Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Nicaragua: Day 4

This morning in San Juan del Sur, I woke up with a different view. White flowy curtains pulled closed block the morning light and cool air-conditioning blasts our apartment-style suite at Orquidea del Sur. Andi is still asleep beside me at 5:45am, so I quietly slide open the glass doors and sneak out onto the patio. A tray of coffee and creamer awaits me on the table - nice! I pour myself a cup and settle on a lounge chair by the infinity pool. There are worse ways to start the day, that's for sure.


Andi joins me a bit later, and together we wake up slowly under a blanket of sunshine. It's going to be a hot day in San Juan del Sur today, I can feel it. This time of year is considered Nicaragua's "summer" dry season. It rarely rains and temperatures reach 90-100 degrees by mid-day. Orquidea's property manager, Joanne, said this area of Nicaragua is experiencing a two-year drought, so native plants and animals like the popular howler monkeys are suffering. It's easy to see why in the dry, dusty fields surrounding town.

Andi and I eventually make our way upstairs for breakfast. We find a table set for two on the outdoor patio and a friendly, eager-to-please server named Eddie waiting with water and juice. He provides us with a list of breakfast offerings included in the daily rate accommodation, and Andi and I both select a typical American-style breakfast -- two eggs, toast, one pancake and slices of bacon. A while later, Joanne joins us to discuss our plans for the day.

Andi pre-arranged reservations on a catamaran excursion departing San Juan del Sur later that afternoon, so we decide to spend the morning by the pool at Orquidea del Sur. Once again, we have the whole place to ourselves. It's quiet, serene and the perfect place to get away from it all.

One of Orquidea's drivers named Francisco agreed to take us into San Juan del Sur around 11:00am. Francisco is positively one of the most genuine people I've ever met, and tries his very best to make Andi and I feel comfortable during our descent into town. He doesn't speak English, so we have a bit of trouble communicating. Andi asks Francisco to drop us off at Barrio Restaurant for lunch, and pick us up again in the same spot around 6:30pm that evening. "Cinco-treinta," he says as we pile out of the truck. Meanwhile, I count to myself in Spanish and tell Andi in a panic, "Crap! Cinco means five. We told Francisco the wrong time!" Assuredly, Andi says it'll be fine. "I gave him the hand signals." Great, Francisco probably thinks we're American idiots.

Barrio is the place Andi selected for lunch, and it's a colorful and trendy restaurant. Town is abuzz with more people than I saw the day before; many who look like they've just awoken from a late night of partying. (It's Noon, by the way. Andi and I have been up for hours.)

We find a table in the back of the restaurant with a cool breeze circulating around us. Andi orders a hibiscus iced tea and I have a strawberry fruit smoothie. I think Tory was onto something the last time we traveled to Costa Rica; my smoothie tastes delicious. Together, Andi and I sit and people-watch; this restaurant is a great place to soak in the sights of town. We decide to split the special of the day for lunch, grilled sea bass with pineapple salsa and rice, and a chicken avocado wrap with fries.

I'm experiencing that vacation high only felt after a few responsibility-free days in a new place. The sun is shining, and Andi and I are about to set sail on the Pacific Ocean. Life is good.

We wandered around town for the next 20 minutes or so before our boat is set to depart from the fishing pier. Where are all those beach peddlers selling cashews now? I'm desperate to fill our backpack with snacks before we head back up the mountain later this evening. No luck; we can't seem to find a little store for the life of us, but we do see many brightly-colored restaurants and coffee shops.

Hot and sweaty from our walk around town, Andi and I eventually make our way to the fishing pier. There's at least 20 young beach bums hanging out on the steps of the casino where we're told to meet the catamaran leader. Ugh, is my first impression. I don't know why I'm so annoyed by these hip, cooler-than-me kids but I am. Mostly, it makes me feel old and frumpy.

Together, our crew of 22 people walks down to the fishing pier and puts on over-sized life jackets. In smaller groups, we take turns riding in a dingy to the bigger catamaran anchored in the bay. "Remember that time I booked us on a booze cruise," Andi says with a nervous laugh as we hop aboard the boat. "Screw it," I tell him. "We're on a beautiful boat in Nicaragua, kid-free, and we've got no one to impress. Let's have a great time." From that moment on, I shook off my insecurities and decided to enjoy our day together on the water. While the big group of twenty-somethings crowded themselves on the front of the boat, Andi and I found ourselves a quiet spot in the back. Together, we drank mai-tai's and soaked up the sunshine.

The "Drivin' Me Crazy" catamaran sailed north around San Juan del Sur and eventually made its way to Playa Blanca, a calm private beach perfect for swimming. Once the boat anchored in the bay, the boat host encouraged everyone to jump off and swim to shore for the afternoon. The plan was to stay anchored for two hours before a sunset cruise back to San Juan del Sur.

With an open bar flowing, the party boat was hoppin'. "Let's swim to the beach," Andi said, and jumped into the water before I could argue. The great thing about my husband is that he forces me to try things I wouldn't normally do ... like jump off a catamaran in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. I know how to swim, but I wouldn't call myself a strong swimmer. I realized about half-way into our swim that the actual distance to the beach was twice as far as it seemed. Body, don't fail me now!

I stumbled onto shore, huffing and puffing, as Andi breezily pulled sunglasses from a pocket of his board shorts. "Cool, right?" he asked, nonchalantly. "Yeah, super cool," cough-cough. The beach bums from our boat approached shore with beers in their hands and pool noodles tucked underneath their arms. "There were pool noodles?!" I said to Andi, exasperated.

We sunned ourselves in the sand and eventually struck up conversation with some of the people from our boat. They were from Northern California, and actually really nice people. I told myself to chill out a bit, and put a smile on my face. "Ready to swim back?" Andi asked. I jokingly (okay, not so jokingly) told him to time the waves of the surf waves. "If I don't make it back, I love you," I said to Andi.

We swim back to the boat, and I make it - barely. "I don't think you realize how how close I was to drowning," I tell Andi when we're safely back on the boat with beers in our hands. "Really? I guess you were sputtering a little bit at the end there," Andi responds. We find a spot to sit at the front of the boat and soak in the sun. The rest of the party slowly piles back on the boat, and I continue to be amazed how inebriated people can be so skilled at swimming. The boat host sets out chips, guacamole and ceviche for everyone, and we all kick back to enjoy the view.

At dusk, the boat pulls into the harbor and we all pile into the small dinghy back to shore. Francisco is waiting for us at the restaurant and takes us back to Orquidea del Sur. During the 20-minute drive back to our bed + breakfast, we're stopped at a Nicaraguan Army check-point. We're literally on a dimly-lit dark road, and I'm surprised to see anyone. We haven't seen another car for miles. The officers and Francisco converse in Spanish, and I think he's telling them we're guests at the hotel. The officers ask to see our passports, which Andi fortunately had in his backpack, and send us on our way. Later, the resort owner told us the Nicaraguan army does random check-points like that looking for illegal Cuban immigrants. I'm not sure if that's true, or not ...

Anyway, now safely back at Orquidea, Andi and I each take a quick shower to clean up and then enjoy a private, peaceful dinner underneath the stars. Tonight, we feast on dorado and grilled vegetables with a vanilla sundae for dessert. It's the perfect ending to a busy day on the water. Tomorrow will be our last full day in Nicaragua.        

1 comment: