OUR JOURNEY from COSTA RICA to SAN JUAN DEL SUR NICARAGUA
WE FOUND THE GOLD AT THE END OF THE RAINBOW!!
2 Days before we left freezing cold Canada to come to Central America for the winter season we had no plan. All that we knew was that we wanted to co create with other ‘movers and shakers’ who are making a difference on the planet with the intention to leave our earth better for future generations. AND we wanted surf, teach yoga, offer our gifts in service & play in the sun! We were already scheduled to fly to San Jose Costa Rica knowing that the whole of central and south america is accessible from there. A few days before we left beautiful snowy Canada we went for lunch with our dear friend and yoga teacher Irum from the centre of natural living. Over lunch she told us about her friend Muffadel and mentioned that he has some exciting projects on the burner that she thought we might be interested in. Yaaayy universe, and Irum!! Hot travel tips apleanty!! This is what I love most about travelling, the way the universe guides us with the wind in our sails and lands us in situations sometimes better than we had hoped or imagined for.
We decided to chill in the jungle near Domnical for a couple of weeks, before heading north to San Juan Del Sur Nicaragua, to see what’s up with this brother with a vision. Costa Rica is such an incredible place, with rolling hills, jungle, cranking surf, beautiful people, tribe to boot & lots of fun!!! Our stay there with our beautiful friend Melissa and her son Allande was such a blessing, kick starting our trip with familiar faces, loads of laughter, new and old friends, ceremonies, collaboration, jungle, beach and organic farm fresh food. But we had a mission in mind, so we stayed a couple of weeks and mozied off to Nicaragua to begin our working holiday exploration.
Although the actual distance from our jungle stay near Dominical, Costa Rica to San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua was not particularly far, it was never the less A LOT of fun. It began at a bus stop outside the church in Tinamastes, a sleepy little town about 30 km inland from Dominical Costa Rica. We had just been at the farmers market that happens every Tuesday morning, where there had been a fine mix of local and alternative/expat type characters. After eating a deliciously prepared breakfast and saying bye to our new-found friends from the nearby village of Fuente Verde, we boarded a large charter bus which, in the typical fashion of Costa Rica, was predictably late. Lucky for us, we were in no hurry to arrive into San Jose for our overnight stay.
So up the windy and narrow hill roads we drove, scoping breath-taking and amazing views of the mountains & valleys below. Costa Rica is such a lush and green country, even in the dry season. Probably because the “dry” season is not necessarily dry at all and more of a relative state to the otherwise soaking wet rainy season. I’m told that the Tico people can identify more shades of green than any other person in the world… Whether this is a true standing fact has yet to be tested, but nonetheless a testament to the abounding (and seemingly unlimited) variety of plant life that makes up Costa Rica’s landscapes.
Arriving in San Jose was a familiar scene. A bustling place and we were particularly fine-tuned to the well-organized commotion around us, having spent the better part of the previous two weeks in relative quiet. Our friend with whom we had boarded the bus was due at the airport in less time than the local buses could promise, so we came to an agreement with a willing taxi driver instead. The ride was considerably quicker and again, we got to enjoy some sweet sights. What perspective it is to be driving at cloud level!
Our stay in San Jose was pleasant and we woke refreshed and well rested the following day. The guys at Finca Escalante are most hospitable, super welcoming and serve complementary breakfast each morning. We had a cab called for us and within minutes we were being whisked away to the Caribbean- Bound bus station, which also happens to service buses headed to the boarder town on Penas Blancas. If there is any sense in the way that San Jose’s bus stations are planned, it has so far eluded me.
Driving through Costa Rica is always a sensational experience for the landscapes are each beautiful in their own way. The land north of San Jose hosts volcanos and drier landscapes which pleasantly contrast the lusher jungles of the south. Several hours later found us at the beginning of the boarder walk. Immediately, we are being met by revving individuals offering to convert our colones for cordobas, provide cab rides or assist us through the boarder walk. We connected with one particularly collected woman who pointed us to the Costa Rican tax shack where we would pay our $8 departure tax (Step 1). Subsequently, we would walk to the immigration office (which is visible from the bus drop off and the departure tax shack) and be “stamped out” of Costa Rica (Step 2).
Then begins the walk. This boarder cross involves a long stretch between offices, marked by (on this day) hundreds of long-haul trucks waiting to cross, as well as several security/passports (Step 3) checks along the way. I was asked to play my drum at a certain check point, to which we shared some laughs and a small jig. I really had to concentrate to make sure I was understanding our conversation. This officer even called over her superior and I was asked to play yet again. Some more laughs were had and small talk exchanged before we were again on our way. Further down the road we arrived at the Nicaraguan immigration office where we payed the typical $1 municipal tax (Step 4) and proceeded to wait in line to get stamped in (Step 5). This process involves an entry tax of $12 and a few questions about intended whereabouts and intended time to be spent in Nicaragua.
What a raw, pleasant and welcome vibe it was to emerge into Nicaragua. Immediately we felt this liveliness and presence in the people that we hadn’t quite experienced this round in Costa Rica. It was an awesome feeling, paired with the feeling of “we’re here!”. We grounded in by purchasing some delicious local fruit, chatting with a few of the locals and hopping on board an infamous “chicken bus” designated for Managua. Although it is typically the bus to Rivas that drops travellers off at the road to San Juan, these guys were happy to make the stop for us.
You know that you’ve got to move fast when riding with these guys. Time is money and they hustle. 30 seconds before drop off, one of the buss dudes strides to the back where we were sitting, chivalrously takes some of our bags and prompts us into action while the bus is still in motion. It all happened so fast and comically that writing about it now is still leaving me chuckling.
Directly across the road we were met by a self-operated “taxi” driver, Jose, who offered to take us into town for $6. Though one can also hitch into town easily, we decided we’d support him and the family and entertain some conversation while we were at it. Fifteen minutes later and we arrive in the bustling town center of San Juan del Sur. It was full of sass and smells, laughter, music, kids playing on the beach, people drinking coctails for sunset and culture! We were in heaven!!
It was not until a few days later, while sitting in Casa Oro, having some of the best food in town, did we meet Muffadal. In the days that followed we chatted, shared stories and his vision for creating an echo tourism hub that is not only sustainable but regenerative! That gives back to the earth and the community!! We received an extensive tour of his current projects, which are HUGE and incredible!
Casa Oro: Echo friendly hostel right in town which houses 100 guests and boasts some of the the best tours in San Juan del Sur. Daily shuttles to the many pumping surf beaches, surf lessons and tours, snorkling, scooba diving, fishing, horse back riding, spear fishing, booze cruises, turtle tours and more! The restaurant offers an incredible variety of vegan, seafood and chicken dishes, all prepared in house with fresh organic cuisine & love! Casa Oro has a beautiful bar & coffee shop which is open daily until 11pm. The overall vibe of Casa Oro is fun and relaxing. The entire place has been renovated using recycles building materials put together beautifully to create a bohemian eclectic vibe that makes you feel so at home that you want to stay for weeks and weeks on end.
Casa Andalucia: An exquisite yoga retreat space & bnb that overlooks the entire bay of San Juan Del Sur, this space is next level and is the perfect environment to host teacher trainings, retreats and group get aways. Casa Andalucia has the capacity for 15-20 people and has all of the utilities one would desire to host a high end retreat that is both affordable and private.
El Pacifico: 15 minutes walk along the beach outside of town, this beautiful little resort has a combination of dorm rooms and private accommodation, its own gorgeous pool, hammock, restaurant, bar and wifi. Free shuttles into town make coming in and out of San Juan’s excitement really easy and fun!
Nuestra Casa: A beautiful guesthouse in town that hosts incredible views of the bay and provides a private homely escape for guests to come and replenish or work. Art and flare is strewn all over this gorgeous little get away and it has one of the best sunset spots in town!
Rancho Regeneration: Woaw! What a vision and a view! This exquisite 80 acre property, to-be retreat centre, with stunning jungle/ocean views. Casa Regeneration’s vision is to provide organic, fresh food for 1000 people per day! With the intention of giving back to the local community, taking sustainability several steps further into the realm of regeneration and eventually creating another hub where permaculture and sustainable building, education & collaboration takes place!
This is the vision that we journeyed to San Juan for; and we immediately had a big fat yessss to help make it happen!
In just a few days after creating some initial goals to kick and timelines through which to operate, we have initiated a 3 gallon batch of kombucha; started a ginger bug; “brewed” several gallons of cold coffee; set up a volunteer kitchen & work space; fine-tuned the hostel’s espresso bar to produce an excellent cup using beans from the Matagalpa region; renovated the bar, refining it for quality service purposes and put together a whole new cocktail list to be complemented with house-made liquors; managed the hostel’s social media platforms; taught yoga classes twice daily and have updated the information boards in the hostel.. The project is coming alive and it feels so good to be a part of it! Next is making natural cleaning products for the guests and in house cleaning!
We will be writing some more on our experiences here, so stay tuned. Upcoming: On “brewing” the most delicious ice coffee you will ever taste; On making kombucha using double fermentation methods & flavouring; and, Kombucha as a model for Regeneration.
Thanks for reading!
Fabian & Jade