Saturday, April 18, 2009

Ometepe Island Nicaragua

Ometepte is an island in Lake Nicaragua that was formed by 2 volcanoes, one of which is still active. It looks like an island from a fairy tale, most people who have been there call it magical and I have to agree with them. There are 2 options to get there; on Monday's and Thursday's there is a ferry out of Granada that takes 3 hours. The other option is the one I used as I left on the Wednesday to avoid travel during Semana Santa. To get to the Island of Ometepe I caught a chicken bus out of Granada from the bus depot by the market. The bus goes to Rivas which is a town very close to the ferry terminal the cost of the bus ride was $25 NIO and took about an hour. As there was 4 of us we decided to take a cab to San Jorge where the ferry is at a cost of $20 NIO's each and a 15 minute ride. There is a shuttle bus that you can take for $10 NIO's and a chicken bus that is probably even cheaper but we were also running late and if we missed the
ferry it was going to be a 2 hour wait for the next one.

The ferry takes both passengers and cars. There are suppose to be 2 fares; $40 NIO's for the basic cattle option and for 1st class (air conditioning + a bar) it is $60 NIO's. The ferry was packed and we ended up spending the 1 1/2 hour trip standing on a deck at the front of the boat and yet they charged us all $60 NIO's so I'm not sure what was up with that. In Central America you don't pay when you board boats, buses etc. instead once you are underway someone comes around and collects money, they are a very trusting people much more so than North Americans. The guy on the ferry was one of the grumpiest people I have met. on my travels. I had to pay with a $100 NIO bill and he bitched about having no cambio (no change) he was not happy when I said I had nothing smaller and I would not give him the money till he found the change. He gets my vote for biggest dick in Nicaragua and not in a good way ;-)

When we got to Ometepe we gained 2 more people in our group a Dutch couple that we had met in Granada and had gone to Alpoya with. They had some money issues, the only ATM on the island only takes credit cards, no debit cards and that was all they had. One of our group was from Europe so they arranged a complicated money transfer between bank accounts via the Internet so she could withdraw it from her account and give it to them so it worked out in the end. If you are going over take all the cash you will need for your stay, as well as the debit card issue the ATM may also run out of money or break down and the ferry's and launches don't take credit cards.

With it being Semana Santa the locals at the ferry dock warned us that it would be almost impossible to get accommodations, not sure if it was true or not but most places are a bus ride away and the buses are not all that frequent so none of us wanted to take the chance of getting somewhere and having nowhere to stay and no way to get back so we chose to stay in Moyogalpa the town that the ferry docks in and just did side trips to other places.

The 6 of us stayed at a hotel that ends in Negra, can't remember the name but it is right across from the hotel Ometepetl, we got 2 rooms with bunk beds. The rooms came with a TV, I have not had a TV since the beginning of my trip in Puerto Vallarta so I was pretty happy at the prospect of getting to watch one. How sad my life as become in some ways LOL. Only 1 station showed some shows in English but I did get to see Cheech & Chong up in smoke so it was well worth paying the $150 NIO's per person for me. There are lots of good restaurants on the Island and some good street food options, prices are about $15 NIO's for a street hot dog, $25 NIO's for a street hamburger, $50 NIO's for street chicken and $100 - $200 NIO's will get you a decent meal at a restaurant . One of the places we found was Yogi's, it is owned by a Canadian guy named Jerry who has been kicking around Central America for 10+ years. He was a great source of information on a variety of topics. If you are looking to stay on Ometepe for awhile he takes volunteers for various projects and in exchange you get a free place to stay (and it looks pretty nice) as well as free food. He tried to talk me into baking brownies (not special ones) in exchange for my diner, he didn't believe me when I told him I can't cook, really it's more than that, I've made people ill with my cooking so.... He has my web site address and may read this anyone who I have ever cooked for is more than welcome to leave a comment on the damage I did to your digestive systems/food poisoning etc. to prove that I am not lying.

There were a lot of Nicaraguans on the Island for Semana Santa and I got to see a few precession's, I even participated in one. Didn't really do it by choice, they go down the street and stop at every intersection for a prayer. I wasn't sure on the etiquette of just cutting through the crowed to get to my hotel so I wandered along at the back for 3 intersections. There were lots of folks partying on the island and the bars made a lot of money over the holiday, I tried to do my part to contribute. I also spent some quality time at the beach doing nothing, there is a nice one about 4km out of town, it was packed with Nicaraguan families having a great time, lots of beach soccer going on. I also rented a bicycle one day, cost of the rental was $20 NIO's per hour. I rode up to Charco Verde and back, at 1pm when the temperature was around 34C the ride was 24km in total. Not something I will do again anytime soon, by the last 5km I was looking for a pickup truck to get a ride back to town good thing there was a beach on the way to cool off at, had to share it with some local livestock but they were very nice about letting us use it. I didn't end up doing it but if it had been a few km more I just might have. Way too hot to be playing that game. The Dutch couple did the volcano hike, a 6 hour hell journey up and back. They said they liked it but it is something you do need to be in good shape to do, a couple of them came back with some pretty good wounds.

One of the guys that was traveling with me really liked Ometepe, there is a group out of Vancouver who are setting up a community on the island, they have a bid in to purchase 75 hectares of land by the lake side. The plan is to sell off plots for $50,000, $25,000, $10,000 & $5,000 US as well as giving people who don't have the money the opportunity to buy in by working on the property in various capacities. There will be a residential section as well as a farm and eventually facilities to rent out to tourists. They will know if they have the land in June and plan on moving people in sometime in December so they can live on site while they build their own homes (there are currently buildings with kitchen facilities on the property) . If you are interested in getting more information let me know and I will get you the contact info for Maria who is currently on Ometepe and she will be happy to answer any questions you may have.

I left Ometepe on Sunday and headed to San Juan Del Sur. I decided to take a launch instead of the ferry to get off the island, only because time wise it was leaving an hour before the ferry. One of the scariest rides every, the boat, and I use the term loosely has no rails and looks like it really shouldn't float. There are a couple of benches bolted to the deck and the boat was packed with people and cargo. The cost to take it was only $30 NIO's so a savings there and luckily it was a calm day on the water. I really wouldn't have wanted to be on it in rough water. The launch does not pull up to a dock on the mainland, instead it pulls up to another boat and they run planks from one to the other that you have to navigate in order to disembark (no rails, just pieces of wood). Not very comforting when you are wearing a 40lb pack and carrying another 10lb one. All that was running through my head as I teetered across was how fast could I get them off if being my usual klutzy self I fell in. It didn't happen so on to San Juan Del Sur I went.

1 comment:

Trekker Shar said...

If you wish to contact someone in regards to the community being set up on Ometepe you can do so via this link (Duane)