Las Flores

During the great Wi-Fi drought that followed the big storm in El Tunco last Tuesday, Eddie discovered he could play chess on his phone and for the first few days there was a lot of swearing, name calling and the occasional cheer when he won. After we arrived in Las Flores on Friday afternoon, it rained almost non-stop for the first four days and we had patchy Wi-Fi, so when he wasn’t surfing, Eddie got better at chess, and I tried to memorize Spanish infinitive verbs with the Quizlet App. Less successfully, I also tried to listen to my latest book ‘Behind the Beautiful Forevers’ by Katherine Boo, but for the life of me I kept zoning out and all of a sudden it would be an hour later and I hadn’t heard a thing.

 

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Going to check the surf in the rain

 

When I said to a French girl in El Tunco we were going to stay in Las Flores for two to three weeks, she gasped and said “Have you been there before?” and when I said “No” she said “I don’t think you’ll be able to stay for three weeks, there’s nothing to do other than surf” and when I said “we’re pretty old, we don’t mind it being quiet” she said “I’m pretty old too, but really, I think you’ll find it too quiet” and went on to describe just how quiet it was and we had a bit of a laugh about it, but I thought, maybe we’ll be different, maybe we’ll be able to stay two to three weeks. Then it rained for four days and I thought we’d never see the sun again, and there was no shared bookshelf and no coffee urn I could help myself to in the mornings. And by Wednesday when the rain did stop we knew we’d have to leave after only eight days even though the surf was amazing. Most people went back to El Tunco and planned to return for the next swell, but we decided it was time to head back to León in Nicaragua for five days, and then on to our next surf spot, Popoyo.

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Eddie hitting the lip at Las Flores

 

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Eddie, speed turns

 

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Naomi surfing Las Flores

 

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Naomi, speed turns

Las Flores was beautiful and had a black sandy beach, which we really appreciated after all the stones we’d been clambering over and trying to avoid hitting at El Tunco, Kilometro 59 and Miramar. The wave is a long right hand point break and as good as everyone said it would be. I asked Eddie what he wanted me to say about the surf at Las Flores and he said “You’ve already said it haven’t you? It was good… I surfed every day for seven days”… I was ripping seven out of eight days”. So, there you go.

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Las Flores, low tide and overcast

 

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Pano of Las Flores, low tide and a beautiful day

 

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Papaya Lodge

By Friday the swell was fading away, which in Las Flores means it was about 3-4 foot. On Saturday morning Roberto gave us a lift to La Union, about 50 minutes from Las Flores, and we caught a lancha to Potosi in Nicaragua, a trip which took just under two hours between beautiful islands over a glassy ocean. From Potosi we caught a shuttle back to Casa de Huéspedes el Nancite, in Leon.

 

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Walking with our bags out to the lancha at La Union
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La Union from the lancha

 

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A beautiful glassy day to be traveling by water – coming into Potosi

 

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Back in León

 

Kilometro 59 to Las Flores via El Tunco and a crazy storm

 On our last morning at Kilometro 59, I was relaxing in my hammock reading ‘The Elves of Cintra’ by Terry Hayes. I’d got to the part where the King of the Elves daughter, princess somebody or other, had been caught with her friend looking for information on how to find and use the ‘Loden Elfstone’ to keep the ‘Ellcrys’ safe. I don’t know who or what the Ellcrys was, I forgot to take the book with me, but she may have been a tree or living inside a tree. Anyway, protecting the Ellcrys meant staving off the end of the world, and I stopped to ponder what our chances would be if Prince Harry and Megan Merkel were our only hope for keeping the Ellcrys safe. I hadn’t been sure if we should leave Kilometro 59 that day, but after a couple of minutes pondering, I realised it was definitely time.

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Final surf check at K59
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Leaving K-Lodge
 

We had one last breakfast, the desayuno typico sin (without) chorizo for me and the desayuno typico con(with) chorizo for Eddie. We’re going to miss Lita and Mira’s cooking, they were amazing cooks and lovely women, who accepted our choppy Spanish skills with laughter and good grace. 

After breakfast, we said goodbye to Mira, Santos and the two dogs, Jimbo and Pali, then Walter drove us to El Tunco and we checked back into the Lay Back Hostel. Mira (another Mira), the manager of the hostel was there with her young son, the tabby and white cat was sleeping in her usual spot on the balcony, and we got the same room as last time. The guys from Uruguay had left for Las Flores the same day we went to Kilometro 59 and Tony from California and Carmen from Guatemala aren’t here anymore either, so it’s not exactly the same.

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Laneway from Lay Back out to the beach, a bit muddy, but OK

It’s now Thursday morning and although last night’s storm has passed it’s still raining. Of the two storms we’ve had this week, I’ll remember Tuesday night’s storm the best. Only because we woke up at 2:40am to the loudest thunder clap I’ve ever heard. One of the two Australian girls, who we keep bumping into and who were staying at the lodge next door, said she felt the earthquake that preceded it and thought a volcano had erupted. We didn’t feel the earthquake, but my first thought was that there’d been an explosion. It must’ve been right over the top of us and there was no way anyone within a 100 metre radius of us, with good hearing, could have slept through it. But! I overheard two guys in our hostel talking on Wednesday afternoon.

Guy one: How loud was that storm last night?
Guy two: Was there a storm?
Guy one: *incredulous* You didn’t hear it?
Guy two: No…
Guy one: *still incredulous* It was pretty loud.
Guy two: Yeah? I got home at 10pm and went straight to sleep though, so I must’ve missed it.
Guy one: *like really incredulous* Yeah, but there was one really loud thunder…
Guy two: Yeah?
Guy one: *total confusion* Did you have a few drinks last night or something? [Hahahahahah, my thoughts exactly]
Guy two: Yeah, I had a few…
Guy one: *lightbulb moment* Ah! That’ll be why you didn’t hear it then.
Guy two: Yeah, I slept like a baby.

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Probably not a good idea to go for a surf in this, but it’s kind of pretty
 
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Photo of the river a few weeks ago and a photo of the river after the heavy rain we had on Wednesday night
 

Eddie checked the surf this morning and the water is the colour of milk chocolate, so we definitely won’t be going for a surf today. It’s 9:30am, I’ve already had two cups of coffee, so now it’s time to go and have breakfast at Coyotes and use their Wi-Fi because all the hostels on our laneway lost their Wi-Fi in storm and they still haven’t been able to fix it.

It’s Friday night and we’re at Papaya Lodge in Las Flores about 3.5hrs East of El Tunco. The surf was pretty small and onshore when we arrived at 12:30pm, but we weren’t expecting it to get good until Monday anyway, so we’re not panicking yet. Stay tuned.

 

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Las Flores, onshore and a bit small

 

Adding to my favourite places list


I’ve added Kilometro 59 to my unwritten list of favourite places. As the guys from Uruguay, who we met at Lay Back Hostel in El Tunco, said “fue tan lindo y fue tan hermosa”. I thought it was especially beautiful from the lineup at K59, looking back to the beach, when it was overcast and the waves were tossing a fine mist up the cliffs. I wish I had that photo. We also had good surf there, at both K59 and K61. We have photos of most of the waves we caught the first few days, taken by a couple of local guys. After looking them over, we agreed that the photos make the waves look much smaller than they felt at the time. We also met some really good people and this photo, taken in the lounge and dining area at K-Lodge, shows us gathered around to watch the Outerknown Fiji Pro at Cloudbreak.

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Yesterday we left El Tunco for a place called Kilometre 59, about 30 minutes up the coast. We’re staying at a place called K Lodge. It’s much quieter here than El Tunco, but very beautiful and our room is comfortable and has a view of a beach break called Middles. We’re here to surf the right hand point break K59, which is about a five minute clamber over stones away.

The waves weren’t amazing today, so I’ve been crazily trying to get this blog up-to-date before it falls fatally behind. I would prefer not to inundate everyone with seven posts in one day, so I’m going to try and keep up with it a bit better from now on…

 

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View of K59
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View of Middles from our balcony

 

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You couldn’t stay here if you were scared of dogs, he’s beautiful though

 

 

 

El Tunco

I can’t be bothered telling the whole three day story about how we got ripped off buying tickets for a shuttle trip from León to El Tunco that wasn’t planning to leave until about five days after it was supposed to leave, even though they were still selling tickets like it was. We eventually booked with another company and left for El Tunco on Monday 15th May at 2am. John made us cheese and tomato sandwiches to take with us and got up to say goodbye when we left. Such a lovely man. It was a straightforward trip that took 10 hours including two border crossings, from Nicaragua to Honduras and then Honduras to El Salvador. Once at El Tunco, we booked into a place called Mopelia, because it was highly recommended by Lonely Planet and then moved to a place called the Lay Back hostel the next day. Smaller, cleaner, less mosquitos and a really nice lady called Mira runs the place.

 

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La Bocana – such a fun wave

 

I forgot to mention that I started coming down with a cold the night before we went volcano boarding. Inhaling all that grit and dust boarding down the cerro probably didn’t help. By the time we got to El Tunco I was feeling a bit better, but was still pretty sick, so I spent a few days recovering while Eddie surfed La Bocana a cobblestone river mouth, which is to our left when we come out at the beach at the end of the lane. I reminds me a little bit of Meatworx in Kaikoura because you can hear the stones rolling and tumbling against one another as each wave breaks. I finally went for a surf on Thursday morning at La Bocana and Eddie went out at El Sunzal a right point break, which you get to by a 20 minute clamber over stones followed by a longish paddle out to the point. There were about 10-20 guys out at La Bocana and I managed to get about four nice waves, so I was pretty happy with my efforts.

 

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Doorway to the beach at the end of our lane
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Walking back down the lane to our hostel
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Surf check

 

Eddie has been surfing heaps, but I didn’t go for another surf until the following Saturday, because I was concentrating on my Spanish lessons with Lale at a café down the end of the lane. For five days, I spent the morning studying and doing my homework before going to my lesson at 2pm and then after the lesson, I’d spend about four hours being exhausted and having tea before going to bed.

 

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The most handsome cat we’ve met on our travels, at the Lay Back hostel
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Being cute

 

I had my final lesson on Friday and since Saturday, I’ve been for a few surfs at La Bocana and I finally went out at El Sunzal on Monday afternoon. From the beach at El Tunco it looked fat and boring, to me, but it had far more power than I realised. The first couple of waves I caught were fast and I could barely see where I was going. It was also a bit choppy, but big chops, not little ones, and my board should have hand imprints from how tight I had to hold it to stop it from being torn out of my hands by the waves.

 

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Sometimes you’ve just gotta lay down in the water to get cool

 

As I was clambering up the stones to the footpath in my fins after a surf at La Bocana on Tuesday morning, a local guy called Oscar gave me the thumbs up. I wasn’t really sure if he was referring to my graceful exit from the surf or my last wave, I’d had fun, but didn’t think my surf had been that great. It turns out he was photographing a couple of the surfers out there and he’d got a few photos of Eddie and me, so I bought them.

 

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Proof that I’m not just laying in my hammock reading books
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A small wave out at La Bocana

 

 

Volcano boarding!

On Friday we took a shuttle to the foot of Cerro Negro with Laura, who was also staying at El Nancite, a father and son and two tour guides. The drive was pretty fast and once we hit the countryside it got a bit hairy. The roads were narrow and muddy and there were people walking, riding horses, riding motorbikes, and driving oxen with carts, in both directions. We barely slowed down for them and how we didn’t hit anybody, I don’t know. Halfway there we stopped to pick up a young guy standing on the side of the road. He climbed onto the roof of the shuttle and how he wasn’t thrown off, I also don’t know, but he was still there when we got to the foot of the volcano, so me must’ve hung on for dear life. Cerro Negro looked nothing like Volcan Mombacho. It was all volcanic rock and no greenery until you got to the very edges of the reach of the lava, which last came down in 1999. We tried to work out where we would be boarding back down and couldn’t.

 

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From left to right, Hoover & son, Eddie, Naomi, Laura
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Part of the way up and I couldn’t work out how we were going to board back down over rock like this

 

Once out of the van, we were given our board and a pack with goggles and overalls to carry up the volcano with us. Then we found out why we’d picked up that young guy on the way. If we didn’t want to carry our boards up the volcano, he would do it for 100 cordobas each. We felt the weight of our boards, looked and the volcano and decided that was a great deal. Once that was sorted our guide lead us up the volcano. It took about 45 minutes, including a few five minute stops on the way to tell us things like, Cerro Negro had been very active before the last eruption in 1999, that the lava from the last eruption had almost, but not quite reached the closest village, and that they often call volcanos cerros (hills) in Nicaragua. John had described Cerro Negro as a leisurely stroll and while it wasn’t difficult I knew it was far from what Eddie would describe as a leisurely stroll. And yes, he did have John up about it when we got back.

 

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halfway – behind this rock it was a pretty steep drop back down to the bottom
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A bit of a panoramic showing the reach of the lava

 

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Still walking
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I’m pretty sure that at this point Eddie is thinking that John tricked us and that this is not a leisurely stroll!

Once at the top, we saw were we would be boarding back down the volcano. It was steeper than I’d thought it would be and my legs went all shaky. We all put on our overalls and goggles and the guide demonstrated how to sit on the board and use our weight and feet to go faster and slower and how to turn, which I didn’t get at all.

 

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One last photo looking back into the crater before getting ready to board back down to the bottom

 

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All dressed up and ready to go

Laura went first and started off slow before getting faster and faster as she got closer to the bottom. Then it was my turn. I felt quite calm by the time I was sitting on my board and ready to go, but I have evidence in the form of a video (I can’t show it here, because my sub doesn’t allow me to upload video) showing how hard I found it to steer my board – I fell off – and also showing how slow I went even though in my imagination I was going pretty fast by the end. I loved every minute of it and would do it again. Unfortunately, our guide stuffed Eddie’s video up and we can only see him in the distance with the dust flying out behind him as he nears the bottom of the cerro. He was the fastest out the three of us. The father and son had decided not to go down on boards, so they ran down the cerro after we’d finished our rides. That looked like fun too.

 

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Looking back up the cerro at the way we’d come down!