Isla Ometepe and one huge lake!

Trip Start Nov 15, 2006
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of Nicaragua  ,
Saturday, February 17, 2007

Granada (on the shores of Lake Nicaragua) to Isla Ometepe involves an early-morning bus to Rivas, taxi to San Jorge, and then a ferry to the the island.

We reach San Jorge, the breeze is blowing strongly, and the swell is somewhere between 1 and 2 metres. The next ferry is an old wooden boat, moored loosely to the jetty and rocking violently. We scuttle across a narrow wooden plank onto the boat and sit on a bench fixed to the deck and facing the stern. The crossing is rough, the boat twisting and yawing at what seem impossible angles. It feels like a game-park ride where the object is to shake you lose from your seat and send you flying into the water. At times some of the cargo at the back becomes airborne almost spilling into the water. It´s a grand-test for a land-lubber´s stomach like mine, but neither Anna or I succumb!

Isla Ometepe is dominated by two volcanic cones Concepción and Madera, the name Ometepe actually an Indian word meaning "two mounts". The island has 35,000 inhabitants and is approximately 276 square kilometres. Volcan Concepción is touted to be one of the most perfect cone shapes of Central America.

We take an bus that rambles along the coastal dirt roads heading for Finca Magdelena a farm collective run by locals. The island is green, but the original forest has given way to crops such as bananas, coffee and sugar cane.

After an hour the bus drops us at pueblito and we take a lift in the back of a pickup together with a couple of young sullen-faced Germans. Finca Magdelena is in a beautiful natural setting at the base of the heavily forested Volcan Madera, the sprawling wood farm buildings amongst coffee plantations, with grand views of Volcan Concepción.

Unfortunately though, this is not paradise for us. Whenever we are thrown together with  trendy, young hostal-loving things with a penchant for smoking, conformist alternativeness, and a touch of arrogance that inhibits natural discussion, we can´t wait to move on.

We do however meet a pleasant couple from New York - Sandy and Chris -  who want to accompany us to the laguna at the top of Volcan Madera the next morning. At 5am Freddy our guide leads us up the muddy path to the sound of howler monkeys. For those who have never heard a howler monkey, think back to a black and white movie you´ve seen where the protagonists are struggling through virgin jungle - there´s the odd kookaburra laugh, and in the distance a mysterious, almost human-like howling combined with thumps on a tight-skinned drum. This was probably the sound of a howler monkey.

The climb is tough, but we are rewarded by several hours of Spanish practice with Freddy and the view of a misty laguna in the crater of the volcano.

We leave the petroglyphs (rock carvings) and freezing cold showers of the finca for the town of Altagracias and spend a day exploring the surroundings - a black sand beach, visited by women doing their daily clothes washing, a couple of large, thirsty asian-type cows, several zopelotas (vultures), and a young guy who sits behind Anna and makes loud kissing noises.

The ferry, our ticket off Isla Ometepe, fails to arrive that night due to bad weather. The next morning we start the punishing journey to the Port of San Carlos (on the southern shores of Lago Nicaragua) back the way we came to Managua, and then south along the corrugated road that follows the eastern shore of the lake.
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