was so hectic at this time that they would barely even slow down to pick people up, you had to walk into the lane when it stopped at the light to rush onto the bus. We stashed/hid the board bag under the bench and hailed the 4th #102 bus that had passed us. It slowed down and I hopped on and it started to drive away without Chris. I yelled at the bus driver and he slowed down again had Chris pulled the bag from under the bench and basically threw it onto the bus to me as the driver yelled at us and started to drive away. Chris jumped on and 60 cents later we were on our way to El Tunco, “The Land of Glassy Nuggets”! After a few stops the bus was standing room only and we were the only non-locals on the bus yet again. It was dark by this time and the bus stopped in La Libertad which we heard was sketchy at night. We were shuffled onto another bus through the back and were on our way again. We told the driver El Tunco and we stopped on a super quiet street and were told to walk down “that way”. It said El Tunco but there wasn’t a person in sight. We went to the second hostel when we saw a surfer sitting inside. After 17 hours of travel we made it to our destination! Super crazy day!
We got to El Tunco two nights ago and checked into a sweet hostel with a pool and awesome owner. We heard the owner is pretty legendary around here and he woke us up at the crack of dawn to go surfing. He took us to a break called La Botana which has a HUGE spray painted “Only Locals” sign next to it. It’s only a 5 minute walk from our hostel and he paddled out with so nobody said anything to us. I’ve only been here two days now but so far I’ve got to say that the breaks are the most localized I’ve ever surfed. Almost all the waves here are rights except La Botana which is famous for being a left and that’s why it’s so localized. The locals don’t even bother with the right at La Botana which is also an epic wave. The last two morning Chris and I have poached the right a La Botana and it has been all time except the Red Tide which is pretty bad right now. It funny because in order to get to the right at La Botana you have to paddle across the lineup of local guys who are doing the left and they all say pretty mean stuff to you as you go by. Both mornings we have gone super early so there are only a few guys out but we talked to some of the other gringos in the lineup who paddled out later towards the end of our session who got hassled pretty hard.
Another boat trip to Manzanillo! Getting the boat into the water was no easy task! 
After La Botana we wanted to go surf in the afternoon at a break called El Zonte. We went to go hail a bus and the first one just looked at us and drove by so we decided to hitch hike. We got a ride pretty quick and surfed El Zonte at high tide. It wasn’t that good because the red tide there was the worst I’ve ever seen because it gets trapped inside the bay. We hitched our way back to El Tunco and the first truck stopped to give us a ride. He asked for a dollar each and he drove us right to our hostel! Unlike Nicaragua there is a really nice paved coastal road that runs north and south and makes it really easy to get to any of the breaks. Nicaragua hasn’t heard of pavement yet outside any of the main cities. So far we’re super stoked on El Tunco because it has the glassiest waves we have surfed thus far and the town is pretty established compared to Popoyo so there are lots of other travelers and people to meet. Chris flies home in a week and I still need to buy my return ticket but I will probably come home in a week or two. El Salvador so far has been awesome and I am stoked to surf some right handers for once! Also, the food here is delicious and is so so cheap! Gotta love it! Until next time!

Friday, April 13, 2012

Off the Grid: Nicaragua

Surfing with Chris and Pat! 

It’s been awhile since I last updated this. We made it to Nicaragua after a lonnnggg day of travel. I was pretty sick when we left on our journey to Nicaragua. I think it was because of the “red tide” because it was my sinuses that were bothering me. We took the 6am bus out of Santa Teresa and got to the ferry around 8. Crossed the Nicoya Peninsula by 10:30 and got back on the bus until we got to Barancas which was only 30 minutes away. We didn’t know if we were going to take local “Tica” busses to the border or a direct. Just our luck there was a direct “Trans-Nica” bus waiting in Barancas. It was expensive but it was super cushy with AC and a TV playing movies in Spanish. We got to the border after a few hours and crossed without much difficulty. I had heard rumors that the border wait can exceed 6 hours during the Semana de Santa holiday but there was hardly anybody there. We got back on the Transnica and went for about 30 minutes where Chris and I got dropped off at an intersection in the middle of nowhere! We waited for about 20 minutes until a car came by which happened to be a “taxi” and got a ride to San Juan del Sur which was about 45 minutes away. San Juan del Sur was also in the middle of nothing but was a pretty established town with lots of hostels and bars. We tried a few hostels but everything was full because of the holiday. I spotted a few girls that were speaking English in the middle of the road so I asked them if their hostel had room. Turns out we were in luck again. It was the poorest excuse for a hostel I had seen thus far in my travels, but for 8 bucks a night you can’t expect too much! Chris went to a pharmacy for me and picked up some antibiotics for me which did the trick in less than 24 hours. We stayed another night in San Juan del Sur to wait for our buddy Pat to arrive. It was an insane party night because of the holiday and the music continued to the next day.
Hanging out with Holland and Pat!
Boat trip to Manzanillo!
Our plan was to make it to a town called Guasacate (Popoyo) which was about 1.5 hrs from SJDS. The girls that showed us the hostel were from Holland and both named Lotte. The Lottes came to Popoyo with us to explore the town off the beaten path. We all took a cab out to Popoyo and had no idea what to expect. It’s all dirt roads this far out from town and I was surprised that our rattle-trap for a taxi made it to Popoyo. We almost got stuck in a river crossing when the cabby missed a gear when downshifting. We made the amateur mistake of assuming that Popoyo would have an ATM. Lucky for us the hostels are only a couple bucks a night and food is really cheap as well. The “town” is so small there isn’t even a market to buy food. There is a food truck that comes by every so often but I am yet to see it because I’m always in the water. We have to eat at the little “comedor” restaurants for every meal but they’re only 2-3 bucks a meal. We met some new Brazilian friends at the “Popoyo Loco” hostel who let us sit in the bed of their pickup. We surfed 6 different surf breaks in two days with them. Every spot was better than the previous! My favorite spot was when we took a boat out to a break called Manzanillo which was a firing left with zero people except the 6 of us in the boat. Pat had a little bounce off the reef and scrapped his back pretty proper but after that he figured out the main break and slayed.
Found Pat!
A portion of our days has been us sitting in the back of the Brazilian’s truck which is super fun and very dusty. There are the 5 Brazilians in the truck and Chris, Pat and Me in the back with 8 boards. Quite the adventure!! Semana de Santa was still in full swing even out at Popoyo with hundreds of locals partying on the beach. On Sunday, the last day of the holiday there was a sad tragedy out here. I was sleeping on the bench between surf sessions when the hostel owner came sprinting into the hostel. I woke up to him frantically unzipping his board bag. He said that there were people drowning out front. I ran out there with them to see what was going on. I saw surfers paddling and a few people swimming out to see. There were three locals who got sucked out in a rip who didn’t know how to swim. By this time, the entire town came over to see what was going on. They pulled two people out and put them on surf boards to float. When they came in I heard the most frightening scream I’ve ever heard from a family member. There was a third person who got sucked out into the rip that they didn’t get to in time. It was the saddest thing I’ve ever seen in a long time. The town was so happy just minutes before and after the event, the music stopped and everybody cleared out. They found the body two days later right in front of our hostel. Apparently during the Semana de Santa holiday it is very common because it is a beach holiday and a huge majority of the locals don’t know how to swim.
Truck rides with Chris and Pat
Nicaragua Nuggetz!
After Semana de Santa, we were all running out of money so we left Popoyo with Pat back to San Juan del Sur to see him off and to visit the ATM to recharge the wallet. Pat left early in the AM and Chris and I liked the surf so much we headed back to Popoyo which is where I am right now. Nicaragua has had the best surf thus far on our trip. We haven’t had concrete plans since the start of this trip but we didn’t plan on staying in Nicaragua that long but because the surf has been blowing our minds we’re staying until further notice! Our hostel here in Popoyo doesn’t have internet so we’ve been off the grid. There are only two places in Popoyo where you can get it. Everyday has been wake up early, surf, eat, surf, eat, surf, eat. There are only a handful of travelers here in Popoyo and I’m guessing that there are less than 50 Nicaraguans. It’s been quite the run in Nicaragua and I couldn’t be happier with the simple lifestyle we’ve been living. We will probably spend another week out here because another swell in cruising in and we enjoy the tranquility of this very small and desolate “town”. After that we will most likely head back to San Jose in Costa Rica and either go to Bocas de Toro in Panama or back to Santa Teresa in search of more waves. I still don’t have a return ticket home but have to come home to move out of my apartment in the middle of May at the latest. We will see how things pan out!
New Brazilian buddies! 
Getting Pitted

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Super Swell Swells

Sunset surf session! Doesn't get much better than this!
Saying adios to the Swedes!

Hanging out at my favorite spot in CR!

Ohhhkaaay! Chris and I are still in Santa Teresa slaying the surf. A huge swell just rolled in so we’ve been surfing three times a day every day. The surf has been really fun and super clean! We met some new people down here who had a car and we piled in and went to a break south of Santa Teresa called Sunset Reef. It was a macking left point break that was barreling on the bigger sets. Some of the local guys were killing it and getting most of the rides. We all managed to get a few waves so the trip was definitely worth it. After our session we went up to Vistas de Olas. Vistas de Olas is a water bar, restaurant and infinity pool that overlooks the entire bay. It’s an all you can eat salad bar so we definitely got our fill. After Vistas, we went back to the hostel and rallied some more troops for a fun night at the Coco Loco. The next morning our favorite Swedes (Anna and Helga) left for the United States. A couple days ago I started to get an ear infection from the red tide. The red tide is an algae bloom in the water that is dark red and causes nose and ear problems. I got drops from the pharmacy but I’ve been surfing so much that it isn’t getting much better. The red tide is funky down here because it will roll in and out at random times during the day. One minute you are in nice crystal clear water, the next you are in water that looks worse than El Porto after a rain. We don’t mind the tide because it keeps the locals out of the water and we get the breaks to ourselves… worth it?! DUH!
low tide at Santa Teresa
 Two days ago Chris and I went out for a quick surf that turned into an almost three hour sesh after the conditions turned epic. I wasn’t wearing a shirt in the water and got a really bad sunburn on my shoulders. I got a few water blisters that will definitely peel in a few days. Not stoked! The mid-day sun here is super potent and I learned the hard way.
Hostel Brunelas! 
Chris being furete!
Chris and I had planned on going to Nicaragua today but we went out last night and missed the 6am bus so we’re going to leave tomorrow morning instead. The journey doesn’t sound to hard but its long and it will definitely be an adventure crossing the border and getting there. We have to take a bus to Paquera and take the ferry to Puntarenas. From there we will get back on the bus to the next town. From what we hear, busses come through that town heading up to the border every hour or so. I think its around 3-4 hours to the border and who knows how long the wait will be there. Semana Santa is in a few days which is celebrated more than Christmas down here. After we cross the border we will take a cab or shuttle to San Juan del Sur which is a popular travel slash party town. We plan on spending the night there and heading to Popoyo in the morning. Our friend Pat is flying into Managua (capital of Nicaragua) in a few days to rendezvous with us in Popoyo. I’m excited for the change of pace!