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Travel Diary: Nicaragua

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The stage was set for my first ever girls-only surf trip. Three frothing surfers, 6 days of bliss and one hell of an experience, this was an impeccable formula for the makings of something special. Together with my surf sisters Mün and Danielle, we made the sensational all-inclusive eco resort Malibu Popoyo our home base for the week. If it wasn’t for the guarantee of the good waves, we probably would have never left the compound. With an emphasis on surf and wellness, this boutique hideaway gave us everything we needed and the things we never realized we did! The property was an oasis of greenery with the thatched roof cabanas (that’s so emblematic of Latin America) seamlessly incorporated in the vegetation, all of which encircled the central pool.

''This minimal striped motif pairs best with windswept hair, ocean-skimming toes, and sun-kissed skin speckled with sea mist.''

With a farm-to-table approach, the onsite restaurant, Sunset Cantina, served the healthiest meals a travelling surfer could ask for without compromising on taste or portion size. This suited us well considering we did double surf sessions on a daily basis. Post sunset sessions were best enjoyed at the yoga deck that was inconspicuously nestled away in the quietest corner of the resort. Our minds, bodies and spirits became one again during these complimentary classes as we stretched the kinks out of our surf-wary frames to the sound of the waves drumming across the coastline and the shadows of the foliage dancing on the drapes...

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This was my second time surfing the waves of the Pacific Ocean but unlike my experience in Guatemala, the water was uncharacteristically cold for this time of year. Definitely “no bueno” for a creature of the tropics like myself who only packed swimsuits while everyone else in the line up wore some level of neoprene for warmth. I treated my unpreparedness as a true test of my dedication to this sport as I paddled out into the first of three breaks we surfed during our time. Magnific Rock (or Beginner’s Bay) was a long golden sand bay with a huge rocky headland that pointed towards the horizon and driftwood of all shapes and sizes scattered throughout. This beach break was heavily affected by the daily tidal cycles which offered the longest, “crusiest” left-handers during the pre-midday hours and just before sunset, and faster right-handers for lunch. No matter the time of day though, I was always hungry for this wave!

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Around the corner to the east was Playa Popoyo. This was another golden sand bay but with a flat reef bottom and split peaks that were more than shareable for the crowd. The overhead view of the line-up from the on-site snackette was absolutely spectacular! However, this vision was best enjoyed either from the sundeck with the purple bougainvillea backdrop or lounging in one of the colourful locally made hammocks that neatly hung from the wood and zinc roof. I was quite fond of this setup because, although it was quite minimalistic, it afforded the perfect space to escape the cold grasp of the surf.

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At the peak of the swell, we relished at the opportunity to take a boat ride out to the famed Lance’s Left. We set out across the Nicaraguan coastline feasting our eyes on the ever-changing landscape as we zipped by in our little fishing boat. When we finally arrived, the sight of this wave certainly did not disappoint! With a jagged natural wall in the background and perfect head high (and sometimes bigger) A-frame lefts breaking before our eyes, we anchored on the outskirts of the peak. The boat swayed gently in synch with the undulating water beneath us and I knew that this moment was what surf dreams were made of! We surfed as long as we could tolerate the cold, exchanging hoots, hollers and high fives with each other every time one from our crew successfully made a drop and rode a wave with splendid execution.

Get the Rooney top in Palm!

Upon our return to the fishing village from where we departed, we were greeted with a huge bowl of the most delicious ceviche I have ever tasted! Made with freshly caught flounder, locally sourced seasonings and served with salted crackers, our taste buds went into overdrive as this seafood concoction melted in our mouths with every bite. Should this be the reward after every session, it is without question, that there would be more people taking to the waves.

We set out across the Nicaraguan coastline feasting our eyes on the ever-changing landscape as we zipped by in our little fishing boat.

Our time went by quickly, like a giddy blur of joy. With the eventual and unfortunate recession of the swell in our final days, came the opportunity to do a bit of venturing out into the neighbouring communities. We partied with the locals and tourists alike at the Big Surf House in nearby Guasacate under the glow of the luminous full moon, our bare feet stomping in the sand to the beats of the local band that belted out reggae and ska tunes in Spanish. However, slack lining and tandem hulas in oversized hoops were the highlights of that night as our cheeks and tummies were set ablaze from so much uncontrollable laughter.        

During one hot, steamy day, we even had the chance to explore La Quinta Farm, the resort’s 3.5 acre orchard that supplies the resort’s kitchen (and the town) with fresh, organic fruits like coconuts, mangoes and dragonfruit.It was in these final days that we realized how much this place felt like the wild west. Like a Nicaraguan safari, the unpaved pathways and vegetation that favoured desert-like conditions allowed for plumes of dust to always be in view. Cattle, horses and even bunnies roamed the rugged dirt roads freely. Monkeys stared at us intently from the safety of overhead branches with some swinging a bit closer to satisfy their curiosity. Popoyo had minimal influence from the outside world and for this we were glad.

In the closing hours of sunset, we took a chill stroll along the endless coastline, exploring rocky tide pools while hoping to catch a glimpse of the fabled green burst of light. It was a time of reflection of the week gone by and gratitude for what was: surfing, opportunity and sisterhood. From the animals to the people and the landscape, Popoyo charmed its way into our hearts with minimal effort. It is sentiments like these that make returns that much sweeter and for this reason we know that that day is inevitable. ¡Para siempre en nuestras corazones Nicaragua!

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