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Published: March 18th 2009
An island getaway
Which island you ask? Isla de Ometepe
is an island formed by twin volcanoes rising out of a lake. The lava flows from the two volcanoes Concepción & Maderas created an isthmus between them, forming the island. It lies on Lake Nicaragua south of Granada.
I got a shuttle from Granada to the port in San Jorge and from there caught one of ferries to the town of Moyogalpa (1 1/2 hr), one of the two main port towns on the island. In Granada I found an ad for a hostel in the town of Merida - as far away from the port as I could get without getting off the island and that was where I was headed. I wasn't the only one who had the same idea because as I got off the ferry, the other backpackers who were on the ferry with me were in the throws of negotiating with a taxi driver to take them to the same hostel (approx 2/3 hours away by public bus). Lucky for me - The cab drver could take all five of us for USD 6.00 each - a great deal considering the public bus was not
Kayaking on Lago de Nicaragua
due to leave for another hour or so. One of the guys wanted to argue with the cab driver to get a discount of USD 1.00 - In the heat of the day and the time it would have saved us otherwise, I almost wanted to kill him. In the end we did get the USD 1.00, but we wasted 15 minutes trying to get it.
I was staying in the Hacienda Mérida (apparently a former ranch of the Somoza family - Nicaragua's former dictator). A great little place filled with an assortment of hammocks, organic food, brilliant views to the lake and a pier to jump into it. The mattress in the dorms were brand new and the place clean and peaceful - it was going to be a great stay. I dumped my things, had some lunch, found a hammock and went to sleep for the rest of the afternoon - BLISS!
Later that night - I feasted on a dinner buffet of brown rice, spaghetti with pesto, the best ensalada ever, fresh fruit, brown bread, fish, beans, stir-fried veggies and more....All for USD 5.75 - I spent the rest of that evening chatting with the
local policeman about his life on the island, his 7 children and what he does with his day - All in Spanish, while I in turn gave him a few new words in English, once again thankfull for my 5 weeks of classes to enable to do more than stuttter a few words of Spanish. Over dinner tour guides walked around us checking to see who would be wanting to climb the volcano - a mere 9 hour hike there and back. I had to think long and hard over that decision - to eventually conclude that - No I wouldnt be doing the hike the next day......ASIF!!
The next day - after the morning breakfast buffet (fab!!) I sat around thinking about what I wanted to do with my day together with a group of Swedish guys and another girl from Holand. We eventually decided that some sort of physical activity was called for - so we hired some kayaks to get to Monkey Island about a 30 minute kayak from Mérida. The lake was choppy and rough going - my arms were killing and I was exhausted, a good excuse as any to spend the rest of
On the way to Monkey Island
The lake was to choppy for me to get a photo of Monkey Island - this little island is home to two ex-circus monkeys.
the evening in a hammock....
It isn't what you would call a party hostel. There is no alcohol served, except beer and even that was in short supply by the end of the evening, so it wasn't unusual for most if not all of the people to make their way towards an early night a little after 10pm - This, after a day spent lazing about doing nothing (or for the more healthy, spending the day hiking volcanoes & waterfalls).
The next day, my last on the island - I was even more active (Hard to believe - I know). This time, I kayaked all the way to a river formed between the two volcanoes in the hope of finding some freshwater crocodiles & some birds - 3 hours of Kayaking in choppy waters, with the wind going against me - was a very refreshing experience. I burnt myself to a cinder and no longer felt I had the use of my arms but it was a wonderful day - with great views of the changing weather patterns on top of Volcan Concepción. My only issue being that the hoped for crocodiles never materialised & my kaying skills
My 3hr Kayak to the river
preventing me from steering clear of marshland in the middle of the river.
I spent the rest of that day - recovering from my sunburn, swimming in the lake, watching the sunset, looking for turtles along the banks of the lakes (okay - I didnt look very hard!) and chatting with the other people in the hostel. My favourite things
* The chance to do nothing or something - a great place to get away from it all and for those that want it, lots of natural activities to do. I loved the fact that the hostel was right on the lake - A few hundred metres was all I needed and I could be swimming....
* Great food - That and the organic brown rice & bread together with the no alcohol.....I considered it a detox weekend!!
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