San Juan del Sur isn’t a very big place. For the first six months we were here, we didn’t have a vehicle. We only live a ten minute walk from the middle of town, so it wasn’t a big deal. But after months of lugging all our groceries and laundry from town and dealing with The Hill (you can read more about it here), we were ready to get a vehicle.
The thing is is that vehicles are crazy expensive here. Due to high import fees and a complete ban on importing anything more than ten years old, vehicles maintain their value (I’ve seen twenty year old trucks going for more than triple what they would in the US or Canada). The economical Asian cars that my parents favored were out of the question, not being up to the task of our hill or the beach roads. Combine that with the fact that neither one of us knows how to drive a stick-shift, and we knew we were looking at around $10000 to get the vehicle we needed, an automatic truck.
Not exactly chump change.
For people on a budget, motorcycles are the most popular option. It’s possible to get something half-decent for about $1000 (or even less) and it’s well suited for the hilly, bumpy terrain. But I could already see myself, awkwardly tipping over and landing on my face. The thought of driving something as unstable as a motorcycle up The Hill made me re-evaluate how much I hated climbing it.
Luckily, we were able to figure out a compromise. Although illegal to drive on the road in many countries in the world, quads are permitted in San Juan del Sur and on the surrounding beach roads. The stability of a quad really appealed to me and the fact that we could potentially find an automatic four-wheel drive was an added bonus. Best of all, we could get something for considerably less than $10000.
The problem was that quads with those qualities are few and far between. We didn’t even know where to start looking. We weren’t alone there. Many recent transplants need help finding the right vehicle. So they use the services of Jesse, an American mechanic who charges a small fee for his searching skills. Not only does he know cars, he also knows the country and how to negotiate. For an incredible price of $100, he drives around the country and looks into anything that might suit your purposes. He follows leads that we would never be able to find and doesn’t quit until he’s found what he’s looking for. He put in two full days of searching, before finding our quad.
He could barely contain his excitement when he called to let us know about this quad that he had found in Managua. A beast, he called it. It had everything we asked for: four-wheel drive, automatic and a powerful 650cc engine that would have no problem carrying us both up the hill and more. Jesse went to bat for us and got us a great deal, negotiating down to within our budget. He loaded into his truck and brought it back to San Juan, all part of the service. Alex arranged to meet him to make the exchange, money for quad.
I could hear it well before I could see it. The quad came roaring up the hill, announcing to everyone in the neighborhood its presence. It was the even bigger than I thought, by far the largest quad I had ever seen. Rumbling and spitting, it was definitely the beast Jesse said it was. I immediately felt nervous. It was a lot more vehicle than I was expecting and I had never driven a quad before. Alex has no such qualms and couldn’t wait to drive it, jumping on to "go for a drive" as soon as he got home.
I, on the other hand, took awhile to build up the courage (to be continued..).