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  • Niki Harry

Nicaragua: Ometepe Island

We were picked up by Roberto & Frank by 7:30 & headed out towards the ferry for Ometepe island. It was about an hour and a half ride to get to the town of Rivas. Then another short drive to San Jorge where you catch the ferry. Well what a nasty surprise to find out that all ferry’s had been cancelled due to extremely high winds! Being a Sunday, everything was closed! We couldn’t even find coffee anywhere. We weren’t sure what to do so we all hung out for a couple of hours waiting to hear more. Sometimes the ferrries can be cancelled for 3 days! And sometimes they run at the end of the day.

After a couple of hours of waiting and hanging out, we decided to head back into Rivas and have lunch. The whole time Roberto was on the phone, trying to get information and talking to Tours Nicaragua to come up with an alternate plan for us. I really did not want this cancelled as I was really looking forward to Ometepe Island.

Finally, the captain and the naval base decided that it was calm enough to let the ferries come across, so we had to wait for 2 of them to show up. There was such a huge backlog of people waiting, I was worried that we would not get on one.

We eventually got on the 2:30 ferry and arrived at the island at 4pm. As you see, the ferries are NOT big!

The ride over was pretty rough and everyone was forced to wear their life jackets the whole time. We were on a newer ferry so it was quite nice inside and not packed, as most people got on the old one before us. Below is our wonderful new friend and guide, Roberto, with John. Roberto came along and stayed with us for the next 4 days.

As we got closer we got amazing views of the active Concepción volcano. You can see where all the land slides occur & how much nature has been destroyed on this side of it. This is one of the most active volcanos in Nicaragua and yet our plan was to hike this in a couple of days.

We were then picked up by another driver and it took only about 20 minutes to get to our lodge. I love how many can hitch a ride on one vehicle (and when we passed it, the back of the truck was loaded to the max with people! There must have been 25 people in this thing!)

Arriving at our century-old Spanish colonial hacienda, SAN JUAN DEL LA ISLA LODGE, a tropical fruit tree plantation. Absolutely gorgeous. We checked in and were taken to our private cabin (the first one on the right here). Loved how they were situated, the back facing the forest and the front facing out onto Nicaragua lake. All built on stilts and the whole cabin built from solid cedar. The view of Santo Domingo Beach from our deck on the cabin.

I relaxed with a glass of wine in hand and took the sights in while the boys had drinks at the restaurant bar. And tonight was Superbowl.. too funny. After dinner we were attempting to watch it in the main lounge but the whole area lost power due to the strong winds, so we were all left by candlelight and no Superbowl!

We had beautiful evenings, walks along the beach, dinners outside… so amazing!

The Howler monkeys were everywhere. All around our cabin. I loved watching how the babies hang onto mom while she forages for food, eating and hanging upside down!

On Monday, we had our first hike on the island. We hiked the other volcano, the cloud forest wrapped VOLCÁN MADERAS. It looks deceivingly small from the water below, like no big deal to hike. We started the hike at 8:30 and it was an immediate steep incline. Up and Up and UP. Roberto warned us that it would be pretty hard and extremely steep. It was 5 kms straight up basically. When we got to this lookout, at halfway point, we decided to forget the idea to go all the way to the top. The path was full of loose rocks and goopy mud, so very slippery. I still wanted to climb Concepción across the way and did not want to risk injury. Besides, we got a great workout already as my legs were shaking! A 3 hour hike of heart pounding & pure sweat was good enough for me. And it was bad enough that I had a bullet ant fall on my chest and into my shirt and very lucky that I did not get stung. Supposedly the pain from these things is excruciating.

Looking down I could see our lodge and huts which were on the beach at the far right of the photo below.

We hiked back down and got to see more wildlife – monkeys, birds, vultures, hawks, butterflies… and beautiful big trees.

At the base of the volcano, we went by some farms and came upon some Nicaraguan coffee beans… drying in the sun.

I love how the domesticated horses just roam free here and they go to the lake to drink water, amongst wildlife.

The following day we had a rest day. We spent hours watching the monkeys, as they moved around each day from area to area searching for food. The way they leap through the air just cracks me up.

We saw quite a few of these Crested Caracara hawks along the beach area and around the horses, scavenging for food.

After lunch, as we were walking down the street we encountered these Capuchin monkeys, also called white-faced monkeys. They were by the street all in the trees, at least 8 of them.

And on the last day we climbed VOLCAN CONCEPCIÓN. But we all agreed the evening before that we would not be stupid to try and climb right to the top as it is 5000FT straight up. Roberto was actually praying that we would not want to! If we did, we would have had to start at 5:30AM and it would be something like a 8-10 hour hike. Coming down is harder then going up as you have to go real slow due to the steepness and large, loose rocks. So we all made a pact to go only half way up therefore the hike at commenced at 8:30. Here the guys are doing some stretching exercises before we got going.

It looks so deceivingly “no big deal” but let me tell you… its probably the steepest one we’ve ever done. (But could be a tie with Petit Piton from St Lucia)

And as soon as we got to the base where the trail started, it was an immediate straight up… the whole way. Started off in the humid, hot forest and slowly peetered out to very little trees and open areas that were scorching hot.

And we reached our half way point. Doesn’t look like anything big deal but I was real happy we got to here. Besides, this volcano is active as well so wouldn’t want to be at the top if it decided to go off!

And after a lunch break we headed back down.

I noticed this guy just sitting on the beach for at least a 1/2 hour, letting his horse graze and then drink from the lake. Then all of the sudden, he walked the horse into the water and started to bathe him. I was so mesmerized, watching the gentleness of the man and how he lovingly washed this horse, talking to him, enjoying the moment. This lasted for at least another 1/2 hour.

And then he hopped on the horse’s bare back and they went back to shore to relax out some more and dry off. I thought this was one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen.

We sat on our deck, watching, sipping on wine and enjoying our beautiful evening in pure nature, in the middle of nowhere, or so it seemed. We had a beautiful dinner that evening and our final night chatting with Roberto and some other guests that we met. And with that ended our last day on Ometepe Island.

We were lucky to get the 9AM ferry back across. We had learned that they had cancelled all ferries the day before again and later this afternoon as well. We were the last ferry to go that morning. We were jam packed onto this older ferry all the way across but were docked by 10:30. Our new driver was waiting for us and off we went, across to the pacific side FOR OUR NEXT ADVENTURE AT SAN JUAN DEL SUR FOR A COUPLE OF DAYS.

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