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The first 24 hours in Nicaragua
Mike had told me it was going to be colder than I would normally think.
I dip my toes in, and quickly realize what Mike was talking about. Despite my assumption that everything about Central America is hot, the water is chilly at best – cold to be generous.
"Aw, heck," I shriek before running full throttle, throwing my borrowed surfboard in front of me, and paddling as quickly as possible to the lineup.
Rob, too, the owner of the Hotel Brio where I am staying for a week, jogs into the water and informs us this is the coldest it's been in his recollection. He's been surfing these waters for over five years, so that's saying something
Dusk is settling in, and the hot Nicaraguan sun is quickly fading, bringing with it forceful offshore winds. It's feeding time for the frigate birds, who are scouring the sea out on the horizon. It's just the three of us in the water, a perfect closing to my first full day in this largely misunderstood country.
For those of you who are afraid of traveling to Latin America because you think it's too dangerous: don't be. Having been to some of the lesser traveled countries such as Colombia, I too was afraid of hostility and violence. Like Mexico, there are clearly places you should go and places you should avoid.
I've now spent just 24 hours in this blessed country, which is in the middle of its dry season. I decided to come here before Nicaragua becomes an expensive travel destination and/or explodes as a surf destination. On the plane ride from Houston to Managua, I happened to sit next to Rob, who invited me to his hotel near the Tola coast in south. After many serendipitous moments like this, I've become a firm believer in trusting that things and people happen for a reason.
Therefore, might I suggest that you just buy the ticket you've been anxious about purchasing. Just go for it. Beyond that, you might want to book your first night's stay somewhere, but let the other events just unfold before you naturally. There's something utterly comforting about being in a third-world country and seeing it develop before your eyes.
Specifically, the people here are awfully helpful. No matter their dire financial or living situations, the locals I've met are particularly resilient. The hotel cook Nestor, for instance, taught himself English and taught himself how to cook the most delectable meals this side of Central America. Rob told us that previous guests at the Brio contact him specifically to rave about Nestor's amazing dishes. Not only this, Nestor is the friendliest Nicaraguan I have yet to meet – and this is not to say that the people are not friendly because they are.
Speaking of Nestor, it's time for dinner. An enticing plate of garlic red snapper fillet, freshly purchased from a local fisherman, awaits me. The side of mashed potatoes could feed five starving children in the beachside village just down the road. Parrots are chirping goodnight from the trees outside, and the sun is quickly turning midnight blue.
So for now, I will say buenos noches, but tell you I've only just begun to explore this small country packed to the brim with vibrancy and culture. You will certainly hear more from me soon, but I implore you to come and see it for yourself.