A Travellerspoint blog

The Giant waves of Playa Gigante

Our last few days in Playa Gigante were punctuated with daily trips to one of the nearby surf breaks called Ponga Drops. It turns out that the land in front of Ponga was bought by a real estate developer several years ago who proceeded to build a private golf course on the land, sell the surrounding real estate and memberships to the golf course. Then he found out it was in front of a really killer surf break. Too bad the developer doesn't like surfers.

Most surf waves are either steep waves that can form hollow barrels (Pipeline in Hawaii being the classic example) or less steep waves that have more crumbly tops on them. The steep hollow ones are fast, hard to ride and have potentially severe consequences as there is a lot of water crashing down from the top of the wave (I have seen as many as three people break boards in one week.) The crumbly top ones tend to be a littler easier to catch, a lot slower, and have less impact on you if you are underneath one as it breaks.

Ponga is the best of both worlds. It stars of as a crumbler, gives you enough time to get on the wave, stand up, and think about what you are doing before it gets really steep and picks up speed. Then, just when you think your ride is over, another crumbly section appears, you get your footing again just before it stands up. I have had this process repeat three times on a single wave.

This is not a wave for everybody. For one, many people want a big hollow barrel from the start. Another reason is that when we were there it was 8-10 feet high making it a little big for many people (I can't guess what it would be like on a big day.) The last reason is that you need to cough up a $5000US membership fee and $600US annual fees in order to park anywhere close to it. It's a good thing that the dude that ran our hostel shelled out the money and took me along!

Posted by McNouye 15:33 Archived in Nicaragua Comments (0)

A vacation from our vacation

We have been in San Juan del Sur for 2 weeks now and were starting to feel like something was missing. We would get up in the morning, take the kids to the pool, park, library or beach, eat lunch, surf, yoga etc on our own, like without even having a conversation with anyone else other than the occasional chat with broken English and broken Spanish.

I said to Dave, “I feel like something is missing. We need friends. There aren't many people here with kids.” And since we ate most of our meals at home, we didn't socialize with many people. So we decided to go to the market for breakfast then go to the gringo coffee shop called El Gato Negro to put ourselves out there and find some friends.

I spotted them first. Kids. Not that we can only make friends with people who have kids, but it is a lot nicer for Taro and Kiyoshi for us to make friends with other adults who do have kids too. Turns out they are from Nelson, BC.

From left to right: Nicole, Dawson (18 months), Doris, Sadie (4 years) and Maya (3 years).

Before we knew it, we were making plans together to spend a few days at a beach 2 hours north of us, Playa Gigante (http://www.playagigante.com/) and then that night we were thrilled to have our our first dinner guests. Instant friends. The way you make friends while traveling is so different. If you are traveling with your kids, you already have so many things in common. There aren't too many of us who travel with youngsters. We are a pretty refined group you know. So it is no surprise that we got along so well. And also, you have this, “What the hell. I have nothing to lose attitude.” If things don't work out you go your separate ways and will probably ever see each other again. For us, we have made some excellent friends that we will continue to keep in touch with.

Interestingly, Nicole and her husband will be moving to Edmonton in September for a year as her husband will be starting his Ph.D there. The chances are very good that Sadie and Taro will go to Kindergarten together! It is such a small world.

Maya, Kiyoshi, Dawson and Taro.

A sunset picture from our hostel, The Swell.

Taro, Sadie and Maya.

A humongous dead green sea turtle washed up onto the beach.

Anyone need a good plumber?

Posted by McNouye 15:53 Archived in Nicaragua Comments (1)

Is there anything else we should do while we have power?

Engineers describe the reliability of utility networks in terms of “9s” of reliability. For example the power system would be up about 99.99% of the time and therefore have four 9s of reliability. The telephone system is much more robust and has more like five 9s (when is the last time you couldn't use your phone?) meaning that one hour in every hundred thousand you won't be able to make a phone call. The Edmonton municipal water supply also has about the same reliability.

I have not done a formal study on the water and power system in San Juan del Sur, but from our two weeks here I can estimate them to have about one nine of reliability in other words the system is up 90% of the time. The power and water have both gone out at our house every day for at least a couple hours. And while it is nice to defrost your fridge every once in a while, the daily puddles beside the fridge are a little tiring.

The fact that the power and water go out nearly every day is a pain in the ass to say the least. They don't always go out together though, sometimes just the water goes out by itself but when the power goes out, we lose water. It's funny to look at each other and say, “Is there anything else we should do while we have power?” Or, “Is there anything we should do now that we have water?”

The fact that utility outages are so common has made people supplement the government utilities with utilities of their own. Virtually all buildings have a water tank next to them (we have settled for a five gallon water jug) and many people have set up generators or car batteries to run their lights (our solution involves candles). One can only assume that if all these investments were instead paid in taxes they might actually have reliable utilities.

Every house has a small water tank on the top, including ours.

I realize that these are just solutions from an outsider looking in, and that the civil war ended only twenty years ago, but walking home at night in a town that is pitch black with two kids is pretty spooky. And for Audrey ending a yoga class at night and knowing she has to walk a couple blocks back in the dark has her looking for a chaperon. Last on my list of annoying examples is coming back after a hot day on the sun just to find that crap that you took in the morning looking up at you and smelling even less appealing than it did 6 hours ago since you could not flush the toilet.

Getting up to four 9s requires a huge investment in infrastructure, but getting up to two would be a great start and would really not cost any more than is already being spent. It would also make the town a lot more appealing to the investors that San Juan del Sur is intent on attracting!

Posted by McNouye 12:20 Archived in Nicaragua Comments (1)

Mi Casa en San Juan Del Sur

After our epic bus ride through Costa Rica to Nicaragua we settled on the little town of San Juan del Sur just over the boarder. The town is a nice little fishing village a couple hours away from Managua on the pacific side. There are several surf beaches just out of town which have converted the place from sleeping fishing village into more of a party surf town.


The fact that San Juan was a town first then surf destination later has ensured the place actually has a town center that is alive and vibrant. The last several surf places we have been to are more the equivalent of urban sprawl (ok, beach sprawl) where people build accommodations and restaurants where ever they can get land economically close to the water. This leads to a very rural feeling where you need to walk or drive long distances to get anywhere and hanging out with people that are not staying in the same place as us almost impossible since we are in bed by 9. San Juan has a nice little market, shops, internet places, expensive gringo bakeries and cheap food on the streets. The town itself services a wider area with pricey houses dotting the hills and farmers coming into town with their oxen and cart to sell there wares such as tortillas, fresh cheese and/or vegetables. The main part of the town is not big, only about four square blocks, so walking places was really easy. Overall we really liked the place as it had surf, yoga and and a nice feel to the town. So why not stay?

Aspiring yogis

We ended up moving out of the hostel and into a small house on the edge of those four blocks. It's a nice little two bedroom house that is lightly furnished and has nice yard around it. We can close the gate, let the kids play in the yard and make supper or write blogs. We rented it for a month which we will use most of and at $300/month it is the cheapest per night rate we have paid on our whole trip!

It is a bit of a fortress though. There are 5 locks to unlock to get in (if you count the front and back doors), bars on all the windows and 12 foot chainlink fence around the whole property topped with razor wire. I guess regular old barbed wire is not enough. It is ironic how the super extreme safety measures make you feel really unsafe. Like, is all this really necessary?

Tall fences make good neighbors. Tall fences with razor wire make amazing neighbors.

There is a purple flowering bush outside our back door.

A Mcnouye world record 20 mangos fell from this tree one day. Just an average day. Anyone have any good mango recipes to share?

It's been really nice to have a place to cook and eat, though I have to admit that staying in a party town when you're not a partier makes things pretty quiet at seven am. And, eating supper at home every night further restricts the social life.

But what could be better than walking 2 blocks to buy ready to eat fruit or french toast for breakfast. Being in a little town is a great way to be spending our last few weeks.

Posted by McNouye 11:25 Archived in Nicaragua Comments (3)

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