Return to San Juan del Sur

We are staying at the Pelican Eyes resort which is perched on a hill overlooking the ocean in San Juan del sur.  I had booked over the phone rather than on the internet in order to negotiate a better deal and insisted on speaking in my very average Spanish even though Señor Alberto obviously spoke perfectly good English.  This proved to be an expensive mistake as I incorrectly thought the rate included breakfast and taxes.

The resort is in a lovely setting with birds, squirrels and monkeys flying through the air and it is muy tranquilo.   Getting there from Granada was less so.  The shuttle bus picked us up promptly at 10.00 am and we spent the next 30 minutes cruising round the town looking for clients who were either not there or just not ready.  Not ready at 10.00 in the morning – had they been partying all night – very likely as they were backpackers and young.  Us old codgers had been packed and ready by 9.30 but then we had gone to bed at roughly the same time the night before.  Our driver took it upon himself to make up for lost time and careered down the highway overtaking everything at breakneck speed and at the most inopportune times: around corners, on the brow of the hill, up a hill whilst passing multiple vehicles.  Whilst all the other passengers slept I had to restrain myself from tapping him on the shoulder and telling him to slow down.  I realized that I needed to get out more – and not just shopping in Managua.

Before being picked up by the hotel we sit in a bar overlooking the ocean and order a beer.  When it comes to paying the bill we are shocked to see that a small bottle of beer is 45 Cordobas, plus tax.  ‘Es mucho mas barato en Granada’ we say to the waiter who just looks at us disdainfully as he realizes that he is not going to get a large tip.  The land cruiser arrives to take us up to the hotel and after check-in we are driven up to our Cabina which is called Vista El Mar.  It’s a long way round as we have to pass by a new resort hotel, the Santa Maria, which is being built adjacent to Pelican Eyes.   From our patio our vista is a little disappointing:  more like Vista des Arboles with a little bit of ocean peeking through here and there, but worst of all we can hear the constant thud of steel piles being driven into the ground on the nearby site.  So much for peace and quiet – but this is a good hotel and within an hour we are moved to Cabina Brasil which has a lovely view of the harbour area, less steps down to the restaurant, and only the restful sound of the wind in the trees.

San Juan with its lovely sandy beach looks very much the same but it has changed considerably since we were last here over 6 years ago:  it has become a party town – and not for senior citizens.  There are more hostels, hotels, bars, restaurants and surf schools packed into a small area than I have seen in the whole of South America.    But at dusk it is just as beautiful as ever when the sun slowly disappears behind the ocean and the sky turns a great shade of red.

We awake next morning to discover a cruise ship gracing the bay – part of the Hapag-Lloyd fleet.  And it’s not a vast ocean liner but a small cruise ship, MS Hanseatic, the world’s only five star expedition ship which was the first non-Russian ship to do the North West Passage.  With only 175 passengers on board its next stop is the Amazon.  I reach for my binoculars and am annoyed to find that I have left them at our house in Granada along with my neat camera with its great zoom lens.

After breakfast we go in search of Professor Guzman.  We used to park our motorhome on a piece of land outside his home near the harbour.  We shared the land with his family, various other vehicles, and a collection of white silkie chickens with feathery ankles that looked more like poodles.    As soon as we arrived he would put hammocks out for our use and for a small payment including a bar of Pears soap carried over from England for his mother, we would park there indefinitely.  A very cultured gentleman he was retired but had been teaching in San Juan for many years.  The last time we visited he mentioned that the descendants of the English family who had owned the land for generations – originally travelling to California during the Gold Rush – were looking to sell.  They had and we were now looking at a small amusement park with a bar alongside.  Luckily the girl in the bar knew Professor Guzman and pointed us in the right direction.  She was not alone and many conversations and over an hour later we located him on a piece of fenced off land in the centre of town still living with his family and a menagerie of small animals including the silkies.  I shall never forget his smile as we produced the Pears soap.  But we were embarrassed to learn that the English grandchildren of the original owners had given him little notice and no compensation for the home that he had lived in for 62 years.

In the evening we met up with our friend Jahder in Henry’s Sports Bar and watched the Nicaraguan soccer team beat Haiti 3-0 enabling them to take part in the North American Gold Cup for the first time.   You have witnessed history’ Jahder shouted at us. Very likely and not unlike the history that was made in 2016 when Iceland a country with little football history imposed a humiliating defeat on our England team and knocked them out of the European championship.

Es la vida….

Lesley Norris    lesleynorris@me.com