Our next stop was to be the Island of Ometepe in the middle of Lake Nicaragua. Ometepe is the largest island in the world situated inside of a fresh water lake. The lake is just inland from the Pacific Ocean and its west bank forms a narrow isthmus. This isthmus has a western Pacific shore and an eastern lake shore; the result is that this narrow strip of land has cool weather in the summer and warm weather in the winter. It has ideal weather year around and is home to many wonderful towns including San Juan del Sur.
Driving south along the western bank of Lake Nicaragua from Granada the landscape looked (to my eye at least) what I would expect to find in the African savannah; flat plains dotted with thick jungle patches. While we were driving south I shot a photo (above) that shows how this landscape looked. We drove south on the Pan American Highway as far as Rivas where a regular ferry service takes passengers from the mainland on the isthmus to Isle Ometepe.
I captured a screen shot from Google Earth to show Ometepe Island’s orientation inside of Lake Nicaragua to include the Pacific Ocean, the Costa Rica border, the capital at Managua and the beach town of San Juan del Sur. You can see how Ometepe Island is formed by two volcanos that have formed a land bridge between them. The white spots that appear at the peaks of the twin volcanoes are not formed by snow but by clouds that are constantly formed as the warm jungle air is pushed up the side of the mountain by the onshore breeze. As the warm air rushes up the side of the volcano it condenses and forms a rain cloud that is almost constantly present at the peak; on the back side of the island the clouds create rain that falls on the wayward side of the mountains. This in turn creates a lush jungle that is habitat to monkeys and all sorts of exotic birds.
At the San Jorge docks near Rivas, we inquired about securing the Blazer and found that we could actually park it on the dock. We were told that the dock house was staffed 24/7 and that the truck would be safe. The ticket fees for the ferry to Ometepe were nominal, perhaps $7 or $8 dollars and we were looking forward to getting away from the truck and having a new adventure. In the photo below you can see Jeff at the dock, just outside of the “secure area” where we parked the truck; in the background the twin volcanos of Ometepe Island.
We had a quick chat:
Jeff: “What if the truck gets stolen?”
Me: “I only paid $1200 for it, we’ll just take the bus”
Jeff: “Sounds good.”
And at that, we boarded our ferry.
While on the boat I went and sat at the bow and had Jeff take my photo. He suggested I take off my sunglasses for the photo and just as I did they fell right into the lake. I watched sadly as my Ray Bans sunk to the bottom of Lake Nicaragua. Also in the photo you can see the matching volcano peaks that formed this island in the middle of the lake.
As we neared Ometepe Island we could see that it had a thick jungle covering and the volcano had a semi-permanent cloud that formed at its peak. As low as we were in the tropics I expected the temperature to be much hotter but the combination of the ocean and the lake kept the temperatures quite mild.
After about an hour boat rive we arrived at the dock at Moyogalpa, I was surprised that there were no hawkers pushing this or that hotel or hostel. The town of Moyogalpa barely noticed our arrival and we made our way up the single street possessed by this sleepy lake village. As we approached the “center’ of the town we could see that there were 4 hotels (2 on each side of the road) and 2 restaurants (one on either side).
At the hotel/restaurant on the right, a nice man greeted us and offered us menus. He asked if we wanted to sit down and have a cold beer or a meal. He was really quite friendly and we were tempted to take him up on his offer but, as the sun was setting, we decided to find lodging. Based on his amicable attitude we inquired about rooms in his hotel; just our luck – he was booked out. That his hotel was booked out and that he had a friendly attitude would teach me a lesson in customer service and in capitalism.
We made our way up and across the street and found that only one of the four hotels had rooms available. Our hotel looked nice; it had a beautiful garden and a decent looking restaurant. The room was a cinder block room with a metal door and two metal framed beds with mattresses. It was very Spartan; but, what can you expect for $5 a night?
As soon as we packed our bags away, we returned to the “nice guy’s” restaurant and ordered a pair of cold beers. We had a nice dinner and chatted with some of the other travelers and found out what the island had to offer to a couple of American travelers.
Later, we made our way down to the lakeshore to capture some photos. Lake Nicaragua is really quite pleasant and beautiful. While there I saw some beautiful birds who didn’t seem to have a care in the world.
We found a small cafe with an ocean view and ordered another cold beer. The view was somewhat obscured by some palm trees and creeping jungle but is sure made for some beautiful tropical photos. I made the photo below into a postcard and sent it to a few friends. I’d say that of all the photos I took in Nicaragua, this one sums up the place the best: peaceful, beautiful and relaxed.
Jeff and I met a business man from Managua who was at one of the hotels with his mistress. He gladly announced that he had a wife and 3 kids at home and this mistress stayed at a hotel in the city. Every other weekend he took her out of town and told his wife that he was on “business.” He was eager to know about us “Americans” and we chatted with him about the new government, the old government and the civil war. His English was quite immaculate and it saved me a lot of embarrassment using my broken Spanish.
As we chatted the sun set and I captured dozens of photos. I had to look through them all for perhaps 15 minutes before I could select two that captured the Nicaraguan sunset the best. I selected these two: both are the same shot but captured 10 or 15 minutes apart. They show the changing colors at sunset. Just behind the mountains on the far side of the lake are located on the isthmus that separates Lake Nicaragua from the Pacific Ocean. For those who like fresh and salt water, few places on earth offer such beauty and versatility of natural wonders.
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