Ometepe, Nicaragua - a busty, beautiful island.


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Sunset on the island
Fortunately I had been told what to expect on our “travel day” from Costa Rica to Nicaragua, because it was much better to be mentally prepared. It was a really long day. We drove 5 hours in a private van, during which we had to stop twice at police inspection points. They were no big deal – in the second one a police officer came in and glanced at all of our passports but it was very relaxed. After the drive, we crossed the border by foot. After we exited Costa Rica, there’s a 500 meter walk through a “dead zone” that isn’t owned by either country. We had a really long wait while we were trying to get into Nicaragua, which was ok but hot (although several people told us that we were lucky because it was relatively cooler and it wasn’t raining).







For our first 2 nights in Nicaragua, we were staying in Ometepe, an island in Lake Nicaragua. It’s quite a big island with two volcanoes (one active, one not) and a population of about 50,000. There are a couple of hotels and bigger towns, but we were slated to do
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The dead zone between Costa Rica and Nicaragua. Apparently we are lucky because it's sometimes quite muddy.
a “rural home stay”. It is a really unique concept that emerged organically. It’s a really small, farm community right on the lake. Apparently a guy from Quebec fell in love and married one of the village girls (I’d love to have more of the back story on that… How did they meet? What was it like for him to move from Quebec to an Island on Nicaragua? And so on…). Over the years, he started a project where kids from Quebec come down to Ometepe and volunteer during the summer. They would stay with the people in the community. Somewhere along the way G Adventures developed a partnership with them, and so we stayed with the people in the community in their homes.







So, after we crossed the border, we had to take a ferry to the island. The cab was 30 minutes, which allowed me to get my first impressions of Nicaragua. You could tell immediately that Nicaragua and Costa Rica are vastly different. After the cab, we had a brief break before our 1.5 hour ferry ride. Now, I know that this is a travel blog, and this isn’t totally relevant. But, it was kind of amazing for me. Somewhere along the way I have started to get seasick. I discovered this when I was cage diving in South Africa, when the combination of the chum and the rock of the boat made my primary feeling nauseated instead of afraid. I was warned that the ferry would be choppy so I decided to try Dramamine. It was amazing! It reminded me when I discovered Midol as a teenager and suddenly the world was a much more beautiful place. The medicine worked so well that, although it was rough waters, I was totally even – even when the little kid next to me puked on the floor at my feet (Ew.). Otherwise, the ferry was relatively uneventful, although there were some fantastic views.







(Note: I am writing this blog entry beside the pool in my hotel in Granada. It’s beautiful. We have music playing, and my fellow travelers are all coming in and out. We all did different things today, and we are catching up on our days. My tour guide, Adri, just discovered that I’m keeping a blog of my trip. Her immediate
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Waiting at customs...
response: “Are you writing about me?” When I told her that I hadn’t really talked about her yet, she did this hand gesture where she put her hands up by her face to represent happy dog ears and then she moved them to make them droopy and sad. I think this was her way of telling me that I should write about her immediately. She’s amazing. She’s Costa Rican. She has more energy than most people. She’s hilarious. She’s got some serious dance moves. She’s thoughtful and generous. She makes all of our traveling possible. She is a great balance between responsible, keeping all of our stuff organized and running smoothly, and fun. I love her. Also, she’s only 4’10”. Ok, Adri, happy ears now? xx.)







Ok, back on track now… Finally, after 10.5 hours of traveling, we arrived in our first location in Nicaragua. It was so so so different from anything that I’ve experienced. The community has a central area with wifi, hammocks, big tables, etc. This area overlooks the lake (amazing sunsets). The houses where we stayed were all very close to this central area, but they are very humble
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Finally in the cab to the port for the ferry!
and simple. Initially, I was a little overwhelmed by Nicaragua. Fortunately that evening was a familiar scene: we had some drinks, a dinner all together in the community area, and card games. Familiarity and easy fun was exactly what I needed after such a long day.







Roosters woke us up at the crack of dawn – along with their friends including barking dogs, countless birds, and other noises that you hear when you are enjoying the “quiet” of nature. We were split into groups for the home stay, and there were 4 other girls with me. The 5 of us had a simple breakfast (rice, beans, and eggs) prepared by our host family. Then, we all split off into our different activities.







I had signed up for an all day cultural tour, and it was awesome. We went all around the island, exploring a variety of different things both natural and manmade. It started with an easy hike around a lagoon, while we heard stories and facts about the island. A highlight for me was a ghost story – basic plot is that many years ago there was a shaman guy (Chico Largo) who scared all of the catholic villagers. Over time a people came to believe that he could turn himself into an animal that acted as a guardian of the lagoon area, and if any people came to hunt at night Chico Largo would steal their soul. They say that he still haunts the area waiting to steal the souls of people who aren’t good to nature. Another highlight was when our guide pointed out a tree that they call a Gringo Tree – because (like the tourists) its “skin” turns orangy-red and peels off. We also visited an old church, a local park, and 2 cool historical artifacts – 1200-1500 year old statues of indigenous chiefs and 3000-5000 petroglyphs. We ended the day by swimming in a refreshing natural spring and enjoying coca locas – a drink were they slice off the top of a coconut with a machete and pour in some rum. Later that night, we watched the sunset, had dinners with our host families, and then hung out and relaxed until bedtime.





The next morning it was a cow mooing rather than a rooster crowing,
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A rainbow on the boat -- Basically I was so happy about dramamine, it only made sense that I would see rainbows... I looked for a unicorn too.
but it was still early to rise and move to our next location: The Spanish colonial town of Granada!


Additional photos below
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A shop on the island
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Arrived!
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Our room in the home stay.
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The common area
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The home of my host family.
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For me, this has been a typical Nicaraguan Landscape... quite different than what I saw of Costa Rica.
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Gringa and a Gringo tree.
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The first Catholic Church on the island.
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Statue from the money.
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Trying to get a little happiness... It's supposed to happen if you touch this statue. We'll see. :)
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Kids playing in the park.
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Fun at lunch.
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Petroglyphs.


28th June 2013

What an adventure. It amazes me that you never say anything about being scared.

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