- Granada – Rivas/San Jorge
- San Jorge – Isla de Ometepe
- Concepcion volcano
- Ojo de Agua
We had the tedious task of getting ourselves to the island of Ometepe – an island consisting of two large and active volcanoes in Lake Nicaragua (remember the lake is the size of Jamaica). The island takes two hours to drive around. It’s probably bigger than some Carribean countries. Anyway, we had to get ourselves to the town of Rivas, two hours from Granada and then hop in a cab to San Jorge port, from which we had to catch a ferry across to the island. It took us about 4-5 hours in total and our dramas were not yet over!
We knew we wanted to climb one of the volcanoes the next day so set ourselves the task of booking this upon arrival in the islands’ main town, Moyogalpa. After some lunch we found a tour agency to take us up Concepcion (the 2nd largest volcano in Nicaragua) and then had to work out how to get from the other end of the island by 5am to start the trek. Needless to say it was going to be both difficult and expensive, so we rang our booked hostel to cancel one night and went off to find accommodation in town.
After dumping our bags and cooling off, we decided it was a good day to see the Punta Jesus Maria sandbar and Santa Domingo beach. They were 4 km and 12km away, respectively, thus the only real option for us to reach them was to hire a scooter. Great (you’d think)! $15 and a wobbly start later and we set off scootering along the roads out to the second part of the island and the beach.
Zalie drove us out to Santa Domingo beach and other than struggling to navigate a turn, did a pretty decent job at getting us safely 12 kms down the road. Sadly the beach wasn’t as beautiful as expected. We knew it was black volcanic sand but weren’t prepared for the insane amount of mosquitoes and underwhelming surroundings (other than the hugely impressive volcano Maderas!). It was then my turn to drive back and after stopping for a papaya and struggling with the same turn, we took a left on to a dirt track down to Punta Jesus Maria: a sandbar.
It had just rained by the time we head to Jesus Maria and took us all of one puddle to fall. Yep, we fell! The bike went ride from underneath us in a scary and hilarious moment. After freeing ourselves and assessing bodily damage (luckily just some scrapes and bruises), we had to clean down the bike and assess the damage there – lots of scratches and a broken mirror. A local guy saw us struggling and came along to help wheel the bike away and park it up whilst we walked the remainder of the way down to the sandbar. Thankfully the guy at reception let us off our entry price since we’d had a fall and we’re covered head-to-toe in mud!
We were met with lots of gasps and laughs as other tourists saw two pale muddy girls approaching the water! In we got to wash off and enjoy the scenery but unfortunately not stay for sunset as planned as we had to fix the bike before its return. We weren’t best impressed at the $80 charged by the rental place considering we’d desperately been trying to save money however, they’d fixed the bike just three days prior and we had damaged it. There went my budget!
Sad, muddy and poor, we returned to The Landing Hostel for a gourmet dinner of tuna sandwiches, followed by packing our bags for the next day’s hike, crying over our misfortune and planning how best to save money over the next week. Needless to say we were in bed by 9pm very much not having a crazy one!
Not so bright eyed or bushy tailed, our 4.15am alarms were quite unwelcome! But it was hike time and off we went to meet our guide, Jorge. He took us on the bus to the Volcan Concepcion national park from which we began the ascent. Tough? Yes. Hot? Yes. Steep? Oh god yes! It did take over an hour for a group a guys who started with us to catch up and overtake and Zalie was really struggling with the rainforest uphill climb. We couldn’t understand how we’d make it to the top and out of sweat central. But we reached 1000m altitude some two hours later to rest with the three boys, Ollie, Will and someone else (sorry to that guy whose name I forgot!). This rest was at the most stunning view point with freezing breeze to cool us off and really reassured us why this climb was worth it.
But we weren’t done yet! Still with 600m to go and now fuelled on food, we began the scrambling of sheer, almost vertical volcanic rock faces. The boys were much more talented at this and sped on up but slowly and surely we powered on to the summit. And I’m pretty sure we timed our hike day choice to perfection and the normal cloudy summit often cleared for us all to see out all the way over to mainland Nicaragua.
However, we’d not yet complete; be challenge. We summited in 3.5 hours but this was an 8 hour hike and those rocks we’d scrambled across, we somehow had to scramble back down and not kill ourselves! This is where our lower centre of gravity outshone the boys and we flew down the volcano’s sides until we reached the rainforest once more. All the time we kept bumping in to groups still going up and it turned out that we’d actually come second in summiting that day! The other groups looked tired and glum and I can only imagine we felt that way too on the journey 1.6kms up.
Back at the base we’d missed the bus so hitched a ride back to Moyogalpa town, picked up our bags and worked out how to get to Balgüe for the next two island days. It’s no secret that we were shattered after such a long walk but the Nicaraguan jokers insisted on parapet YouTube videos for two hours on the bus over to our new hostel! I legitimately would’ve taken (and still would) a bullet than sit through that torched in such a state again! Anyway, finally in Balgüe having met our new hosts and roommates (who were all darlings), we once again feasted on pot noodle and avocado, chatted about global politics with our new friends and eventually staggered/wobbled/crawled our sore bodies to bed after a long day.
We had a leisurely next morning which culminated in a trip to see the docs. Not our new mate docs but the real ones of Isla de Ometepe as our bike wounds now had pussy yellow spots over them. We thought we’d been stung or bitten in the rainforest but Dr.Ometepe immediately diagnosed infected cuts, gave us free prescriptions and medication and sent us on our way! Who needs the NHS eh?!
We decided it was worth relaxing for the day to repair our bodies. Since we needed scooters to access the waterfalls we’d initially planned to visit, and no one was hiring those again(!), we instead took the chicken bus to ‘Ojo de Agua’ (a.k.a. the ‘eye of water’). It was EXACTLY what we were after and we set up shop!
It wasn’t long before we spotted a few guys who’d hiked he volcano with us, some we’d met at Las Peñitas, and all of us spotted the Tarzan rope swings and slack lines above the pool. Needless to say we played all sorts of water games, drank rum from coconuts and rewarded our muscles in an excellent manner. We even bumped in to Mel and Kirstee, the two we’d met at Lake Apoyo and had a good ol’ chat with them too. It was such a fabulously social, relaxing and self-indulging day.
We all hopped back on the bus to Balgüe at 4.15pm, agreeing to meet with beer and watch the sunset over Concepcion that night. Zalie and I gathered some hostel troops, debriefed our days and then set off out to meet our new m8z. Although the clouds blocked Concepcion’s summit, the medical tales from the boys’ junior doctor years, Sunday Funday highlights and joyful atmosphere made for an extremely pleasant sunet experience.
With our new friends, Will, Alex and Jen, Zalie and I convinced ourselves that we needn’t starve on pot noodle yet again that night. The five of us found a tiny (I mean, two tables) traditional Nicaraguan restaurant and sat down to (albeit slowly) rice, beans chicken, plantain, salad and of course, the hot sauce dip! Hot sauce makes everything a thousand times tastier out here. I don’t think I could travel without it! The evening was hilarious and lovely, filled with bizarre chat about every TV programme on Netflix which is certainly a topic any traveller can get on board with since we spend so much of our time on buses and flights catching up on Narcos, House, and all other Netflix options.
The following morning our entire room was checking out which was quite lovely as we’d come very close with the hostel being so small and intimate. It gave us all a chance to chat more and ignore any possible chicken bus paradox videos on the way back over to Moyogalpa too. Zalie and I were still suffering infected bike wound acne (otherwise known as cellulitis or being melodramatic) too so we had bodies to protect the locals from bashing in to our open sores. A quick spot of lunch and run on to the ferry later and we were once again on the move for my very final stop of this adventure :(.
So, 218 days in to ‘life from a bag’ and although hot and tough, hiking a volcano and seeing THAT view just proved how incredible Planet Earth is once more. I have only been inspired by this country of the iconic ‘Ring of Fire’ to come back and see more plate tectonics in action!