Friday, January 17, 2014

Popoyo, Nicaragua

Popoyo Beach, Nicaragua
Where are they? It was December 27th and I was sitting in the Managua airport on my backpack looking for the McCrosky's. I was excited to see my friends. I waited patiently but ready to go have fun. When I saw them I waved excitedly. Yes! The McCrosky fun was beginning. Steve and Christy had talked me into meeting them (it wasn't hard) in Nicaragua, a country that was never in my original plan. But plans are meant to be broken! We met up and went to get a rental car. Steve had done all of the planning and I let him. I was ready to let someone else figure out everything for a week. This was my break from travel and a vacation. 

The McCrosky's have arrived! Let the fun begin!
As we left Managua, we headed south towards Masaya where we stopped for lunch. We found a small restaurant and celebrated the beginning of our adventures with beer and Nica food. Then it was time to get back on the road to Popoyo, a surf beach along the Pacific Ocean. We laughed as we started heading south on the small roads past nurseries, ranches and volcanoes. We talked and caught up on life. Steve made a white flag rule that Christy and I were not allowed to talk about work friends when he was around. Christy and I agreed. We had so much to catch up! 

I have not been responsible for driving since I left Bali and my scooter. It was strange to be following a map and figuring out driving directions. Luckily, Nicaragua doesn't have many roads and all you really need to do is roll down the window and ask a local for directions. Most often, people would tell you to drive a few blocks turn right and drive further...then stop and ask for directions. Ha ha! Nicaragua doesn't have proper street addresses. All addresses are based on a monument, sight or geography. For example, 1.5 blocks east of the supermarket and 2 blocks towards the river. Yes! That was the address of a hotel. It is fine if you know the town but difficult for travelers. You learn quickly to ask directions frequently. We were lucky because Steve's Spanish was more advanced then the Sesame Street level that Christy and I spoke. We stopped several times for directions. We made it to the back roads towards Popoyo. We laughed as we got into the countryside and saw firework stands, stuffed old men, and farm animals running free along and across the roads. The potholes were huge and we scraped the bottom of the car repeatedly. As the sun was setting over the Pacific we arrived at the hotel, Magnific Rock. The view was stunning. 
We enjoyed drinks and diner as we sat looking at the stars sparkling on the ocean. We laughed as we watched the "circus" performance by the workers. We were already nicknaming everyone at the lodge. If they didn't want a nickname they should have kept their body covered a little more! We were tired and ready for a few fun and relaxing days on the beach.

Magnific Rock Hotel- amazing views

I awoke to the sound of the ocean. It calms me. I slept well. The sun was shining and I decided to get some photos in the early morning.  
The beach is beautiful. Stretches of soft sandy beaches with green trees on the other side. No other hotels in sight. I love early morning walks. I feel better when I get up and moving first thing in the morning. I walked along enjoying the sights, sounds and smell of fresh ocean air.

Surfer Steve off to catch some waves

Steve passed me on his morning run and said he was going surfing. I returned and Christy was out for a morning walk also. We all met up for breakfast and some paddle boarding. This was my first time. I followed Christy into the water. I got up onto my knees and paddled a few times. Then a wave through me off balance and I tumbled into the water.. I pulled myself back up and tried again and again. As soon as I got onto my knees, the wind started pushing me out towards sea. I noticed Christy was having a hard time standing up also. The wind kept pushing us further out. We were struggling against the wind and waves. Steve was waving for us to come back to shore. We kept going further out. The whitecaps were getting closer. Finally, Christy and I paddled back to shore. It was a workout. The tide and the wind was working against us. I was dead when I got back to shore. Steve was scared we had been too far out and would get carried to sea. What?!?! I was too stupid about the ocean and did not realize I was in that much danger. Oops! I was happy to be safe and sound back on land. I liked paddle boarding and want to try it again when the wind and waves aren't so strong. Steve took a paddle board and showed us how it is done. Showoff! We watched in amazement as he paddled around for an hour. From one side of the bay back across to the other side. He made it look really easy.
Our days were spent enjoying the beautiful beach. We swam, walked, watched Steve surf and relaxed. This was a special paradise. One afternoon, we decided to drive to Popoyo village to buy beer and a few snacks. Afterwards we went looking for a beach restaurant for sunset. We could not find a road to the restaurant so we parked the car and walked the beach restaurant. It seemed like 5 minutes. We found what we thought was a family restaurant and sat down. Wait? Is it a restaurant or a family gathering? Christy and I sent Steve to ask since his Spanish was the best. Whew! It was a family restaurant and he returned with menus. We ordered and enjoyed sunset and beers by the ocean.

After dinner we walked to the beach and realized we did not have a torch. The only light we had was the flash on Christy's camera. We started walking down the dark beach. There was no moon. Christy would take a photo while Steve and I tried to see if the surroundings looked like the area we had left our car. We stumbled over rocks and continued walking. I don't know how we found the path to our car. It was dumb luck. I was more surprised we didn't break an ankle! We got back to the car and laughed about our adventure. Between paddle boarding and night hikes on the beach, I thought the McCrosky's were trying to kill me! Steve was still laughing about the adventure as we were driving the roads back to the hotel. He turned off the headlights on the car and said "Look how dark it is out here. It is pitch black!" Christy yelled "Oh my god Steven! You are going to hit a pig! The pigs come out at night!" What?!?! Ha ha! In reality the pigs are always running around the streets but we did not want to have to explain to someone that we hit their pig! 

The next day, Christy and I went to relax by the ocean while Steve went surfing. We walked along the ocean looking for a spot with less waves. Eventually we came to a river inlet. There were about 15 locals sitting in the water. No waves. We decided to do as the locals and went in to relax. We watched as 2 locals helped a woman walk across the inlet with her belongings. We were catching up on work gossip and friends lives when we saw 2 gringos wading across the inlet . They sat down in the middle and I thought nothing of it. Suddenly, one stood up and all I saw was naked man bum! He went running to the other side of the river and into the woods. The locals, Christy and I started laughing and yelling as the second guy stood up naked and slowly walked to the side of the river and then ran into the woods. What a day! Two moons in  Popoyo! Christy and I relaxed there until a huge fish rubbed up against her leg. Yikes! Time to go see what Steve was doing. We walked back to the surf spot and decided to relax at the Finca (farm) bar overlooking the beach. Christy and I asked for fresh fruit drinks but they did not have anything except beer, soda and water. Beer it was! We swung in the chairs waiting for Surfer Steve to meet us. This is the life! December on a beach enjoying the sun and surf. 

We realized our hotel had the best food in the area and decided to enjoy it. We liked people watching. The staff all appeared to be friends that came to surf the area. We laughed as Big Belly walked in with his belly hanging out over his swim trunks but we all cracked up when he turned around and half his bum was hanging out too! We decided he must have been the guy everyone keeps around for entertainment value! It was a fun group of travelers. I highly recommend this hotel to anyone looking for surfing or a quiet beach. I enjoyed the beautiful walks on the beach. The area is not developed, only a handful of restaurants and hotels are mixed with farmland on oceanfront property. The pigs and cows have some priceless views!

Farmer loading sand into his wagon

As I was walking along the beach, I met a 3 year old boy and his family. They were searching for conch on the rock.

Magnific Rock, Nicaragua
He was intrigued with my camera and I took a few pictures of him. When I showed them to him, he would giggle and imitate me taking his picture. Then he would ask me to do it again and laugh. He was adorable. As I left the beach, I watched his family disappear into the trees and back to their homes. 

Family walking home from the beach

We left Popoyo and drove towards Granada. We stopped to ask directions again back to the main road. We noticed more stuffed men sitting in chairs in the front of homes.
What is that? We would soon find out.

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