It’s the story of a place that often holds the most appeal. Much like my infatuation with the Cave Lodge in Northern Thailand, El Coco Loco drew me in with their story of friendship and commitment to a vision.
As three Canadian college boys, Jamie, Earl, and Ben travelled together experiencing the world and dreaming of how their lives might turn out. Unsurprisingly there was more than one conversation that ended with ‘Dudes! We should totally open up a place down here!’. Okay, I’m not exactly quoting them here but I’m pretty sure that’s totally how it happened. 😉 What is surprising is that they actually did it!
El Coco Loco started out as a barebones backpacker stop along the deserted beaches of Nicaragua and has grown into a warm, friendly retreat for both surfers and yogis looking to get away from it all if only for a short time.
I was there to attend a yoga retreat but spent much of my time lounging by the cooling pool, wandering the still-deserted beaches, and indulging in my new found love of surfing.
The resort may be rustic but it offers up some of the warmest hospitality around. From endlessly trying to get me up on that surfboard (and high-fiving me at any attempt that even suggested success!) to packing coolers of beer for our game of kickball with the local team, the staff were tireless in their dedication to us having a good time.
But it’s the guys themselves that really set the place apart. Their stories of finding the perfect piece of paradise, setting the first corner post, sleeping in hammocks, and finally welcoming their first guests made me realize the depth of commitment they have both to each other and to their dream. Learning about their Waves Of Hope organization and the work they do with the local community to increase education and job prospects was encouraging; they are here to live, not just to enjoy the beaches and surfing. It’s about stepping up to the responsibility that comes with being here. It’s inspiring.
I asked Earl if it feels as good in real life as it had for so long in their dreams. Was the reality worth all the hard work and sacrifice? A slow smile crept across his face as he looked around and said ‘Yeah, it does. It feels just as I imagined it would.’
They all have families now. Wives and small kids round out the group and add to the feeling that we truly were their guests in this special place. Watching them rock their kids in the hammock, have family dinners together along with us, and sharing so many parts of their lives with each other I wondered if I could do it? Would I have the commitment to a dream that they’ve had. Could I stay the course so long? Could you?
Would you strap a plywood board to your ass and hurtle down an active volcano at breakneck speed?
When I found out that volcano boarding was a ‘thing’ here in Nicaragua I just knew that my adrenalin addicted self was going to HAVE to do it!
Cerro Negro is just one volcano in a whole string of them here in Central America. It’s not hard to imagine the ‘Ring of Fire’ being active in this region as you can see the volcano cones lined up across the otherwise flat landscape. Cerro Negro hasn’t erupted since 1999 but that doesn’t mean it’s dormant and signs such as these warning of eruption risk quickly bring the danger home.
The bus dropped us off near the top and left us to hike the last 45 minutes to the top. That’s Cerro Negro (Black Hill) in the background. It is such a young volcano that is has nary a life form clinging to it.
We hiked with our boards up through the rocky beginning.
Until it flattened out a bit into a well worn path.
Steadily up and up, battling the increasing wind that threatened to make a kite of my board and take me with it!
The last frontier; up on the ledge with the crater on one side and a quick ride to the bottom on the other.
The crater isn’t currently active. Little more than a couple of steam vents and some sulphur stained rocks. Still impressive, though, don’t get me wrong.
My first look at the run we’re to go down. It was a wee bit steeper than it looked from the bottom – in fact I couldn’t see the bottom of the run from the top. A few butterflies took up residence in my gut.
Suited up and ready to go. Safety first, right? Zoot suit, elbow and knee pads, and goggles; that should take care of any impending doom.
Here I come…
Honestly, I wish I had gone faster but it goes by so quickly that by the time I had it figured out, it was over. A tip for those who are thinking of going…pull up on the rope, use your feet just to guide you, and let it go…you’ll be at the bottom before you know it!
What a hoot! I wore this smile for days afterward!
One more tip. Use the sled, not the sandboarding option. Those who opted to stand and go down ended up slow and frustrated; it’s not at all like snowboarding and didn’t look like fun at all!
We’ve been here in Granada, Nicaragua for 6 weeks now. I know, time flies.
It is turning out to be just what I needed.
We’ve settled into a beautiful, colonial house directly across from one of the oldest churches in town. I love sitting and listening to the Spanish hymns as they float down into the courtyard. Soon we will move into a smaller apartment in a real neighborhood (we’re currently in more of an expat neighborhood); I’m looking forward to listening for the roaming vendors, seeing how daily life plays out, and finding a local place to grab a bite.
Granada is a beautiful, well kept city. There are a few really beautiful churches; the main one dominates the central square while others are dotted around.
Along with some buildings that may not be as well preserved, but are still beautiful in their own way.
The city holds onto history in many ways. The streets are narrow and are lined with doorways that, sometimes, open to reveal the beauty hidden inside. Transportation is often by horse and buggy, or bicycle (although there are plenty of modern cars around too!). Vendors roam the streets calling out their wares, and going to the morning market is a daily task.
We’ve settled into a nice routine; work, yoga, Spanish class, making meals, and relaxing on the porch in the evening. We have friends! It’s a lot like living at home but in a place where I don’t always know what’s going on. It’s just what I needed; a chance to settle and reflect, plan for the future, and build for the coming year.
We’re looking forward to seeing what 2015 brings for us. Happy New Year to all of you; may 2015 be good to each of you.