We handed over our passports to the officer in charge and looked on as he strode with considerable purpose to the small military post and picked up the phone.
The soldier left behind to guard us explained his boss was calling the capital to check on our status in the country. After thirty minutes and numerous questions surrounding our intentions for traveling in this area one of the soldiers took pictures of us and our motorcycles before we were given permission to continue our ride.
Chris was organizing Motorcycle Mondays to get some friends together and explore the less travelled areas close to home. This week’s ride was set to go to a small town on the south west side of Lake Nicaragua called Cardenas.
I knew how to travel to Cardenas on the highway, but the windy dirt road Chris took us on was way more fun. We crossed a couple of pretty good streams that would be tricky in rainy season. All of us were relatively experienced riders and we put our 125 cc workhorses through their paces. Of course our friend Voytec had to show off and be the big man with his 200cc black stallion.
We reached our destination early in the day and saw a map showing us how close to Costa Rica we were. Although there is no border crossing on this road we wanted to see how close we could get. We set out south along the lake and within two minutes we met up with the first of three military check stops. The military officers recorded our passports and questioned us each time. Fortunately only the first stop involved a call to Immigration and a photo shoot. We got the impression not many cheles (light skinned) travel these rural back roads to no where.
Surprisingly the road to the end of the road was in much better condition than the beach roads around San Juan del Sur. Even though we are in the middle of dry season the jungle was lush and creeks were still flowing. This little micro climate was a welcomed change from the dusty dry coastal scene.
We stopped for a beer at a cantina where the road ended and across the lake we had a view of the Solentiname Islands. The bartender moved a couple of tables together for us while being careful not to disturb the sole customer who was asleep on the floor. I asked which brand of beer was coldest and he said they were all the same.
That is to say all warm and still in the case. With out needing any prompting from us he solved this little inconvenience. Pouring our beer over ice in huge beer mugs wouldn’t be my first choice especially since I could see by the random shapes the ice was not purified. As the ice melted and stated to release some not so small particles I surmised we were drinking frozen lake water.
Our sleeping customer must have heard a song he liked because he suddenly popped up off the floor and danced around the bar. The next song must not have been to his liking because we went right back to sleep. Our second round of beer we drank warm but the view of the lake and the entertainment made it all worthwhile.
If you find yourself in San Juan del Sur connect with Chris to rent a motorcycle and join our crew for a ride.
Check out the video below to see where the next lightly traveled road took our little bike gang.
Many travellers come to San Juan del Sur in search of a party scene while others look to avoid it all together. The good news is it’s extremely easy to find either.
A blog follower recently emailed us with the following question:
“Is San Juan del Sur really all about cocaine and Ketamine fuelled parties that go on for days?”
Whether this individual was looking to find this particular scenario or avoid it altogether we’re not sure. And although some hostels in the area are known for their vibrant night life we have never personally experienced (or witnessed) this level of debauchery.
We can’t deny the fact that many of our social gatherings do include alcohol. And it’s true that whether it’s an invitation to join friends for a pool day, sunset cocktails, a beach day, a barbecue, a birthday party, a game of frisbee golf or some live music we usually have a cold drink in hand.
A REGULAR FRIDAY NIGHT IN SAN JUAN DEL SUR
For us a typical Friday night may start out at Cha Cha Cha where we are guaranteed to run into a few friends. With everything on the menu 90 cordobas ($3.46 USD) or less Cha Cha Cha is a popular spot for expats and tourists alike.
From there we often make our way to what the English would refer to as our “local” — Bar Republika. Friday’s theme is Name that Tune. Aside from some comic relief we are generally of very little assistance to our teammates, but we always manage to have a great time.
Other nights we like to head out to enjoy some live music.
La Carreta, Big Wave Daves, San Juan del Sur Cervecería, El Timón and Pelican Eyes all offer live music on different nights of the week. Bands start playing early and finish long before the witching hour. These venues are the types of places where you stop in for a meal, catch up with friends, sip on a few drinks and enjoy the entertainment.
It’s no secret that our crowd doesn’t mind tipping back a few cervezas. Elisha and I are equally inclined, but just like Cinderella we’re usually on our way back home before midnight.
The street along the beach between these night clubs will undoubtably be populated with well soused revellers and the usual shady suspects looking to take advantage of substantially lowered inhibitions.
THE AVERAGE SAN JUAN DEL SUR EXPAT
It should be said that our close group of friends does not represent the entire expat community, nor the majority. San Juan del Sur is made up of an interesting group of characters, who are anything but vanilla.
Here you’ll find expat surfers, farmers, families, missionaries, real estate agents, retirees, entrepreneurs and volunteers. You’ll also find a lot of yogis. And you’ll even find a few expats who live off the grid.
So to answer the question “Is San Juan del Sur a party town?” – I say yes — it can be — but it’s also so much more. San Juan can really be anything you want it to be. And like anywhere in the world your view of a place will be shaped by the company you keep.
Black and white, hot and cold, day and night. Expat life in Nicaragua is quite opposite to what it once was for us in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. If we were to “paint a picture” it would look something like this…
~ All of our belongings fit into our Hyundai Galloper.
~ We don’t have a microwave or an ironing board or an electric mixer.
~ When small appliances like blenders or toasters break we wouldn’t think of throwing them out, we simply take a trip to the repairman to get them fixed instead.
~ There are no clocks in our house and we wash dishes by hand with cold water.
~ Our food comes from a garden, field or tree, not from a bag or can. Passion fruit and dragon fruit are no longer considered exotic, they are just part of our regular diet.
~ Processed food doesn’t taste good anymore.
~ If a beer costs more than $1.50 we think it’s expensive. And if a 9-year old happens to be the one serving it to us we’re not shocked or surprised.
~ We can take our dog everywhere! She even rides with us on our 125cc Yahama motorcycle — which just so happens to be our our primary mode of transportation.
~ Since we live in a beach town we don’t have to worry as much about what we wear, which means our wardrobes consist mainly of tank tops and flip flops. Sometimes we go months without buying a single new piece of clothing.
~ An extra special dinner for two costs just $25 per person.
~ We don’t have to go to the zoo to see monkeys.
~ Our lives are not over scheduled. We get to decide how busy we want to be.
~ A party invitation can be sent out two days in advance, instead of two weeks.
~ We are now able to enjoy a lot more quality time socializing with friends. Friends who are from Australia, Belgium, Canada, England, Ireland, Nicaragua, Switzerland and the United States.
~ We always know what the weather is going to be like. Our doors and windows are rarely closed and you can find us enjoying time at a beach just about every other day.
So there you have it — a glimpse of what life is like for a Canadian couple who are living and loving expat life in Nicaragua!
Can you imagine it? Are you currently living it? What does your “picture” look like?