The trip to Ometepe from Managua is exhausting. Train, plane, taxi, bus, taxi, boat, taxi. It took about 5 hours from when I hit the ground in Managua to get to my place on the island. Managua itself for a major city looks bombed out, since they never rebuilt from the earthquake they had in the '70s (the aid was snatched up by the US-backed dictator, the people revolted, the war began, and the rest is history). The bus was hot and crowded and very, very sweaty, especially since I had to hold my backpack on my lap for 2.5 hours. Luckily I sat next to a native and we talked for a long time in Spanglish, very nice guy and good on the travel advice. When I got to Rivas I took another very short cab ride to the ferry, which was a slow but beautiful trip to the island. First impressions - amazing, but if anything poorer than the mainland. The nicer homes are concrete block without doors, many without indoor plumbing, yet the people are very friendly and almost shy.
Hotel Finca Playa Venecia, my place on Isla del Ometepe, is a working farm called a finca and right on the water. There were a few Brits and four US medical mission students from Nevada staying there when I was there. The views are beautiful, particularly the sunsets. In the mornings the locals washed their clothes in the water near my cabana, and you could hear the howler monkeys hooting in the forest down the beach. My room was fine, not stunning but plenty serviceable, and I share it with a gecko I've named Gordon. We slept together, showered together, and whatnot. We're pals. The first night I thought he might jump in my pocket, because we had an incredible rainstorm that lasted for hours.
The first day I was there I went on a short walkabout on the finca around 6am, looking at the cattle and horses and pigs and buildings. Then breakfast, then spent a long time in the Charco Verde park - a thick rainforest, absolutely beautiful, and during the hours I was there I saw literally no one. About a thousand lizards and butterflies and a curious little monkey who was checking me out as I sat on one of the deserted beaches, but no people. I could have danced the tarantella in the nude and no one would have been the wiser. But I didn't. After that I had a tremendous headache, probably from all of the jostling the day before, so I took a long nap then spent the rest of the day in a hammock by the water watching the sunset and the fishermen and reading before having a few beers at dinner and going to bed to yet another rainstorm. The atmosphere is certainly conducive to reading - I've read two books and started a third since I've been here.
The next day I walked a little bit and talked to one of the medical missionaries for a few minutes at breakfast. Then I walked down to Hotel Charco Verde just down the beach, rented a bike, and took off down the main southern road to Altagracias, the main town on the island. It was a LONG ride and very sweaty, but I have to say I'm glad I took a bike and not the bus because it was such an amazing experience and one that I won´t forget. I rode by lots of farmland and around the volcano, past some very, very poor towns with little kids who would wave and shout as I rode past (likely saying ¨look at the stupid gringo riding his bike up a hill in 90 degree weather¨).
Quick note on the volcanoes - They are absolutely stunning, really beautiful, and obviously visible from everywhere on the island. The largest is absolutely huge, like Pikes Peak, and verdant with strips of grey from recent flows.
After I left Altagracias - not much more than some beaten up concrete buildings - I saddled up the bike and rode up and over to Playa Santo Domingo. The road was dirt with a little paving on the hills, and my already sore butt took a pounding, but it was an interesting little place with a nice hotel and a few other things to see. I got into the Villa Paraiso restaurant just as a storm blew over, so the timing was good