Our next stop was San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua. Nicaragua is the largest Central American nation and has claim to stunning landscapes, vast cultural treasures and an intriguing history. We took a quick tour to visit the town of Rivas, which dates back to 606AD and is located near Lake Nicaragua, one of the largest freshwater lakes in the world and home to the only freshwater shark in existence.
Since the lagoon is too shallow for our ship we had to use “tenders” (small boats) to and from the docks. We were greeted by a huge downpour that, according to our guide, “It almost NEVER rains here”, which he repeated at least three times. We met our tour group to take an air conditioned bus ride and got to see the “awe inspiring” beauty of the twin volcanoes, Maderas and Concepcion, which rise majestically out of the lake to form the lush island of Ometepe. Concepcion is an active volcano that has 25,000 folks living there. They grow a number of fruits and vegetables that are famous for hundreds of miles around. Other countries send trucks to the island to fill up with the goods and take back to sell to their own people. The island folks, according to our guide, almost never leave the island and live a very basic lifestyle; no electric, no plumbing, etc., but each small house has a boat on its roof, just in case the volcano decides to erupt and people need to get off the island quickly.
We also visited Amayo Hacienda, a gorgeous, family owned estate near Lake Nicaragua.
This house is still owned by the original family that once ran the country and the house is managed by a daughter. This farm includes the Wind Generators, pineapples, coconuts, corn and numerous other fruits and vegetables. We were greeted with a cold drink, mixed fruit salad and local dances. It was a pleasant afternoon.
We also visited a Catholic Church that was built in 1822. On the way, we passed by a number of wind generators on four different wind farms, including the Amayo that we were visiting. These four farms purportedly produce 50% of the country’s electrical power requirements, but that day the wind was totally “dead” --- it couldn’t blow out a match. Our guide, the one who said that it hardly rained in this region as the roads began to flood, told us that having no wind in this area is unheard of. He said that “normally” you’d have to hold onto your hat or it would blow away. And, after all, the Wind Farms were chosen for this area because of the constant wind. Uh huh, “constant” my petunia ;-) I told him not to plan on watching any TV that night (because he won’t have any electricity ;-) )
To add to our “unusual” day (plenty of rain where it hardly ever rains and no wind in an area that has constant wind) our bus broke down and we had to wait an hour extra for a backup bus to arrive, which also made us an hour late on our return to the ship and an hour late for our scheduled dinner. But, all ended well and everyone compensated for the delays.
More Information: The colonial architecture is prevalent throughout the city. The streets are lined with homes and store front built of wood, painted in vibrant colors (evidently the first female president of Nicaragua disliked bland colors like gray or black and insisted that all government buildings have bright colors. Citizens took the hint and painted their homes with bright colors.) Thatched roof bars and restaurants line the beach and the crescent shaped bay is speckled with local fishing boats. Very few folks have a car because it is too expensive, but they all seem to be quite happy with the local public transportation. Big, yellow, school-bus looking vehicles get folks from one town to another. They are affectionately called “Chicken Buses” because you’ll usually find chickens, piglets, iguanas, etc. on the bus on their way to market.
The capital, Manuagua, is about 90 miles away. San Juan del Sur is a municipality and coastal town on the Pacific Ocean, in the Rivas department in southwest Nicaragua and is the most visited beach town on the Pacific coast. San Juan del Sur is popular among surfers and is a vacation spot for many Nicaraguan families and foreign tourists. Its population is approximately 15,553, consisting largely of families engaged in fishing or the tourism industry and foreigners from the United States, Canada and Europe. While the local economy was, for many years, based on fishing and shipping, it has shifted towards tourism in the last 20 years. In October 2002, to mark the city's 150th anniversary, it was formally designated the "Port of San Juan del Sur" and a "Tourism City of Nicaragua."
News to me --- San Juan del Sur, set beside a crescent-shaped bay, was a popular resting place for gold prospectors headed to California in the 1850s. Evidently, to take a ship around South America to get to the California gold mines would take around 8 to 9 months. Prospectors would get off at San Juan, cross about 20 miles of dry land to Lake Nicaragua then to the river and finally reach the ocean. This saved the about six months of traveling. Correspondingly, San Juan del Sur served as a hub for Cornelius Vanderbilt Lines.
A statue of the Christ of the Mercy sits above town on the northern end of the bay. The Mirador del Cristo de la Misericordia sits at on one of the highest points on the bay and is one of the tallest Jesus statues in the world.
The town is near the site where Survivor: Nicaragua and Survivor: Redemption Island were filmed. The 29th U.S. Survivor season, Survivor: San Juan del Sur was also filmed there, as was Season 30, Survivor: Worlds Apart. San Juan del Sur has also become a hot spot for international surfing competition.
Oh oh – our next stop was supposed to be Puntarenas, Costa Rica, but just about the time we tried to “park” the ship, Mother Nature flexed her muscles, by way of a small Tropical Storm, and we had to get out of there. Wind and rain pounded us and shook the ship for awhile, but we made it out to sea to calmer waters. We had already been to Puntarenas (see Travel Journal entry 180227) and we didn’t sign up for any tours so no big loss for us.