Monday, March 14, 2016

Nicaragua: Day 3

I woke up before the sun on the morning of Day 3, Andi still sound asleep beside me. Quietly, I grabbed my computer and crept through the large swinging doors to our private veranda at Morgan's Rock to take in the peaceful sunrise over Playa Ocotal. Though soon, several pesky mosquito bites (and recent world news headlines about the Zika virus) had me scrambling indoors to watch the day begin from the comforts of our bed.

Our bungalow at Morgan's Rock is by far one of the most luxurious places I've ever stayed. Looking around the room leaves me breathless; the attention to detail and the craftsmanship using local, sustainable woods is beautiful. In addition, the service has been excellent. Andi and I have been waited on hand and foot by friendly, English-speaking staff pleased to make our stay as enjoyable as possible. For once, it's me who gets to sit and enjoy breakfast while someone fetches me a glass of water. I'm starting to realize Tory and Aden don't have it so bad at home.

I've learned I can order whatever I'd like to eat, whether or not it's printed on the menu. Not in an American high-maintenance double shot sugar-free caramel macchiato, soy milk, no whip kind-of way; more like, two eggs, bacon, a side of fresh fruit and toast with pineapple jam is literally my jam.

It's been easy to eat healthy on this trip with fruit and vegetables readily available. I appreciate Morgan's Rock having purified drinking water available around the property and in our bungalow. Not only is it annoying to buy and transport mass amounts of bottled water, but it's also wasteful. Having fresh water available has helped us stay hydrated in the hot Nicaraguan sun.

Check-out time at Morgan's Rock is 11:00am, so Andi and I headed back to our bungalow to plan the remainder of our day. A quick email exchange with the owner of the next bed + breakfast we plan to stay at has us packing our things to catch the hotel shuttle for San Juan del Sur. The driver from Orquidea del Sur agreed to meet us in town to grab our backpack so we didn't have to lug it around while we explored the area.

The 20-minute ride from Morgan's Rock hacienda to the town of San Juan del Sur was as a bumpy one. I'd forgotten how set back in the dry, arid jungle we'd been and even the comforts of an air-conditioned van couldn't keep car sickness at bay. By the time we reached town, I felt hot and nauseous. I urged Andi to pick a spot for us to sit so I could catch my breath, and he selected Restaurant Josseline right on the beach. We grabbed a table overlooking the ocean and ordered two strawberry banana smoothies to take in our first del Sur experience.

A few sips of my refreshing fruit smoothie, and I felt back to normal. During our time in the restaurant, Andi and I couldn't help but overhear (and be quickly annoyed by) a large group of meat-heads from the Jersey Shore seated next to us. Aghast, I wondered what locals think of the American population when they witness foul-mouthed baboons like these guys. I'd never felt so thankful to be staying in peaceful resorts outside city limits. 

Andi paid our bill, and we decided to walk around San Juan del Sur for a bit. We passed dozens of bodegas, cafes and hostels, as well as a beautiful old church in the town square. I love people watching in these colorful community gathering spaces.

Eventually, Andi and I found ourselves back down by the water. Gusty ocean winds worked to un-glue sweaty t-shirts from our backs as we took in the scenic view of fishing boats in the bay. San Juan del Sur's strong breeze is both a blessing and a curse. Without it, the dusty air would hang motionless around us making the heat unbearable. Every once in a while though, it causes Andi and I to wince as strong winds force sand to pelt our bodies like tiny paint balls.

Nicaragua has some of the best beaches in the world, and San Juan del Sur specifically is known as a popular surfing destination. In town, Andi and I feel like un-cool older cousins to most of the young, sun-kissed beach bums hanging around. San Juan del Sur's beach vibe seems less toursity than popular Costa Rican destinations we've visited.

We decided to have lunch in town before venturing to our new bed + breakfast, Orquidea del Sur, selecting an ocean-front table at one of the nicer seafood restaurants in town called El Timon. The moment we're seated, beach peddlers approach our table selling cheap sunglasses, cashews, woven hammocks and pottery. "Chica! Chica!" they shout toward me, displaying their merchandise. I try my best to avoid eye-contact; I just want to enjoy my mojito and the view!

Neither of us are very hungry but we have an hour to kill before Orquidea's driver comes to pick us up, so Andi and I decide to share the surfer's plate of grilled shrimp, fish and chicken with a side of vegetables. The waiter also brings complimentary fried plantains to snack on during our meal.

About 20 look-alike servers are working in the restaurant, but our particular waiter is nowhere to be found. Andi and I continue to be preyed on by beach peddlers while we wait for our check. One young boy approaches our table and slides a flower made from plant leaves onto the table. "For you," he says in perfect English. I can't help smile and hand him a $20 Nicaraguan Cordoba (equivalent to less than $1 USD) for his thoughtful gesture. "Uh-oh, blood in the water," Andi smirks. We pay our tab and leave as quickly as possible.  

Outside the restaurant, Orquidea's driver is waiting to pick us up. His name is Julio and he tells us he's been working at the resort for 7 years. We chat with him about the area during our 20 minute ride into the Nicaraguan hills. The dirt road grows increasingly steeper and bumpier the farther we drive outside of town. Higher our white Toyota Hilex climbs until we finally reach a black iron gate and a welcome sign for Orquidea del Sur. Three big dogs howl at us from the drive-way.

Inside Andi and I are greeted by the warm hospitality of Joanne, the property owner, and her staff. We enjoy a refreshing glass of water while taking in our new digs. The lush, green gardens are beautiful. Orquidea del Sur is the retirement dream of Canadian Expats Joanne and her husband Robert. They built the five bedroom bed + breakfast seven years ago, and work to support the local community by serving as a training grounds for young, 13+ year-old Nicaraguan men in the tourism industry. This is the first real job for many, and Orquidea works to teach their employees customer service skills and the English language. Orquidea's one requirement is their employees remain in school, which is against the local trend. Local children, Joanne informed us, typically quit school and begin working to contribute to their families - or start having babies of their own - around age 13. 

Joanne takes Andi and I a tour of the property, eventually leading us to our apartment-style suite. Inside we find an air-conditioned bedroom with a kitchenette and a sizeable bathroom. 

All I've thought about since laying eyes on the gorgeous infinity pool is plunging myself right into it, so Andi and I grab our Kindles and head there straight away. There's no else at the pool -- or anyone else on the property, for that matter -- so we have the entire place to ourselves. We spend the next few hours bouncing between comfortable lounge chairs, the refreshing pool and the shaded hammock hanging under a thatched gazebo.

Later, Andi and I decided to walk down to the beach to watch the sunset. Joanne told us to say "playa" to the house dogs and they'd lead the way. Down the steep dirt switchback we walked, half-chuckling / half-panicking we'd have to trek back up to the top on foot. I joked there was still time to turn around and watch the sunset from the pool, knowing all the while my husband is never the type to shy away from an adventure.

Would we ever make it to the beach? We began to wonder, but eventually the road opened up to the breathtaking site of the sun setting over the Pacific Ocean.

Once again, Andi and I had the entire stretch of beach to ourselves. We watched the perfectly round sun drop below the water and hundreds of tiny hermit crabs migrate along the golden-colored sand. The sound of roosters crowing, along with the crash of ocean waves, filled our ears. We'd better get a move on Andi and I thought, before all the sunlight disappears and we're left navigating the steep dirt road in the darkness.

Andi and I were dripping in sweat at the end of our hike. Good thing we had no one to impress, and nowhere else to be for dinner. We walked through the big wrought iron gates and discovered a table set for two underneath the stars. What a sight! I felt like we were in a movie.

Before we'd left for the beach, one of the wait staff asked Andi and I what we'd like for dinner that evening. There's no set dinner menu at Orquidea, so Andi requested lobster and I asked for grilled chicken and vegetables (again). The house chef, Joanne and Robert's daughter Sara, did not disappoint. Our plates were filled with delicious food.  
For dessert, Andi and I moved to comfy chairs on the patio and split a vanilla sundae with sprinkles on top. The air temperature dropped into the mid-80's with a cool breeze swirling around us. Our day ended as peacefully as it began.



  1. Um, can you and Andi plan my next vacation? This looks like such a great get away.

  2. That sounds amazing minus the peddlers at dinner...I'd feel super awkward with that. But the rest sounds sooo away from it all =)

  3. I love reading your adventures!! This looks so so amazing and peaceful!