Ometepe, NicaraguaMarch 15, 2017 in Nicaragua
Of mountains and mud.
Ometepe is the not so tiny island in the middle of Lake Nicaragua. It comprises two volcanoes; Concepcion and Maderas, which are joined by a not so narrow isthmus. They're an ever present backdrop making for stunning scenery at every turn.
We arrived to Moyogalpa via a rickety old ferry, that took to the wind and short chop like a penguin to flight. It heaved and rolled and water came through every side. At one point a look of concern appeared on many passengers faces, as a thick film of water sloshed around the lower deck. The fact that the engine required manual cooling (with a bucket of lake water) gave me no reassurance and I spent much of the second half of the hour long journey estimating my swimming capabilites and researching my travel insurance policy. Needless to say we made it, chuffed with our lives and the meagre US$1.15 it cost us.
Unfortunately, Moyogalpa was our last stop with Mike and Char. They're off to Costa Rica ahead of us to meet up with some old friends. They've been some solid travel buds and we'll be sorry to see them go! The return of MERC is no doubt already an occasion in the making. You never know, perhaps we'll bump into them in Panama in a few weeks time...
Did you really think the journey would end there? With only two buses for the day? In the heat of the afternoon we entered another crammed sweatbox and endured the final two and a half hour bus to our hostel 'Chocoyo' in a wee country town called Merida. Boy were we glad for a dip in the lake and a cold Toña. Toña has become a great friend in Nicaragua, always a cold and refreshing drop to perk us up after a hot day. On this occasion, yet another dreamy sunset filled the sky and glimmered on the water. The woes of the days travels forgotten in a moment.
Chocoyo is definitely one of the most simple hostels we've had yet, but it sits right on the lake and has a view to die for. It has a restaurant, which is really just a kitchen because it has no menu and every now again a lovely Ometepan lady wanders past and asks you what you would like to eat. It's not like you have a choice - the nearest restaurant is about a 30 minute walk and lucky to be open. Fortunately for us, her food is well priced (we actually never saw prices) and thoroughly enjoyable! She and the other (I assume) family members are very kind and helpful, they even teed us up a shared guide for our Maderas hike the next day (see next footprint). My only qualm with the restaurant/common area was the dirt floor which they insisted on keeping damp - muddy feet were impossible to avoid.
Day two on Ometepe was a toss up between a bicycle, a kayak, a motorbike or a waterfall hike. Given our exertion the day before, I was strongly advocating a motorbike, for which Cat took little convincing. The only problem was that I'd never ridden a motorbike before and the roads for many kilometers either side of the rental shop were pretty rugged! A quick google (thank goodness for good internet!) and some nominal convincing of the hiree that I had a license saw us in good stead. Although the look on his face when I stalled as we were pulling out was definitely one to remember. We spent the day exploring the island by bike and we only got caught out once by an ignition fault (quickly overcome by a friendly passer by) and multiple awkwardly timed stalls - the funniest of which would have to be at the boom gate, stalling right underneath it while old mate was holding it up. Priceless.
Despite the size of the island, it has a reasonable amount to offer if you can find it and find a way to get to it. Word of mouth is by far the best way to plan your days. We spent an afternoon at the - I'm going to take some poetic license here and make a new word - touristised 'natural' springs of Ojo de Agua. It was refreshing and delightfully clear compared to the lake water, yet natural is far from an accurate adjective. It was essentially a man made outdoor pool, complete with waterside bar and restaurant and many gimmicky souvenir stalls. However we managed to pass the afternoon swimming and reading before being washed away by torrential downpour! I hadn't seen rain since Cuba (you beauty!) so I almost enjoyed it, even more so by knowing we didn't have to endure this on the previous day's hike. Well played sir. With rain came more mud, which by this stage had undoubtedly become impossible to avoid.
Our mornings began without fail with roosters crowing and dogs barking, if not for some other godforsaken farm based racket. This made for early nights and an early day routine I have grown to enjoy. Especially on this quiet and outstandingly dramatic island. Definitely a stop worth making if you're the adventurous type.
We left Ometepe the same way we came in, looking back to smiles and waves from our hosts. It rained again while we were waiting for the bus which more than anything, served as a reminder as to how lucky we've been with the weather so far. We're feeling for all you folk back home! Next stop is Popoyo on the Pacific coast, can't wait!Read more