Maiden Voyage to Nicaragua

An Introduction to El Coco Loco (and all its inhabitants)

I’ve spent much of this last week trying to figure out how to best explain the first speech that Holly gave the collective group. After reviewing what documentation I had, I thought this would be better.


1. It was a strange and awkwardly funny first conversation to have with a pro-surfer.Seriously, I couldn’t make this stuff up if I wanted to. I think we all laughed about it for the following reasons:

2. This was our new reality and it was slightly frightening.

3. I think on some level, we were all still four and found ‘potty humor’ humorous.

4. The only other emotions associated with not having flushing toilets was sadness, so laughing seemed like the better option.

So what does a composting toilet look like, you ask? Not as scary as one may have previously thought.

Composting Toilets

I know you might think this is an unnecessary point of clarification about the trip, but you would not believe how many conversations we had about these contraptions. It was an adjustment, but a water saver. I’m pretty sure this is the most sustainable and eco-friendly option available. It makes you realize how much water we needlessly use.

Bathroom 2

But enough of that…

Holly pointed me in the direction of my cabana.

Holly directing

It looked small on the outside, but the palm thatched ceiling gave it a lot more space than the photo gives it credit for.

There I met Claudio. He was one of the workers for El Coco Loco and was charged with setting up my mosquito net. His spider-like reflexes made me wonder exactly what kind of radioactive insects were running around Nicaragua.


Over the week, I would grow to think of my mosquito net as a canopy. It would make the experience less unnerving.

I surveyed the room, taking in all the shell detailing around the window panes. I would later find out that the shells were collected from the beaches in front of El Coco Loco.

Shell Decorations

I looked from my bag to the other girls luggage. Both Katie and Talei had only brought a backpack full of clothes. I looked at my mammoth suitcase. Clearly, I over packed.

Katie came striding into the room, her skin glowing from a previous yoga workout. After brief introductions, she would offer me some warnings and a routine of tasks to do every night to make sure I didn’t have any unfortunate encounters with a scorpion. (As it turns out, a scorpion was found on one of the beds in our cabana a few days earlier. This made me neurotic. Could my pansy ass handle this?)

I would obsessively check my mosquito net for holes, shake out my blankets, and tuck in the edges of the netting under the mattress at night. If the net was left hanging, ‘things’ may crawl up the net in the middle of the night. I was not about to wake up to a tarantula swinging from my ‘canopy’. It would ruin the picturesque quality of the pink netting.

We headed up to the restaurant for dinner. This was the first chance I had to take in my surroundings.



We were greeted by the owners of El Coco Loco, Canadian couple Jamie and Lindsay, and a delicious meal of potato breaded red salmon with mango salsa. We were also introduced to the wonders of rum and punch, which would serve as a staple throughout our trip.


We also met the rest of our instructors for the week.

Helina is Holly Beck’s little sister. At the age of 20 she already has enough courage and adventure in her spirit to travel down to Nicaragua for six weeks to help Holly teach surfing. To echo Holly’s feelings, Helina is not only a sun goddess but the sweetest girl. Add in her book smarts, and you’ve got the trifecta. Every time she walked by, I kept picturing the Nicaraguan boys wishing that we all could be California girls.

Helina. Photo by Andrea Preziotti.

Helina. Photo by Andrea Preziotti.

Finally there was Nicole. She would not only help us with surfing but would serve as our yoga instructor for the week. This would make for the double the pleasure and double the fun since she knew which yoga poses would serve best to increase our surfing ability and stretch out our sore and maladjusted bodies. Nicole was a long time friend of Holly’s (they used to compete against each other way back in the day). She also is an avid animal lover (particularly a fan of her bunnies at home).

Nicole. Photo by Andrea Preziotti.

Nicole. Photo by Andrea Preziotti.

That night, Talei and I would laugh and discuss some of the many things we learned on that first day (Katie would laugh too, but mostly at us since she had already learned these lessons the previous week).

The Summary of Introductory Lessons Learned at El Coco Loco

1. Composting toilets conserve water and are not as scary as one may have previously thought.

2. The man in the yellow jumpsuit carrying a hatchet is your friend (he would serve as the groundskeeper at night).

3. In order to deal with mosquitoes, you need to master the ‘Slap and Flip’ technique while sleeping. (Talei had to simulate this method for me, as I was unfamiliar).

4. Full inspection of bedding, towels, clothes, and mosquito net holes are a must, unless you want friendly critters to show up in uninvited places. (Or, if you are Nicole, you also must watch out for scorpions in the composting toilets. Luckily, they are not poisonous, just disorienting).

5. If you prefer, you can think of your mosquito net as a glorified canopy.

6. Power’s an iffy thing, so conserve anything that needs recharging. And take full advantage when the power is back on.

And of course, the most exhausted topic was our anticipation of our surf experience the next morning. We could hear the waves clapping like thunder outside our cabana. Would we be crashing with it or riding high? We curled up in our netted beds pondering the possibilities, both excited and terrified for what tomorrow would bring.



  • Reply


    August 8, 2011

    How fun! Loved the video and the dogs!

  • Reply

    jailbreak 4 10 01

    October 12, 2011

    Thanks for the excellent article, I loved reading it!

  • Reply

    Jake Hearst

    October 14, 2011


  • Reply


    October 15, 2011

    Just wanted to say excellent blog!

    • Reply

      Hilary Billings

      January 12, 2012

      Thank you so much, Linea! Sorry this took me so long to respond. I greatly appreciate your encouragement!

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Hey fellow adventurers, my name is Hilary! After being rejected from grad school, I took off on a solo journey around the world. Now I constantly challenge myself to take on new experiences. This blog documents my journeys from Europe to Fiji, swimming with sharks and living with tribes, to becoming an accidental beauty queen and working for one of the top national media outlets. If you like what you're reading, please subscribe! Here's to the next great adventure!

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