An Island of Fire

Picking up from where I left off last time on a bus to Isla de Ometepe, we arrived after possibly the most magnificent ferry ride I’ve ever had, watching two volcanoes get bigger and bigger as we got closer and closer. The name Ometepe comes from the words ome meaning two and tepetl meaning mountains in Nahuatl, the language of the Nahua people, an indigenous group found in Mexico, El Salvador, Honduras and Nicaragua. The two volcanoes that the island is composed of are Concepción and Maderas. Concepción is the higher of the two at 1610m and is active. It is also considered the most perfectly formed volcano cone on Central America! Maderas is slightly smaller at 1394m and is dormant, although it does host a crater lake at it’s peak and supports a diverse rainforest ecosystem.

Approaching the island on the ferry – Concepción in the foreground, Maderas further back

When we arrived we were taken to a hostel that was recommended to us, El Zopilote, which doubles as a working farm. At first we thought it was extremely cool, right in the forest, very rustic and laid back. Then we went on the hike to our dorm. I’m not kidding when I say hike, it took a good 5/10 minutes to get there and wasn’t fun in the dark. Then we saw the bathrooms. Apparently compost toilets are a bit of a thing in Nicaragua, who knew? We lasted two nights in El Zopilote before moving to a more convenient hostel but we don’t regret our time there and we definitely got some stories out of it!

On our first full day on the island we decided to rent bicycles and visit the ojo de agua, which translates to ‘eye of water’ though it is actually just a natural spring that has had a swimming pool built around it. It was a hot ride but really fun and we had the perfect way to cool off waiting for us at the end!

The morning we left El Zopilote, Amy and I decided to get up to watch the sunrise from one of the miradors (lookout points) before taking advantage of the free yoga classes guests were offered. The sunrise was a bit disappointing but yoga was excellent. As a bit of a yoga pro (I’ve done it once before) I obviously knew exactly what I was doing… It was good to get a bit of a stretch and ended up being so relaxing that I actually fell asleep!

A reminder from the hippies

The hostel we changed to was called Hospedaje Buena Vista and was right on the beach in the next town over, Santa Domingo. The beach had a great view of Volcán Maderas and was just the right temperature for a swim.

Our most interesting day was definitely when we decided to rent mopeds and drive to the San Ramón waterfall. Have any of you driven mopeds before, I hear you ask? No we had not. All was going smoothly until we left the paved road and it was not five minutes until we had our first crash. More like a topple to be honest but of course it was our beloved yet accident prone Lucy that was driving with Jesse on the back. A quick patch up and reshuffle of drivers and we were off again with nothing but a minor mechanical issue before we reached the start of the hike to the waterfall.

However when we arrived there it was to find out that we didn’t actually have enough time to hike to it and get back in time to return the mopeds. We decided we would ride back around the island and go for a swim instead but even that didn’t go to plan.

Concentration or avoiding getting flies stuck in her teeth? You decide
The view of Concepción from almost the other end of the island

The minor mechanical fault from before turned major and we had to fetch a mechanic and wait for it to be fixed. This meant that despite turning around with hours to spare we only just made it back in time! Once we got back on to smooth roads I had a turn at driving and I was pretty good, as in I had no crashes unlike some of our other drivers…

Our last day was nowhere near as interesting, for me anyway. Amy and Tom left at 5.30am to climb Volcán Maderas while the rest of us lay around and then went to find some petroglyphs. Petroglyphs are drawings carved into stone and many of Ometepe’s contain spiral designs, leading to archeologists calling it the Island of Circles and Spirals. Relatively little is known about the history of the petroglyphs on Ometepe though it is estimated that they could be up to 3000 years old.

A spiral? A monkey? An modernist portrait?

I think we were all a little disappointed by them, maybe because we were expecting something more like the Mayan ruins in Copán. It was still worth the trip though as they are part of what the island is known for. 

We ended up being chased off Ometepe by the threat of Hurricane Otto. For those of you that don’t know, Hurricane Otto touched down in the very south of Nicaragua on the 22nd November and continued down into Costa Rica, doing a lot more damage there than here. The worst weather we had this weekend was half an hour of semi-heavy rain. 

After Isla de Ometepe we chicken bussed our way back up to Granada – watch this space for the next blog! 

The view from part way up Maderas, shamelessly stolen from Amy

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