That's One Ugly Beach
Playa Tamarindo, Costa Rica
I didn't take a single photo of San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua—I'm trying my hardest to forget it.
After four nights in Granada, I had my fill of the heat and intentional city-wide blackouts, and decided to run for the coastal town of San Juan del Sur. Frequented regularly by backpackers, San Juan is pretty much the spot that most everyone in the region eventually visits on their way north or south through Nicaragua.
I didn't have huge expectations for the town, and didn't believe a word of my guidebook—Set on a stunning horseshoe-shaped cove framed by dramatic cliffs… blah blah blah. All I cared about was a place that I could spend a few days on the beach while I soaked up the sun.
Oh, the horseshoe-shaped beach was stunning alright—it was one of the ugliest beaches I've seen in recent memory. The cold, dirty, jellyfish laden water, complimented the unpleasant black and brown sand shore (as well as the empty, uninteresting, fishing village of a town). Getting the idea?
It's my understanding that you have to take a taxi or hitch a ride about an hour north or south if you want to stay in the more attractive, surfer-friendly villages. I wasn't interested in such things. I planned my escape that evening.
About the only interesting thing I saw in San Juan was this massive vehicle parked near the beach. The brand was a UNICAT, and appeared to be a cross between a camper, and an armored personnel carrier!
Jumping the Border
I was awake before dawn, and caught the first bus available. A transfer or two later, and I was saying goodbye to Nicaragua.
Crossing the border was relatively painless. There was no need for the faux airline ticket that I had prepared (in the eventuality they decided to enforce their onward travel immigration policy on me), and ended up being processed just moments before the building lost power, halting operations.
As usual, I exchanged money at the border, but I this typically goes pretty well for me. I always look up the exchange rates before crossing, and haggle like mad. The money changer only made US$0.20 (less than 1% of the money changed) off of me. Ugh, the Costa Rican currency is over $500 for every U.S. dollar, and their coins are big, heavy, and numerous. It's a very odd sensation to pull out C$77,000 from the ATM.
Eight hours of bus travel later (four unhappy hours of which were spent on a sweltering, dilapidated airport terminal bus from the '80s), and I arrived at my destination: Playa Tamarindo.
Known (and visited) for its waves, beaches, and nature, Tamarindo is full of gringos. I haven't seen a concentration of surfers like this since Puerto Rico. Rumored to have the highest prices in all of Costa Rica—now I hear about this—I'm going to name this town "Little Playa del Carmen."
I arrived in time to ditch my backpack and catch the start of the 2nd half of regular play of the Germany/Italy World Cup match. I sat on the edge of my seat, and nearly wept when Germany got spanked with two fierce goals in the final 90 seconds of overtime play. Oh well…
Fourth of July in Costa Rica. No fireworks, but the sunset was absolutely amazing. Yesterday and today have offered me the first view of the Pacific I've had since the fall of 2005. The beach here is good enough, and I plan on getting after some of the sun bathing I've been craving.