Monday, March 30, 2009

Nicaragua: Isla de Ometepe

Just to give you some orientation (I'm sure all of you already know this ) but Nicaragua is bordered to the south by Costa Rica and to the north by Honduras. In the south part of the country is where I was touring last week.
As you can see on the map above, there is a huge lake, and in the lake are two huge volcanoes. The map to the right is of Volcan Concepcion and Volcan Maderas. These two volcanic peaks rise out of the Lago de Nicaragua, the largest lake in Central America. They are connected by an isthmus and make up the island called Ometepe. Isla de Ometepe is Nicaragua's candidate for the 'Eighth wonder of the World' It is truly an amazing sight.

To get there we all jumped in a pirated taxi (its called a pirate when its not really a taxi, just someone's car working as a taxi-these are everywhere) to the port called San Jorge (30 minutes away) and waited for the ferry to the island.
At the port, mangoes, and other great fruits were being sold all up the street and behind one of the vendors in a tree? Another 2 monkeys on leashes. Ernesto made friends. The ferry only runs 3 times a day, but there are also little boats (lanchas) that make the trip more frequently, but as you can see here, on a windy day the water is it would be a very choppy ride, plus take over an hour to get there. It was hot as h@$$ but we stood in line with everyone else.
Once on the ferry we climbed to the top level and were able to put our bags down and relax. It was on this ferry where I broke my cardinal rule "do not get sunburn" What was I thinking? I have done so well, I haven't gotten a burn at all in Costa Rica. One hour on the water, in a tank top, no sunscreen. Ahhh, and I look so peaceful as it's happening. While on the ferry, Neto started talking to a Nico (from Nicaragua) named Victor.
By the end of the trip they were buddies and we were all really hungry. Victor lead us up the road in Moyogalpa (port) to a place for lunch. I still am not sure if he knew this place or or the people living there. Yes, It was someones house. Well, there was a small sign out front indicating that they serve food, but definitely a house.
We sat down in their outdoor kitchen, the man of the "house" left to buy us beers and cokes, and a meal of chicken beans rice and platanos was stated as the menu.
As I looked to my right I saw little chickies with mama and I felt sad, because I was sure we were about to eat a relative.
The meal was delicious and well worth the $5 each of us paid.
Maureen would probably not eat there again, as we saw a big rat hop into the burner of the stove, after we were done eating. In their defense, this was not the stove used to prepare our meal, and it's an outdoor kitchen, of course there are rats!

We were only going to be on the island for 2 days, so we wanted to see as much as we could. There is only one road that runs around the island (78k) and after seeing the condition of it (horrible!) and not seeing any taxis around, Ernesto struck a deal with a van to take us around the next day. That night it dropped us in Charco Verde on the south side of the bigger Volcano (Concepcion).
We rented 2 rooms with 2 double beds each at Posada Chico Largo and the cost came to $7 per person. It was a simple place, but the surroundings were beautiful. The rooms were clean and had hammocks on the front porch.
There was also a great area on the water where you would hang out with a beer and order food from the kitchen.
One of the must-do activities in Charco Verde is to climb to the Mirador del Diablo (devil's lookout) a hill in between the two volcanoes that supposedly has the best sunset in Nicaragua. We liked the sound of that. Here you can see Volcan Concepcion through the bouganvilla.It is about a 30 minute climb to the Mirador...and I am talking a steep steep climbSometimes my little Casio Exilim amazes me with the pictures it captures. Like these of Volcan Concepcion and and, as promised, the best sunset in Nicaragua
The next morning we woke up early and sang happy birthday to Kate and enjoyed coffee out on the water.I really liked this little "sail" boat, I think he was a fisherman.The van picked us up at 830a and we drove through a banana plantation to reach Ojo de Agua, a shady swimming hole that was created by partially damming the Rio Buen Suceso, the islands' longest river.Honestly we were not too excited with this, we thought it would be better to jump in AFTER we did a hike and were hot, but with the one road, it made more sense (to the driver) to stop first. Ok, I jumped in, it was refreshing, we left. We tried to leave....
It's a Stampede! (also my favorite slot machine in Vegas) This happened to us several times during the day. Our tour guide Oscar was used to this and just pushed through while laying on the horn. Here is Oscar, and yes, he is drinking a beer.

local fisherman With the help of Lonely Planet we picked a smaller hike to do. The biggest volcano is a 12 hour hike round trip and the smaller is a 6 hour. (so says Lonely Planet) We picked a hike to a waterfall that is on Volcan Maderas, it is called Cascada San Ramon. (LP said it was a 4 hour hike round-trip, when really it ended up only being 2.5 - I am not knocking LP-they truly write the best guide books, well...on the planet)

The starting point for the hike was at Estacion Biologica de Ometepe which is a center for research in tropical ecology. It also has some rooms for rent and a restaurant. The chef asked if we would like to have lunch after the hike, we said si, and he said perfecto. It had a beautiful view of the lake.
We didn't started the climb until about noon, and the sun was blazing. I would recommend starting earlier. 100 degrees is pretty damn hot, especially while exerting yourself for a couple hours. Unfortunately most of the trail was in the sun, you can see here how dry it is. Nicaragua, like Costa Rica, has only 2 seasons, wet and dry.
The waterfall is 40 meters high (122ft) and mossy green, I couldn't even fit the whole thing in one pic. Look closely, Ernesto is the little ant at the bottom.
At the restaurant they served us "family" style which is not too common. We ate fish and of course the other staples, rice, beans, bananas and beer.
Our waitress took a group photo of all 8 of us out on the front stairs. The five Habitaters and 3 Nicos.
We were debating what part of the island to stay on that night. In the LP book, we read about Finca Magdelena, "the Ometepe classic." LP describes it as "the rambling 19th century farmhouse has everything you need- sweeping island views, fresh organic coffee and a cheap restaurant serving farm fresh goodies." It is also a starting point for the hike to Vocan Maderas, which I really wanted to complete. I just thought the finca sounded so unique. It was about a one hour drive on the most horrible dirt road. Ernesto stopped for some "refreshments" and came out to the van with......another monkey on a leash. It was a baby and so sweet.
He made me think of my Rare rare becuase he slobbered a little.
We arrived at the finca (farm) and it was almost dusk. Im glad we got a look at the property before dark. (we ended up leaving before light)
One cloud had settled at the peak of the volcano.
For Kate's birthday we sang, arranged cake with candles (I didn't have cake because I gave up sweets. Im very ready for Easter, please bring lots of candy Brrrian!) I did have a delicious organic cup of coffee though, so dark and rich! I think I would really pick coffee over cake anyway (unless its carrot cake)
We taught everyone, including Oscar our tour guide, to play Pass the Ace (a family favorite) We used cordobas (the money here) and had a good time laughing.
Lauren won one game and Ernesto won the other. 15 Cordoba jackpot! (75 cents)
Maureen passed on the card playing and created a little "Marriott" for herself. The rooms were very primitive, and each bed had a mosquito net, which lead her to think there must be lots of bugs. She looked so peaceful, her pajamas were all white and under the white sheet and net, but she kept saying she wished she was at the Marriott.
We had a little visitor in the bathroom and Maureen didnt want to leave the Marriott. It was the biggest, scariest spider I have seen. He was on the outside of the toilet, and ernesto somehow pushed him into the water, but he stayed there, seemingly unable to drown.
We had to pee in the yard until Ernesto finally scooped the balled up spider on a magazine and took him outside. Our hero!

I was out-voted to stay another day on the island and hike the volcano. You know I can be pretty persuasive at times, but they wouldn't budge. They wussed on the hike! Lauren and Kate were already planning to head back to San Jose. Ernesto Maureen and I wanted to visit Granada.
4 am rolled around so quickly and Oscar, our driver was conveneintly passed out in his van, so he was ready to drive us back to the port. Kate and Lauren took a 7am ferry and due to my "camera fiasco" (i wont go into details, but could 'Picture Ass' herself, leave the island without her camera? I thought not.) Ernesto maureen and I the 10am ferry and were back at the bus station again.

On to be continued (HERE)

1 comment:

  1. haha this is somehow my first time reading this post (must have missed it the first time around!), and i just have to laugh at all the funny things that happened on that trip... what an adventure!


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