By the time that you read this I will be a different person. I will have learned to scale a fish, get oranges out of a tree, and make tostones. I will no longer be afraid of swimming in dark water. I will have written someone a poem for the first time…and read it to them. My skin will be four shades darker, and I will have lost all of my American holiday weight. I will have feasted on fruit right off of the tree, and spent hours swimming at sunset beneath the backdrop of a majestic volcano. I will have battled millions of mosquitos…and lost. I will have added dozens of words to my Spanish vernacular. I will have reevaluated my values, and my soul will be cleansed of the stress that I felt during my two month return to the states.
This is the power of the unseen side of Ometepe.
When I got to Nicaragua, I accepted my first invite to couchsurf with a family. I’ve never taken a more worthwhile leap of faith in my life. Juan Carlos is a Nicaraguan-America who moved to the states when he was a child and grew up in Virginia. He relocated back to Nicaragua over a decade ago. His girlfriend is from a small village on the island of Ometepe, an island located in Lake Nicaragua. It is very popular amongst tourists. Liset and her family are from a small village called La Flor resting at the base of La Concepcion Volcano. They own a beautiful piece of property where they grow their own mandarins, sweet lemon (like nothing you’ve ever had before), limes, grapefruit, plantains, bananas, tamarind, and oranges. They have chickens, a horse, and four awesome dogs.
Ometepe Island is shaped like a
n eight, with volcanos on each end. Maderas Volcano is the most popular of the two for the crater lake that occupies the top. However, most tourists spend little to no time on La Concepcion’s side of the island, as there are fewer hostels and less agencies in place for hiking this significantly more physically demanding slope. However, private guides can be hired for roughly $20. (I’ll be sure to write up a post specifically on this hike in the near future.)
To get there we had to take a bus from Managua to one of the central ports, San Jorge, where you can take a ferry or lancha, smaller, cheaper, structurally questionable boat, to the island’s main port of Moyagalpa. (We got a direct bus to San Jorge, though many people have to get a bus from Managua to Rivas and then connect to the port.) In Moyagalpa there are a number of hostels and overpriced restaurants.
We were able to hire a guy with a van at the port for roughly 10 dollars. This covered our transportation to their house, as well as that of our luggage. I was traveling with Liset’s brother and sister, Waldo and Yariela.
While I love to write about how you can see the off the grid sites that I am so blessed to discover, I can think of no other way to discover the true heart of this island other than to be invited into the home of the locals.
I spent 10 days on the island. I learned many skills, and got a crash course in Nicaraguan Spanish. I battled tarantulas (well, Waldo battled them for me), spent hours hanging in a hammock, and got hopelessly ripped off any and every time I made a solo purchase. I ate beans and rice until I’m pretty sure I started to smell like beans and rice. I learned to cook with fire, sans temperature control, and feel blessed to have not died of smoke inhalation or lost all of my hair. I showered outside, beneath the stars with a bucket. I even learned to laugh at myself, as a torrential downpour of banana’s (or grapefruit, or oranges) bashed me in the head.
If you are heading to Ometepe, I urge you to stray away from the side of Maderas, and explore some of the less seen sites on the island. La Punta would be a wonderful place to start your journey, and the limited public buses will carry you as far as the path that leads to this all-too-unfrequented gem. It is called La Punta for the narrow bank of sand that stretches off the shoreline. Hundreds of seagulls call this stretch of sand home, and it’s a lot of fun to run through them, only to have them make a graceful return to their sandy safe haven on the other side of the point.
Nicaragua is so much more than its scars, and Ometepe has a very special ability to heal whatever ails your spirit. If you arrive with an open heart, it will greet your with open arms.