We spent 5 days in Nicaragua. First, we headed towards the coast to the area of Poneloya but didn’t find any adequate areas to camp and it was early enough to keep on truckin. We went inland to Diriamba and the Centro Ecoturistico La Maquina where we had a great swim in the chilly waterfalls. We were also able to camp here in what they call the tropical dry forest. It was a nice and quiet night and we were all by ourselves once the swimming area closed.
The next day we again headed to the Pacific coast in hopes of some beach camping. We eventually found Matilda’s Camping which is near Playa Majagual just north of San Juan del Sur. It was not the best of roads at some points but we made it no sweat. The sweat began when we got stuck in the sand trying to wrangle our way into a camping spot on the beach. Thankfully there were some people there to help us and we didn’t get buried too deep.
We then chose a different spot with harder sand and were A-OK! It was a different campsite with lots of longterm surfers and hippie types hanging out. But everyone was friendly and we even got to try some local rum! I think this was to try and keep them warm as the ocean water was absolutely frigid! I guess some weird weather in the Carribean causing high winds to come through Lake Nicaragua and churning up the cold waters from below. Either way it made it difficult to swim and the winds were just a pain in the butt.
After a couple days on the annoyingly windy beach we decided we needed to get a move on. We were in need of some internet so that we could start arranging our van shipment from Panama to Colombia. Oh yes and a wedding too! We got some supplies and then headed to the border for Costa Rica. We got there around 11am and got out of Nicaragua no problem. However, we were greeted with a huge line of people all trying to get into Costa Rica. We stood in line for at least 2 hours, in the sun mostly. Once we got our tourist visas, getting the van in was just a matter of running between the different buildings and getting the right photocopies.
We were out of there by 3pm and headed to a campsite we had found details for on the internet. It shouldn’t have taken all that long but our GPS was a stupid cow and took us on a 4WD road. Dave and I both knew that we should turn around at so many points but we kept thinking it was going to go back to tarmac or get better. But the hills and rough road went on and up and up for what seemed like forever. The van is so heavy that braking on these huge loose rock roads is pretty much impossible. In hindsight this may have a lot to do with our brake issues in the near future (keep reading)!
We made it to the Brasilito Lodge in Playa Flamingo and sadly it was kind of a dump. Our nerves were shattered so we decided to head straight to a restaurant for food and internet. The next morning we checked out the beach and got back on the road for a short drive to Samara Beach and a great campsite right on a beautiful beach.
Camping Los Cocos had electricity, decent cold showers and toilets and did I mention was right on the beach! And the ocean here was like bathwater! So lovely. Here we got our laundry done for a small fortune, put our hammock up and enjoyed the sights. Some of us more than others!
Our next planned destination was to drive up a volcano, however once we got on the road we found our brakes were in poor shape. Plan B: Head to the capital, San Jose, where there was suposed to be a nice campground run by an American who could likely assist us. During the drive the left brake acted up so much that we stopped and Dave took the wheel off to see if he could fix anything. The problem was an almost non-existent left brake pad that was scratching the crap out of the rotor.
Being a spectacle on the side of the road we were quickly helped by the ice cream man, who immediately got on his mobile and called his amigo mechanic. A couple of guys showed up and tried to track down a part but said the earliest would be Tuesday (it was only Saturday!). He disconnected the left brake and recommended we go real slow to the next town. We thanked them very much and ‘gingerly’ hit the road again. Not stopping at the next town but continuing to the capital to find this great campsite. Of course when we arrived the campground had turned into a really nice, really new grocery store – crap! We all together gave up at this point, found a nice hotel and booked in for 2 nights. We enjoyed the bed and the internet and everything!
Now we are just waiting on the van to see if they can get the new brake pads. We dropped her off early this morning at the neighbour of our Hotel Receptionists just down the street. Hopefully we will get her back today and head back North towards the volcano and hot springs.