Ometepe Island, located in Lake Nicaragua, is a small hourglass-shaped island consisting of two volcanoes- one active, one dormant, and a small isthmus of lowlands connecting them. Full of spirit, natural beauty, and diy goodness. We had heard good things about visiting this interesting geographical wonder, so one day, we decided to put the truck on a ferry and see for ourselves.
The view of Volcan de Maderas across the lake from San Jorge.
The day before we embarked, we ran into this beautiful family of three. We first met Ram, Chandra, and little Ashwin (and Big Birtha, their Westy) while we were in Baja. We had hoped to reconnect at many points in our travels, but it never happened. Randomly, while camping at Lago Appoyo, we spotted their van and decided to hunt them down. It had been six months and five countries later, but we picked up right where we left off! They were game to ferry over to the island with us, so we followed one another to the ferry port, as we radioed back and forth on our walkie talkies.
I am not going to lie- boarding the ferry was the most stressful thing we had done in months. We bought our tickets without any problem, but for some reason, they kept insisting that due to size, our Crystal Starship would need to be the last vehicle to drive onto the boat. We watched countless cars board in front of us as we sat on the side, waiting for the signal. It seemed doubtful that we were going to fit, but the ferry-workers insisted there would be enough space. On our first attempt, we spent a few minutes of reversing and driving forward and wiggling back and forth while people shouted directions in Spanish, and what was apparent to us eventually was conceded by everyone else- there was not enough room on this boat.
So we waited for the next one- actually, the last boat of the day, to see if we had a better shot. The sun was beginning to set already and the mosquitoes were out in force. The same thing happened and we were asked to pull to the side while a myriad of other cars and trucks pulled on in front of us. When it appeared there was no room left, they told us it was our turn. Mark pulled on and angled the truck diagonally. I was watching worriedly from the side with Joey, certain that it was hopeless and we would have to wait until the morning. I could hear the muted sounds of conversation being carried off into the wind and the waves. Suddenly the engine turned off and Mark hopped out.
"What happened," I asked?
"We're on. They said its ok- they don't need to close the gate all the way. They just told me to put the emergency brake on," was something like what Mark told me. Sounds legit, right?
"Ummm... are you kidding?" I asked.
"Not kidding..." Mark said. "It should be ok. I think..."
It was an uncomfortable ride- watching the end of the boat bob up and down with the tide the entire way to the Island, wondering if our tiny little home would slide off unexpectedly into the shark-swimming waters of the massive lake. (Did I mention yet that there are bull sharks in Lake Nicaragua, that enter the freshwater through the San Juan River? Just a sidenote.)
What a test of faith! By nightfall, we had made it and without any life-altering disasters. When we awoke the next day, we were in paradise.
Incredible views of Volcan de Maderas.
We enjoyed a little breakfast-time string jam with the boys.
Swimming and bird-watching.
We spotted monkeys in the trees above, caught frogs, and admired the property-owners orphaned pet deer.
One day, we decided to explore the island (and by that I mean we ate a lot, sampling all the delicious local offerings.) We followed signs leading us to a chocolate beach were we were given the lowdown on making raw-cacao chocolate from the locally-grown beans at El Pital. This was a delightful little eco-friendly camp-resort that was still in the final stages of completion. The chocolate was delicious, the vibes were good, and we were impressed to watch their vision come to fruition.
Keeping things au natural here.
Garden flowers and ice cream shop.
Rainy season was beginning and we started to have the feeling like we were never drying out. Life in the tropics is far from comfortable during this time of year. The heat and rich humidity combine to pretty much suck the life out of any northerner real quick. Also, we started to have moisture issues in our camper around this time too. More of that when we get to Costa Rica next.
But finally, I just want to mention quickly Hacienda Mérida. It is a great location on the southwest side of the lower part of the island. They are accustomed to hosting international backpackers and all proceeds from the guest houses from meals, lodging and canoe rentals go towards a children's school next door. The school is built with recycled and local materials and staffed by caring locals and volunteering teachers from all over the world. This place is really special, one of many heart filled gems we found throughout our travels. Places like this are full of love and make a direct difference in improving their communities. Be sure to stop in there and stay awhile.