Days 95 - 100: Isla de Ometepe - Two Volcanoes, One Island


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Published: January 10th 2016
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The bus dropped me off In San Jorge just in time to see the 2:30 ferry leave 10 minutes early (nothing in this part of the world ever leaves early).

Two hours later I'd paid and boarded the Ferry El Che Guevara and headed across Lake Nicaragua to the twin volcanic island of Ometepe.

I had heard of this little jungle tree house hostel, called Little Morgan's, which is located in Santa Cruz on the other side of the island and can take a couple of hours to get there by bus. So I decided to spend my first night on the island in Moyogalpa, the town where the ferry landed.

It was starting to get dark and after I tried a few hostels all I could find was the offer of a hammock out the back of a lovely hostel run by a couple of old French ladies. I've spent a lot of time asleep in hammocks over the past few weeks but not actually spent a whole night in one. However, it was late and this seemed to be my only option so I paid the princely sum of £2.20 and dumped my bag next to one of the available hammocks.

I slept surprisingly well and was only woken up a couple of times by the local wildlife (there were a few deer like creatures in the garden next door that enjoyed running around all night). I'd covered myself in bug spray and my sleeping bag has a handy zip on mosquito net.

I set off the next morning to find a chicken bus that would take me round the island to Santa Cruz. I found the main bus stop and through my limited Spanish worked out that I needed to catch two buses and there would be a couple of hours wait in between them.

If you haven't heard of them, a chicken bus is an old American school bus that has been deemed too dangerous to transport American schoolchildren, exported to Central America and decked out in bright colours, flashing lights and a deafening sound system (often playing power ballads). There is no such thing as full on a chicken bus, despite being crammed in and squashed up against others very intimately, people still get on and walk through the bus selling snacks and drinks at every opportunity.

Luckily as it was the first stop I managed to get a seat but my legs wouldn't fit into the 10cm gap between the seats so I had to sit with my knees up by my ears which soon resulted in a couple of dead legs.

I got off the bus at the crossroads I'd been told to and asked a local how far it was to Santa Cruise. They replied that it was about 5km, I did a quick sum in my head and worked out that I could walk it in the time it would take for a bus to come. The local guy had lied and it was a 9-10 km walk with my 30 kilo backpack in the midday sun which my phone tells me was 37°. I actually quite enjoyed the walk and saw loads of wildlife including spider monkeys, parrots, lizards, and some strange trees totally covered in spider webs (I'd been warned that the island was home to quite a few tarantulas).

I got to the Little Morgan's hostel soaked in sweat and after wringing out my t shirt, I checked in. The guys there were great and gave me a beer to help me cool off. The hostel is on the lake shore and is made up of four separate tree house type buildings with loads of hammocks and areas to laze around in and that's exactly what I did for the rest of the day. I planned on having a nap at tea time and ended up sleeping through the whole night.

The hostel offered treks up both the volcanoes (Concepción 1,610m and Maderas 1,394m). I opted to give Concepción a go which involved a 5am start. Loaded up with a couple of sandwiches and 3 litres of water I met our guide and a bunch of others to start the climb. By 7am we’d taken a couple of buses to the foot of Concepcion . The first half hour wasn’t too bad with a nice gradual climb and then the climb went crazy. For three solid hours we climbed and climbed and climbed through jungle then through the clouds, which turned the ground to thick and slippery mud, then finally the last section was what I’d imagine an alien planet would be like, no life, jagged rocks and wind that wants to rip you off the volcano, with the added rotten egg smell of sulphur, it really wasn't a very hospitable place to be. You couldn’t see anything from the top and nobody was keen to hang around so very quickly started the descent which was just as grueling. That is, except for one section in which we were able to stride down a couple of hundred metres of a fine gravel. Your feet would sink around 30cm, which made it reasonably stable and I was able to get quite some speed up. I’m struggling to think of anything to compare it to, but it was by far the highlight of my day. It took six and a half hours in total which apparently is quite a good time (most people take around nine hours) but it’s not an experience I’m looking at repeating any time soon.

I spent the evening celebrating our achievement with a couple of lovely people Charlie & Tamara. We ended up sitting in the pitch black by the lake shore watching the stars and fireflies twinkle away, this might have been my favorite moment of my entire trip.

I had planned to leave the next day but it didn’t take much to convince me to stay and spend the day going for a walk with Charlie, Tamara and another girl called Clementine to the foot of Volcano Maderas. There wasn’t much of a path in parts and we got lost a few times but it was great to be wandering through jungle seeing all the wildlife.

Clementine it turns out is absolutely nuts, by the age of 27 she’s been a beekeeper in Panama, ran a B&B in Blackpool, sailed by herself through the Caribbean, worked in a Jaguar sanctuary in Costa Rica, owned a patisserie in Paris, worked in a lighthouse in Norway and is about to become a Disney Princess on a cruise liner. She also plays the ukulele and sings songs about animals. I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone who more closely resembles a Manic Pixie Dream Girl.

We ended the day back in the bar playing Kings Cup which is a card/drinking game involving a lot of rules and ended with a naked drunk Australian having to sit under the table for 30 minutes.

I left the island early the next morning with Charlie and Tamara who were heading for Leon and I was going to the surfer town of San Juan Del Sur for a quick stop over before I go over to Costa Rica. I’ve loved my time in Nicaragua, I’ve met a load of new friends and had some experiences that will stay with me forever.

Highlights:

Waking up in a jungle tree house every day to the sound of monkeys and parrots.

Sitting on a rock on the edge of the lake watching the stars and fireflies twinkle away, I'll never forget that.

Lolights:

Running out of water half way down the volcano.

Saying goodbye to Tamara and Charlie, such nice people. (If you ever bump into a crazy American hippie trying to get you to sign up to Greengrocer on the streets of London say hi from me!)


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