Check out the article I wrote for VICE.com about Newfoundland’s Exploding Whales and the concept of ‘Newfie Porn’!
Travelusting Christmas Edition!
First stop: Petty Harbour, Newfoundland
Departing: Saturday, December 7, 2013
No boarding card required
Be here. … With bells on.
So, ever hear of the magical island of Newfoundland? (For correct pronunciation, see here.)
Its an amazingly large and rocky island off the eastern coast of Canada that marches to the beat of its own bodhrán.
Newfoundland is well-known for many things, but today we’re talkin’ whales. Lots and lots of whales.
You see, the waters off Newfoundland famously house some of the largest mammals on Earth!! Whales. Blue whales, minke whales, orca whales, pothead & sperm whales, as well as more humpback whales than anywhere else on the planet!
And what’s more – from May to September these blowhole havin’ baleen put off one of Mother Nature’s greatest shows, frolicking and breaching about the surface of the ocean, close to shore!
Summertime in Newfoundland is capelin season. And what do whales like to eat most on a warm summer’s day? Why capelin, of course! These delectable little fishies attract whales from near and far to the coastline of Newfoundland for feeding, resulting in a daily show of Mother Nature’s elusive underwater royalty. Take a look…
*Let me say that no filters, editing or magic of any kind were used on the photos you are about to see… Just straight up Nature, doin’ her thang!
For full album, visit travelusting.com on Facebook by clicking here.
For all the deets needed to plan your Whale Watching Adventure while in Newfoundland, see here!
Address: On the main drag along the beach, directly across from Eskimo Ice Cream
Hours: 12pm- 2am
HAMMOCKS!! Ah yah, I’d LOVE to eat a Monster Burger in one of your locally hand-woven hammocks! Sway to the dreamy, live reggae being played for my enjoyment, in this tiki style patio-ish, gardeny area? Yah ok!
This place was excellent. Although, definitely a gringo hot spot. Owned by a German expat, the menu is quite diverse. From burgers to schnitzel, you’ll find something for everyone. Even that bleach-blond-dreadlock-wearing-super-vegan-always-hangin-loose- Australian-backpacker-type that you meet on every trip you’ve ever taken, won’t starve here!
After counting the night’s budget, I went for the cheapest, biggest dish on the menu, the Monster Burger for 100c/~$4. Add a Toña, my favorite Nicaraguan beer, and the bill was less than $5USD! The burger was indeed monstrous. I downed a third of it and took the rest in a doggie bag. *Which if you are going to do, DO NOT then take it with you to the circus and the beach, before going back for round two. In hindsight, stuffing a pile of meat in your purse on a 95° night could potentially lead to death, if later consumed. Or loss of new-found bleach-blond-dreadlock-wearing-super-vegan-always-hangin-loose- Australian-backpacking friend, due to the emanating stench.*
✰HAMMOCKS! … To drink in!
✰Live tropical music
Here’s how I did it:
Cost Breakdown (in US dollars):
- $14 Accommodation (two nights)
- $21 Food (5 meals over three days)
- $ 7 Entertainment & Drink
- $12 Transportation
- $ 6 Border Fees
- $60! Priceless!
It can be done!
Hostel Esperanza $8-$25/per night/per person
Location: On the main drag, opposite the beach, just south of Avenida Parque
Hostel Esperanza is the my favorite budget hostel in town.
- Beachfront✓Beach view✓Free Breakfast✓
- Free TO DIE F❤R local coffee✓
- Free fresh fruit for the picking(!!) in the garden (when in season)✓
- Laundry Service✓
- Free Wifi✓Free Access to a computer✓
Newly renovated, Hostel Esperanza is clean, laid back and comfortable. Your safety and comfort come first at this hostel (for reals!), so there’s always somebody at the reception and the staff members speak multiple languages. There’s no curfew, so you may come and go as you please. There are various options for accommodation, from a single bed in a dorm to private rooms.
*Insider’s tip – Do as I did, and request an outdoor hammock if its high season — you may just get lucky! Imagine waking up at the crack of dawn, to the sound of breaking waves and howler monkeys rousing in the trees above! Reach just above your head and grab a mango for breakfast. Roll out, and hit the beach, not 50 yards away. POR FAVOR!
I chose the following places according to my budget…
Location: Avenida Del Mercado, opposite Arena Caliente Surf Shop.
Relatively new, Jugoso offers high quality eats and a mordern atmosphere. All natural, all fresh, all healthy. See menu example.
El Mercado $$$$
Location: Smack dab in the center of town. (If you have trouble finding it, it’s on Avenida del Mercado!)
The local mercado is the ❤ and essence of San Juan Del Sur. Jam packed with tiny shops, buzzing kitchens, brightly dressed tables and local folk — it’s absolutely the place to be at lunchtime!
The Black Whale Bar & Grill $$$$
Location: On the main drag along the beach, directly across from Eskimo Ice Cream
Excellent spot for a midday cerveza while lounging in a hammock, or late night meal and game of pool.
(What’s a glory hole?) Viewer discretion advised!
El Gato Negro $$$$
Location: On the main road into town, at the intersection of Avenida Central
Half bookstore/half coffee house, El Gato Negro is one of a kind in San Juan Del Sur. Locally grown organic coffee roasted in house draws an early morning crowd.
Fresh menu, fresh ideas and lots of vibrant artwork!
And check out the resident duck who showed up shortly after my coconut french toast!
There’s obviously a million ways to get to San Juan Del Sur, so I’m going to keep this simple…
In my case, this trip was a “border run” from Costa Rica. (Passing the mandatory 72hrs outside of the country in order to get another stamp to return for another 90 days.) So!… I was bussin’ it from Liberia, and entering Nicaragua from the border town of Peñas Blancas, which is where we’ll begin:
Crossing Border into Nicaragua at Peñas Blancas :
I had been forewarned about many things to do with crossing the Costa Rican/Nicaraguan border. One of which was how expensive (relatively speaking) the whole ordeal can be. Fees at the Costa Rican control office, at the Nicaraguan office, passport runners, peddlers and guides in between, can apparently total anywhere from $2 to $40USD.
I, however, somehow didn’t spend a single cent. Or colone, or cordoba. I arrived early on a Tuesday morning, passed through several checkpoints and was, at no point, asked to pay any official. Perfect. On my way back, I was, however, charged $6 for my Costa Rican visa. Meh.
Peñas Blancas to San Juan Del Sur
I was approached by another backpacker to share a taxi into town, which is common place. Having been in Central America for several months, I was comfortable with my one eyed gypsy driver and his pre-revolution clunker. However, for a first timer, I might suggest a certified taxi, if you can find one. Be aware, most drivers will only speak Spanish. However, a $20 bill and citing the town’s name is basically all you need.
The drive is beautiful! The Pan American winds along Lago Nicaragua with a clear view of Ometepe, with it’s two perfectly conicular(?) volcanos. At the Rivas crossroads, you’ll head west to the coast. The entire drive is about 25 minutes and well worth the $20.
Chicken Bus $1-$2USD
If you’re looking for the more authentic route and know a little Spanish, go for the “chicken bus“!
After exiting the Nicaraguan border checkpoint, you’ll no doubt see several brightly painted buses, their roofs piled high with goods, luggage, and yes sometimes even a chicken or ten! They depart frequently and fill up fast. They are packed, sweaty, dirty, loud, cheap and awesome.
Take one bus from Penas Blancas to the Rivas crossroads, cross the street and stand next to the sign for La Virgen/San Juan Del Sur. One is sure to come along soon. Do, however, be prepared for standing in the BLAZING ☀ and EXTREME heat. There is little shade close by and the buses can be held up if there’s an accident or chicken lost. Having said that, taking the chicken bus can be anywhere from 1 hour to god knows how long. Both rides will total ~$2.
I did the above, in reverse, going back to Costa Rica. L ❤VED IT.
As for enterainment- that is another story, for another day. Highlights include a rogue Nicaraguan circus, plenty of Toña, a bag of weed and breathtaking sunsets.
Bon voyage, mes amis!
First stop: San Juan Del Sur, Nicaragua
Departing: April 1st, 2012
No boarding card required