We left Hotel Chancletas early, to catch the last bus leaving the town of Asseradores that bizarrely leaves at 6:50 a.m. This was one of the most friendly and lively chicken buses we’d been on, as it was full of market-goers from a small town of people who all knew one another. We took the bus first to Chinandega, where we took a taxi to the other terminal, and finally an express bus to Managua. The difference between an ordinary and express bus, as far as I can tell, is mainly the price. Express buses cost more, and as a function of this, they attract less people. This then makes for less frequent stops and quicker journeys. They also take fewer detours into smaller towns. This express bus to Managua was well worth the extra 20 or so cordoba. In Managua, we took a taxi from our terminal of arrival to the terminal we needed to depart from, Huembles. We then knew we needed to jump on one of the infrequent direct buses to San Juan del Sur, or get any bus to Rivas and get to SJDS from there. I wandered around asking a number of people about a bus to San Juan del Sur, and when two men pointed to a bus that was pulling out, I hesitated briefly. I then decided to go with what they were telling me, and rushed back to Tim to get our bags and load up onto the bus in a hurry. I knew Tim hated rushing around the buses like that, for good reason, as it much more likely to get scammed/robbed/taken advantage of when trying to run around. I asked a guy sitting next to us if the bus was heading all of the way to San Juan or only to Rivas, and learnt that it was indeed only heading as far as Rivas. I knew I’d made a bad call, as we could have found an express bus to Rivas or potentially San Juan, or at least not needed to rush, but we ended up getting there without any dramas and finding another bus to take us the remaining 40 minutes or so to the beach. We arrived in San Juan del Sur pretty tired after a long day of travelling, and set off to find somewhere to sleep.
The town doesn’t come cheap, with most private rooms being offered at 20 USD or more, and dorms not offering significant savings when the room is split between two. Finally, we found Hospedaje Soya, a small and rather average place, offering us a room for 16 USD. We took it, as we knew that we’d likely be moving out soon anyways. The place was fine – save for a couple of hours spent hunting mosquitos – and offered a central base from which to explore the small town.
Our initial impressions were mixed. It’s a sweet town, it’s on the beach, and there seemed to be lots of funky shops and restaurants. There also seemed to be an excessive amount of tourists bordering on obnoxious, who had clearly come here strictly to party, all day and every day. Nevertheless, I knew that if I didn’t make a commitment to study Spanish somewhere soon, I wouldn’t end up doing it on this trip. And I desperately needed some instruction. I wandered around to a couple of Spanish schools and found one, located in the Cultural Centre beside Hotel Esperanza, just opposite the beach, that seemed like it would work for me. It was offering 20 hours of class and a week of accommodation (including 3 meals a day) with a homestay family for 195 USD. This is a bit cheaper than most of the competition in town, and the local vibe of the cultural centre put me at ease. I signed up to start the following day. We were, however, not too far away from Semana Santa, a massive holiday in most Latin countries. I was told that as of Thursday, travel would be difficult and most places to stay would be booked. I figured we should leave on Wednesday, to avoid too many problems on the road. San Juan del Sur is a huge destination for domestic travel, and the majority of what I’ve heard makes it sound like somewhere I wouldn’t want to be during that particular weekend. I ended up signing up for the 20 hours of lessons and 6 nights accommodation (at the slightly discounted price of 180 USD), and I was to start the following day.
Tim, meanwhile, was organizing a trip to Playa Hermosa, a short way down the coast, where he hoped to catch some good waves. It was going to be a weird experience spending even a few days apart, as we’d basically been joined at the hip for the last few months. Nevertheless, I thought it would be good, and knew it would help me concentrate a bit more on Spanish.