San Juan del Sur - billibilli

After Ometepe, we wanted to stay at the beach, and a quick search of AirBnB found Casa la Ceiba, a small hotel that was the right price for four of us to rent. We didn't know anything else about it, but we took the ferry to the mainland and then a Taxi to San Juan del Sur.

San Juan del Sur is a beach town famous for it's surfing and party atmosphere. We arrived in the afternoon and had time to look in the shops and eat lunch in the mercado (market). It's a large corner building with red awnings just a couple of blocks from the waterfront, and there's a convenience store on the corner that sells lots of imported food, drinks, and sauces. You can find it by asking any local, "Donde esta el mercado?". There are some great little restaurants inside the market with big portions and a good selection of fresh seafood too. It's the best prices in town and we ate there every time we could.

Before we left we bought groceries for the next few days because there aren't any restaurants out at the beach where we were going. We bought lots of fruit (for smoothies), vegetables, and plantains to make tostones. In Nicaragua Platano means the unripe green plantains, while Maduro is what they call the ripe yellow ones that are much sweeter.

Tostones are crunchy little patties of fried plantain that are in every practical sense the same as a potato. To make them, you cut a green plantain into half inch slices (and it's easier to peel after slicing), then you fry them in a little oil. After they're toasted on both sides you mash them flat, then toast them again. To make them more interesting, I cut pieces of the strong local Queso Fresco and mashed that under the plantain the second time around.

There is a supermarket on the edge of town called Pali that has a basic assortment of groceries, and the fresh fish all comes from a little shed on the waterfront which is the fisherman's cooperative. We bought red snapper for $1 per pound and hailed a taxi that would bring us -most of the way- to our hotel on the beach.

Instructions were vague, all I got from the AirBnB page was that it was in between Maderas and Matilda beach, so that's what we told the taxi. A very bumpy half hour later we were dropped off at the top of a steep hill with the assurance that Maderas beach is just down the road.

When we reached the beach, loaded down with our backpacks, water, and all the food, we realized that we would have to walk about a kilometer down the beach to the far end of the next one. One kilometer doesn't sound like much, but we were packing a lot of weight, in the middle of the day, over soft sand, so by the time we reached the hotel we were exhausted.

Casa la Ceiba turned out to be a pretty little hotel with five rooms and plenty of hammocks. That afternoon we met the new owner Nora, who had just bought and renovated the hotel a few months ago, and we agreed to come back after the Gruwells left to help her get started marketing the place.

Just outside is the Pacific Ocean, with a beautiful white sand beach and clear blue water. There's actually two beaches, one out front and another just down a path on the other side of a headland. Neither was crowded, and most of the day there was no one at all within sight. We spent a few days swimming, exploring tide pools, and climbing over the rocks out around the hill.

We cooked our meals in the well equipped kitchen, and the first night we grilled fresh fish on the barbecue with pineapple. I made rice, cabbage salad, and a tomato sauce to go with the fish, and we shared our meal with a Swiss couple who was also staying there.

When it was time for the Gruwells to leave, we shared a taxi back to town and they took a bus to Costa Rica. We stayed the night in San Juan del Sur where we bought groceries for a week, I found snorkel gear and a spear gun, and now we're headed back out to Casa la Ceiba for work.

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