Sitting on the curb early in the morning in León, waiting for the bus to arrive, the anticipation distracts us from the already sweltering heat. Like most people, we love the beach – we love the waves, the sun, the feeling of freedom while floating in the vast expanse of the ocean. After the short tease back in Las Peñitas a couple weeks prior, it was time to return to the beach.
Following many weeks of constant travel, in busy cities and on long bus trips, staying no more than a few days in each destination, we decided it was time to slow down a little and relax. Having spent some time on the Southern coast of Nicaragua in the past, we knew it would be the perfect spot to stop for a while.
Long and Bumpy Ride
Getting down to Popoyo was fairly simple, though doing it cheap does take a bit of time. After a relatively quick four hours making our way down to Rivas we navigated through the maze of chicken buses in the dusty field acting as the bus station. Being fortunate enough to get on early and have a seat, we spent the next half hour or so sitting in the lot as the bus slowly filled beyond capacity – only then was it time to leave. While in a regular vehicle, the ride would probably take roughly 30-40 minutes, but as with all chicken bus journeys, the bus stops every couple of minutes to either pick up more passengers or drop some off. I should add that these stops also included the driver’s assistant climbing onto the roof to gather items from the roof which ranged from bags of rice to full sized wooden doors. After nearly two hours of stop and go on a long and bumpy ride, we disembark on the side of the road and begin the half hour walk to our home for the next two weeks.
After what seemed like an eternity carrying all of our packs down the long and windy trail under the 32 degree sun, we dropped our bags and took in the view. Our little cabin was perched on top of a hill in the middle of nowhere; a twenty minute walk to the nearest shop and another twenty to the beach in the opposite direction. While the heat of the afternoon was overwhelming, inside the house a perfectly cool breeze brought everything to a comfortable level.
Other than a few small houses and fincas dotting the area, we were in total seclusion, living the local life. Every morning we’d make the walk down to the deserted beach and enjoy the beautiful ocean before the heat got out of hand. Following breakfast shortly after, the hottest hours of the day would be spent getting some work done. Every other day when our water ran low, we would make the twenty minute walk to the local shop and carry the refilled five-gallon jug back up the hill to our house. To supplement our diet of rice and beans, the occasional trip to the local produce store – which was another ten minutes from the water shop -and pick from whatever was available on the particular day. On the days when shelves were bare, one would instead rely on the daily produce truck to pass through the area direct from the market in Rivas; simply wave down the passing pick-up and make your purchase.
Although it took a few days to get used to the life, routine soon kicked in and it was exactly what we had been looking for. Over time we found little tricks to shave a few minutes off the walks whether it be cutting through the bush behind our place or through the salt farm down the road.
This was probably the most unique sight of the two weeks spent near Popoyo. The fields themselves were clearly visible from the road, but it wasn’t until seeking out a quicker way to the store did we stumble upon the process itself. Large, shallow ponds are dug into the flat spans of bare earth near the coast and are filled from the ocean with old diesel pumps. As the water slowly evaporates, men skim the salt crystals as they form, shovelling them into bright white piles. Countless hours are spent under the blistering sun while the salt compounds the effects; however this didn’t stop the men from greeting us happily with bright smiles on their leathered faces.
Popoyo was Just what was Needed
Between the hours spent playing in the waves and the long walks for supplies, combined with the cool evening breeze, we enjoyed some of the best sleeps of the trip. Aside from the odd scorpion that made its way into the house, this little break from travel was exactly what we needed. The time passed surprisingly quickly unfortunately, it was a place we could have easily spent another two weeks. From the cool, cleansing ocean water to the breathtaking sunsets, and the calming break from the crowds and cars and chaos; this bit of non-travel was one of the greatest experiences of our trip.
Have you ever spent time in a remote area just to get away from everything? How did you feel about it?