If you travel through Nicaragua, there are countless itineraries offering numerous options, still one thing is inevitable, you will pass the Lake Nicaragua. The lake has the 19th place in the world-lake-list and with the 8264km2 surface is the largest in Central America hosting a total of 310 islands. So instead of standing at the shore and watching this vast pool, we decide to spend some days on the island of Ometepe and check out the island life. Ometepe is the only island in the world with two volcanoes (volcano Concepción and volcano Maderas, this last with a swimmable crater lake) in the middle of a freshwater lake, which was by the way recently named a Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO. So it has just three roads: one around each volcano and one that connect both. Beautiful beaches, traditions, archaeological treasures, landscapes, monkeys and exotic birds are waiting for us in this destination of wonders in the province of Rivas. We take the bus from Granada to Rivas center for 30 Cordoba each and from there a taxi at 20 C$ to the harbor. The ferry costs 90C$ + 10C$ tax for cleaning the island and the maintenance of the island. So all together we pay 240C$ for the both of us starting from Granada till putting feet on Ometepe.
We find a nice, cozy and probably one of the most economic (250C$ priv.room+kitchen&fridge for free use) hostels in the harbor village of Moyogalpa, ‘hostel Ibesa’ named and run by a friendly couple always willing to enlighten us about all visits and activities on the island. Just as we arrive and drop our backpacks they let us use two bikes so we can have a sunset at ‘Punta Jesus Maria’, a bit more than two kilometers out of town. It is quite a ride, we even cross an airstrip, and we take a small dust/mud track to the viewpoint. We are just on time, the sun is about to touch the horizon. Amazing colors are filling the sky and each cloud is getting painted by another tint between yellow and purple, with all the kinds of red in between. We can’t believe our eyes as we get a double tread: the sky and its reflection on the motionless freshwater lake surface. Faster and faster the sun hides as colors gets more intense. Some locals are fishing tiny fishes at the shore and they don’t seem very impressed by this nature’s spectacle. It gets darker and darker and a strong high-frequency buzzing, from distance hearable, sound makes us alert that we should leave as fast as possible. It is mosquito’s happy hour and around a tree are swarming literally millions of them. We run hard passing through the dark dense bug cloud to our bike and the little bastards are flying against our arms, legs and faces. It is a bug strike! We bike fast and get home at 19:30 when everything is already pitch black and there is no other way than using car- and motorcycle lights as a reference.
After a first good night we wake up and hitchhike to ‘El Ojo del Agua’, a natural area where a river provides constantly fresh water to different basins, which is perfect to swim and (according islands beliefs) to heal all kind of health issues. The sun heats our body while our feet in the cold water balance the temperature under our skin. At the same area we climb a ‘mirador’ to have a beautiful view over the Conceptión Volcano and the local evergreen banana plantations. In the evening we hitchhike back to El Quino, where starts the road around volcano Concepción, and from there we take the bus to Moyogalpa.
Another sunrise and another day is born. Ometepe isn’t exactly a very big island (276km2) so we rent a scooter (500C$) to visit the whole island, and its lacustrine beaches, volcanos, waterfalls and small villages. Soon it becomes clear that this will be impossible, and believe us, we went further any scooter has ever been! Streets getting smaller and dustier and every few meter more stones and rocks are sticking out of the road surface till there is nothing more than just rocks. Our scooter does the best it can but has no chance against this cruel soil. Direction Merida it jumps on and off stones and there are no motocross suspension to protect the engine and once passing Alta Gracia sand is a new enemy as our vehicle tires disappear every once in a while. We have a great time and really enjoy our Paris-Dakar experience, visit Charco Verde and some of the villages but we’re not really getting anywhere. So we decide to bring back the scooter before it gets broke and before our time limit pass by. And decide to take the bus tomorrow to Merida in order to see and shower at the waterfalls.
We cook in the hotel together with Andres and Marcos (which we met all over the travel since Guatemala and start to be good friends now) and fall asleep dreaming of tropic waterfalls. We wake up early for a long day of joy and pleasure, prepare a pick-nick and get at the bus stop at 7:45 to catch the 8 o’clock around-the-island-bus. At 8:15 we get informed that there is no more such bus in the morning so we take a minibus till El Quino, there we hitch hike to ‘Ojos del Agua’, from there after some time till Santa Cruz, where we get out of luck. No cars passing this bad road so we walk and walk and walk totally till Merida! A three hour up-hill, down-hill hike under the midday sun on a very humid island is our destination. Death seems to lurk behind the next corner as vultures are circling high above us in the cloudless sky. So we take a rest at the waterside, empty the lunchbox and hydrate as much we can. We realize that the road to San Ramon is at least another two hours walking and from there starts a muddy up-hill adventure to the San Ramon waterfalls. And we still have to get back! So we just read a bit and relax, convinced that we will see much other waterfalls during our journey. We walk all the way back to the road (no cars pass by to raise a thump) and there we do see cars pass by but the few cars that stop to give us a ride are asking money for the trip. After an endless day of walking, Ometepe invites us now on an endless afternoon of auto stop with no success. And just when the sun starts to fade between the trees we get finally our free ride, in the back of a pick-up truck, straight to Moyogalpa.
The last evening on this beautiful island, we share stories with some other hostel guests, Andre and Marco. Those last two were celebrating Marco’s birthday the night before with lots of rum and beer. A night in which Marcos got “violated” by a lap dancing hooker and funny enough Andre had to pay a local policeman who works together with the pleasure lady in question to rip off tourists. We had big laughs about it but still, we want to warn all our readers/travelers… you never get a lap dance for free!!!
The hostel Ibesa is clean, gives lots of services and is cheap / Hitch-hiking might be fun but not easy and sometimes it is just losing precious time: you easily spend half day trying for 2okm / Check and double check bus times as they change often / Renting a decent motor instead of a scooter is a bit more expensive but takes you everywhere