Thursday, July 20, 2006

Island Life

The island of Ometepe is comprised of two volcanoes rising up from Lake Cocibolca. Volcano Concepcion is still active, and on the ferry ride to the island I could see smoke rising from the top of Concepcion’s volcanic cone. Concepcion is surrounded by the islands more densely populated towns, and hundreds of people could lose their lives should the volcano erupt violently. Volcano Maderas is on the eastern, less populated side of the island. Maderas is no longer active, which makes it a popular destination for hikers.
I spent Friday night at Finca Magdalena, a hostel located in the middle of an organic coffee plantation at the base of Volcano Maderas. Then Sat morning I climbed the volcano with four Canadians and a guy from England. It took just under four hours to reach the top and another three hours to get back down. It rained for the first two hours of the hike, and the trail was completely muddy. But it was a beautiful hike. We saw howler monkeys in the trees above, heard the sounds of many different tropical birds, and even saw a 6-ft-long snake (that according to our guide was not poisonous). We walked through fields of coffee and cacao, and were surrounded by thick, green forest all the way to the top. At the summit of the volcano there’s a crater lake, but it was so cloudy and cold that nobody in our group felt like swimming.

Saturday afternoon I joined up with two of the Canadian guys I met on the hike and we decided to take a bus to the Monkey’s Island Hostel on the other side of Volcano Maderas. Sunday we rented horses and rode to a beautiful jungle waterfall that was a couple hundred feet tall. Previously, I’ve only ridden a horse as part of a group with a guide, so this was the first time I found myself totally in control of a horse. It was up to me to control the horse’s speed, tell him which direction to go, when to stop, etc. Other than the pain in my butt from all the bouncing up and down, it was great fun. And when I got back from the waterfall I cooled off with a swim in the lake. Lake Cocibolca is the only freshwater lake in the world with sharks, but apparently people aren't worried about shark attacks because everyone swims in the water.

The best part about Ometepe is the laid-back lifestyle. Dogs, pigs, chickens, cows, and horses roam free. Howler monkees scream from the trees above. Roads are mostly muddy, and are only passable by high clearance vehicles. Public transportation consists of old American Schoolbuses retrofitted with monster tires. Mountain bikes are the main means of transportation on the island, and wooden canoes are the main means of getting around in the waters offshore.


Ometepe Beach


At 5:13 PM, Anonymous janice said...

looks beautiful!


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