85 days on the road in Central America and we were starting to get Central America fatigue. It’s not that we weren’t enjoying ourselves but it was becoming harder to find new experiences to get excited about. Instead it felt like we were repeating things we had already seen. Granada was like Leon which was like Antigua which was like San Cristobal, etc. Poor Nicaragua was the victim of our fatigue.
We considered moving on to Costa Rica but one of the must see things was Isla de Ometepe, an island in the middle of the biggest lake in Central America. It was made up of two volcanoes and it was supposed to be beautiful. We spent Sunday hanging out at the hostel looking up places to stay and how to get there. And with a reservation secured at a place at the far end of the island, we set out Monday morning after exchanging contact info with Stefania who was on her way to a beach in Costa Rica (Hi, Stefania!).
The owner of the place on Ometepe had given us step by step instructions on how to get out to Merida. The first was catching the bus to Rivas. It left 20 minutes late which left us very little time to catch the 1pm ferry to the island. And we were forced to take a taxi. The driver knew we were pressed for time so we had no leverage when it came to bargaining. Luckily another girl wanted to split the cab with us so that helped to offset the price.
At the ferry docks, we bought our tickets filled out our swine flu health forms and then attempted to get on the boat. But we were stopped at the gate and told we had to pay a tax. The girl suspiciously asked if it the tax was for locals too and the attendant shoke her head and said of course not. That’s not a tax – that’s a fine. And the crime? Being foreigners. Oh well at least she was honest.
We weren’t actually taking the ferry but a lancha. Normally this means a 12-14 seat motorboat, like we’d become all too familiar with in Belize and Guatemala. So I was pleasantly surprised to see it was a double decker ship. However, I wasn’t so happy to see the condition of it. It was a little worse for wear and from our seats down below I got a good look at (and wet feet from) the bilge pump. Well, I think that’s what the guy was operating. Using a stick the guy would force the water out of a pipe and all over the floor of the boat. But despite this, we made it across safely and relatively quickly.
The next leg of our journey involved a 3 hour ride around the island. I didn’t know why a 30 km journey was going to take so long. But I’ve learned that it happens a lot especially when the road became a deeply rutted dirt track 20 minutes after we started. It was a long ride. Luckily the scenery was gorgeous. Volcan Concepcion loomed over us for the first half and after we crossed a beachy isthmus it was replaced by Volcan Maderas.
At the end of the line in a very small town? village? hamlet, we got off and walked straight ahead through the gates of Hacienda Merida, a lodge located right on the lake.
It reminded me of Hotelito Perdido (oops another comparison) but without the awesome hosts. Instead, we were presented with a binder of suggested activities and tours and left to ourselves. The activities seemed like a lot of work rather than a lot of fun. Made worse by the warnings posted all around the place and indexed in the binder. Interested in a 7 hour hike up Volcan Maderas? Well, you must take a guide or else you’ll die like these two hikers in 2006 whose decomposing bodies weren’t found for a month. Want to kayak to Monkey Island? The monkeys bite and the winds on the lake might take you out at any moment. Care to see the waterfall? You can hike there in three hours but make sure you have plenty of water so you don’t get sunstroke. Remember, this was the information that was trying to sell us on the area and tours. Something tells me that we’re going to be pressed to find things to do.