San Juan del Sur, southern Nicaragua was a resourceful place to re-provision, fuel up and hang out with Mark and Emily for a few days. For Patience and Blue Goose buddy boating together, this town would be the last landing. Mark and Emily needed to stay here to work and make some money. It had been about six weeks since we had first met in southern Mexico. Three countries, many waves, countless philosophical conversations over drinks later, it was time to go our own ways again. It was bittersweet: we enjoyed their company and had created a companionship with them nautically and socially, but we also knew there was much more ahead; new people to take on board and a jungle property to care take.
The town provided everything we needed and much more. The tourism is heavy here and the infrastructure to support it reflects it. For instance, there was one place here that resembled a Berkeley coffee shop so closely; it was like stepping into a space-time warp. We didn’t stay there. On the other hand, if one knew where to look, there were also restaurants that provided delicious traditional Nicaraguan dishes for two US dollars.
One of the attractions in town caught our eye and we simply had to experience it: A local Nicaraguan circus. The classic purple and yellow circus tent with equally run down trucks and animals was certainly not tailored for visiting gringos. It was Mark’s idea to go. For a few dollars a head, it just made sense.
With regards to urban style entertainment, this was one of the most memorable experiences during our voyage. There is no doubt that the two hour show would become a story told for a long time.
As we entered we were met by a small, underfed horse, lazily chomping at some straw and two grumpy and scared primates. They were collared capuchins attached to a small tarp tent without supervision. One seemed attracted to long hair, so Jakob and I got a head hug from the small creature each. The poor things were mostly hiding from the curious onlookers though.
We sat down on what would be considered bleachers, but in reality were wobbly one by fours slotted into a rickety aluminum frame. Even as rock climbers and mountaineers, we were thoroughly challenged at stepping carefully up the improvised seating arrangement. A wrong step in the dimly lit tent would provide a nasty fall either through the rising bleachers to the ground or worse, partway.
We carefully took our seats and the show began. Generally, it provided deliciously disturbing entertainment for us, and the local viewers loved it. There were some filler events such as a trampoline with kids doing backflips and indie flips and an unfortunately untrained belly dancer. The show took a turn when the clowns came, complete with a dancing midget (good dancer too). It seemed that the most popular part of the show was when he would shake his butt wildly at a popular Latin American disco tune. The crowd would erupt in screams and we were jaw dropped in amazement at their reaction. Furthermore, nothing conjured more laughs than when the little man was beaten and kicked in a comedic, yet disturbing nature.
For us, the highlight though was “Globo de Muerte”, the Globe of Death. The globe was a wooden sphere made of triangular shaped cross pieces that created its frame. It was roughly 10 feet in diameter. Out came the hero to enter this suicide mission: a tall Nicaraguan in elaborate leather gear, riding a small motocross bike. He entered the globe and began to drive the little motorcycles in horizontal and vertical loops inside the globe at blurred speed. The rpm’s of the bike were screaming and the entire globe wobbled violently. It was an impressive feat, no question. It got better. The announcer asked for two volunteers. Two brave ladies from the audience were ushered into the tiny globe of death. They took up a significant portion of the space inside as they stood in the center back to back. The motorcyclist entered on his bike and over the loud motor we could hear him yelling repetitively “do – not – move!” “No kidding”, we thought.
In a deafening acceleration, the he began driving horizontal circles around the two ladies at head level. His helmet must have been six inches from their heads as he whirled around at violent speed. The globe wobbled dangerously again. One of the ladies lost balance and stepped forward and screamed. The other lady screamed. The stuntman stopped his bike. Nothing happened. We realized that we were holding our breath. It was insane. One wrong move and the three people in the globe would have been rolled around by the motorcycle, like a huge blender. We whistled and applauded loudly!
The ladies ran back to their seats, smiling, but with horror in their eyes. The proud stuntman lifted his helmet and relished in the applause. It was the first time we saw his face, which was misshapen by a missing part or deformation in his jaw. We wondered if the stunt had gone wrong at some point in the past.
Then the animals came: First, the same mammalian crew that met us before we took our seats. It was the skinny horse now ridden by the two monkeys, clutching the horses mane. It was uninteresting, yet somehow entertaining to watch the three of them going in circles, hopping over tiny obstacles. The horse galloped out. Then the announcer yelled: “Llamas de Peruuuu!!” Sure enough two llamas came trotting out, chased by the handler. One of the animals stopped in its tracks and refused to move. The other was whipped into the main arena, ran a few circles and then booked it out, ears folded back.
Suddenly the lights went out and tense music started, resembling horror movie score. Interested anticipation rose. The lights flashed on as the music climaxed into a shocking symphony revealing two lazy boa constrictors dozing in the middle of the arena. “Wow, these people don’t get out much” I thought. The handler arrived with an albino boa constrictor around his neck. He walked in proud circles around the arena, picked up the other two, now agitated reptiles and walked out.
And so it went; the show completed with more midget dancing and smacking. During those two hours, we got an interesting glimpse into Nicaraguan culture. The images from that show: the dancing midget, the two terrified llamas and the jawless stuntman will not be forgotten quickly. In fact, I think we will never get those images out of our heads, even if we don’t want them there.
A couple of days later, after saying our goodbyes to Mark and Emily, we embarked to Costa Rica. Our first stop in our final country should be a good one: Santa Rosa National Park, containing Ollie’s Point and Witches Rock, two of the highest quality and least crowded surf breaks in Costa Rica.