Logan and I, while waiting for my cards to get here, decided to take a week long vacation to see Ometepe and Granada, two places in Nicaragua we had been interested in seeing before heading out of the country. I'm going to break this up into two entries, since I have a feeling there will be a lot to write!
Ometepe is one of the largest freshwater island in the world - or so we've heard. It's situated in the middle of Lago Nicaragua and consists of two volcanoes (Concepcion and Maderas) with a saddle of volcanic land in between. After trying unsuccessfully to find a disposable camera (camara descartable) to bring with us, we took a ferry from San Jorge that was loaded with locals, tourists, and a whole bunch of goods stacked below deck. We saw one guy carry a 50 kg (110 lbs) bag of sugar on board
. Holy mound of sweetness! I could only imagine that I would be consuming some of that same sugar in a few days... So, we took the ferry to Moyogalpa, the main port on the western side of the island and caught a bus to Altagracia, seemingly only 12 km away, but the road goes around Volcan Concepcion the other
direction. An hour later, we were hanging out at a charming central park with a replica of Ometepe, in fountain/pond form, complete with cute little turtles swimming around in the murky water surrounding the island. We watched a game of soccer on the basketball court there, as well as a pick up game of baseball (with only two kids - in this game, pitcher = 1st, 2nd and 3rd basemen, outfielders and
catcher), and had dinner at one of the semi-permanent structures in the park as well. We didn't sleep well at all there. The power went out early on in the night, so there was no fan to keep us cool, then somebody blew some sort of a horn in the middle of the night (twice!) and woke up all the dogs in town, who, of course, started barking their heads off. As we started trailing back off to sleep, roosters started crowing. Gah! No rest for the weary travelers, apparently.
The next day, we headed off to the other part of the island, hosted by Volcan Maderas. We took a bus to an intersection in the road (at a town called Santa Cruz) and walked about 30 minutes in the rain to Finca Magdalena, outside the cute town of Balgue
. After having no sleep, then walking in the rain with stomachs that could have been in better condition, Finca Magdalena was a welcome sight! The farm is part of an agricultural co-op on the island, and mainly produces organic coffee. It's situated a little ways up the volcano, and is actually one of the starting points of tours that take you up to the top of the volcano. There are two giant wooden barns, one of which is only for housing backpackers. They had a kitchen in the other barn, which was almost constantly pumping out yummy food for its hungry guests. We definitely took advantage of this. Both buildings had covered decks that looked out onto the lake and the other side of the island. The view was great when it wasn't masked by rain clouds (we got a video of the view!), which we got our fair share of. We had planned to rent bikes and ride all the way around Volcan Maderas the next day, but the rain and our stomachs deterred us from that activity, so we just hung out at the finca and played cards with a group we met from Chico. We saw groups on two different days come back from hikes up the volcano just covered in mud from head to toe. When we asked them if the hike was worth it, most of them said it wasn't - it was extremely muddy and clouds had prevented them from even seeing the view from the very top. Needless to say, we decided not to hike up any volcanoes there.
The day after our rainy day break, we decided to do some touring
. We rented kayaks for an hour and took them out on the lake, which was a lot of fun. We saw egrets and turtles, but unfortunately, didn't get a chance to see any gators. Oh, and Logan fell out of his kayak. Fortunately for him, the lake water was warm. Unfortunately for him, he was wearing his only pair of jeans. It took them 2-3 days to dry. After kayaking and eating a good, but expensive lunch in Playa Santo Domingo, we headed to Ojos de Agua, a swimming hole in the middle of a spring-fed river. The way it sounds is way better than what it was, but I was still happy to take a refreshing dip in the cool water. There is a restaurant/bar right there at the swimming hole, and concrete and lounge chairs line the sides of it. Way to make a beautiful natural wonder a less than natural tourist attraction, guys! At the swimming hole, we got to talking to a Nicaraguan who owns a hotel in Altagracia (where we spent our first night on the island, different hotel). He asked us how our stay was, and we proceeded to tell him about our lack of sleep that night. He curiously asked us how long ago this was, and then started laughing. He ran out of the swimming hole, then came back with a noise maker. He blew into it, as all three of us realized HE was the cause of our sleepless night in Altagracia! What a small world, er, island! He went on to explain that there had been someone trying to break into his hotel, so he sounded that trumpet-y thing which had woken up the dogs, and scared away the thief. Apparently, the thief then came to our
hotel to try their luck, but this guy blew on the trumpet thing again to scare him away for good. After hearing this, we weren't so pissed off anymore about our lack of sleep that night.
Anyway, that same day, we took a bus back to Moyogalpa. The sun was beginning to set on the bus ride, and Logan and I soon realized that the bus's headlights weren't functioning. Fortunately enough, we reached Moyogalpa before it was pitch black, and we were all in one piece, so the journey could have been a lot worse. We spent that night in a hostel that used to be called Indio Viejo, because it's owned by an 80 year old Nicaraguan whose parents were, I believe, part of the Hopi Tribe in Arizona. He has travelled the world and knows countless countries and languages. He said his favorite part of the world was Africa. Specifically West Africa, which he said he lived in before it was split up into multiple countries. Oh yeah - this guy has also got the longest single-dread that both Logan and I have ever seen in our lives. And we grew up in Humboldt. He really was a neat guy, and didn't look 80 at all. The other thing that made this hostel unique was its pet. A white-tailed deer hangs out in the back area of the hostel. What a weird sight to see in the middle of an island in Nicaragua! The next morning, we ate cornflakes with bananas (who knew we'd ever be so excited to eat cereal?!) and headed back to the mainland and on to Granada.
(to be continued in the next entry...)