Nicaragua Day 5: Ometepe Island

Today we traveled to Moyogalpa on Ometepe Island – all in all a great day, and even the little bumps were good for learning experiences.ometepe-nicaragua

We ate breakfast at the hostel – instant oatmeal and a can of fruit. My guts were unsettled, and I think Torre’s were too, possibly from out street meat the night before, although Matt was completely fine. Torre didn’t eat much, but I did have a full serving, chased with Imodium and  a prayer for our long trip on a bus!

We walked to the town square and bought a wallet I’d seen before as well as a bracelet for our sponsor child, Fabiola, who we’ll be meeting in a week and a half, then we caught a cab to the bus station and were the last two seats on an express bus to Managua. This bus went so fast compared to the bus we rode to Leon. We were squished in the very back corner with Torre asleep across both our laps. Momotombo belched some steam/smoke as we passed along the highway, and between Latin music as our playlist (invaded as always in this country by Nicki Minaj’s song Anaconda – don’t google it) and our driver’s heavy foot we arrived in Managua in fantastic time.

The drive itself had beautiful scenery – lush green mountains in the distance that look like a cozy green blanket tossed in a heap with folds down all the hills. The sky was cloudless, and every so often we’d pass a horse or (herd of) cow(s) by the side of the road. I couldn’t see out the windshield, so I didn’t get too stressed passing trucks or cars, although there were some ridiculous scenarios with oncoming traffic and passing a long line of transport trucks/other buses when I simply had to put ourselves in God’s hands.

There was some confusion when we got to Managua and had to go to a different bus station to catch the express bus to Rivas. Without really being sure we’d understood what our bus driver had said, we followed  the taxi driver he’d spoken with and climbed in after he put our backpacks in his trunk. We did not haggle him on his quote of $8 each for the drive (although the internets say that’s actually a very fair price), and he tried to convince us to just take his taxi all the way to San Jorje so we didn’t miss the last ferry to Ometepe. Matt knew there were plenty of ferries and we were not pressed for time, and we did not have any interest in paying for a private taxi, so we simply got dropped off across the street from the bus station, where a man appeared to help us to the bus (the green bus the taxi driver pointed out to us) while a new taxi driver tried to get our business, again for a private fare to San Jorje (shouting “you want green? My car is green!” in Spanish).

The green bus was good. We paid 61 cordobas each plus 50 for the ayudante (the man who met us at the cab, who collects the fares and helps people on and off the bus) to make sure our big backpacks stayed safe under the bus. There were so many vendors who got on and off the bus, selling chips, fruit, pastries, drinks, jewellery, and some beggars as well. Torre was awake for this bus ride, but he was calm and mellow, mostly nursing with a few breaks to charm fellow passengers. Unlike the mini-buses we’d taken so far this bus was like an old greyhound. There was an inscription over the windshield that said Dios bendiga este bus y sus pasajeros – God bless this bus and its passengers.

On the bus Matt and I strategized our disembarkment at Rivas, not rushing into any taxis (we thought at that point we had overpaid for the taxi between bus stations) and taking our time to get settled and oriented. It worked! At our stop I got out to stand with the bags while Matt double checked we hadn’t dropped anything by the seats. Then when he came out of the bus, we took our bags to a food stand to take a breather from all the taxi drivers who had been shouting to us trying to guess our destination. We’d laughed on the bus trying to imagine if cab drivers in Canada were as intense and aggressive as here – flocking outside subway stops, shouting and bartering as people came up to the street.

Anyway, one guy offered Matt $10 for both of us for a drive to the ferry, which would have been awesome in cordobas but was way too much in dollars. Trip advisor said $4-5 was reasonable, so I told the guy we could pay $5 and he told us to get lost. No bigs. We decided to ask some other taxis, but as soon as we were packed up with our backpacks on, the same guy came back over and told us he’d take us for $5. Yussssss! We felt so accomplished and congratulated ourselves for the whole rest of the day on not panicking or grossly overpaying. At the ferry we had time for a quick bite to eat then got on the boat to Ometepe.


Our first views of Ometepe Island

Our first views of Ometepe Island

The beach by the port in San Jorje

The beach by the port in San Jorje

Yeah, sometimes you just don't want to walk from the bus stop to the beach....

Yeah, sometimes you just don’t want to walk from the bus stop to the beach….

On the ferry, loving the breeze!

On the ferry, loving the breeze!

On the ferry a couple gave up their seats so we could sit with Torre since it was standing room only – so kind! They just asked that we keep an eye on their big suitcases, which obviously wasn’t a problem. Torre and I sat the whole time, soaking in the strong cool breeze off the lake while Matt came and went, taking pictures and chatting as we people-watched. The ferry was loaded with tourists as well as locals, which was a big change from Leon. I was used to seeing backpackers in small groups/pairs/solo, very tan, and too-cool-for-school. Or at least too cool to chat with the other cheles at El Sesteo. (Chele is pronounced chay-lay. It’s the Nica word for white people, derived from the Spanish word for blonde). Our ferry had friendly tourists from The Netherlands, Canada, the US and probably more countries I didn’t happen to catch. Many had just arrived in Nicaragua and were beginning their vacation or spending their whole vacation on this volcanic island.

From the ferry dock we were able to walk to our hotel (called The Landing Hotel, just 30m up the street, as advertised!) where Matt had reserved a private cabin. The luxury! We had air conditioning, a huge shower and a mini-fridge. In fact, it was almost too nice – much more than we needed, and it was more than double what we’d been paying per night in Leon, but after a long day of travelling we couldn’t regret having a private oasis to crash in.

A view from our hostel – Concepcion is always cloaked with clouds

We had to find an ATM so we could actually pay for our oasis, so we explored Moyogalpa a bit, scoping out cafes and restaurants for the next day and looking in on a tiny, out-of-the-way local hostel that was only $10/night vs $50 at The Landing. It was sweet – bunk beds and a private shower (bunk beds appealed because Matt was having horrible sleeps with Torre in our bed, so we figured Torre and I could sleep on the large bottom bunk and Matt could finally get some quality sleep up top), and the family who owned it also had the cutest little puppy! However, we’d already paid a deposit for our reservation at The Landing, and it was much less secure and spacious for Torre to run around. I’m glad we went in, and I would have been happy to give them our business, but… not this trip.

We had delicious pizza and fresh fruit juice for supper. Back at the hotel I had a glorious shower and properly shampooed my hair thanks to fabulous water pressure. Matt killed a cockroach that crawled up out of the drain, and I did some laundry in our sink. After a long day of travelling we all crashed to sleep, exhausted but still so glad to be together in Nicaragua.

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Susan 24-12-2014, 03:46

Such adventure!


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