I just recently came back from a last-minute, 4-day trip to Nicaragua where I drove across the country with a stranger – now friend. Why did I do this? Because I clearly believe in fate way more than being realistic. Christa - my new friend - is the sister of Maria, the co-founder of The Culture-ist and Humanity Unified, an organization I’ve had the pleasure of working with these past few months. Through her I was connected with the beautiful Christa, that I instantly felt connected to as soon as our first Skype date came to an end.
Why did I fly across North America to meet up with a stranger? To launch a travel company of course! A travel and tour company bringing you to the heart and soul of each country we visit, focusing on conscious and sustainable travel, wellness and social good – more details to follow soon!
Although utterly UNsustainable, and I should be pat on the wrist for this one, the two of us actually rented a car to save on our expenses. I hate how cheap it was, it makes me want to give taxi drivers a stern talking to. But because our itinerary for the quick trip was jam packed, it did make the most sense, and thank Shiva we made it back to the airport on our way out without a dent or scratch. Although our white Yaris was styling a very well done mud-brown ombre, thanks to all the dirt roads we encountered.
Our first stop on the very long adventure, that we had no idea we were in store for, was Granada. As we passed beautiful painted laneways and grand, colonial architecture, we couldn’t help but “oo” and “aww” at how freaking adorable this little city is. We popped into a random spot for some grub, as our bellies rumbled from an early morning flight. We later found out we basically ate at the Nicaraguan version of Taco Bell, Taco Stop, but hey, owned and made by locals with some serious flavor and spices!
We took to a walk around the main downtown area, near the famous cathedral and stopped to check out cool dining and shopping spots. Overall, it was the colours that blew my mind. I couldn’t help staring down each laneway, path and street, watching as the buildings went from red to blue, to purple and pink.
We continued our journey to our first eco-resort in Playa Del Coco, 25 minutes outside of San Juan Del Sur, and almost directly on the border of Costa Rica. You’d be surprised to know that the driving was extremely smooth on the major highways. They are paved much better than the average street in Toronto. Most definitely better than Bathurst and Bloor! We did meet a lot of dirt roads though with insane inclines and ridiculous curves. We also thought we were in the right spot a dozen times then suddenly found ourselves extremely lost, thanks to every dirt road looking the exact same. We were not equipped with a GPS, which terrified me at first, but the only streets you can pick up on satellite would be the major highways, which would include all 3 that we drove on; everything else is simple dirt, rock and brick paths that could sometimes only be accessed by a 4x4. Luckily the locals are extremely friendly and were happy to help, even if I had to struggle through the limited Spanish I know to get where we needed to go.
When we arrived at our destination after about 4 hours, feeling extremely exhausted and slightly grumpy, we were instantly welcomed by the community of guests and staff at Costa Dulce, all eagerly awaiting to meet us and get us fed. We walked up the steep steps to the community kitchen and dining area, and grabbed ourselves a plate of some type of squash curry on rice with veggies and delicious vegan dessert. We weren’t up long – well, after the beer. I had actually gone straight to the airport at 3:00am directly from a friend’s wedding reception. My head couldn’t wait to hit the pillow! Our bungalow was located under the bar – how fitting – with a view of the ocean. I wish there was a way to describe how the crashing of waves, the whistling of the wind and the buzz of nature around us so harmoniously singing together, rocked me to sleep like a soft lullaby.
Our early morning commenced with yoga overlooking the ocean, followed by a delicious breakfast including coconut pancakes. We spent most of the morning getting to the know the gorgeous property, and all its hidden paths to be discovered, and finished off our lengthy AM with a surf lesson followed by lunch before heading out to San Juan Del Sur. Our surf lesson was such a thrill. It was hard to believe waves could be that tall; I’m talking like 6 feet over my head! It was slightly terrifying. We stuck to the smaller waves as close to shore as possible. I was impressed with how well I was able to balance. More surf lessons are definitely in my near future.
San Juan Del Sur is a cute surf town pretty well known to those who are into surfing here in North America. The small town is filled with trendy, tourist-like restaurants, pubs, hostels and hotels with a very cool arts and culture vibe. Although we weren’t there long, we felt very at home walking around this adorable place, and then were caught in the most epic tropical rainstorm I’ve ever experienced. Within the few seconds it took for us to take a corner and launch ourselves into the Yaris, we were completely soaked. And thank goodness because we hadn’t showered yet at this point…
Our next stop was Aqua Wellness Resort; a luxurious spot in Redonda Bay, just outside of a small town called Tola. I’m sure you can guess that I was like a kid in a candy store staying at a luxury property, which I’ve NEVER done before. Reception was the first stop where we were greeted with refreshing towels and given instructions for getting around the resort, which spreads out along the bay. Our room, which was another minute down the road, was a luxury oceanview suite. But not just a suite, a two floor house! WITH A PRIVATE POOL! I literally jumped around like a 5 year old checking out all the goodies it had to offer. After getting dressed up and heading down to dinner on the water, we made a toast to our trip and the whole adventure with some Columbian wine, accompanied by some delicious seafood dishes. Although a beautiful property with gorgeous facilities, an impressive menu and spa, besides the daily yoga offerings, there wasn’t all that much “wellness” about it. They definitely focus on the luxury component more than anything. I really enjoyed my stay there but rustic, barefoot, backpacker-style is a lot more me. Christa was a bit of the opposite. You can take the girl out of Gajner, but you can't take the Gajner out of the girl.
The next day we had another spot to check out along Laguna de Apoyo but couldn’t have gotten more lost. We took it as a sign and found ourselves in Granada again, sipping delicious Nicaraguan coffee and exploring more of what the city had to offer. The colours of the city are truly so enchanting. It inspired me quite a bit, which led to some very beautifully written pieces for myself. Granada has really made an impression on me; a lingering calm and peacefulness.
Our itinerary was super overwhelming for 4-days on zero sleep, but I couldn’t have asked for a more unique and excitable experience with so many hidden adventures and towns to be discovered. Our little entrepreneurial journey shall be announced shortly but to stay updated, be sure to subscribe to Sunshine & Raine for details.
A hint to our first trip and what we’re all about: The Rustic Warrior!