Brooke’s time in Nicaragua involved a close encounter with a balaclava clad man on the beach. Brooke came out unharmed, only a handbag down and with a good story to tell.


It was another lazy day in the Nicaraguan coastal town of San Juan del Sur. The desired sleep-in thwarted by the oppressive heat, not to mention the marching band that had enthusiastically commenced practice next door at 8am sharp. My friend Kirsten and I had been kicking around this town for about a week enjoying the friendly locals and amazing sunsets. Neither of us had anywhere to be in a hurry, so we had settled in to a relaxed routine that inevitably involved a few hours on the beach directly in front of the hostel.

Today, with the spirited marching band tearing up the serenity, we decided to head to an alternative beach 10 minutes south that was popular with surfers. As we would find out, they were the only ones it was popular with. The surf was rocking, though the beach itself was fairly average, and it was actually difficult to find a decent piece of sand. We finally stretched out up one end of the beach and set to work relaxing.

We had only been there an hour before it got interesting. I was reading my book when I glanced up to notice a man had emerged from around the headland, heading our way. He was carrying a machete; not in itself a strange sight in Nicaragua as you definitely need one readily available to crack a coconut or two. No, the strangeness came from the black balaclava he was wearing in the 30 degree heat.

The realisation of the imminent events hit me. “Ummm Kirsten, wake up! We are about to get robbed!” Kirsten sat up and by this stage the guy was getting close. Heart pounding, but determined to keep this interaction as civil as possible, I greeted him with a big smile and “Buenos Tardes”. Clearly Mr Balaclava was not in the mood for chitchat. He actually looked a little nervous himself. He grabbed Kirsten’s bag and tried to grab mine. I pulled it back and told him in my limited Spanish “It’s fine, I have money” I reached in and pulled out my coin purse, and handed it to him with all of the $5 it contained. I was always careful to never take cards or lots of money to the beach. He swiped the purse and then turned and bolted off over some sand dunes. Kirsten and I looked at each other before she exclaimed “Wow, I can’t believe he took my bag! I was really enjoying that book, and I doubt that guy is the English reading type”. We realised he might be back when he noticed the worthlessness of his theft, so we quickly gathered our remaining items and headed back down the beach. Some of the surfers who were out on the waves had witnessed what happened and gallantly swam in to check on us. We had no money for the ride back and were a bit shaken up, so some of them kindly offered to drive us back into town in their van.

We hung out at the hostel for the rest of the afternoon, and happily recounted our exciting morning to anyone who cared to listen. At the end of the day Mr Balaclava came out with an English book he couldn’t read, some sunscreen and about $5. We came out with an interesting travel story and were rescued by some hot surfers. Let’s just call it a tie.

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