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Isla de Ometepe

Rivas, Nicaragua

Wow, what a journey! Even though the Isla de Ometepe is pretty close by to Granada it took a whole day of travelling to get from the city to our hostel on the island! When I say our I mean an american guy called Blake who I had met on my last night in Granada and who also happened to be heading to Ometepe the same day as me, always nice to have a travelling companion, especially one that speaks Spanish!
We started out at 9:00am and caught a chicken bus from Granada to Nandaime, then another one on from there to Rivas, followed by a taxi to San Jorge where the ferry terminal is. This really didn´t take us too long and the ferry (amazing little boat that had an air-conditioned compartment at the bottom and which played a whole hour´s worth of eighties pop videos including classics by Celine Dion, The Begees, Wham and many others!) left pretty promptly and only takes an hour so we were on the island by about 12:30 - 1:00pm ish.
Isla de Ometepe is basically an island made of up two volcanos that rise out of the lake and have joined up in the middle. As I have mentioned previously I wanted to climb the smaller of the two, Volcan Maderas and the best place to stay to do that is obviously on the smaller section of the island at the base of the volcano. When we arrived we were accosted by ´charming´young taxi men trying to tell us that the only way to get to the smaller part was to take a taxi with them that would cost us in the region of $25! This gave us a bit of a shock, but having dicussed it with the bus drivers it turned out that were lying through their teeth and all we had to do was jump on a (very long and slow) chicken bus and it would take us all the way there. So after some lunch we hopped on a bus and started off. The beginning was fairly pleasant, although extremely crowded and we moved along as swiftly as is possible in an old bus that is holding over double its intended capicity. However the journey deteriorated fairly rapidly! The roads became so unbelievably bad that on more than one occasion (I was standing at this point) both of my feet were thrown about 3-4 inches into the air at the same time and then plonked back down again....naturally I got the giggles!
Despite this bone shaker ride, it was actually great fun. The island is made up of little villages so the roads were lined with rustic huts, chicken, cows and more roaming pigs than I could count. I think dads, if you could get over the bad roads you would quite happily set up home there. Everywhere you look there are groups of little piglets being chased around by mothers or varying shapes and sizes, but by far the lovliest were the brown and pink spotted ones.
So eventually we did make it to our destination, a small family run hostel on the west coast of the smaller section of the island called Monkey´s Island Hotel, complete with its own pet monkey. It´s a very basic but perfectly adequate hostel with very plain rooms, thankfully with mosquito nets over the beds, and a large, open air, communal area where meals were served and hammocks blew in the breeze.
Unfortuantely I chose these two days to be a bit under the weather so the next day I didn´t hike up the volcano but sat in a rocking chair and felt sorry for myself for most of the day! This tunred out to be quite nice though anyway as it was such a hot day, I don´t think I would have got much enjoyment from the hike anyway. The hostel is situated on a little spur so has it´s own beach at the bottom of the hill where I took myself for a late afternoon swim and then headed back to the hostel for some supper. It´s such a quiet area so in the evenings everyone just sat around the tables after supper chatting and then mostly had early-ish nights.
The best thing about the island is probably the variety of animals you encounter. Having been based in cities since arriving in Nicaragua I had not had a chance to see much wildlife so it was a nice treat to see huge blue winged butterflys, parrots and little monkeys dotted through the trees. We also had a rather hairy tarantula in our room on the second night which was not quite so pleasant but the hostel owner told us they are not dangerous ones....I´m not actually sure how much this eased my mind!
It is such a diverse island that it idealy one should take at least a week and travel round the island staying at different spots as it seems they all offer different things. However, I do not have a week to spend there, so on Wednesday morning I made my way down to the bus station (without Blake as he opted to spend one more night) and caught the long and rattly bus back to the ferry port. As often seems to happen, I met a great Canadian girl on the bus so we headed to San Juan del Sur together and booked into a great hostel near the beach called Casa Oro. Funnily enough some boys that I had met in Leon were staying here too, and my Australian friend Marcus had also ended up in San Juan so the night turned out to be a fun reunion.
Today I spent the morning getting to know the town, wandering round and strolling down the beach and then headed to a nearbye beach called Playa Remanso in the afternoon with Marcus. The beach at San Juan is lovely to wander up and down but it doesn´t offer so much in the way of surfing so most people staying here just shuttle to other beaches during the day and come back in the evening as the town´s more lively than those at the surrounding beaches. Remanso was gorgeous but had huge waves so I watched as the big boys ventured out into the surf. Marcus did give me a short lesson though when the swell had died down a bit and I managed to stand up and surf right into the beach on my first, ok second, go! I was actually very impressed with myself!
Tonight apparently there´s an open mic night in town so I will probably be heading out to that, but for now I´m starving so I´m off to find some sups.

permalink written by  veritykent on April 23, 2009 from Rivas, Nicaragua
from the travel blog: Up, up and away
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