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Written by Todd W. on 05 Sep, 2007
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,…Read More
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 Close
Written by Baudet on 07 Nov, 2004
I was awakened this morning by little kids screaming and the sound of someone hammering. I left the room to go take a shower, but was stopped because Pirates of the Carribean was on the TV. After sitting through the whole movie, I made it…Read More
I was awakened this morning by little kids screaming and the sound of someone hammering. I left the room to go take a shower, but was stopped because Pirates of the Carribean was on the TV. After sitting through the whole movie, I made it to the shower. Our boat for Omepete didn't leave until 2pm, so we hung around the Oasis Granada for a while.
When we went into town to catch a cab, it was flooded with people and rows and rows of flea market-type shops. The cab took us to the gate to buy tickets for the ferry. The women at the counter didn't speak any English, and she kept asking if we wanted up or down tickets. We didn't know it at the time, but "up" and "down" were first and second class. We went for the cheaper ticket and got the "down" ticket. We didn’t know until we got on the ferry that it was going to be a four-hour boat ride to the island.
After about an hour on the ferry, the volcanic island came into view. It looked as though the ride wouldn't be as long as expected. But looks can be deceiving. It was still about another three hours until we reached the dock on the island. We gathered our bags and went to the front of the boat to take in the sights along the way. A local Nica from San Carlos tried to talk to us, but he did not speak any English, and we didn't speak Spanish. So Chris got out his translation book, and we had about a two-hour conversation with him until it started to rain. From a distance, you could see the storm over the lake, and we could tell we were going to get rained on. When the rain started, the waves picked up and occasionally splashed up on deck, soaking anyone standing there.
When the ferry reached the port, the rain was pouring down. We ran under a roofed area to stay dry, waiting/deciding what to do. A local boy came and got us and loaded us and our bags in the back of a truck and headed up a muddy road into the night. To keep us from getting wet, there was a tarp in the back of the truck, and the guy spread it over us. The ride was less than ten minutes before we got to our hostel, Hotel Castillo. When we arrived, we checked in at the counter, which was also the counter for the restaurant. The restaurant served awesome food and was really cheap. Naturally, this is where we ate our dinner and breakfast the next morning. The rooms were pretty nice, but small, but the experience was worth the four-hour ferry ride.
Written by shiraloo on 16 Apr, 2003
Hidden in one of the world’s poorest countries, Nicaragua’s Ometepe Island is an overlooked paradise. Less popular and cheaper than Costa Rica, the island boasts two majestic volcanoes, lush forests, incandescent waterfalls, and untouched beaches. The mostly Indian inhabitants are laid-back and gracious, which, combined…Read More
Hidden in one of the world’s poorest countries, Nicaragua’s Ometepe Island is an overlooked paradise. Less popular and cheaper than Costa Rica, the island boasts two majestic volcanoes, lush forests, incandescent waterfalls, and untouched beaches. The mostly Indian inhabitants are laid-back and gracious, which, combined with the island’s utter isolation, assures a tranquility that subdues any fears.
Ometepe is a haven for adventuresome backpackers seeking a jungle experience. Forget about air-conditioned tour buses, opulent resorts, or even paved roads. It is a land with a prehistoric feel, so secluded and unspoiled that you expect to see pterodactyls flying overhead. On this island jewel, spider and endangered capuchin monkeys are friendly enough to hand-feed, and travelers fearlessly cool off in the world’s only lake that is mysteriously inhabited by freshwater sharks.
Dramamine is a must for the hour-long ferry ride from mainland Nicaragua to Ometepe. But with one glance at the shimmering horizon, the voyage through the rough waves of Lake Nicaragua is forgotten.
Breathtaking. Two colossal volcanoes, Concepción and Maderas, hover over the pristine waters, magnificently forming Isla de Ometepe. Clouds race across the sky competing with rough ocean-like waves that crash over white sands.
Exploration is by foot, Jeep, and old yellow school bus (Nicaragua’s public transportation). Buying a map won’t help -- there are no addresses. Try the hut 400 meters north of the old mango tree or 150 meters east of the tienda. This is part of the charm and simplicity of Ometepe.
Hitchhiking with locals is necessary and safe. Eager pre-teen drivers are already waiting at Ometepe’s barren docks. They speed along the broken roads dodging wild boars, turkeys, and horses.
Buses are sardine-packed with old men carrying unsheathed machetes, women balancing fruit on their heads, and children sucking plastic bags of sugarcane juice.
The island’s most expensive hostel -- a charming, rustic bungalow –- will set you back $5 a night. Others go for $2-3, but they’re not as clean and have no mosquito nets or beach access. Witnessing serene sunrises while lounging in hammocks is unbeatable. Savor Ometepe’s fresh fish complemented by the Central American staple, gallo pinto (rice and beans). Nightlife is localized to the hostels. No bars. No clubs. Instead, travelers swap stories over drinks and chat with locals.
Finding an English-speaking guide is easy. For a few dollars, they’ll lead you on an unforgettable four-hour mountain hike through the bush to idyllic waterfalls and hidden coves. Priceless. Those pressed for time can pass up the nine-hour volcano option and hunt for ancient petroglyphs and sacred burial grounds.
Don’t miss the chance to trek across farmlands dotted with grazing cattle, clay and thatched homes, and hardworking Nicas. Be sure to ask the locals about Nicaragua’s violent Sandinista and Somoza history – they don’t mince words.
Departing Ometepe is bittersweet. Floating just beneath the clouds, the skyline of Concepción and Maderas is your last glimpse of paradise found.