As a belated birthday present to Heather, we splurged and arranged for a taxi to take us from Laguna de Apoyo to San Jorge, the location of the ferry terminal to Ometepe Island. There were no buses running by the hotel so it was for convenience as well. At the advice of many sources including Lonely Planet, we booked the ride through our hotel at Laguna de Apoyo.
In the end, it was a fabulous look at the backroads around the Laguna and Mombacho, the nearby volcano. Our driver was taking the most direct route to the Pan American highway that would take us to Rivas and then to San Jorge.
We were really glad he didn’t double back through the town of Granada – he was choosing roads just like we would back home and as a result we saw the countryside near the town of Catarina – views we would have missed. And the cost? For the 85km ride we paid $36. Fair enough. Waaaay less than we’d pay back home.
The ferry to Ometepe has sailings throughout the day. And, you have your choice of, shall we say, travels options… mainly the size of the ship you’re wishing to cross the very choppy lake in.
After saying adios to our happy taxi driver, we were immediately met by a young man with a clipboard and lots of desire to help us sort out our next steps. His help really wasn’t needed but was appreciated and we shared our plans with him. He walked us to the window to buy the ferry tickets – 50 Cordobas each = $2.00 CDN for the 60 minute crossing. It happened to be on the “large” ferry which we treated as a good choice as the ‘seas’ were rough with the super high wind ripping across the lake.
We were famished after our morning taxi jaunt, so after tickets were stowed, our ferry port ‘guide’ happily directed us out of the ferry area, down the street a few steps and right into a lovely little restaurante. He handed us two menus and offered us a seat by the window with a fabulous view of Ometepe.
Now this may seem a little… different, but it’s the way things are done here… (BTW, there was never any charge for this fella’s help) As it turned out, the waiter at the restaurant was out in the street giving directions to two young backpackers… oh, and the lunch was fabulous. Grilled chicken, salad, rice and even french fries. With a drink it came to about $5.50 CDN.
On the ferry it was another wonderful well-organized chaotic scene. The ship was full, dozens of people on every deck, 5 ton trucks loaded with everything from mattresses to onions, a band CARRYING their amplifiers and instruments (no van for these guys), deckhands performing acrobatics to secure the load and the huge waves from the lake pounding the bow.
On the upper level, deckhands were handing out life vests while the touristas were struggling to figure out how to put them on. Just when we thought we were ready to depart, a whole new load of locals and touristas boarded the ship. Can we really hold all these people, trucks and freight? Maybe THAT’S what the life vests are for!
And then we heard it… sounded like a very slow police car siren from a 1950’s movie. Wwwwaaaaaaahhhhhhh….. And we set sail. Instantly the wind speed increased and anyone with a hat pulled it on tight. Heather struck up a conversation with one of the passengers and discovered that most of the top deck crew were from Holland on an adventure tour to Nicargaua, Honduras and Guatemala.
I met a fellow from Canada. He was living on Ometepe for an undetermined amount of time and had some things figured out – like his $15/night hotel room complete with swimming pool and fast wifi. Right on Charlie!
The boat ride to Ometepe was pleasant and uneventful. Back on land, we had arranged to be part of a collectivo shuttle from Moyagalpa. Our destination was Altagracia – a little town that doubles as a commercial hub for the island. Everyone jumped in to the van and off we went. The driver took the southwestern route around Volcan Concepcion and dropped people off along the way.
We were somewhere in the middle of the group and by 5:00 we had arrived at the Hotel Central in Altagracia.
The little hotel was impeccably clean and the staff super friendly. We were shown to our very own circular brick ‘cabin’. Private bathroom, good wifi, breakfast included – all for $26/night. Excellent!
We took the rest of the afternoon to stretch our legs and see the town a bit. As we’re now accustomed to seeing, families were out together, lots of kids playing in the park and motorcycles (the obvious main transportation here) putting up and down the main street.
Since then, we’ve moved on to the little hamlet of Santo Domingo right on the shores of Lake Nicaragua (or…Lake Cocibolca).
This spot is on the east side of the narrow part of the island. From here you can see both volcanos. Concepcion to the north and Madera to the south. They are both impressive but Concepcion is the most active.
Since 1883, Concepción has erupted at least 25 times; its last eruption was on 9 March 2010. Concepción’s eruptions are characterized by frequent, moderate-sized explosions. Active fumaroles are present just north of Concepción’s summit crater. – Wikipedia.
It’s pretty cool to be at the base of such an incredibly large earthly wonder. It’s also quite astounding to be in an area with such an active range of volanos. While at Laguna de Apoyo we took a trip to Volcan Masaya and were ‘blown away’ by its beauty. It’s not as active as Concepcion but to stare into the bubbling crater was incredible.
We have another week on Ometepe. During that time we’re going to be true to our roots and get back to the land in places like La Urraca Loca Hostel and El Zopilote Permaculture Farm… hangin’ out with the forest creatures…