Thursday, January 7, 2016


Once we rolled out of Granada, the next stop was Ometepe: the island made up of two volcanoes in the middle of Lake Nicaragua. Sounds awesome right? I'm sure it could have been, if I hadn't been sick almost the whole time.

I left the hostel in Granada a little before the rest of the group because I wanted to catch one of the rare ferries that run to the island, as opposed to the boats that go much more often. I headed an hour down the road to the dock in San Jorge. When I got to the gate, I asked about buying a ticket, and someone directed me to a window where I paid about 25 Cordobas for a ticket - less than a dollar. Way cheaper than I expected, actually. But when I asked about the 12:00 ferry, she said there wasn't one, only at 12:30. My schedule had said ferry at 12, regular boat at 12:30, but I'd told her I had the motorcycle and she assured me that would be fine, so I assumed I'd read the schedule wrong.

When I got down the dock... sure enough, there was no ferry. Just a small boat and a few guys loading furniture, boxes of food, and a few other provisions onto the top deck while people packed in underneath. About four of them came over, gestured for me to take all my bags off the motorcycle, and then set a board across the gap between the dock and the boat and started loading the bike on.

It's a little rough watching other people do this, but better than trying to do it on my own - they've clearly done it quite a few times.
This is pretty much the whole boat in the picture here, only a little bit more to the left.
After it got safely loaded and I strapped it down, I went down below. Because of the time loading the bike, I was one of the last ones down there and ended up sitting on a raised part of the floor right over the engine - which was pumping out hot air, on an already hot day - crammed in next to a few other people. Not the most comfortable.

While I was on the boat, a guy started coming around collecting money for tickets - 50 cordobas a person. I told him I had a ticket, but he clarified that what I'd paid for before getting on only covered loading and unloading costs - so it turns out I still had to pay for me, and another 100 cordobas for the motorcycle. Still, about $6 total for me and the bike to cross the lake with loading costs included, so I can't complain too much.

When unloading on the other end, they didn't even have the board, they just lifted it over the gap.
I headed out from the port and around the island towards the hostel. Ometepe is made up of two volcanoes - the big one (Concepcion) and the small one (Maderas). Most of the development on the island is centered around the big one, but our hotel was a little off in the outskirts of the smaller one. After cruising around Concepcion on a nicely paved road with beautiful views, I came to Maderas where the road turned to loose gravel. I doubt anything I ride will ever be as bad as the road to Semuc Champey, so it was no problem for me on the bike. A few kilometers later I arrived at the hostel, which looked pretty nice, and the six of us had a room with six beds to ourselves.

Nice presentation at the hostel.
I settled in and started to take the few hours I had free to catch up on blogging, but very quickly found I didn't have the energy, and I had a fever. It turns out the cough I had in the morning when I left Granada wasn't just a cough - it was the cold that had been going around our group. I hadn't been aware that the guy I'd shared a cigar with the night before was just getting over it, but it definitely took its toll. Over the next few hours until the others arrived, I rested, and almost slept a little.

I got back a little bit of energy from resting, and joined the others for a beautiful sunset followed by a pretty good buffet style dinner at the hostel (though we paid $8 for it - Nicaragua was turning out to not be as cheap as we were expecting). We planned out the next few days, and all called it a pretty early night after the day of travel.

The sunsets in Ometepe were pretty good.

Family dinner together.

I'm pretty sure the cat actually liked this, because he kept coming back to Dan afterwards.
In the morning I woke up feeling.. well, pretty horrible, actually, but I took an Ibuprofen and was feeling better in half an hour. We went out to execute our plan for the day: rent bicycles, and ride to Ojo de Agua, a spring-fed pool on the part of the island that bridges the two volcanoes. This turned out to be quite a trek.

While the road hadn't been too bad on the motorcycle, it was significantly worse on a poorly set up rental bicycle with no suspension, poorly lubricated chain, and one gear that was bent and would throw the chain off if I tried to use it at all. We all had pretty poorly maintained bikes, and combined with the hilly, unpaved road, we were moving pretty slow. We took a few breaks here and there, but finally made it to our intermediate stop at Playa Santa Cruz, just after the road turned back to pavement. We brought the bikes down to the beach, changed into swimsuits, and spent a while relaxing in the waves and washing the sweat off from the first hour of riding.

While the beach was nice, it was still a lake beach. The lake is big enough to generate some waves, but it's not quite the same, so after a bit of time in the water, we all dried off and hauled the bikes back up to the street to continue onward. Now that we were on pavement it was a little faster going, but the hills were still pretty tiring. I was starting to feel a bit fatigued at this point and was wondering if maybe my cold might be longer than the 24-hour version everyone else seemed to have gotten.

We soon arrived at Ojo de Agua - a real oasis after all the riding. It's a beautifully constructed stone pool fed by some springs, with a slack line over it and a rope swing that drops down in. We once again switched to swimsuits and dropped into the cool water to relax.

Beautiful weather, beautiful water.

Hanging out on the edge, probably talking about how they got those huge muscles.

David and some other guy there decided to see who could have the most painful back-flop. David won with this one.
A few hours relaxing, and it was time to head back. By this point my Ibuprofen had worn off and I was starting to feel the start of the fever again, but we still had quite a ways to go. We took off down the road, and eventually made a stop at a restaurant we'd heard about. Unfortunately the prices were way higher than we were expecting, so I got a little snack for some energy, and we settled for a few beers while enjoying the company at the next table and the beach view.

He spent quite a bit of time cocking his head different ways to look at us.
Saw someone lead these guys down to the beach where he let them roll around in the sand and go in the water for a while.
After resting up, we started the final leg of the trip, and the worst one. Back to the gravel road we went, and it was exhausting. My feet had started to hurt as well, because I hadn't anticipated how much the bumps on the gravel road would transfer through my sandals to the bones in my feet. But we trekked on - mostly in silence, because we were so tired. The group started to split up on the way back as those of us who were tired started dropping back, and the others were eager to get back.

As Mylène and I brought up the back of the pack, we eventually caught up to David. He'd been quite a bit in front of us, until his pedals had come unscrewed. We'd had a few issues with other bikes on the way which we'd fixed, including Clement taking his wheel down the road to a shop to get the rim straightened out, but this one didn't look fixable with what we had, so he was walking with it. I continued onward with Mylène so she wasn't riding alone, but after we arrived at the hotel, I got back on the bike and went to meet up with David and walk back with him. Mylène told the guy at the bike shop that David had an issue, so he rode out on his motorcycle shortly after, directed David to a place where he could leave the bike, and they rode back together on the motorcycle.

After a day like that, I was pretty beat. The fever was back in full force, and as we planned out the next day, I decided I wasn't going to be able to pull off a volcano hike like I'd been hoping, and would need to spend the day relaxing at the hostel. We had another amazing sunset, and then headed to bed again - our hostel was definitely not the party type, and I'm not sure any of us were up for it anyway after such an exhausting day.

Mylène enjoying one of her first beers of the trip. Not sure if she's converted fully to beers yet, but we're trying.

Sunsets again.
What a profile.
There's not a lot to say about my next two days. I was sick, and while I was hoping to be good enough to do a hike on the volcano the last day, I was still pretty exhausted. I did something like nine blog posts and almost caught up to current, listened to a lot of music, read a lot of books, and otherwise just enjoyed the gorgeous view from the hammocks of the hostel.

Finally the last morning, I was feeling a bit better. Everyone else headed out a bit early to catch a boat that would lead them to a good bus to get down to the next place, but I had time to lounge around a bit before heading for the first ferry (which would hopefully be a ferry this time, and not a tiny little boat). Mylène, however, was heading for Guatemala City to fly out to Miami, so we said our goodbyes. It was a bit tough, since we'd now spent about a month together, and she and I had spent a lot of time together just the two of us.

But travel moves onwards, and so did we. I finally got packed up and rode the bike back around the island to the dock, and this time caught an actual ferry. I strapped my bike down and enjoyed the much smoother ride (and lack of worry about people loading it), and arrived on shore not long after to head for San Juan del Sur.

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