My Turn to Buy

A cloud-topped volcano

With two lots now in nice developments purchased mostly for investment purposes, we still hadn’t found a lot that fit our initial fantasy. We had been looking for something mellow with good waves out front where we would build the house we would want to live in.

On a previous trip we had ventured far off the beaten path of surf tourism and development. We found a beachbreak with a tiny hotel constructed by a Floridian that wasn’t quite yet open for business. The tide was wrong for the beach and we only stayed one night then went back to Rancho Santana. On our next trip, in May 07, we kept running into people who suggested we give that beach another look, including Barry Oliver from Century 21. We figured all the recommendations were a sign and made the long drive over very rough roads to give the beach a second look.

We were not disappointed. The hotel run by a very cool guy named Shay was open for business and the waves were big, hollow, and uncrowded. Unlike “surf central” near Popoyo, this region of Nicaragua doesn’t benefit from all day offshores. The wind turns onshore around lunchtime much like other places in the world. That has been enough to deter the crowds, although little by little more people are discovering this beach.

Shay had 3 horses running “wild” on his property. As a young girl, I used to have a few horses and compete in equitation and over-fences, so having three beautiful horses roaming about added to the fun uncrowded beach made me instantly fall in love with the area.

The hotel and restaurant

After five days of good waves with few people, admiring the horses, and relaxing in the mellow environment, we started wondering if there might be any lots for sale nearby. We mentioned our interest to Shay. To our surprise, he said that he did have a few lots for sale. Five years earlier he had bought a big chunk of land. In order to have enough money to build the hotel, he sold off a bunch of lots to his friends. He still had a handful without owners. We assumed the ones left over would be the less desire-able lots, probably in the back, without views. The first few he showed us were nice, but fell into that category. Then he showed us the last option. It was 7/10s of an acre, front row, with an easy ocean and even a small window of whitewater view.

Me, standing in the center of our new lot.

We didn’t even have to think about it. We immediately accepted the $40k price tag, and with that, I finally joined the Nicaraguan land owner’s club. Unfortunately, a few days later we had to return home, but were immediately planning our next trip.

One month later, admiring the lot at the start of the rainy season.

We returned a month later, in June 07. May/June being the transition from the dry to rainy season, the difference in greenness was amazing!

Ryan, stoked to be back in Nicaragua for the second time in two months!

Early morning coffee while checking the surf from the second floor of the hotel.

Putting in fins…

When the tide is right, the beachbreak out front is as good as any beach in the world.

The view of the peak from the corner of our lot.

Hollow beachbreaks have their dangers. Ryan pulled into a meaty tube that closed out. His board flipped over and a fin sliced into his calf. I had broken a board and was running back out with a second one and saw him hobbling up the beach. I looked at the gash and told him he could probably use 4 or 5 stitches. He was adamant about not wanting to take the hour long drive to town, afraid of the un-cleanliness of the hospital. He figured the needles would be dirty and there wouldn’t be anything to numb the pain.

His solution? Rum!
Even though it was only 8:30am, he asked me to go get him some rum and coke. I went down to the kitchen. At the time, the hotel offered a self-service drink setup. You helped yourself to the fridge and marked down what you took on your bill. I had noticed a shelf with bottles of rum. I grabbed a bottle of rum from the shelf, a pepsi from the fridge, marked both on our bill, and asked the girls in the kitchen for a glass, some ice, and lime. I took it all up to Ryan and handed it to him to make his drink while I got out our first aid kit to look for butterfly bandages.

He made himself a drink and pounded it, then when I returned with the bandages he asked me to make him another. As I poured the rum into the glass, he noticed some “funk” floating in the liquid. I assumed it had blown into the glass, but on closer inspection, I noticed there was a ton of “funk” floating at the bottom of the rum bottle. He told me to smell the rum, and after taking one whiff of smell from the mouth of the bottle, I knew instantly it wasn’t rum inside. It smelled rancid! Ryan had just drank a good amount of it and started freaking out, wondering what he had ingested.

While he doubled over the toilet trying to make himself throw up, I ran down to the kitchen with the bottle to ask the girls in the kitchen what was in it. I frantically explained what had happened and they just started laughing. The told me that they don’t keep the real rum out on the shelf so anyone could grab it, the good bottles are in a cabinet in the kitchen. I asked what was in the bottle I had grabbed and they said it was coffee that had been watered down to be the right color, but since it had been sitting in the bottle for who knows how many months, it had gotten “funky”.

I went back upstairs with a real bottle of rum and the news that he hadn’t ingested anything poisonous. He then drank double the amount of rum he would have originally in order kill any bacteria in his stomach from the “funk” gulp. Within an hour, he was wasted and on his feet smiling, ready to finally go try to get stitches.

No pain now!

Plenty buzzed and all smiles in the doctor’s office.

Our friend Alex, a fellow land-owner, told us we didn’t have to go all the way to town to see a doctor. There was a small clinic only ten minutes away where he had gotten stitches before. He told us it was totally clean and easy.

It certainly didn’t look like an emergency room at home, but the place was clean and the doctor was friendly. He gave Ryan a tetanus shot, a pain killer shot, 4 stitches, bandages, and a prescription for antibiotics. The whole thing including the medication came to a whopping $3.oo US.

Three dollars! The same scenario would have been at least $500 at home, even with insurance! We thanked the doctor and were on our way.

Since by then the wind had come onshore, we decided to go to the vivero to buy some fruit trees to plant on our lot. Shay had told us that the beginning of the rainy season was the best time to plant trees. He suggested we not wait until next year so that by the time we wanted to start building a house the trees would have had a head start and already be a few years old, and hopefully starting to bear fruit.

Ryan, all bandaged up at the vivero.

At $1.50 each, we bought 18 plants including limes, mangoes, and avocados.

Before planting them on the lot, we needed to chop down all the weeds. Ryan borrowed a machete and figured he could do the work himself. Of course, it’s never as easy as you think it will be.

While he started weed-whacking, I started digging a hole for the first tree. It was hot and sweaty work!

Soon, a local kid named Osmar showed up and offered to help the hopeless gringos.

We got nice and dirty and were pleased with ourselves and our new fruit trees on our lot!

I’m a fan of most animals, particularly puppies. This one was pretty cute. Her name is Ducha.

Planting the trees in the rainy season gives them a good chance to be watered often so that they have a good root system established by the time the dry season takes hold. Shay told us that some would be able to live through the dry season, but in order to keep all the trees alive once the rain stopped, we needed to start digging a well.

We spoke to the husband of one of the girls that worked in the kitchen named “Berto” about digging our well. He quoted us a price of $2,000 for the well, a concrete topper, and a hand pump. He said they would start digging in the middle of the rainy season when the rock was wet and softer. They would then hit water soon, but the well would dry out during the dry season and have to be dug deeper. But, once water was reached at the end of the dry season, the well would never dry out again.

Some people suggested we consult a “divining rod” to find the exact location for water. Ryan didn’t believe in such magic, and worried the rod would point to some place in the middle of the lot where we didn’t want the well. Instead, we got a concrete block, chose the SE corner of the lot, and placed the block where we wanted the well.

We’ll put the well right here!

We also came down prepared to get ideas about where we would put the house. Ryan had sketched some initial plans but we wanted to see how to orient the building on the lot in order to take advantage of the view. We brought some pink flags to place on the lot to mark the corners of the house and help the visualization.

In this photo, you can see one of our fruit trees, the well marker, and the pink flags in the distance. Each day one or two flags would disappear. The locals were grabbing them and taking them home. There went that idea!

Ryan, walking from the hotel out to our lot.

2 fellow landowners and two random travelers. Brian Hopper on the left bought a big chunk of land further North and planted a teak forest. Next from the left is Alex Rico, a fellow lot owner and longtime friend of Shay.

Yay for our lot, #26.

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