AdventureCentral AmericaNicaragua

Tuesday, November 25, 2008 – Granada to Ometepe

Kathy’s Waffle House
We splurged for a breakfast outside the hotel this morning at a well-known local joint called “Kathy’s Waffle House”. As one would expect, it’s the place for expats to hang out on a morning in Granada and we enjoyed our breakfasts before Antonio to pick us up for the drive to the ferry at San Jorge.


Mindy, expressing her morning caffeine preference


Scenic view: the Convent de San Francisco across the street


Shannon and Mindy at the Waffle House

Ferry to Ometepe
The drive to San Jorge was only an hour but was full of culture and photo ops: sugar cane for rum, banana fields, rice fields, and Masaya at one end with Ometepe at the other.


Sugar cane


Picture takers


Saying goodbye to Antonio

Isla de Ometepe is an island in Lake Ometepe with two volcanoes worth seeing: Volcan Conception and Volcan Maderas. We had every intention of hiking at least one of them, and were leaning toward Conception – the taller and more difficult of the two.

We arrived early for the ferry so we wandered into tourist office to arrange a car to our hotel on Ometepe. Outside were a few monkeys chained to a tree, which is a sad thing to do to monkeys but definitely entertaining for the local tourists.


Mindy and the monkey
The ferry was a rickety boat with room for passengers, and the only seats we could find were on the top deck. But it wasn’t a bad ride – only 45 minutes – and we’ve bonded with the four Americans who were on our volcano tour the night before: Christina, Brock, Britney, and Kevin from Louisville KY. They’re pretty hilarious and always willing to snap a photo with our cameras. Plus, Kevin and Brock were very handy getting our luggage up and down the ladder we had to use to get up to the first level. We bought them beers for that later on.


Ferry to Ometepe


Top level of the ferry


Isla de Ometepe

Landing at Ometepe
Interesting tidbit about Ometepe’s port: apparently there’s no loading dock. Instead the boat backs up into the port as close as it can without running aground, and the cars going in and out drive through the water to get on or off the ferry boat. We, the pedestrian passengers, walked off the ferry and over the water via sandbags.


Walking across the sandbags (blurry because I was teetering)
Hotel Villa Parasio
The Hotel Villa Paraiso was about a 45 minute drive across the island to the Santo Domingo Beach, situated right on the water of Lake Nicaragua. The rooms were sparse but decent, with one little bathroom and shower, two double beds, and a hammock on the porch. It would be a beautiful site except for two things: extreme rain has raised the level of Lake Ometepe so high that the water covers the beaches entirely and now bumps right up against the bulkhead of the hotel. The second is that this beach is apparently on the windy side of the island. And the gales were ridiculous. We ate our lunch secluded behind some bamboo shades designed to cut off the strong wind, and the trees never stopped moving. It was interesting, because the hotel appears to be designed around the normal idea of a hotel: restaurant overlooking the water, a fun tiki bar, cabanas within steps of the beach area. But if the wind is usually this bad I can’t imagine anyone actually using those features.


At lunch


Windy Island


High waters

Ojo de Aqua
Janice had told us about a lovely spot nearby the hotel called Ojo de Aqua, or “Eye of the Water”. Fresh water comes out of the volcano and runs through a clear stream through this part of the island. And years ago some man constructed a large hole to capture the flowing water and turn the spot into a natural pool and an oasis in the middle of a banana field. The lady at the front desk told us that it was approximately “uno kilo” away, though it felt more like two or three for a number of reasons. First, the road is a bumpy, rocky dirt road. Second, after our experiences in Granada we’re very wary of what we now refer to as “Boys on Bikes”, and we instinctively turn so we face them and they have to deal with us from the front rather than sneaking up from behind. And though the Boys on Bikes on Isla de Ometepe rode by with taunts of “Taxi! Taxi!” they were otherwise harmless. The third reason for the long walk were the random swarms of gnats. Thousands of little, light colored flights that got in our eyes and ears and made us run until we reach a fly-free zone. We were happy to finally reach the turn off with the sign that said, “Ojo de Aqua: 300 meters”.


Concepcion


Swarms of gnats


Mindy, Nici, and Shannon

Somewhere along the way we acquired a dog who carefully guided us along the road and – when the Boys on Bikes passed us – actually walked to our outside so he was between us and the boys. So gallant. He followed us on the turnoff to the Ojo and continued with us the rest of the way, so we dubbed him “Nici” for Nicaragua.

The final 300 meter hike passed through some private banana fields – with of course more flies. When we finally reached the Ojo de Aqua, we followed Nic’s lead and crossed a muddy pool by balancing on tree limbs and rocks until we were safely on concrete.

There were rocking chairs and little huts with hammocks, a bar, a few banos, and a large pool of crystal clear water. Just as we put our things on rocking chairs, our Kentucky friends arrived and the fun began. We all got in the water – which was hardly warm but definitely refreshing – and played, drank beer, and laughed. The sides of pool were lined in a concrete bulkhead, but the bottom was a natural rock with very fine, soft sand and dirt.


Kentucky Gang and Shannon
Mindy and I went exploring the smaller of the two pools to find the origination of the water. We walked to the wall and split up – she took one side and I took the other – but never found the source until we climbed out of the pool and Mindy pointed at something: a big pipe coming out of nearby hut.


Mindy exploring


Me and Mindy (blurry, because the dude taking it couldn’t hold it still)


Our little oasis


Pretty rocks

Brock and Kevin made friends with a local kid named “Eduardo” and the three of them threw a ball around the pool – except they couldn’t find a ball so they made due with an orange. Not only does Nicaragua require adjustments, but boys will always be boys.


Kevin, jumping for the orange


Brock takes a turn


Shannon and me, reading
(pic by Mindy)

Hostel Dinner
Soon the sun began to set and none of us wanted to manage the rocky dirt road in the dark, so Christine and Brittany headed back with us. Nici followed us the whole way, because he’s such a good guide, and if one or two people fell behind he would slow his pace to make sure they weren’t alone. He was very chivalrous, our Nici. Back at our cabana he curled himself up at our front door and would stay there all night, guarding us.


Sunset


Nici escorts Christine


Nici standing guard

We went to dinner with “Team KY” at the little hostel next door, where we had caipirinhas, margaritas, cervezas, and one of the best chicken kabobs (brocheta de pollo) I’ve ever had. Back at our hotel we left Team KY at the bar while we turned in. The next morning would be an early morning for us.